This piece is in response to yesterday’s WSJ article entitled “Here’s why I’ll be keeping my shoes on in your shoeless home” by Kris Frieswick
Why are you assuming that your presence in my house is something I am interested in?
In her WSJ article, Frieswick posits that unless you are forcing her to take off her shoes for cultural reasons, she will not take off her shoes inside of your house at all. In essence, she believes that the whole world is dirty, including your floors, and that the bottoms of her shoes are not tracking in any more germs than your baby or dog is. Oh, and also, every time she takes off her shoes she breaks a toe. Is this article worth anyone’s time to talk about? Not really, but nobody is around to hear my rant right now so I might as well rant to all of you.
First I want to talk about her “cultural or religious reasons” claim that she made up front in the essay, as if to insulate herself from any racial backlash. Frieswick says “If I am entering the home of someone from a culture in which wearing street shoes inside is a sign of disrespect, I’m of course going to take them off”. I would like to ask how she knows the cultural background and customs of everyone whose house she walks inside. Does she ask why? every time someone requests that she takes off her shoes? Or does she perhaps rely on racial profiling. If it’s the latter, does she know every culture that requires shoes to be taken off so that she can profile them? And if the former, how naïve is she to think that a person will feel fully comfortable asserting their religious or cultural beliefs after she has stood in their living room and refused to take her shoes off at their polite request. The premise is inherently flawed.
Much of Frieswick’s piece hinges upon the fact that E-coli and other germs are everywhere, not just on her feet. What she fails to think about is dirt. In carpeted households, or even wood floor households, it can be difficult to remove all of the dirt that gets trekked in and stomped into floors, even on the soles of shoes that are, for an outdoor shoe, clean. A doormat, which Frieswick calls “an effective old-fashioned way to achieve your goal of a clean floor” cannot remove all of the dirt, sand, and pebbles from the bottom of someone’s shoe. There will undoubtedly be dirt that gets into floors that the host will then have to spend their time and energy to clean.
Maybe I could believe that Frieswick considers this just a minor inconvenience that the host should accept upon inviting guests over, but I know from reading her article that Frieswick is in fact incredibly opposed to forced minor inconveniences. She states “to add to the ignominy, next comes the physical challenge of actually taking off shoes… what if I topple over and injure one of my few undamaged body parts while complying with your ridiculous shoeless-home diktat?” If the inconvenience of leaning on a wall to pull off your shoe, or perhaps requesting that you walk a few feet into the house to sit on a chair, is too great for you, then I would imagine that you’d also consider the struggle of renting a carpet cleaner too great. The risk of injuries is just too high! Imagine if I got a repetitive motion injury from cleaning my carpet every time a guest visited my home? Once you stop laughing, you’ll feel really guilty about it.
The biggest issue that I have with this piece isn’t that it’s fundamentally flawed and ignorant. There is a new Twitter think piece trending every month, and oftentimes they’re much more flawed and imperious as this one. My real question is why does Kris Frieswick think that I want her in my home?
Inviting someone into your home is an act just as “utterly vulnerable” as Frieswick’s toes are when they’re not covered. Getting the chance to stumble upon my “bed posts, door jams… and… jacks” while wearing your “hosiery” is a privilege not afforded to many. If you argue with me about the correct way to exist in my house, and then do not relent even after I have offered you another option (indoor shoes!) then you clearly do not respect my home, and in turn you do not respect me. Frieswick claims to be infirm due to her broken toes, and to this I offer a simple fix– bring a pair of indoor shoes with you when you go to someone’s home. They will be yours, without the risk of them being “previously worn by potentially tens of strangers before” you. And although I am unfamiliar with Wolfords, I am sure that you could purchase a pair for a lower price than the housecleaner you urge shoeless households to hire “to mop up after [your] shoe detritus”.
The idea that Frieswick is backing her claim of blatant disrespect by saying that it is actually healthier for my family to be exposed to germs is absurd. Like she said, E-coli (and other bacteria) are everywhere. I am not asking you to strip off your clothing and take a hot disinfecting shower before entering my home, so I’d expect to be exposed to “low-level filth” whenever you walk in the door. After all, it comes with your personality!
If you do not want to respect my beliefs and customs (whether or not they are cultural) inside of my own home, then I do not want to be friends with you. I, and many other shoeless homeowners, associate with people who respect me and my home.
My policy for my home is this: If there is something seriously nasty visible in your personality, then you should remain outside unless you personally desire to change that. If not, my friend, you’re on your own.
Here in Switzerland there are big felt slippers you can put on OVER your shoes if you don’t want to take them off. And/or you might be provided an assortment of house slippers to borrow. It’s completely normal and nobody makes a fuss about it (that would be very un-Swiss). I even remove my shoes at the dentist!
LikeLiked by 1 person
okay the fact that you have slippers to put on over your shoes is SO COOL AND SMART!!! the no shoes at the dentist thing would be so weird in the US it’s hard to wrap my head around it but it’s very interesting how different countries do things so differently!
i would say most people will remove their shoes in your home without complaint here too but apparently not everyone!
LikeLiked by 1 person