shirts to the dry cleaners
no one has done my laundry
since I was old enough
to sort whites from coloureds
that I taught myself
one of those abilities
I never learned in school
or even at my mother’s side
I know how to sort
how to fold
but I’ve never figured out
how to iron
something my sisters learned
in home ec or was it domestic science
all those things taught by gender
typing and cooking and sewing for girls
hammering and cars for boys
but my sisters never ironed for me
they never cooked for me either
I figured out how to cook on my own
those things taught by gender
taught me gender
I discovered in manual training
I wasn’t man enough
to use a band saw or a table saw
those whirling blades
filled me with terror
filled my classmates with scorn
and the shop teacher with clear dismay
but at least I was spared the shame
of learning to iron
Another fact filled piece. The prompt was something about not accepting robes from anyone other than relatives and this is where it took me – into my past. I realized, once again, while editing it, that like so many people I know much of the information I learned in Cape Breton at high-school hasn’t been useful, though some of the discipline needed to learn has stuck with me. As well as the negative sense of self that took me decades to unlearn.
Shame was not a useful educational tool yet many of my teachers used it – ‘you’ll never a writer if you can’t spell’ said in front the class. Phys Ed was a nightmare (which I’ve written about already) of gymnastics, basketball and hairy butts. I wasn’t the worst in the class but I was close to the worst. I lacked coordination for everything except getting in & out of the shower as fast as possible. Guys who wrapped a towel around their waists were called Maid Marian – there was no Robin Hood though.
Woodworking shop was also a nightmare. Those machine scared me & the few times I used them scarred me emotionally. Fear robbed me of the upper arm strength to use the band saw. The wood just wouldn’t stay still when I tried to push it through.
If I could have opted for domestic science I probably would have. It seemed much more practical to learn how to cook, sew though the baby-rearing might have a bit much for me. Boy were not allowed to take that option. I hear this is where girls learned a bit about sexual biology. I learned all mine in dark garages.
I also learned I’d never be a real man until I could use a band saw properly. Thank God I never did.