It’s Not All Mary Poppins

New Shoes

I live in an old house. Well, old by North American standards. Any Europeans reading this — I know there are one or two — will be amused to know that a house that is just barely coming up on its one hundredth birthday could be considered old, but in this country? It’s ancient.

(For you history buffs: The city where I live was founded in 1826 and re-named “Ottawa” in 1855. So, my house, built somewhere between 1912 and 1920, so the experts estimate, goes back to early days.) It’s not a gorgeous house, but the ceilings are high-ish and the moldings wide-ish. It’s a nice, small house. It’s also, in the winter, drafty. Brrr.

So you wear sweaters, and put that plastic stuff up on the windows and put draft stops along the bottoms of the doors, and you wear warm, wooly socks and slippers.

Except. Slippers. I go through slippers like popcorn. I wear them all day, every day, six months of the year. And every year, within a couple of months, they’re loose and sloppy, and when I run up the stairs (and I always run), they flip off my feet.

That’s annoying.

Even the really expensive, very cozy pair of shearling-leather-suede-whatever ones I bought a couple of years ago. A few months, and they fly off my feet. Even though they started out almost uncomfortably snug. They fly off my feet when I run up the stairs, and when I walk through rooms they slide off my heels a bit, making a shuffling sound. I’ll shuffle when I’m 90, thanks. I don’t want to be doing it now.

So that was annoying, as well.

So, if it can’t be slippers, then it’ll have to be shoes. Now, I don’t like wearing shoes in the house. Not just because we live in a semi, and my poor neighbour is now going to hear my feet running up the stairs, every time. (Sorry, nice neighbour! Hope you still like me in two months…) No, it’s more than that.

In some places, I know, you leave your shoes on when you come inside, but here you TAKE THEM OFF. Because outdoor shoes track stuff in. Mud, grit, damp. You’re reasonable about it, of course. When we had workmen here, the poor fellows spend the better part of one morning carrying bags and bags of debris from the basement, through the main floor, and out the front door. Over and over again. They were all set, well-brought-up young men that they are, to take their boots off every time they entered, and put them back on every time the left that front door. All 153 times.

Of course, I told them they could keep their boots on.

But mostly? The expectation is the footwear comes off. It’s RUDE to leave your shoes on when you visit another home, and you always take them off in your own. Period. That’s ingrained in me. Wearing shoes in the house just feels wrong. So if I am to wear shoes in the house, they’ll have to be a dedicated pair, worn only in the house. Then I can call them “house shoes”, see, and they can be in the same mental category as “slippers”, and all that social training can leave my subconscious alone.

A couple of years ago, I discovered — wait. I lie. A couple of years ago Emma discovered that you can design your own Converse shoes, right there on their website. How cool is that?? She went to the website, she designed her shoe, she got to the checkout… and the things were expensive. Really, really expensive.

Sorry, love. We can’t do that.

But I remembered that idea, and I went back. Oddly enough, given how much walking I do, I’m easy on my shoes. Shoes last me a long time. If I’m to wear these things only indoors, I bet I could get ten years out of them. And if that’s the case, maybe I can justify paying a boatload of money on a pair of runners…

So I went onto the website and did a little poking around. And THAT’S when we discovered that if you’re ordering from a Canadian address, it costs a boatload of money. But if you’re ordering from an American address, it costs only a rowboat of money.

Guess what? I have a daughter living in the states!! And it only costs about $10 to mail a shoebox north of the border… mwah-ha. So I called my daughter up, we both logged into the site, and together we clicked boxes and chose options. And then she made the purchase on her Visa. And then I dropped the money into her account, right there, right then. (Isn’t the internet WONDERFUL???)

She emailed me when they’d arrived. “They’re pretty wild, mum.” And then she stuck them in the mail. When they arrived, my youngest daughter looked at them and said, dubiously, “They’re awfully loud.”

Mwah-ha. Good thing they’re both too old to be embarrassed by their mother… Yes, they are! I know this because only last week, Emma informed us, after the Wonderful Husband had said something goofy (or exceptionally affectionate or maybe affectionately goofy), “As I’ve matured, you two have moved from being embarrassing to just being funny.”

So. My girls may laugh at my shoes, but at least they’re not cringing. (And tough if they were, says I. My feet, my shoes. Neener, neener.)

Introducing Mary’s wild shoes:

Because, really. I’m a daycare lady! Daycare ladies should get to wear wild shoes.

Aren’t they great? Miss Frizzle would be proud.

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October 19, 2011 - Posted by | individuality, my kids, random and odd | , , , , ,

15 Comments »

  1. Those shoes are AWESOME.

    I went through the same “what to wear on my feet” thing (and I have the same leather-and-shearling slippers you do, I’ll bet). Complicated by the fact that my right foot pronates (turns in) quite a bit when I walk so I need very supportive footwear. I gave up and bought inside sneakers, just like the kids have at school.

    Every workman who comes here tries to take off his shoes, too. It’s such an ingrained habit in Canada! But I distinctly remember reading a post from a Canuck blogger who’d moved to the southern US and was having a hard time forgetting that it was utterly rude to remove one’s shoes upon entering someone else’s house. The comment thread was hilarious – shoes on or off is a regional thing, for sure.

    I knew that taking off your shoes was regional, and I’ve been made to feel a bit eccentric by certain British friends for doing so… but I didn’t realize that in some areas it’s outright rude! I can think of any number of reasons you could be considered rude for keeping them on: you’ll inconsiderately track junk into your friend’s carpets, or wear down their nice shiny hardwood with your rough shoes, or maybe you’re suggesting their floors are so dirty your socks need protection!??! But why would it be rude (rather than just weird) to take them off? Can’t come up with a rationale for that.

    And thank you re: the shoes. I think they’re awesome, too!

    Comment by Hannah | October 19, 2011 | Reply

    • I live in Texas, but married a guy from Nova Scotia. We take shoes off in our house, but it took me a long time to get used to it. Most people here consider it rude to take shoes off because they are part of being dressed – just as it would be rude to go to someone’s house and take off your shirt. When you get dressed in the morning, you put on shoes, even if you won’t be going out for a few hours. So yes, it is very regional and considered rude around here to take off your shoes if not specifically told to do so. We have even had people get upset when we ask them to take off their shoes.

      Shoes are part of being dressed? Put like that, I can see where it would be impolite. To me, shoes are outdoor clothes, so they’re more akin to your jacket and mittens than they are to your shirt. (Which is why I have to declare these things ‘indoor shoes’ — because otherwise shoes are ‘outdoor’ clothes by default.) I’d no more wear shoes for hours around the house than I’d wear my coat. It would feel that odd.

      As Hannah suggests, and I agree, the weather likely has something to do with it. If you live in a mostly dry climate, shoes are not a problem indoors. If you live (as I do) in a climate that ranges from freezing and snow, through rain, sleet and mud, and only for our (short) blissful summer is it sufficiently dry outside that your shoes wouldn’t make an unholy mess in the house, well, you don’t wear shoes in the house.

      Comment by Jessica | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  2. Love the shoes!

    I struggle with the shoes off thing but didn’t realize it was regional either. I can’t stand wearing shoes in the house, but everyone here (west coast US) does. Maybe I should talk my husband into moving the family to Canada so I can fit in!

    Careful, though. It may be regional even within Canada. I know Southern and Central Ontario are no-shoes-in-the-house zones, and apparently Nova Scotia is too. (That’s where you’re from, right, Hannah?) Can’t really speak to the rest. Any other parts of the country I’ve visited, I’ve been a tourist, and haven’t gone into anyone’s homes, so I’ve no idea!

    Comment by Charity | October 19, 2011 | Reply

    • Yup, I’m from Nova Scotia, and in the Atlantic Provinces it is definitely polite to remove your shoes at the door. We get a lot of rain, and mud, and in the winter months road salt… it’s just not stuff you want tracked in.

      Yeah, I think a lot of it stems from the climate where you live. If your weather is sloppy and filthy for 75% of the year (raise your hands, NS and ON!), you don’t want that gunk tracked into your house, and no matter how well you wipe them off, there’s going to be gunk on them. Practicality becomes a social expectation becomes good manners.

      Comment by Hannah | October 19, 2011 | Reply

      • Hawaii- shoes off at the door…I think it’s the Japanese influence there.

        Comment by Lynn | October 19, 2011

  3. To be the Southern voice… I dislike shoes and take them off, and I have my kids and their friends take them off to keep the house cleaner. But I wouldn’t take my shoes off at just anyone else’s house- either I’d have holes in my socks or my feet would stink, or…. It shows a level of familiarity I think if you can remove your shoes. Maybe I’d remove them at a good friend’s, but only somewhere that I’d also feel comfortable putting my feet on her coffee table.

    Didn’t Mr. Rogers start every episode taking off his outdoor shoes and putting on some inside ones?

    I can see the idea that it’s “too familiar”. But of course that idea is predicated on the surrounding social expectation. If everyone perceives shoes as part of an outfit, and agrees they should be kept on so as not to expose socks (or worse, bare feet), then it’s familiar to take shoes off. Too casual, assuming you can kick back in just anyone’s house like that!

    If everyone agrees that shoes are outdoor clothes, though, and everyone expects everyone else to take their shoes off, it’s now just be good manners, and leaving them on would be presumptuous. It all comes back to the surrounding social expectations. (And when you know you’re going to have to take your shoes off, you toss all holey socks immediately!) 🙂

    However, I’m a mannerly person. If I were in an area with a shoes-on policy, I’d leave my shoes on… odd as that would feel to me.

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  4. Love your shoes!!! and great minds think alike….I have a dedicated pair of office shoes. I wear my comfy shoes in and slip those on for around work. Not to say that they NEVER go out of the office because I will occasionally absentmindedly forget to take them off and then I get home to find I am missing my comfy shoes and, doggone it, then I have to carry an extra pair home with me the next day because, no sir, those office shoes should not be out walking in the muck and dirt. :D…love your wild shoes and I bet the kiddos do too.

    Do you know, over a week in, the kids have not noticed the shoes. A couple of the parents have, but not the kids. That old truism about children being so observant? Meh. It’s pretty hit-and-miss, the observational skills of kids!

    Yes, I have managed to forget once already and wear the shoes to walk the dogs. I noticed when I was halfway down the block, but was not about to go home and change. Oops. I imagine that’ll happen once in a while until the snow flies. (And you know why I made that mistake, don’t you? Because they’re SHOES, not slippers! And shoes are for OUTSIDE!) Mwah-ha.

    Comment by Lynn | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  5. I have never had anyone request shoes off here (New Jersey). I would love it. I very rarely wear shoes in my house. It would be great to not have dirt and grime tracked into my house.

    You could do what (I understand) the Japanese do, and have a basket of slippers inside the front door…

    Comment by Bethany | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  6. I live in the San Francisco area and it goes both ways here… with a lot of Asian families in the area, everyone else is aware that many homes are ‘shoes off’ and we don’t get offended if asked to remove our shoes (or we look for the big pile of shoes by the front door for the clue as to whether it’s a ‘shoes off’ home or not). Personally I grew up in the midwest US and we kept shoes on indoors at other people’s homes and my dad still finds it awkward to be asked to take his shoes off at someone’s house. We (my family now that I’m the adult) used to mostly keep shoes off indoors until we got our puppy. She loved to chew on feet for a few months so wearing shoes was a safety issue ;-).

    Gee. I wish our puppy chewed feet. Our puppy chews the wooden armrests of the couch. Unlike feet, the couch cannot defend itself, and is in pretty sad shape these days…

    Comment by Anita | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  7. It’s varied widely by family where I’ve lived (in the US, both the Midwest and the East coast), but I agree with the comment that it demonstrates familiarity here. Even when families choose to be shoes-off for the practicality of it, one wouldn’t require a guest to take shoes off. I’m from a shoes-off home and so is the family I work for, but I, like Anita, look for the pile of shoes before shedding mine.

    On another note, have you tried these?
    http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/43334?feat=508791-GN3
    The Converse are very fun, but not very snuggly. My favorite thing about these slippers is that they are actually too warm to wear until the heart of winter. The company policy is to replace anything that wears out, so the price is very reasonable!

    No, I haven’t tried those. Goodness, they do look snuggly appealing. (And quiet! I’m really hating the noise shoes make in the house. Ugh.) And if I had slippers that stayed on, I could wear the Converse to walk the dogs. Hmmm…

    Comment by Samantha | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  8. I live in Vancouver, BC, and around here it seems to be common to be shoes off. One of my friends thinks it’s an Asian custom, because another of my friends (who is Asian) got very offended when the first friend did not remove her shoes. The first friend says that her shoes are part of her outfit and that it’s normal to leave your shoes on. She got outvoted because her house is hardwood and everyone else in our group has carpet.

    While it does seem to be an Asian (at least Chinese and Japanese) custom, I have plenty of friends who aren’t Asian who also have a shoes off policy. The funniest part was being at a party (where I was the only Asian person) on the weekend where guests wandered between the deck and the kitchen. Everyone kept taking shoes off and putting shoes back on to go in and out.

    It’s mostly rainy here. Why would you wear wet and muddy shoes inside? And if it isn’t rainy, it means that there’s construction going on – dust! Dirt!

    Comment by kimi | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  9. I would have such a hard time with a shoes-off policy. I have bad feet, so have arch supports even in my slippers! If I were to spend any time at a shoes-off house, I’d have a lot of pain in my feet really soon.

    Then again, I grew up with the shoes on policy, even in snowy New England.

    Cool shoes for you, though!

    Comment by Laura | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  10. I love them! I’d totally wear them!

    I am a Converse girl–I ordered a pair of white Cons for my wedding. My husband made me promise to wear them after we got married, and I have and do. 4 1/2 years later.

    Comment by MJ | October 20, 2011 | Reply

  11. “Wearing shoes in the house just feels wrong.” –>

    Are you sure you weren’t Japanese in a past life?

    Not as far as I know…

    Comment by L. | October 20, 2011 | Reply

  12. Having a shoes-off policy is so sensible, I’m glad you mentioned it.

    I have an whole blog about removing shoes in homes: Shoes Off at the Door, Please You might like to take a look.

    Comment by Matthew C | October 21, 2011 | Reply


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