"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
July 26, 2012
Shoes: On or Off?
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


I live in a no-shoe house. Is it rude to ask my guests to remove their shoes even if it’s obviously making them uncomfortable?


Yes! That is very rude.

A hostess has a solemn duty to make her guests comfortable. This does not mean you have to allow smoking or drinking or carrying on in a house where those things are prohibited. But it does mean that a guest and his feelings are more important than your floor.

There are parts of the world where removing one’s shoes is customary when you enter a home. It’s almost a sacred responsibility. But the United States of America, excepting perhaps coal country, is not one of those places. The general rule in the USA is that guests remain shod while visiting.

Think of all the reasons a person might wish to keep his shoes on. Perhaps it is difficult for him to bend. Perhaps the shoes are difficult for him to fasten. Perhaps he is nursing a foot problem that is best kept concealed within his shoe. Perhaps his socks don’t match. Perhaps he is afraid that your floor will contaminate his feet and not the other way around, as you suppose.

Obviously, if a guest is dripping mud or slush, you can say something like, “Oh dear! Look at your poor shoes! That must be so uncomfortable. Let me put those somewhere to dry for you.” You would then fetch a chair for the person to use and provide an appropriate place for him to deposit the messy footwear.

But if your guest arrives wearing normal, unsoiled shoes, you should neither ask nor insist that he remove them. Even if he asks, “Should I take my shoes off?” you should only reply, “No, that’s okay.” However, if your guest expresses a desire to remove his shoes or does it voluntarily, you may acquiesce.

I do carve out an exception for the shoes of children who have come to your house to play. I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask them to leave their shoes at the door. You should also take the opportunity to inform them of house rules in a way you would not do with adult guests.

The reason is that they, as children, are still subject to adult instruction. They do not possess as much awareness and self-restraint as adults when it comes to the proper use of and care for furniture and furnishings. Their shoes are more likely to be muddy. Also, adults generally do not kick or step on each other; both of these things tend to happen among children.

I think you will find that you, as hostess, will also be more comfortable when your guests keep their shoes on.

First, you will have the overwhelming satisfaction of putting the comfort of your guests above your own feelings.

Second, you will not have to look at anyone’s socks or bare feet. And any private aspect of the person’s feet — such as odor or unsightliness — will remain private.

Third, you will not have to hover awkwardly, filled with shame, as your guests struggle with their shoes.

Fourth, you will have the opportunity of experiencing something you find uncomfortable and then seeing that the sky did not fall. Or, more specifically, you will be able to see that wearing shoes in your house did not contaminate or damage it. This will be good for your mental health.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

Bookmark and Share    
About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
Copyright © Hatrack River Enterprise Inc. All Rights Reserved. Web Site Hosted and Designed by WebBoulevard.com