When I first came to Spain, in 2001, on a typical university exchange program to learn Spanish, I immediately fell in love with this crazy country. I was shocked by so many aspects of the culture, people, geography, history, gastronomy and, above all, by the tightness of the young men’s jeans. Of the varied and various customs that seemed strange to me, in this new faraway land, one of the most surprising was the fact that women everywhere ironed underpants. They ironed everything. They ironed socks and dish clothes, and of course sheets and shirts. But underpants? Large ones, small ones, male ones, female ones. Ironed. All of them. Crisp and wrinkle-free. It was this seemingly simple action that summed up my newfound love and appreciation of this new world around me. Who irons underpants? Who wears ironed underpants? Why do underpants need to be ironed? And does it have something to do with young men wearing tight jeans? These and so many more were questions that needed to be explored deeply and answered.
The train of thought went something like this:
- Ironed underpants.
- Ironed sports bras.
- Sports in ironed sports bras.
- Ironed table linens.
- Spanish dishes to be consumed with delight (and picos) on ironed table linens.
- Ironed napkins.
- Ironed napkins to dab up small dribbles of that cool, fresh, 20 ounce (more or less) little clear beer that ironed Spaniards have taught me to appreciate at around 1 o’clock pm.
- Ironed sheets.
- Self-imported ironed white sheets from neighboring Portugal that are oh-so-lovely to sleep in while hearing the waves crash outside my window at night.
- Ironed baby clothes.
- Learning to raise a half-Spanish daughter that wears both ironed, and non-ironed (*gasp*) baby clothes.
- Ironed old jeans.
- Ironed old jeans to wear with grubby boots to search for, purchase, groom and ride my dream horse.
- Ironed scarves.
- Ironed scarves to accompany ironed Spanish fashion in daily uniforms while exploring the sights, smells, sounds and secluded gems of Southern Spain.
- Ironed underpants.
Now I live here. Permanently. I am a bona-fide, legal resident. I am bound in marriage to a Spaniard, and through my most intimate woman parts and hearts, to my newly formed half-Spanish daughter. I own an apartment. I have adopted a greyhound and a big cat. I pay taxes. The fruit man knows my name. I have university degrees (yes, plural) from a Spanish university. I understand the deepest of the deep local jargon. But yet, I am still an American woman, living in a foreign land. A land where underpants are ironed.