Wish I had a piece of the hosiery industry in Anchorage, where you remove your footwear after you enter someone’s house. Knowing you’ll be unshod regularly means making sure your feet are decently covered.
Once when I was an Anchorage Daily News reporter I took off my shoes at an interviewee’s home and discovered a rent in one sock. It’s hard to look professional when your big toe has its eye to the peephole.
Obviously Alaska is not the only place where indoor shoe-wearing is frowned upon. People in other cultures live this way too – and so, increasingly, do U.S. residents, as a quick Internet search indicates. Sometimes it’s because they want the carpet to last longer. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want spike-heel scratches on the hardwood.
And sometimes it’s to keep you from tracking in poisons.
Want to know what kinds of environmental nasties hitchhike into your home via shoe leather? Check out this essay by Annie B. Bond in The Huffington Post, which provides links that may turn you green around the gills. It may also keep you from letting your kids play on the floor, ever.
Bond knows all that, yet she feels uncomfortable about enforcing a no-shoes policy. It feels like “an imposition, almost a demand for a level of intimacy (or adherence to fastidious cleaning habits).”
The author is quick to acknowledge the health benefits of removing one’s shoes. Still, her “complex and confusing emotional (response)” persists.
A great social leveler
Years ago I covered the Prince William Sound Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska. A lot of theatrical “names” were there, including Edward Albee, John Guare, Lloyd Richards, Jack Gelber, and the late Patricia Neal and August Wilson.
The footwear-off policy was a great leveler of persons, as I noted in an article I wrote for the Chicago Tribune. It’s impossible to think you’re a big shot when you’re wobbling on one foot to deal with a knotted shoelace.
I noticed, however, that no one asked Patricia Neal to remove her shoes. That was likely due to the actor’s health and mobility issues. But I think it may also have been that no one would have dared holler, “Hey, Patsy, off with the brogans!” The woman’s presence was truly formidable. I never heard anyone talk about her except as “Miss Neal,” even when she wasn’t in the room.
(Quick aside: I was at a reception and Miss Neal asked if I would mind retrieving her purse, which was a few feet away from where she sat. Of course I didn’t mind. “Thank you, darling, you’re a divine woman,” she drawled in that marvelous voice. Talk about frisson. Had she asked, I would have given her the contents of my own handbag.)
I know a therapist who requires clients to remove their shoes in the entryway, where she keeps a big basket of crocheted slippers. This would work most of the time, but not always. For example, blogger Bond’s mother is embarrassed by the appearance of her severely arthritic toes. I expect that having to take shoes off and put them back on might cause physical pain for someone with foot problems.
Right now I don’t have a dog in this hunt. The rug in my apartment is more than 20 years old and looks like low tide: the color of faded mud with dark spots here and there that I hope are old cola spills but that may be due to incontinent pets of former tenants. Or maybe to the tenants themselves; as its former manager, I can attest that this building hasn’t always had the greatest luck with renters.
If and when I get a home of my own, I would prefer that it be a welcoming place. I would not want to order an elderly visitor to kick off her old-lady comforts and put on purple crocheted house shoes. Nor would I want to upset a guest who had an invisible disability and a good reason to want to keep his shoes on.
In fact, I wouldn’t want to decide what constitutes a “good” reason. Thus I expect I’ll provide slippers and ask visitors to use them should they be comfortable doing so. I can always run the vacuum after everyone leaves. (If I remember.)
But I can’t deny that it’s a frugal hack since it makes carpets and flooring last longer, to say nothing of potential health benefits. So to those who ask visitors to dis-shoe, how about some advice for the rest of us? Do you explain why or just lay down the law? How do you deal with people with arthritis, or with holes in their socks?