It all comes out in the wash

It was a simple blue shirt. A camp shirt, I think they're called, with a flat collar and buttons up the front. My wife picked it up during a shopping excursion, but it was a lesser purchase, not one that gets immediately modeled for the family. It was the type of shirt that went into the laundry for softening and then an initial wearing days later, when she could check if I was alert enough to say, "Is that a new shirt?"

Unfortunately, that day never came. She never got to wear it.

I noticed the shirt when I was doing laundry. It still had the sale tags on it, so I carefully removed them. Then I read the "Washing Care" label, which seemed to have been written by someone with an inadequate grasp of English. I remember noting that the shirt was a synthetic material, Mylar or Pylon or something, as I tossed it into a pile of like colors and dumped it into the washer.

When I removed that load from the dryer, I intended to hang up the shirt so it would be unwrinkled for its maiden wearing. I pulled it from the tangle of hot clothes and found it was much smaller than it had been when purchased. I mean, MUCH smaller. You expect a little shrinkage with a new item, but this shirt was half the garment it used to be.
My wife took the surprise with equanimity, as she does most household mishaps.

"It was on sale anyway," she said, which somehow made it all right.

We gave the shirt to my 9-year-old son, who was pleased to have it and didn't even care if it buttoned the wrong way.

A happy ending, right? But the shirt wasn't through. The next time I washed it, it shrank some more. And it has continued to shrink each time it goes through the laundry. The 6-year-old's wearing it now, and it won't be long before the shirt becomes doll clothes.

Work-at-home spouses automatically become the laundry mavens in two-parent households. Laundry's one of those jobs we can do while we're working on other things. We drop what we're doing every 45 minutes or so at the sound of the dreaded buzzer and trot over to the washer and dryer to move another load through the process.

But when the work-at-home parent is a man, disaster awaits. There's something about laundry that evades men, which is why you see so many of them going around in pink tube socks.
Most men subscribe to a philosophy best summed up as: "More is better." If the washer will comfortably hold five towels and two shirts, why not ram in six towels, three shirts (they're getting smaller all the time) and all the socks and underwear you can find? Slip a little extra in each load, and you've eliminated a whole load, maybe two, from that day's labors.

If the underwear comes out an unlikely pastel, who cares? Nobody's going to see it anyway. If everything comes out wrinkled, so what? That's what steamy bathrooms are for. Hang up a shirt while you shower and shave and, by the time you put it on, it's damp, but wrinkle-free.

All of which is fine if you're doing laundry only for yourself. But shrink a kid's favorite ratty T-shirt, and you're going to hear about it. And when you add women's clothing to the mix, the situation is ripe for catastrophe.

Manufacturers make women's clothing out of exotic fabrics in bleeding colors and with elaborate fasteners that catch on everything. It's all part of the conspiracy to get them to buy more clothes. Run those babies through the wash a time or two, and they're goners. Especially if a man is at the controls.

The latest problem outfit at our house is a cute little summer number consisting of black shorts and a matching sleeveless top. Every time they get washed and dried, they get smaller and I get in trouble. It's only a matter of time before they're too small for my wife.

And I think this is one outfit the boys will refuse to wear.

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