The weather outside is frightful.
But not as scary, it turns out, as that exposed hole in our sock. Or our mismatched socks. Or calluses, or toenails gravely in need of a pedi.
It’s that time of year for shoe removal requests at the doors of relatives and friends. While happy to see us, many hosts are not joyful about the arrival of slush or salt on their wood floors and carpets.
Of course we de-shoe, if asked. Being Minnesotans, by birth or decades of living here, we’re not about to create conflict.
But my highly unscientific poll reveals that we’re deeply divided on this issue — to a degree not seen since I asked whether Christmas gifts should be opened on the eve or the day. (Oh, my, do we have opinions on that.)
The shoe topic has been on my mind since an elegant soiree last weekend where the gracious hosts welcomed us without a moment’s glance down at the floor or my feet. No shoe bins or slipper socks anywhere.
“You mean,” I thought, “I get to keep my shoes on?”
Oh, holy night.
Until moving Up North, I didn’t know this was a thing. Granted, I moved from the Southwest, where you took your boots off when you died. So it was a bit of an adjustment.
But many natives also find the request a bit chilly.
“Miss Manners says, if you value your things more than your friends, you should get new friends,” said Pat Alexander. “Let them leave their shoes on.”
“I prefer my guests leave their shoes ON ON ON!!!” wrote Pam Hopf, a Minnesotan who now winters in Estero, Fla. “For 20 years, I gave a holiday party for over 100 people. No special carpet cleaning was required, except for red wine once.”
Evelyn Anderson of Minneapolis wrote that she never asks guests to take off their shoes, but when they see her wood floors, they often do.
“To me, the fun of entertaining friends far outweighs any marks or wet spots,” she said.
A preference to keep shoes on is due to many factors. Floors can be cold, and slick if you’re wearing only hosiery. Plus, the absence of heels makes our smashing outfits look downright silly.
And what if your shoes aren’t there when you’re about to leave?
David Erickson of Bloomington said his black wingtips were MIA at one party. He assumes the guest who took them did so by accident. That’s the spirit, Dave.
“I hope no one feels compelled to remove their shoes,” he said. “We have what’s called carpet and rugs. That’s what they’re there for. Besides, I don’t want people tripping and falling on piles of wingtips and pumps by the door.”
More than a few readers pointed out that it can be painful to walk barefoot if one uses orthotics or requires sturdy shoes.
“In order to walk and stay upright, I need to be wearing my shoes,” wrote Kate Christenson of St. Peter, Minn. “I try to avoid homes where hosts insist shoes be left on the porch.”
Sharon Gregoire of Edina doesn’t usually ask guests to take their shoes off, “because I want them to be comfortable and safe in my home.”
She also noted that her friends and family members span multiple generations, so she knows the fears and dangers associated with unsure footing.
“Carpet cleaning is cheap compared with the pain of a broken hip,” Gregoire said.
On the other foot, those in support of the request point out that we are guests in another’s home. It is gracious, and essential, to follow the rules of the hosts.
“It’s good manners to respect other people’s houses and their request as you are invited to their party,” said Rita Czapko of Lino Lakes. “One should get dressed with the expectation that shoes will be left at the door. Maybe wear festive socks!”
Gerry Tucker of Maple Grove said that “shoes off upon entry” is a very Minnesota thing. “I’m from Chicago, my wife and I have lived in Ohio and Michigan, and we’d never experienced said phenomena until we moved here.”
The couple always travel now with slippers or Crocs.
“No one I hang out with seems offended,” Tucker said. “Out-of-towners just chalk it up to a Minnesota oddity.”
Bart Berlin, who retired to Arizona, also always brings slippers when he returns to Minnesota in the winter.
“In the summer, I don’t think about it, but usually I ask if I should take off my shoes” in winter, Berlin said. “It seems more considerate to ask, and it’s not a big deal.”
He’s right. In the scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. With goodwill in our hearts, I believe we can, and should, find common ground on these uncommonly cold grounds.
Here are some ideas of how:
• If you have a shoes-off policy, let your invitees know ahead of time. If possible, provide warm, fuzzy socks (new, please!) or slippers, if they choose not (or forget) to bring their own.
• Lay out several heavy rugs at the front door, instead of a bin. Minnesotans really hate throwing their shoes into a wet bin with other shoes because their shoes, you know, are of far better quality.
• Allow older guests to slide, but not literally. Kara Greshwalk of Minneapolis applies the “TSA” rule. “I would never ask the elderly or young children to remove their shoes, no matter how much they risk tracking in,” she said.
• Above all, remember that this is a party, a festive time to celebrate friendships and try, at least, to be our best selves.
Even Alexander, with her shoes-on preference as host, readily slips off her shoes as requested when she’s a guest.
“Be ready for whatever,” she said. “I like to be invited back.”