Can We Please Talk About This Lady Who Won't Take Her Shoes Off In Other People's Homes?

Can We Please Talk About This Lady Who Won't Take Her Shoes Off In Other People's Homes?
DIY Ladder Shoe Shelf | © Geneva V… | Flickr

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal published an essay by Kris Frieswick — who, according to a quick Google search, writes 'humor' for the Wall Street Journal (oh boy) and is also the deputy editor of Mansion, the WSJ's luxury real estate insert — titled "Here’s Why I’ll Be Keeping My Shoes on in Your Shoeless Home" and subtitled "Why are you assuming that your guests’ shoes are dirtier than your floors?"

It really didn't need to be an essay. It could have been a sentence. "Because I am an asshole" could have been that sentence. Instead, she chose to go on. And on. And on.

Shoes are one of the things that separates us from other species. Not only are shoes fabulous, but they protect our soft and not-very-well-designed feet from threats both foreign and domestic. Every single toe that I ever broke got that way while I was not wearing shoes.

#NotAllShoes? I mean, sure, if you're wearing combat boots or work boots, maybe — but shoes bring their own danger. I was once nearly murdered by several cocktails and a pair of Jeffrey Campbell Litas. Plus half of all summer shoes do not even entirely cover your feet, so if you dropped something on them (I am assuming this is how the toes got broke), they would not be of much use.

Despite their incalculable value to the human race, many people maintain a shoeless home. Some of them believe that forcing people to remove their shoes before entering will help keep their floors clean from the various things that exist outside.

This woman, again, is the deputy editor of something called Mansion, and yet she is somehow entirely unfamiliar with the concept of hardwood floors. It's not just that wearing shoes in the house tracks dirt everywhere that someone who is not you has to clean up; it's also that outdoor shoes can scuff up and wear down hardwood floors and other types of floors, no matter how immaculately clean one's shoes are. And people who don't have mansions can't afford to get their floors replaced because some guest couldn't be bothered to take their shoes off.

Now, I’m not a barbarian. If I am entering the home of someone from a culture in which wearing street shoes inside is a sign of disrespect, or if my shoes are covered in snow, mud, blood, condiments of any sort, lava, excrement, concrete dust, or biomedical hazardous waste, I’m of course going to take them off. And I don’t really need to be told to do so.

But barring shoes outright just to keep your floors clean is bringing a gun to a pillow fight. Turns out there’s already an effective old-fashioned way to achieve your goal of a clean floor while neither insulting my hygiene habits nor endangering my delicate, vulnerable, long-suffering feet: It’s called a doormat.

Again — hardwood floors.

And frankly, everyone who asks you to take your shoes off before you enter your home is from a culture where wearing street shoes inside is a sign of disrespect. It's weird to say "Oh no, I'm not going to do that." It's also not an insult to your personal "hygiene." At most, it's an insult to the outdoors.

As the person who is the weird one here, the onus is on Ms. Frieswick to ask beforehand if she is required to take her shoes off before coming over to someone else's home, just like people who are allergic to cats or whatever ask beforehand if there is a cat in the home. Then she can make her decision. She can stay the fuck home. She can bring slippers. She can suck it up and go shoeless like everyone else.

Frieswick then goes on to suggest that some people are not just afraid of dirt but of germs. Like E. coli. And brings a scientist into the equation to say that E. coli is everywhere and also babies are more dangerous than shoes.

In other shoeless homes, it isn’t the dirt that owners fear. It’s the germs. For these folks, shoes are superspreader events. They likely got freaked out by a 2008 study by scientists at the University of Arizona that found that 96% of shoe soles have fecal bacteria like E. coli on them. Gross, right? Shoes are the devil.

Oh, wait. Turns out E. coli is EVERYWHERE ALREADY. You’re probably sitting in a big pile of it right now. “When people see [the Arizona study] they just are horrified,” says Elizabeth Scott, professor of microbiology at Simmons University and a founding member of the International Forum on Home Hygiene. “For me that’s no surprise at all. E. coli is everywhere.”

So what about babies? They are fecal bacteria machines. I asked Dr. Scott if having a baby in your house is actually more dangerous to home cleanliness than my shoes. “Don’t quote me saying that,” she says, “but baby poop sure is.”

Never in my life have I heard of anyone demanding shoes be removed due to fears of E. Coli. But if you go to someone's house and they ask you to remove your shoes for that reason, whether you agree with it or not, you take your damn shoes off or you leave. Because it's their home and they get to make the rules, even if you think those rules are stupid. They are not legally obligated to have you in their home.

After going on (and on) about the "dangers" she faces by not wearing shoes in someone's home, she then brings the scientist back to say that her dirty ass shoes are protecting the very lives of the children in that home.

If you do keep a shoeless home, you should also know that you are probably endangering your family’s health, not just their feet. Exposure to low-level filth, like that tracked in by friends who refuse to remove their shoes, actually helps bring a little bit of the outside in. Engaging with outdoor microbiomes is, Dr. Scott says, one of the ways that human immunity is developed. You love your children, the little fecal bacteria bombs, don’t you? They gotta eat some dirt in this life, so why not get them started at home? They’ll grow up healthy and strong and go on to get great jobs and make lots of money and support you in your old age.

Or they could just, you know, go outside.

I love shoes. Sometimes my entire ensemble is built around my shoes and kind of looks stupid without the shoes, as is the case with several dresses I bought specifically to go with thigh high boots. But if I go to someone's home and they ask me to take my shoes off, I take my damn shoes off. Because I have manners. And also those little rollable ballet flat slippers that I can just stick in my purse. It's not a big deal, and it's their home so they make the rules. Just as a host has certain obligations towards a guest, a guest has certain obligations to a host. And one of those obligations is following the rules of their home. If you don't do that, the host has every right to ask you to leave and never invite you over again. You are not entitled to be invited into someone's home, unless you have a warrant.

Frieswick clearly believes she is such a desirable and sought after dinner party guest that she ought to get to make the rules at someone else's home, and they should just consider themselves lucky to have her. I imagine that is not the case in reality.

This may seem an odd topic for a political site, but A) It's the weekend and B) This definitely relates back to the assholes who want to be allowed to go places and do things that require a mask or a vaccine without a mask or a vaccine. At the end of the day, that too comes down to having manners and understanding that we don't always get to make the rules when we go places other than our own homes.

Hopefully this will give you all something to discuss until 12pm Pacific/3pm Eastern when Stephen and I will be back for our weekend live chat!

[Wall Street Journal]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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