Whether it’s from a genuinely good place or the fear of being scolded, I am — in public, anyway — a pretty agreeable person. Smilingly obedient, at times.
But there’s one custom against which I really must rebel: having to take off my shoes when I go to someone’s house.
If there is a female equivalent to being emasculated, (and really, why isn’t there?), then this is it.
The countries and cultures that strictly enforce this practice are well equipped to provide the kind of experience that has come to be expected when a bunch of people hang around shoeless. I can’t tell you what that is, but it’s my understanding that guests are given slippers, sit on pristine mats, and are provided, if not a snack, at least tea. But in the interest of creating an atmosphere of cleanliness and familiarity, (only one of which I can say I’m completely for), all kinds of homes now require guests to relinquish their shoes to a pile of shunned footwear huddled around a mocking welcome mat before they come inside.
Already tense about leaving the comfort of my home (where I’m not comfortable), I have now been rendered either stocking-footed or barefoot.
I’ll start with the with the only-slightly-less unpleasant prospect of the two.
To be publicly in socks isn’t what my ancestors wanted for me. Even the world’s toniest socks — which mine are not — they’re from the drug store and say “no nonsense” across the top — are not what I want to wear when I go out. (And neither are slippers, which I’ve tried — big conversation starter.)
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When I go out, I take varying levels of care to put together something that will not only get me from a Lyft to a door and back the other way without incident, but that expresses some aesthetic intention. And while not necessarily complex, my outfit has been crafted to elicit certain top and middle characteristics, as well as a definite bottom note — that of shoe. I need that bottom note, and that inch-and-a-half to be 5’7”.
Take away my shoes, and you cut me off, not necessarily at the knee, but certainly at the ankle (boot).
Then there is the more unpleasant prospect, which is to have to, through no fault of my own, pass the evening barefooted. Although I was born, raised, and remain in the wilds of Los Angeles among very free and super easy spirits, I somehow never sold out to the hippie dream of everyone having dirty feet. (That’s what they wanted, right?) When you add to that my toes’ propensity to be the victims of freak, bloody art homework accidents, as well a father who yelled at his kids to put on some socks because their feet were making him cold, it’s no surprise that I prefer not to be barefoot, even at home.
Plus, times being what they are, I’ve had let go of most of my glam squad, so I’m not perennially in possession of the perfect pedicure. But when it gets over 90, which it does with irksome unpredictability, I set forth in sandals — sandals, which, when checked at the door, leave me barefoot barefooted, naked-footed, and susceptible to all factors therein — microbes notwithstanding. Yes, in the most ironical of ironies, your floor makes my feet dirty.
So, if you inhabit a space that can’t be sullied by people who wear shoes when they go out, (which I’d like to think is still most people), you don’t provide tatami mats, and I’m not specifically coming over for an orgy, (it needs to say it on the invite), then I’ll keep my shoes on, thanks.
I promise to deftly wipe them on the mat before I enter and I’ll cover any additional cleaning costs you might incur from my visit, orgy or no orgy. But losing my dignity at the door? Before I’ve even had a chance to look around? It’s a filthy idea, and I won’t stand for it.