Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More on personal autonomy

In the last post I was talking about personal autonomy and children being forced to share.

Discovering personal autonomy is such an important part of being an individual. Obviously, being required to follow rules is a limitation on one's autonomy.

I think sometimes adults can harm children by imposing on them all kinds of rules that do not necessarilly serve a purpose. But some rules are necessary. Being part of a community or family involves one in a set of relationships that must have boundaries.

In my opinion, a no-shoes rule is a perfectly good rule that serves a useful purpose. That said, a child who is asked to follow that rule may not necessarilly have chosen to be under that obligation. The reasons for the rule may have been very patientlty explained, but she may still prefer not to be subject to it. Of course, if the child has grown up with that rule it is less likely to seem a burden. However, it may be that her parents decide to adopt it when she is older or a teenager. I read a discussion forum about a step-mother who's new step-daughter hated having to follow the rule in her new home.

Ultimately in life, there are some boundaries that you have to accept and stick to, and in that situation, the child is going to have to get used to the rule. However, there are two possible ways that the child's autonomy can be preserved.

First, the child can be given a choice when it comes to indoor footwear. She can opt for socks, bare feet or be offered a range of styles of slippers. She can designate a pair of flip flops as indoor footwear. The parent might allow the child the option of designating a pair of outdoor shoes as indoor footwear; however, dark soles cna mark flooring and heels will cause wear. The parent might also be concerned that visitors might be confused.

Secondly, you could allow the child the option of wearing shoes in her room. Her room is her own personal space in which she can express herself. Of course, it is your house and you paid for the carpet in your son or daugheter's room. However, if you are giving the child responsibility over her own room. you could give her that freedom. That would give her a stronger sense of autonomy.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Natural Attachment: Sharing is caring

Michele James Parham put up an interesting post about children and sharing. She takes the view that children should not be forced to share their possessions by adults. Having rights over property is an important part of realising personal autonomy.

I agree with her. Children should have the freedom to develop personal autonomy, which is such a vital part of being an individual.

Part of being personal autonomy is having boundaries. Having the power to say 'No!' If you cannot say 'No!' you have no control over your life.

It is so important to respect the boundaries that other people set. Every person deserves to have their free choices respected.

One of the boundaries that some people set is too require people entering their homes to remove their shoes. Whether that is for religious reasons, to protect their children's health or just to keep the carpet clean, it is a choice that other people should respect.

There are some people who treat this choice with contempt. A common thing you will read in forums discussing the shoes-off rule is "If you don't want people wearing shoes in your house, don't invite any guests." If you take that attitude why should anybody invite you to their home?

I actually think the people who object to the shoes-off rule are rather like adults who force childen to share. They fail to see that nobody is under an obligation to provide hospitality to anybody. Being invited to somebody's home is a privilege, not a right and if you are, you must respect the boundaries of the hostess.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We British are not perfect

I happen to believe that the British Empire was the greatest empire in history and that it gave much good to the world. However, it was not perfect and it contained much injustice.

British rule in Burma was a somewhat bloody affair. It was made worse by the habit of British colonizers visiting Buddhist temples and refusing to remove their shoes. The disrespect of the British in not complying with the tradition of removing shoes aroused an entire campaign of opposition to British rule.

It is sad to read of British people showing such a lack of respect. Whatever your religion, if you visit a holy place where shoe-removal is expected, you should comply. If you don't want to take your shoes off, don't visit.

Friday, September 26, 2008

How to silently remind your guests to remove their shoes


1. Cast your eyes downwards at the guest's feet for a few seconds.

2. Make a faint smile with gritted teeth.

3. Look down at the guest's feet again.

4. When the guest looks down, nod.

This is may not to work on first-time guests. This is best for reminding people who already know you don't want shoes in your house.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bible study, Ugg boots and church ministers

I went to the Bible study at our American pastor's house again yesterday. Again, everybody removed their shoes.

A girl explained to the pastor's wife that the Ugg boots she was wearing were slippers. I had heard that some people use Ugg boots as slippers, but I had never seen anybody doing that. Girls always seem to wear them outdoors. The first time I saw Ugg boots I thought they looked hideous, but I have gotten used to them. But I simply cannot understand girls wearing Ugg boots on hot summer days. Their feet must be so sweaty.

The pastor's house is the first shoes-off house I have visited in the UK (remember my definition? 'A home where there is a manifest expectation that shoes will be removed.'), though it is interesting that the occupants are Americans.

I remember a while ago reading a discussion thread about shoes-off policies. A commenter on the thread mentioned a vicar she knew who had a strict shoes-off policy on account of the many visitors he and his wife had.

Religious ministers are a group of people who are likely to have more visitors to their homes than other people. For that reason, I think that they would be very wise to adopt the shoes-off rule. If you are a Christian, please think about your church minister's carpet or floor when you visit him. They often do not earn much money so they can't afford to get regular carpet cleaning or replace their floors.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Neat Freaks?


It is commonly thought that people who insist on shoes-off in their homes are neat freaks who are obsessed with keeping their homes clean and tidy.

I dare say that there are some people who prefer shoes-off who are genuine neat freaks. And those who are Obsessive-Compulsive about cleanliness may well be among the shoes-off community.

Of course this is culturally relative. In Japan it is thought that money is dirty and unhygeinic because it is handled by untold numbers of people. Japanese people also regard any objects placed in bathrooms, such as books or ornaments to be 'dirty'. A person in a western society who held such attitudes would almost certainly be regarded as Obsessive-Compulsive.

I have known a number of people who really were excessive in their desire to keep their homes clean. Interestingly, these people did not require visitors to remove their shoes. I suspect that they probably spent so much time in cleaning their homes that they were happy to waste time cleaning up afer their visitors.

Many people who keep their homes shoe-free are not domestic goddesses who like nothing better than spending whole days doing spring cleaning. Rather, they are busy working people who have far better things to do. They do not want to clean up for the sake of it, but they know that living in a clean environment is healthier and far more pleasent. Knowing that time is precious they would rather keep the mess to the minimum and spend as little time as possible cleaning up after their visitors. Prevention is better than cure.

Nobody needs a house that is spotless, but it is pointless to allow dirt and dust to accumulate when it could easily be kept out by leaving shoes at the door. A floor is meant to be walked upon, but that does not mean that one should not reduce wear and tear and save time and money.

Friday, September 19, 2008


One thing on some people's minds when you talk about shoes-off in homes is stubbing of toes. Obviously, if you are worried about stubbing your toes, you can wear slippers and if you let guests know about your policy, they can bring their own.

Believe it or not, your feet do get tougher if you let them. As I am barefoot at home and nearly always in flip flops when outside, my toes get stubbed a lot. But it happens so often that it barely hurts that much any more.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Housewarming Party


If you are moving into a new house or apartment and you want to make a clean start and have a no-shoes rule, you have an ideal opportunity to kick it off with an housewarming party.

The best thing to do is to indicate clearly on invitations that you will be requiring shoes-off. That way people will have no surpises. They can bring slippers, wear clean socks with no holes or a floaty skirt that looks great with barefeet (Trinny and Susanah actually recommend that hostesses of dinner parties should wear a long skirt with barefeet or slippers).

Having an housewarming party is such an excellent way to send the message that your new house will be a shoe-free zone. Even those of your friends who do not come will see on the invitation that you want shoes-off.

Requiring shoes-off at a housewarming party sends the message that you are really serious about the rule and that it is not just an exception for a wet winter evening. After all, some people with shoeless homes actually make an exception and allow shoes-on in parties. However, having shoes-off at an housewarming makes it clear that you want the house to stay as it was when you bought it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A very shoeless Bible study

Tonight I attended the church Bible study, which is held at the pastor's house.

Everybody remove their shoes and were in socks or bare feet. As most of the congregation attended, the hallway looked remarkably like a shoe-shop.

I think this is an excellent courtesy. If a home is hosting a large gathering every week, the carpet will be ruined unless people take their shoes off.

In the cells

If you are arrested, you will probably have to be a polite guest and remove your shoes before entering the cells.



I am always a little surprised when I see children wearing shoes at home, whether on television or in person. It surprises me because when I was a child, my parents expected me to remove my shoes at the door. When I visited my friends' homes, their parents often expected me to take my shoes off. So it always seems a little strange when I see children keeping their shoes on at home.

The practise of removing shoes was expected until I reached the age of about 12. My parents became less stringent about it as I got older. Occasionally this house rule would be revived in later years. It was restored when I was 21 when my parents and I moved to a house with cream carpets, though they were not consistent in keeping to it.

There are some homes, in the UK, where the hosts will expect the children of guests to remove their shoes, but would not expect it of adult guests. Some guests will insist that their children remove their shoes without removing their own. I can understand why some people may be more concerned about children's shoes; children do tend to be less careful about what they step in and are more likely to run around in long and wet grass. However, adults should never forget that their own shoes pick up an awful lot of less noticeable dirt. There is also the fact that children learn to follow rules better when adults act consistently. There is a certain amount of 'do as I say, not do as I do' in the requirement of shoes-off for children only.

Some childcare experts are of the opinion that children should wear shoes to the minimum necessary and therefore recommend shoes-off indoors for health reasons.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A prayer meeting at the pastor's house

Since moving to Hastings, I have decided which church I shall be attending.

Yesterday I attended a men's prayer meeting at the house of the pastor (an American).

Apart from one person, everybody who attended removed their shoes. The shoe-racks and huge shoe colletion by the door suggested that the pastor and his wife preferred shoes-off, even if not necessarilly strict about it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Good Behaviour in a Shopping Mall

In the Hastings shopping mall today, I saw a girl put her feet up on a bench. She had removed her boots before doing so.

I also saw a young man in a clothes shop who had removed his shoes before setting up a window display.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Smelly Feet


The issue of 'smelly feet' is often raised as an argument against the Shoes-Off rule.

In Western society there seems to be a lot of paranoia about the phenomena of 'smelly feet'. I think this is simply a result of people not removing their shoes very often. Your feet will actually smell a lot less if you remove your shoes regularly. It is unfortunate that we in Britain have not yet reached the civilised heights of Finland, where it is acceptable to remove shoes in business meetings and on trains (not that people do not do so in Britain, but it is frowned upon somewhat).

Nevertheless, I think most people worry too much about this issue. People imagine their feet smell far more than they actually do. I have met very few people who let off much of an aroma after removing their shoes, and most of them were people who did not wash and change their socks regularly.

If people know in advance that they need to remove their shoes, they can make sure they wear clean socks, or even better, bring slippers with them. If they are especially worried about it, they can use some of those fancy foot deoderents.

Feet wil smell a lot less if people wear sandals. Sneakers are best avoided in favour of leather shoes.

Some people will say 'I would rather put up with a dirty floor than people's smelly feet.' Well, I guess people decide on their own priorities. However, stinking feet will leave with the guests. A dirty floor will not. Nor will the dust they brought in on their shoes, and that is very bad for your health.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Young Japan Enthusiasts

The other day I visited Hastings museum (which is currently hosting an exhibition of some wonderful Japanese prints). There were a collection of children's drawings on display. These were entries in a competition for children to draw Manga style art. It is interesting that young children now have the cultural knowledge to recognise and copy the Japanese Manga style.

Children today are exposed to a lot of Japanese culture through films, toys, cartoons, comics and computer games. One of the biggest Japanese fads was the inane Pokemon phenomena.

I remember some years ago, switching on the television and finding that a Pokemon cartoon was on, I noticed that the characters had all removed their shoes at the door of a house and the hostess was barefoot. I don't know if the characters were supposed to be Japanese or American; they looked white to me (perhaps a helpful reader can clarify), but whatever the case, the Japanese custom of removing shoes in homes was being portrayed in the cartoon.

Yesterday I was in the supermarket and heard a boy of about 12 or 13 years asking his mother if they could have sushi for dinner. I was impressed with the boy's cultural fluency (though I am sure his nose-ringed mother was the sort of middle-class Hippy type that would steer her children in that direction- perhaps she even kept a shoe-free home).

It seems clear to me that a lot of boys between the ages of 10 and 20 have a real enthusiasm for Japan that they have gained through Japanese cultural imports. Such boys would dearly love to visit the country (though they might not enjoy the standard tourist temple tour). A lot of girls share this enthusiasm for Japan too.

With all this exposure and enthusiasm for Japan, we can be confident that the next generation will be far more disposed to have a no-shoes policy in their homes.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Athlete's Foot


An unpleasent fungal infection.

A lot of people mention Athlete's Foot as an argument against people having a shoes-off policy. However, this is a quite unnecessary concern.

Athlete's Foot is generally associated with swimming pools and changing rooms. It is possible to catch Athlete's Foot on one's barefeet at a swimming pool or in a locker room. However, recent research indicates that this is not so likely as was previously thought.

Most importantly, the reason people catch Athlete's Foot in those places is not because people there are barefoot, but because the fungus needs a warm and wet environment. People get exposed to the fungus in the damp conditions. If they fail to dry their feet, the fungus is very comfortable and even more so if the victim puts on sweaty socks.

The fungus will not survive long on the clean, dry floor or carpet of a person's home and so you are very unlikely to catch Athlete's Foot in somebody's house, even if the owner has the condition.

What is more, people who are not wearing socks are likely to put on sandals when they leave, as opposed to closed shoes. Thus, they will not create the right environment for the condition to thrive.

Of course, if you are worried about it, you can always bring some slippers or socks when you visit a shoes-off home.

People who have a shoes-off policy ought to let their visitors know in advance and be willing to lend a pair of clean socks, if not slippers.