Before we get to the post proper, I just wanted to mention to my fellow swappers that the CDs are in the mail, and the post about their contents will appear in this very space next Friday.
I grew up in a home where wearing shoes in the house was discouraged, sometimes strenuously. This is not uncommon in northern climes, I guess, where bringing in 40 pounds of mud, snow, and salt with you after playing out in the snow (or, if you were an adult, working) is just not on. And when winter lasts 10 months of the year, it just becomes a habit to not wear shoes in the house.
When I finally moved into my own place, I didn’t think much about it; I did not formulate a shoes-in-the-house policy, per se. It seemed common sense that if you’d stepped in something icky, you’d try not to drag it into any house that was kind enough to have you, and this seemed to work out fine at my house and the houses I visited, as far as I could tell. I prefer to be shoeless and comfy at home, but my back and hips have for a long time decided otherwise for me. So I split the difference and wear clogs a lot so that I can spare my back when I’m standing or walking, and kick them off when I’m sitting or lounging. I wear shoes in the house out of necessity…but I’m just as likely to walk outside in my stocking feet to get the mail or bring the dogs out, because sometimes I just don’t feel like bowing to the tyranny of footwear. I’m a rebel like that.
That is to say, I don’t really care if you wear shoes in my house or not, and most of the people I know don’t care either. So it’s not a problem, and I would’ve continued to not think about it, except that I’m a regular reader and FB liker of Apartment Therapy.
It never occurred to me that this was a burning philosophical debate in the world until I read this Apartment Therapy post, and the kazillion vehement comments thereafter. There seemed to be 3 opinions:
- OMG! NO SHOES IN THE HOUSE EVERRRRRRR!
- If I put shoes on, who are you to tell me to take them off?
- Who cares? Let people do what they want, and get a life. (The thoughtful, intelligent, and relaxed people who took this stance were in the minority, of course.)
What was most surprising me was that the first two groups both seemed most concerned with the same thing, which was cleanliness and health. Those who didn’t want shoes in the house seemed to imagine that every single one of their guests had walked their filthy shoes through every disgusting gutter available, shuffling through dog poop and hobo pee and random globs of mucus, the provenance of which was better left unknown and unconsidered, as if they were so many delightful autumn leaves.
Those who wanted to keep their shoes on were split pretty evenly between health and fashion issues (and many brought up both). There were a few gimpy folks like me, who must wear shoes or become progressively more crippled as a visit wears on. But there were plenty who questioned the cleanliness of the floors they’d have to place their bare or stocking feet on, and had many choice, if anonymous, words to say about the inadequacy of the housekeeping skills of their “friends.” They were not interested in placing their presumably pristine feet on someone else’s grody floors that had all manner of everyday dirt, kid snot, and dog slobber (or worse) on them.
(It’s true—once you’ve decided to have dogs, clean floors are pretty much a lost, Sisyphean cause.)
What surprised me beyond how adamant people were about their positions was the general terror over dirt and germs. This is something I don’t understand at all. Yes, I don’t want anyone’s cold and appreciate it if known contagious vectors would keep their cooties to themselves, and I do likewise when I’m sick, but beyond that, because I am not immunocompromised, I’m going to sit on public toilet seats (if they’re filthy enough to make me want to use the paper thingy, I just choose another stall) and touch bathroom door handles and the like, because the human body is generally pretty good at fighting off random bugs, and when it can’t, it makes you that much stronger the next time. All bets are off if you have some other condition that makes you have to be extra careful, but most of us don’t have those conditions, and we NEED germs; they make us stronger. The world cannot be sanitized for our protection, and you’re better off if your body learns to deal with it sooner rather than later, lest you find yourself living in a plastic bubble floating lonesomely on a sea of Purell.
And dirt? Dirt is just dirt. It washes. In most cases, it is unlikely to kill you. We are a species that evolved in a time when the world was MADE of dirt. As a matter of fact, I believe it’s STILL made of dirt, but ‘twas even more so back then. There was dirt in everything you ate and drank, and half of that stuff was probably in some stage of rot or uncontrolled fermentation anyway. We survived to replicate ourselves to 7 billion strong despite it all, despite virus and bacterium and cancer and a lack of reliable refrigeration and flush toilets. Evidence of our evolutionary victory greets us in every mirror, in every packed bus, in every overcrowded city. We are, in a word, hardy. And yet never in my life have I witnessed more people terrified of dirt and germs. My dog eats her own poop straight out of the dirt in the yard on a disgustingly regular basis, and she’s perfectly healthy, so I’m pretty sure my picking up a dropped piece of bacon off my own kitchen floor and eating it (if the dogs don’t beat me to it) is probably not going to be a fatal error.
So whaddayathink? Shoes or no shoes in the house? Germs: relatively benign annoyance or evil foe that must be eradicated at all costs? What is your dirt threshold?
*First aid by Lee Corso.