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Byron Shire
November 29, 2022

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Shoes off or shoes on?

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I’m generally happy to oblige the no shoes rule, but if I’m wearing 14-eye Doc Martens….

There are two types of people. 

Those who, on coming home, take their shoes off, and those who leave them on.

I’m a shoes-on person.

I’ve always understood prayer flags to be a code. If someone has them hanging outside their house I know they’ll be shoes-off people. No shoes in the house; the entire shoe collection of everyone in the household is at the front door deteriorating. Some have frogs who have taken up residence.

I’m generally happy to oblige the no shoes rule, but if I’m wearing 14-eye Doc Martens, or a pair of tightly laced high tops, and I am literally coming in for a few minutes, struggling at the door with my footwear always shits me. It shits me more if I am wearing holey socks and my big toe protrudes in a kind of pornographic way. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for strangers to see my feet. It feels too intimate.

But I like to respect people’s wishes. I’ve always thought that, unless you were Japanese or Scandanavian, the shoes off thing was a bit of a trend. A bit like kissing someone hello on both cheeks. A pretentious affectation that told people ‘I’ve been overseas’. You’d never turn up to a house in any of the bogan areas where I grew up and be told ‘shoes off’.  We wore our thongs inside.

Though, this flood event has made me seriously rethink the whole shoe thing. Maybe shoes in the house isn’t such a good idea. I heard a scientist on the radio the other day talking about why it’s much better for your overall health to be shoe free indoors. Apparently up to 80 per cent of shoes tested had traces of faeces. Poo on your shoe. It’s not poo you can see. It’s secret poo. Somehow invisible bacteria has found its way to your shoe and you have walked it into your house. So, if you are like me and a visitor at the front door says ‘Would you like me to take my shoes off?’ and you’re attached to not making it difficult for people, you’re basically asking for E-coli on the carpet. The same carpet your little children crawl on, or where you do your yoga. You might as well down face dog in the toilet.

Stupidly I have always said ‘If you’ve just walked through a paddock of cowshit then yes, but otherwise keep them on.’ I had not considered that I was inviting people to walk bacteria through my home. The floods have bought sewerage to our doors. But now the waters are receded don’t just assume that the poo load has gone down. It’s the shit you can’t see. I have finally converted to being a shoe-free house. A shit free house. 

This generally works well in keeping bacteria at the front door, but doesn’t work so well when your friends don’t actually wear shoes. We all have a shoe-free friend. She came over the other day and I was about to ask her to take off her shoes and realised, of course, she didn’t have any. She’s a free spirit with two dirty little calloused feet. 

As she walked into my house I couldn’t stop staring at them. You can’t ask someone to leave their feet outside. Is it rude to offer a guest a cup of tea AND a footbath? We sat on the couch and I watched her tuck her dirty feet under herself. On the couch. Her feet touched my couch. It was all I could focus on. Crimes against the couch. I kept thinking about the bacteria. I tried to tell myself this was strengthening my immune system, but it’s gross. I wondered if I should throw the couch out.

I am now officially converted. The shoes-at-the-door people were right. I can’t believe I am saying this. It’s proof that scientific evidence can inform behaviour. When you read what can be found on the bottom of your shoes, you realise it’s actually disgusting to wear your shoes in the house. Maybe it’s a conspiracy. Maybe it’s research that’s been funded by Big Prayer flag. I don’t know. 

But I now have a shoe-free house, and I have just bought some prayer flags.

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  1. Shit Mandy. Now I don’t know what to do. We have prayer flags but never expected anyone to take their shoes off. Bare feet are toxic? So I may have to ask visitors to enter by walking on their hands. But there are more germs on peoples hands than any other part of the body. Now I’ll have to insist that visitors come into our house on their knees and elbows. I know that will give due deference to my superior status, but I think that might drastically deter friends from dropping in. Still, a small sacrifice to make to reduce harmful bacteria in my home by 99.7%

  2. Taking your shoes off at the door is also a wonderful way to leave all that metaphorical shit of the day at the front door too.

    Yes the barefoot visiter delimma….
    At least for our super hippy barefoot friends it’s probably organic cow shit on their feet
    ( as opposed to processed toxic dog food shit ).

    • Sujay, sweetie, I dig it. I’m down with the Gaia vibe. Its the mud and blood, doggy doodoos and syringes, broken glass and bindis, miscellaneous detritus. Pavement so hot you can fry an egg (if you’re not vegan). Peace out comrade.


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