When one is a barefooter, it is always the annoyance of the dreaded confrontation that sits in the back of the mind. But, to be truthful, they are actually rather rare. Most people won’t say a thing.
But there is still a background of interest out there.
The thing is, most people are pretty polite. Even if they think there is something seriously wrong with somebody else out in public barefoot, they won’t say something to you. They might say something sly to an acquaintance, or they might do a passive-aggressive snide remark just loud enough for you to her. But even that doesn’t happen all that often.
Most people will just be a bit surprised but not say or do anything at all.
But you are always that elephant in the room.
The other day I had to go to a new doctor (shoulder problem). As usual, I was barefoot. From what I could tell, none of the nurses or other assistants even noticed that I was barefoot. But when the doctor came into the room I was just sitting there.
I could tell he looked at me and suddenly noticed my feet, because his eyes quickly looked back up. From then on he concentrated on me and my shoulder. But you know that there had to be some sort of curiosity in the back of his mind. It’s just that his professionalism required him to address my shoulder. So he did.
Anyways, I suspect we get noticed a lot more than we may realize. People are much more polite than we give them credit for; we tend to remember the occasional bad encounter, not all the times we are seen that result in nothing at all.
There is also an interesting middle ground. Very occasionally I’ll have somebody broach the topic. They are always unfailing apologetic and unfailingly polite about it: “I’m sorry, I hope it won’t offend you if I ask . . .”
Of course, before they finish I always know exactly what they are curious about.
My first reassurance is to let them know, “If I got offended with people asking questions I’d spend an awful lot of my life being offended.” And of course, if they let me, I could probably talk their ears off (and if there is the elephant in the room, those are awfully big ears!). I can go on a long time about the benefits of going barefoot.
But I usually limit myself to letting them know that no, my feet aren’t cold—they get used to to; and that going barefoot really helps my bad back and my bad knee because I can properly adjust the way I walk; and that no I’ve never really hurt myself. And they’ll sometimes share that it seems interesting and useful. (A lot will also share that they go barefoot around the house all the time.)
So keep in mind that we can have a much wider impact than we think. We may get discouraged by the very rare confrontation but in the meantime we are these huge elephants that are letting others see that it is possible to go barefoot into stores or doctor’s offices or outside when it is chilly.
We are having that bit of impact.