People and their relationship with their shoes, is an important personality identifier as well as a cultural values totem. Janna, an Iowa farm girl, loves her bare feet. She wanders the apartment and neighborhood in bare feet as often as she can and as weather and circumstance permit.
Going barefoot isn’t as gross as wearing Vomit Pants to bed, but it’s close. She has even gone barefoot in New York City where the things on the street are the stuff people spit away and pets purposefully deposit on the scorching asphalt.
The soles of her feet are blackened and are like thick leather. She is not, however, one of those sorts who kicks off their shoes on an airplane or at work where everyone within ten feet can smell the floating stank and witness the growing fungi. Those people who feel the need to share the freedom of their feet always fascinate me in the way of the grotesque and self-interested.
The soles of my feel are paper-thin and non-calloused. Like Janna, I was raised in the Midwest, but I was taught you put on your socks and shoes — you always wear socks with any kind of footwear — when you wake up at 5:00am and you only take them off at 10:00pm when you go to bed. That’s 17 hours of non-barefoot, always-on, socked-and-shoed, walking. If, after 10:00pm, you need to put your feet on your floor, you put on socks again first and then sandals and then you are free to walk around because bare feet are only for sleeping. Never for walking. When I talk about cultural values with my friends and students, a good stepping-off point for identification and persuasiveness is this whole “Shoes Thing.”
I usually get cacophonous laughter when I tell my shoes story. Most of my Asian friends were raised to always take their shoes off the moment they entered the home. They then wear socks while at home or they wear special sandals that are never worn outside the home. The reason for the “No Shoes in The House Rule” — one genius medical student told me — is because “In many parts of India the streets are filthy.
The streets are open garbage cans. It would be unsafe and unhealthy to bring in the street into your home. So you leave the street outside by taking off your shoes when you arrive home.” That makes sense if you live in India, but what do you do with visitors and workers in America who do not share your no shoes, please, we’re Asian beliefs?
I always find it strange when I am ordered to take off my shoes when I visit someone’s home. Their home is their castle, but my shoes are my moats. I know people who make delivery and repair folk take off their boots before entering their home to work. If the workers refuse to remove their footwear and many of them do — plastic is then rolled out for them to walk on and paper bags are strewn in front of them to walk on where the plastic cannot reach like pieces of Apsyrtus cast into the sea to slow down the mongrels in the chase. Feet were not made to be bare.
Feet were made to be encased Always! and swaddled in socks and captured by shoes with a heavy soles and steel shanks. Forget this not or you will soon feel the wrath of the world seeping between your toes.