Dear Margo: What To Do About "Old" Kids

My girlfriend spends time with her ex and his kids, what should I do? Margo Howard’s advice

What To Do About “Old” Kids

Dear Margo: My girlfriend was in one other serious relationship aside from ours. It lasted three years and ended three years before ours began. She keeps in touch with the ex because they work together a few days a week, and also my girlfriend was close to the ex’s three young children. (They all lived together for most of the three years.) While they don’t spend time together outside of work, once every few months she attends some of the kids’ events (school plays, graduations, soccer games, etc.). I’m not threatened by this, because I have no doubts about the innocent nature of these interactions. Also, the ex is established in a new, seemingly serious relationship.

The other day, my girlfriend wanted to go to a school awards ceremony for one of the kids and wanted me to go with her and then to dinner with everyone afterward. I felt uncomfortable with this (and also had no interest), so I declined, which upset her. She thinks it’s unfair that I would make her “compartmentalize” her life by not integrating myself into this other group.

I want to be supportive, but I don’t want to hang out like a big happy family. We’re hoping to start our own family after getting married, and I honestly would prefer that the kids from the past relationship were out of the picture (if it were up to me). These are not her kids, she has no financial or legal ties to them, and honestly, I wouldn’t expect that a few years in a surrogate parent role would entail an ongoing lifelong relationship. What do you think? — Wanting a Clean Slate

Dear Want: My opinion is that your girlfriend is a lovely human being to continue the friendship with the kids, especially because children feel loss and abandonment in a different way than adults do, and she clearly cares for them. I also think she should accede to your wishes about not wanting to be one big happy blended family. If you felt differently, that would be fine, but you don’t, so I think a workable compromise is that she continues as she has with “the old kids,” but that she do it on her own. — Margo, compassionately

The Hostess and the Shoes

Dear Margo: What is the best way to respond to hostesses who insist I remove my shoes upon entering their homes? My husband is significantly taller than I am, so I wear high heels most of the time, and certainly always for an evening out. Therefore, my pants are hemmed at an appropriate length for heels. When I am asked to remove those heels, I am then stepping on my pants. When I wear skirts, I am standing in my pantyhose with cold feet, anticipating a snag. I take great care to coordinate a full outfit, including accessories and shoes. How can I tell a hostess that I prefer to keep on my shoes? — Not a Barefoot Kind of Girl

Dear Not: You raise an interesting question. Usually, the remove-your-shoes girls have white carpets or are trying to live like the Japanese. My guess is that if you, like Bartleby the Scrivener, said, “I’d prefer not to,” you would get pushback … something on the order of, “But it’s a rule of the house.” I wonder whether anyone has ever done that and been told to leave. When you mention “hostesses,” are you telling me you have more than one friend who tries to relieve you of your shoes at a party? If you really can’t stand it, do not accept those invitations. Or … always wear a skirt, and put a pair of socks in your purse. — Margo, practically

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

107 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    LW1 – I am interested in how the ex’s new woman is responding to his ex who is not the mother of his children being so involved with them.  This is an interesting situation.  I would bow out now that the ex has a new woman.  but that is just me. 

    LW2 – If your friends have hard wood floors, I can see why they would not want high heels putting little divits or scratches in it.  My brother had new carpet installed and insisted everyone take off their shoes or enter via the back door and stay in the kitchen which was tiled.  His carpet was still like new when he sold the house 10 years later.  Take a pair of socks the color of your outfit with you to save your panty hose.  As Margo mentioned, if you know the rules and do not like them, do not accept the invitation.  I have this rule and so do many of my friends, especially in winter when sand and salt from sidewalks get on everyones shoes.  Saves on the mess and damage to any flooring. 

    • avatar Anais P says:

      If Americans realized just how much dirt they tracked in on their shoes, they would ALL follow the lead of Asians and take off their shoes in the house! Now that LW2 knows the custom of the house, she can take along soft slippers.
      As for LW1, it is too bad he cannot be more sympathetic to the needs of these children. I have heard from children of divorce whose parents either married or hooked up with others for enough time to form emotional attachments that are subsequently severed when the adults break up. It is admirable of the LW’s girlfriend that she wishes to continue the attachment to children who are not hers but who obviously still look up to her and want her to continue in their lives. Children need as many caring adults as possible in their lives. It would be ideal if the LW can try to get over his short-sightedness and join the group sometime in the future.

    • avatar j d says:

      Another option if she doesn’t want socks are those nice little fold up “ballet flats” that are pretty much like slippers – could be coordinated with the outfit, inexpensive, and they even come with a little bag for your purse.

      • avatar R Scott says:

        But wouldn’t they have to be thrown out after she wears them once? They would be contaminated wouldn’t they?

        • avatar Lila says:

          Not so much, if she only wears them on clean floors. And the little bag keeps any dirt or “yuck factor” at bay when you put them back in your purse.

          • avatar j d says:

            Yep! Like “gym shoes” we had as kids, indoor slippers… or anyone pantyhose/socks worn at any other home prior to arriving as a guest.

        • avatar Nikki Sunset says:

          No, these are not throw away cotton slippers, these are little fold up ballet flats, re-usable forever. Anyway, what do you think would contaminate the slippers in a home?
          BTW I don’t wear shoes in my house and while I don’t ask my guests to remove theirs they almost always offer to when they see we are barefoot or in socks.

  2. avatar Patti Spencer says:

    For LW #2 – I have family that does the same thing. I am the type that would prefer to go with out shoes all the time – personally hate the things! But my mom is a different story – she always has to have something on her feet. She makes life easy on herself and takes her slippers with her. Mind you, they are in good shape, so there isn’t the embarrassing issue of filler falling out. I agree with Margo here – when you accept these invitations, go with a skirt or dress – and take your slippers. Your feet will stay warm, your hose will be kept in good shape and you don’t have to bend over a lot to take off/put on something.

    • avatar Pdr de says:

      I used to be the “Barefoot Contessa” when I was younger – never wore shoes in the house. I spent the first 8 years of my life on a farm with a big cinder driveway (yes, it was 100 years ago) and the soles of my feet were so tough I could walk across that wide expanse barefooted. But as I reached my middle 60’s, I noticed a change in the “padding” in the bottom of my feet, there was less flesh/sole and I was walking on bone which became very painful. Thus except where the flooring is thick carpeting, I can no longer go barefooted and must wear slippers. I’ve spoken with other women in their 60’s and 70’s and many complain of the same problem. There are perfectly comfortable snuggies which can be slipped into one’s purse and put on in such a situation. Frankly, where a hostess requests that both men and women remove their shoes at the door, it would be nice if they had a supply of men and women’s snuggies for them to wear so their feet are warm. Easy enough to throw them in the washing machine after each party/dinner. I have not worn high heels since I was in my 40’s so have never dealt with the extra length of one’s slacks having to be longer to accommodate heels, but suggest that this lady have a couple of pairs of pants and skirts that work with flats and wear them on the occasions she is going to the home of someone who she knows will request that she remove her shoes so she isn’t walking on the cuffs of her slacks. I imagine many people reading her letter wish that was their biggest problem.

  3. avatar olivepoetry says:

    Also, LW2 could coordinate outifts that allow her to go sans shoe when she knows this is a house policy.

  4. avatar impska says:

    LW2: I’m sorry, but there is no polite way to refuse to take off your shoes once a host politely asks you to remove them. Will they immediately throw things at you and demand that you leave, while cursing you and yours – no. But they will think you are rude. Other guests will notice and also think you’re rude.

    Ultimately, you will do less damage to your pantyhose and long pants by stepping on them for a night than your heels will do to someone’s floors. And not just heels – shoes are dirty. They leave dirty marks on carpet too. Your hostess then has to get down and scrub them, or hire someone to clean them after a party because you were afraid of looking short next to your husband.

    I’m sorry, but your concerns about how you’ll look when you take off your shoes are kind of petty. No one is going to ask you to take off your shoes at a formal event. This will only ever happen at someone’s home, where unfortunately, there is no red carpet waiting for you.

    Keep a spare pair of indoor-only flats in the car, or slippers, or socks. And if you know that you’re going to someone’s home, arrange your outfit so that it suits the more casual atmosphere. It’s not like anyone ambushes you as you’re leaving your house and screams “Surprise! You thought you were going to a dinner at the White House, but actually my house is just white! Take off your shoes!”

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      Sure there is: No, sorry, I didn’t bring slippers/another pair of shoes to protect my feet. I wish you had told me when you invited me that this was a house policy so I could have dressed accordingly.

      If you don’t want shoes on your floors, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to tell people so when you invite them, so you don’t bait-and-switch their choice of clothing.

      • avatar impska says:

        I disagree. When you go to someone else’s house, you follow the house rules. And as adults, we’re old enough and mature enough to sacrifice fashion for the sake of good manners for a short time. We’re old enough to be able to predict that it’s possible that we may need to remove our shoes at someone’s house.

        If it’s a rule that you would expect a five year old to follow, then, as adults, we also should follow it.

        This is like asking: Why do I need to thank someone for a gift that I don’t like? (Afterall, it’s the gift giver’s responsibility to know you well enough to choose an appropriate gift). And yet, we tell a five year old to smile for grandma.

        Why do I need to thank someone for dinner, when the dinner was awful? (When you invite me to your house, you are responsible for serving a decent meal!) And yet we tell a five year old to do their best to eat it and say thank you.

        Seriously – if your mom covered the topic when you were five years old, then the rule still applies!

        • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

          House rules are that we are nudists! Don’t be rude.

        • avatar dcarpend says:

          It’s not just fashion, but safety, too. Have you never cut your foot stepping on something? Furthermore, I simply dislike going barefoot; I put on shoes as soon as I get up in the morning, and wear them until I go to bed at night. If I had a friend who insisted I go barefoot at their house, I’d suggest we get together elsewhere.

  5. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  I think Margo’s advice is spot on asa good compromise which respects both of your feelings about the issue.  I also think that as time goes on, and if you marry and have your own family, and as her ex’s chidren get older and build their own lives, your girlfriend will be less involved with their daily lives and just be distantly friendly with them.  As someone pointed out, the ex’s new girlfriend, may have an opinion about this too which will limit your gf’s contact with the group.  But, if not, that is fine too. 

    LW#2:  I always thought that  people (other than Japanese and others for which it is a cultural thing) who asked guests to take of their shoes at the door were fanatically anal and should not have guests if they couldn’t stand the wear on their precious carpets.  However, on the few occasions I was asked to take off shoes, I did without much more thought to it. I go barefoot at home except when its cold and I wear slippers, and haven’t worn heels since 1988 save for the occasional wedding and funeral and very formal affair so it was really not a big deal for me to go without shoes.   

    Then, I was watching one of my judge shows one day.  A guest had refused to take off her very high stiletto heels in a friend’s home and was being sued by the (now ex) friend because her shoes had left serious indentations and scratches on the very expensive hardwoods.  The entire floor had to be replaced in parts, or  resanded and refinished in others, depending on how deep the grooves were.  This gave me a new perspective on the issue.  Todays high heels are not the sedate pumps of old but can be very high, very thin, spikes.  You wouldn’t wear spike shoes on your friend’s carpet or hardwoods would you?   Good hardwoods cost thousands of dollars and carpets are not cheap either.  Respect your hosts wishes, making adjustments in your dress or stockings to make yourself comfortable, or stay home.   

    • avatar shelee says:

      I have hosted family parties at my home for years. For many of those years I found myself having to re-sweep the floors and carpets after my guests had left because of dirty shoes. The hardwood, tile floors and rugs were filthy. People can inadvertently bring in all sorts of nasty things on their shoes including oil, lawn pesticides, sticky spilled beverages and animal waste (not to mention dirt, leaves and mud). I have been asking friends and family to remove their shoes for a few years now and they don’t seem to mind. I have new, clean slipper socks available for all guests, though they are rarely used. My floors have never looked nicer and it’s much less work for me. I personally can’t see why people would wear shoes inside a family home.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Katharine, yep, stiletto heels have such a tiny area supporting one’s weight that they commonly exert 1500, 2000, 2500 PSI and more.

      The stilettos of the 1950s and 1960s also did a lot of damage in public buildings in Washington DC. During my time in the Pentagon, renovations were not yet complete and there were still a few hallways with the old composition tiles – buffed to an incredible shine, but so pitted that they looked like an orange peel, or as if they had serious acne scarring. Some wood floors still exist in other buildings, that look the same way.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      Clearly you don’t remember the shoes of the fifties and sixties. Spike heels were the rule of the day, and yes, I have seen comments in old housekeeping books about the possibility of them dimpling floors.

  6. avatar ch says:


    I also think the girlfriend is a lovely person who understands children. I sincerely hope the letter writer has made his views about children (his/theirs) known, because I forsee problems ahead. That set up some “red” flags… well, at least “yellow”.


    Removing shoes in Japan, is a custom based not on culture, but on practicality of a very dense population in a small environment trying to keep their homes clean and free of diseases, given that in many small houses, the living room floor is also the place where they sleep on futons (rolled out mattresses) on top of mats.

    It is often customary there, for the small entryway where everyone removes their shoes to contain guest slippers. Some of them are adorably cute and designed to match their frequent friend’s personalities.

    As someone who once tried to sell a house with wood floors, watching in horror as the visiting real estate agent minced her way through the entire house leaving stilleto-divets behind, I understand the value issue of removing shoes.

    As someone who has an entire family with very severe allergies, every piece of grass, fertilizer, etcetera that comes in on shoes leaves something behind that will cause reactions and needs to be cleaned as soon as possible.

    Attending a party where you don’t know the hotess, I can understand being taken aback. If it’s someone known, and it’s a repeat visit, come prepared.

    – 7 inches shorter than husband and LOVES wearing slippers.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      I am not sure what red flags his view has set up, but I think that you are exaggerating it.  He has indicated that he wants to start a family with her in the future.  He did not say anything bad about her relationship with the kids, just that he does not want to be involved and if he had the choice, which is implicit in his letter that he knows that he does not, she would not be involved.

  7. avatar Obediah Fults says:

    People walk through (or step on) spit, animal waste, and I don’t want to know what else. If they were to wear their shoes inside my house (tracking everything with them), I feel like they might as well just spit on my floor! It’s disgusting and I won’t allow it. Please bring a pair of slippers if you’re coming to visit me.

    • avatar John Lee says:

      Well said.  I feel like they might as well sh!t on my floor, or at least, have their dog sh!t on it.

      But then I’m Asian, so I’m lucky that I can to play the race card when it comes to that and people will nod and try not to offend me.

      • avatar Lila says:

        Obediah, you got that right! I spent a few months in Moscow where you constantly see all kinds of spit, urine, gum, and God-knows-what on the sidewalks. They are pretty good about sweeping up trash, but that other stuff doesn’t sweep so well. Had I dropped a glove on the ground there, I would have just walked away and left it, it was that nasty.

        Every Russian apartment I visited had the shoes-off rule, and many of them had a collection of variously-sized “loaner” slippers by the door. I also liked shelee’s idea of having clean slipper socks available for her guests.

  8. avatar Barbara says:

    I’m in the minority for LW#2. I think people now care more about their show-off houses than people. The horror of having to sweep or vacuum after having guests!! I have kids, dogs, lots of friends, hardwood floors and light carpeting. In this day most people drive everywhere so the only walking outside they do is the few steps to your door. I have never had all those horrible dents in my hardwood floors everyone seems so concerned about. (Why would you install such soft wood that you cannot walk on it?) I get my carpets cleaned once a year. My house looks great and everyone loves to congregate here – perhaps because I am a relaxed and casual hostess. I love having friends and family over and really can’t be concerned about a few bits of dirt.
    That said, there is no polite way to disregard a request to remove your shoes at someone else’s house. I do agree that if you know the rules, go prepared with the appropriate clothes and socks or slippers.
    But for everyone, get a grip! You aren’t going to catch some deadly disease because someone walked through your house in a pair of shoes.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Mmmm…I don’t have a “show-off house”. We have extremely nice vinyl tile that everyone initially thinks is stone or ceramic, no carpet or wood, and furniture that is meant to be comfortable. We also have a dozen felines and a teenage son…and live across from an elementary school with a playground, which means that we get a lot of dust in our house.

      While I am not a germ-a-phobe, and my OCD does not revolve around cleaning obsessions, my house is swept or vacuumed everyday (as I said, dust and numerous cats), and there is no odor of cat pee. When my son’s friends come over, they just automatically take off their shoes at the door. So do my friends. In our area, service and repair people put paper booties over their boots or shoes, and lay down mats if the work will be messy (I don’t live in one of the million-dollar “villages”, our home was purchased for about $85,000 and is very modest). These are just courtesy issues. I ask people if they’d prefer if I removed my shoes when I enter their homes, and I always get a favorable reaction.

      I have been told by my ENT and allergist that carpets are one of the most disgusting things to have in your home. Cleaning them once a year isn’t enough…according to both of them (and neither is a “clean freak” sort of doctor. On the contrary, both believe in exposing children to bacteria and allergens to build up tolerance and immunity) carpets should be steam cleaned at least twice a year in an average home. Trailing outside dirt, which contains enormous quantities of fecal matter and fungal spores, onto carpet is a very bad thing. It can quickly make a house “sick”. That is no petty matter.

      I am neither Japanese or Canadian, or a cleanliness or germ freak. I am also 5’1″ tall…so I am frequently the shortest person at any event. If I’m going to someone’s house, I wear shoes that I can slip off easily, and which don’t affect the look or comfort of my clothing. Also, there are now slip-on satin flats (I believe Dr. Scholl’s Makes some very nice ones) that come folded in their own little purse-sized bag that would be ideal for such an occasion. How weird is it that some readers are demanding that such picky, petty, germaphobic, tacky hostesses with such a concern for dirt and damage provide THEM with sterilized slippers to protect THEIR precious feet from those horrid, filthy floors. You know, those horrid filthy floors that she’s trying to maintain as clean, attractive floors by keeping YOUR filthy, horrid outside dirt off of them. Good grief.

  9. avatar Eileen Heath says:

    LW1 – I think she’s trying to size up his potential for being a family man. Women do gauge how a man acts around other kids. I know it’s unfair to say but because it’s based on my experience, I’ll declare this simply my opinion: every man that has ever acted this way around my friends has always questioned the linage of his own children seriously as if he was looking for a reason for them to not be his responsibility – even after a dna test. Again that’s an opinion.

    LW2 – I often make my friend remove her lovely high heels in my living room because she drags her feet. I’ve even pointed out the furrows and scraped up carpet to her as it happens to explain why she should remove her shoes when we’re just going to be sitting around watching tv or playing a board game. She’s a pacer so she doesn’t stay put. Plus she’s clipped my dog because she doesn’t gauge where her heels are when she steps over him. She’s mortified after she does it but next time she comes over, she doesn’t remove her heels.
    I see your point more but there might be some sort of circumstance you aren’t aware of (like my lovely but forgetful friend). She might be making everyone remove their shoes to not single you out.
    I’m certainly considering trying it.

  10. avatar SherryDAmore says:

     LW 2

    WRONG!  WRONG! WRONG!!  People – the comfort of your guests – are MUCH more importatnt that stupid floors or carpets.  If your floors are so important, that they can’t be used in the way they are intended – for people to walk on them –  don’t have people over!!  Rent a hall or go to a restaurant.

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      So leave your shoes on. If your hosts are like me, that would be your last invitation. OR, just bring a checkbook. The hardwood in my living room cost just under $10,000.00. If you want to replace it, knock yourself out.

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        Good luck with your legal claim in most states.   You better make it perfectly clear what your expectations of guests are when you invite them over to your house, if you plan to get a guest to replace your floor.  Not that I think you shouldn’t be able to tell them to take off the shoes, just that it might not be as easy to win as people think.

        • avatar Messy ONE says:

          *shrugs* My house, my rules. I choose not to have people track in spit, poop, urine, garbage and all sorts of other nasty stuff into my home. YOU may think it’s all right, that’s your prerogative.

          What’s with the nastygram about suing? All I said was that if someone absolutely insisted on wearing their disgusting shoes in my house, that would be their last invitation. That’s pretty basic. That said, if it were generally known that I don’t want shoes in the house, and if the guest knew ahead of time that she was expected to remove her shoes upon entering, I’m pretty sure a judge would make her replace my floor.

          We live in Chicago. I don’t want road salt and dirt my floors. Most people here are the same – they DO doff their footgear when they come indoors. Many bring their own slippers, too. This is nothing new, I remember my mother had a nifty pair of silver lame flats that she used to carry in her purse when we went to other people’s houses.

          • avatar dcarpend says:

            Really? I lived in Chicago and Chicagoland for 17 years, and can’t remember being asked to take off my shoes in anyone’s home — and I not only had friends, but had a job that took me to people’s homes. Has this Chicago custom started in the past 20 years, since I moved away?

          • avatar Messy ONE says:

            I see. So you just go ahead and track that mud and road salt into other peoples homes and everyone’s ok with that? See, in my mind, the fact that you’re so cavalier about bringing that stuff indoors just makes you a slob.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            No, I was born in 1959 at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Chicago, and spent my first 24 years there, and unless you wore overshoes that could be left in a convenient location, many people took off their shoes when entering another person’s home. A lot of women wore snow or rain boots in inclement weather, and brought elegant indoor flats for indoor use. This is how floors didn’t get mud and water from Chicago springs and falls, dust from summers, and salt, slush, sand, water and gravel from Chicago winters all over one’s floor. Nothing survives road salt…nothing. And Chicago itself, in the city, is an urban environment like anywhere else…compounding all of nature’s contributions are humanity’s generous offerings…garbage, spit (I especially adore tobacco or mucus laden gobbets), feces from pets and our other animal friends, spilled food and drinks and all of the pollutants and waste we dump into the environment.

            Now, according to my family still remaining “up there”, even more people remove their shoes. It’s completely socially acceptable, and considered the health conscious and respectful thing to do.

            In Russia during the reign of Tzar Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra, one of the first things done to bring the country into the modern world of cleanliness and good hygiene was not only to make a rule stating that Russian nobleman couldn’t wear their filthy hunting boots indoors, to prevent spreading disease and dirt, but that they must remove them before entering their beds. Removing one’s shoes is a sign of respect for home and health.

    • avatar martina says:

      Sherry – AMEN.  If you’re worried about your hardwood floors being damaged don’t invite people over and then you don’t have to worry about it.  If you don’t forewarn the guests, you can’t expect them to take off the shoes.

      We have hardwood throughout the house that my husband built.  For the first 5 years we asked people to remove their shoes IF they didn’t mind, had slippers available for those who needed them and managed to survive if someone kept their shoes on.  The family now brings their own slippers and we just don’t ask anymore because we don’t worry about it anymore.  We also have never had damage from anyone wearing shoes – we get more damage from chairs scraping on the floors.  I always mop the floors after we have had guests because even with no shoes on they leave a mess between the food and drinks being spilled and the sweaty feet. 

      Also, people can be funny about feet and I think that barefeet on the floor in the summer makes even more of a mess than wearing shoes in the summer.  You definitely would not have wanted to have my daughter to take off her shoes when she was in middle school because they were beyond nasty – she had a teacher make her take her shoes off so she could spray them with fabreeze because they stank so bad.  So, would you have asked her to leave because she shouldn’t take off her shoes or let her stink up the house?

      • avatar John Lee says:

        Sometimes (not often), I step on gum or dog poop when I’m out and about.  I wipe it off on the grass, but not all of it come off.

        It be cool if I can visit your homes and step all around.  Some more of it will come off I’m sure, that would be convenient.

      • avatar wendykh says:

        THANK YOU for bringing this up! People are always removing their damn shoes when they come in my home. I tolerate it in winter because there are socks involved and it is winter in Canada and gross. But in summer? OMG all I see are some stranger’s bare ass feet all over my floor and it makes me just nauseated! KEEP THEM ON PLEASE unless I ask otherwise!

    • avatar Scrapper79 says:

      In my house, it has nothing to do with what I think my floors are worth or that they are so important.  It is about the 2 toddlers that play and crawl on the floors that people walk across.  I already vacuum daily and I don’t need the dust, mud, leaves, sand, etc. drug through the house that would make me have to vacuum & scrub my floors even more.  That being said, we have a cabinet by our door that has a shelf where our friends keep a pair of slippers, slipper socks, etc. so they don’t have to remember to bring anything with them when they visit.  No one takes issue to our house rules because they all want to keep our daughters safe.

  11. avatar wishuponafallingstar says:

    LW#2- The hostess sets the rules in her house, and as a guest, you must follow them. There are many reasons to remove shoes once inside a house– cultural reasons, cleanliness, protection of the floors. I always ask my guests to remove their shoes for the first two reasons, although the third one is a great one too. I can guarantee that you don’t want me to walking through your house with my shoes– I work in a hospital. I work with physicians who have said that they don’t enter their house with their “work shoes” on.

  12. avatar Lisa Cornell says:

    I grew up and spent most of my life in Canada. All the homes I lived in had hardwood floors and I have always removed my shoes. I still do it today in my own home and when I visit others. I always have a pair of leather ballerina flats that I only wear indoors in my purse if I go visiting. That said, in my own home, if someone visits I don’t ask them to remove their shoes. It is far more polite to welcome people into your home and deal with cleaning later. However, because one can see shoes neatly lined up inside the front of my house, it is obvious everyone removes their shoes. When a guest asks if they should remove them, I simply say it is our custom, but whatever they prefer is fine with me. I offer clean little indoor shoes, I have several in different sizes, which are washed with each use, but I would never insist.

    Anyone who would wear heels that would leave divots in the floor is thoughtless, regardless of whether the host requests the removal of shoes or not. Unless you are certain that the entire house is tiled, heels will damage floors. I don’t mind dealing with dirt, but damage is an entirely different matter. I think one should not only be a gracious host, but as a guest, one must be respectful and courteous.

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      However, a hostess should *tell* her guests this when she invites them. She shouldn’t let them show up and then insist they remove their shoes, when they no longer have the option of choosing and dressing for flat shoes (or bringing slippers).

      My church has antique wood floors, but it specifically states on the website and in all printed literature that small-diameter heels are not acceptable, and why. People are warned beforehand that they need to wear non-damaging shoes.

    • avatar impska says:

      I grew up in Canada too. Maybe I’m just suffering from one of these rare instances of culture shock.

      Maybe everyone here who are so pro-shoe just have never lived anywhere that was wet or snowy. But it’s not just Japan where taking off your shoes is the custom! Anywhere that gets snow regularly, rain regularly – this is the norm. You take off your shoes because shoes are for outside, not inside.

      And I think smokers should always take off their shoes. Most of them don’t realize what a mess they make – but they’re constantly stomping on cigarettes and then tracking ash all over peoples’ carpets.

      • avatar HannahS says:

        Sorry, impska, but I’m from New England which is just as snowy as many parts of Canada, and it’s about a 90%/10% split as far as people I knew growing up who cared about shoes in the house. Maybe it’s just the New England practicality of other things bearing more importance than dust on a floor (the hardwood in most New England houses I’ve encountered would take a whole lot of beating to actually show dents), but I can’t actually come up with the name of a single person I know currently who cares about shoes coming off. On the other hand, in California, where I now reside, I know a number of people who care (though they are all of the more superficial variety).

        • avatar V says:

          I’m born and raised in Asia now am a Citizen and live in California.  My house rules is to take off shoes.  However most Americans prefer them on and have the audacity to keep their own shoes on regardless that they’ve been made aware of the reasons that many of these people here have stated (my primary concern are my kids who crawl and play on the ground a lot).  I find that the ones who DON’T take them off are the ones who are superficial like the letter writer and are the ones who ARE rude. 

          It’s funny how I am expected by Americans to follow the rules and ettiquette of this country everywhere else, but all of a sudden, in my own home where I can follow my own damn rules, some of these Americans don’t like following it and think I’m superficial.  What hypocrites!

          • avatar Priscilla L says:

            Just an alternate viewpoint: I prefer no shoes in my house for cleanliness reasons. Not as a matter of keeping my floors clean, but because most people track in lots of pathogens and heavy metals on their shoes without knowing it, and I have health concerns.

            However, I also have a foot injury, which means I cannot walk around without shoes on. I will hurt myself very badly if I do, and it’s painful. At home I wear supportive, cushy houseshoes. But if I go to someone’s house and they ask me to remove my shoes, well, I don’t have those houseshoes, and I actually CANNOT take off my shoes. It is not a matter of being rude or superficial, it is a matter of my health and comfort. If someone pressures me to take off my shoes, I will explain why I cannot. If that person doesn’t want to invite me again, or accuses me of being rude, they are the one who is an insensitive jerk.

            I also think (and Miss Manners agrees, this was addressed in her column a few years ago) that it is rude to force your guests to remove their shoes. I’ve lived with hardwood floors for years, in many different homes, and have never had them damaged by footwear. Ever. When I have guests over, I offer them the OPTION of removing their shoes, but I would never insist, because the job of a polite host is to see to their guest’s comfort. Period.

          • avatar Grace Malat says:

            Do you take your kids to the park? To the zoo? etc. They’re being exposed to a lot of germs the minute they step outside of the house.

            But I don’t wear shoes in my home, kick them off the minute I get inside. Some people do some don’t, doesn’t matter to me and never has,

        • avatar impska says:

          Hannah – You can’t tell me that people in New England tromp around the house with snowy, wet or muddy footwear. That doesn’t sound practical at all. And if they don’t, then that rules out about half the year.

          Personally, I live in the midwest. Despite my own no-shoe preferences and upbringing, I learned long ago that it’s not the norm for guests to be asked to remove their shoes. And yet, people do it anyway when they notice that my husband and I don’t wear shoes in the house. It’s not a big deal to take off shoes.

          And your dig that people who prefer shoes off are superficial and those who keep shoes on are more practical is clearly untrue. The comments here prove that it’s mostly cultural. And the LW herself gives entirely superficial reasons for keeping her shoes on.      

  13. avatar LuckySeven says:

    If a hostess wants guests to remove their shoes, she should 1) Tell them so ahead of time and recommend they bring slippers, or 2) Provide slippers (washed, of course). To expect guests to walk around in stocking feet is rude.

    I’d like to point out, too, that not everyone objects to shoe-removal for cosmetic reasons. My mother has problems with her feet and is under doctors’ orders not to walk around barefoot or in soft shoes because her feet need support. She wears heavy shoes with orthotics.

  14. avatar misskaty says:

    The American style of keeping shoes on in the house has always baffled me – dirty carpet, dented floors, and in general it’s kind of disrespectful to the other’s homes, no? In Canada, we expect to take the shoes off, it’s just how we do it. I only have one friend who lets us keep the shoes on. (He has a cleaning lady, and laminate floors.) I lived with a family for a time in Japan, and we had indoor/outdoor shoes. (I once broke this rule by accident by stepping on the “indoor stair” with my “outdoor shoes”, to the stunned but polite silence of my host family.) If in the states that’s not the custom, then the hostess ought to let them know before hand if she wishes to go against the norm.

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      I’m a fellow Canadian, and I’m with you on taking our shoes off at the door. Isn’t that what mud rooms are for? You leave your shoes behind and put on slippers (or in my husband’s case, sneakers that are ONLY for indoor wear) so that you don’t track all kinds of yuck into the house. Why make work for people if you don’t have to?

      Maybe it’s because we’re closer to our rural roots? Take it from a former farm kid. I have better things to do than run around cleaning up other people’s messes. And if you don’t take off your shoes when you’re coming from the barn, I think that’s grounds for some serious mayhem.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Hmp. I’m a Chicago born city girl, and I take off my shoes. I wish we had a mud room (we live in suburban Houston, Texas now), but lacking that, I always cheerfully say to guests, “Please get comfortable, and feel free to take off your shoes”. Most people take me up on this offer, and all shoes are placed neatly in a cat-free room from which I will gladly retrieve them when the time comes. This is a lot like my policy regarding the felines…if someone is allergic to or frightened of the friendly beasts, I will put them (the cats, not the guests) in a comfortable room with litter box and water, in which they wile away the hours by sleeping.

        If a person had to wear orthopedic shoes, or had a health issue that required them to keep their shoes on, well, I would understand that (my husband has an aunt in her 80’s with just such a problem, and SHE always offers to take them off despite her potential discomfort). I still find it highly amusing that some are so highly offended and revolted by the idea of what might be lurking on a hostess’s floor (I think it’s a safe bet that most people wash their floors, or clean the carpets before entertaining…or at least vacuum, sweep or mop regularly. If they don’t…why are you going there?) or in her carpet…but are absolutely clueless about all of the toxic, almost invisible allergens, pollutants, poisons, bacteria, bits of glass and metal and other waste matter we gather on our shoes every single time we walk out doors. Everywhere. The one outweighs the other by an enormous degree (again, unless the person keeps a filthy home, in which case I would have a sudden emergency and leave quickly).

        I have had at least one friend, and an ex-husband with outrageously malodorous feet. The ex had his work-boots tossed down the stairs to the garage area, with his socks, and was told to bathe in a no-nonsense manner. The friend was very much like a younger brother, and had his cowboy boots chucked over the balcony into the bed of his truck, also with his formerly white socks, and was handed a bar of soap and directions to the outside faucet. He is still a friend, 25 years later, and I was “Best Man” so to speak, for his recent wedding, and responsible for his bachelor party (with his lovely bride-to-be’s full approval, no strippers, porn or alcohol, myself the only female…and a custom designed, hilarious Dungeons & Dragons style role-playing game which ended at a reasonable hour because three of us have children). He has thanked me numerous times for “civilizing” him, and I was guest of honor (his wife told me that he credits me with his success in life. I had no idea and it made this evil, cynical bitch actually cry). The only other person I’ve ever known with the horrid foot odor problem is my younger son…and that was when he was a baby. He had the sweatiest, smelliest feet…he couldn’t and wouldn’t wear socks or footie pajamas. He’s grown out of it, but we still laugh about his stinky feet.

        Point is, there is this invention called “socks”. There are also portable slippers in purse packs, tabi socks, and even indoor slippers for men. Research has definitely shown that pollutants tracked into houses can be health hazards…and that it is impossible to avoid them if you don’t remove your shoes.

  15. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Agree with Margo. And yes, your girlfriend should see your POV as regards your wishing to decline participation. Hopefully you can reach a compromise.

    L #2: Hate to sound glib, but wear different clothes with flats to those homes. You know you’re going to be asked to remove your shoes. :- Either that or politely challenge hostess and/or refuse to remove your heels.

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      Except that “politely challenging” this hostess and insisting on wearing heels in the house is 100% guaranteed to gain the response, “So sorry you couldn’t stay for dinner. Goodbye!”

      I am confused about one thing. The LW says she’s seven inches shorter than her husband and therefore always wears heels. Doesn’t he know she’s short? It seems kind of late to be breaking this to him now….

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Hah, Messy One, I am 5’1″, and Rusty is 5’8″. That’s a 7 inch difference. I am shorter than everyone I know. My ex is 6’2″. That difference is 13 inches…and so? My older son is 6’2″ and my youngest, almost 15, is 5’7″ and growing like a weed. I will always be short…as long as a given individual does not pat me on the head (I do despise that), I have grown accustomed to backing up a bit to look most people in the eye. I love heels (and hate hemming long dresses and skirts), but I don’t wear them to be taller. I am just an exotic, eclectic shoe freak.

        Methinks perhaps the issue isn’t just the perfect tailoring of outfits, perchance, o best beloved. Perhaps it’s needing a periscope to get a complete view of her surroundings…or maybe it’s a feeling of being somehow lessened by being “height impaired” (wasn’t I PC? I just refer to myself as short, but…). I don’t quite see the difficulty in being considerably shorter than one’s husband…these things don’t really matter on the horizontal plane…

  16. avatar Orchid64 says:

    I’m impressed by people who imply or assert that the host is a cleanliness fanatic who shouldn’t worry so much about dirt and germs but say that, if he or she insists on shoe removal, than he or she must provide freshly washed or new slippers or socks. So, the guest’s virgin toes can’t have contact with another guests feet residue, but the host/hostess should be just fine with having all manner of outside germs tracked all over the house? I guess the guest deserves to walk in a cleaner situation than the host deserves to live in.

    I’ve lived in Japan for 23 years and removing your shoes is the norm. It’s not a big deal unless you are so selfish that you think an invitation to enjoy food, drink and company at someone’s house is equivalent to making you king or queen of the house and having everything your way is the proper order of things. I think that people are confusing being a guest with being a customer.

  17. avatar GabbyM says:

    LW#2: Is keeping your shoes on an American custom? I live in Canada and absolutely no one I know ever keeps their shoes on in the house unless there is a good reason (i.e. renovation debris). Height difference and the look of your outfit is not a good reason. I can guarantee that if someone asks you to take your shoes and you refuse because it would ruin the look of your outfit, the last thing they will be thinking of is “Wow, she’s right, those heels really DO make that ensemble.” It will be more along the lines of “Wow, this is the last time I ever invite her over.”

  18. avatar Jessica J says:

    If someone wants to “live like the Japanese” then they need to provide hygienic slippers for their guests, as the Japanese do. I can see it for cleanliness reasons–those shoes walk all over, but I guess if I’m having a “dinner party” and it’s the kind of event where people are expected to dress a little nicer, I think it is rude to expect them to then schlepp around my house as if they were at their own. It’s either a formal/semi-formal occasion or it’s not, and formal/semi-formal doesn’t included removing shoes. I also hate when I’m encouraged to leave my shoes in a big pile at the door, (ugh) leaving them to get kicked around by kids, or other arriving guests, or when the people asking have dogs and cats (let’s face it, animals paws are no cleaner than my shoes, I don’t care how much they lick them). If a hostess is unable or unwilling to supply clean slippers to each guest, then she needs to have only casual parties or get over the floor thing. (on another note, unshod feet on floors can spread fungi, etc., so they’re not necessarily better, either)

  19. avatar jabbeycat says:

    LW#2-Most hostess wouldn’t force the issue of you not removing your shoes. My husband and I do not wear our shoes inside and tend to remove our shoes when we are in the homes of others, but I would never insist a guest remove their shoes in our home if they were uncomfortable. When we have parties, we do not insist our guest remove their shoes. As a hostess, my responsibility is to ensure (to a point) my guests are comfortable. In the event of a mess, I can simply clean the carpet after they leave. I own a regular vacuum and a steam cleaning vacuum for a reason. Floors are meant to walked on, if it’s too pretty to be walked on, get a rug to put down during a party.

  20. avatar dianel76 says:

    I absolutely sympathize with LW2. I have the exact same issue. I am only 5’ tall and I love to wear jeans with high heeled boots – they zip up to the knee. I feel like a million bucks when I wear them. My jeans fit perfectly with my boots, otherwise I am doing the roll-up thing. Just two weeks ago I was at a party where I was asked to remove my shoes. I feel that it is incredibly rude, but I have never refused. Additionally – when you are at a large party and everyone removes their shoes, it leaves a huge pile at the front door that everyone is tripping over. I spent the entire party in red-striped socks (the only clean ones that day) – I was embarrassed, but I got over it. Additionally, I never set foot on the hostess’s “priceless” new carpeting – I was in the kitchen or dining room the whole time – Urgh. There really is nothing you can do except know the houses you are going to and dress accordingly. I have never asked my guests to do this. I think it’s petty– and if it makes you feel better – so does Miss Manners – she had a column about this a couple of years ago.

  21. avatar Joy Jennings says:

    Hi Margo,
    I adore you and your advice. Just wanted to point out that the end of your column notes “COPYRIGHT 2011.” Something for you or WoWoW to fix.

  22. avatar lisakitty says:

    LW1:  I don’t understand why you are making such a big deal out of this.  It’s fairly obvious that you have not been a parent, because if you WERE a parent, you’d realize that your girlfriend has a strong bond with these children.  For three years, she was probably the mother figure to these kids.  Most likely, there was even talk of making that situation a permanent one.  The kids are attached to her, and she is attached to them.  Why can’t you look at this as a POSITIVE?  When you have kids with her, you know she gets along with kids (believe it or not, not all women do) and that she is commitment minded (she didn’t bail on the kids after the relationship broke up).  The fact that she wants you along on these outings is also positive.  How hard would it have been for you to suck it up for ONE NIGHT to show support for your girlfriend?  If I were your girlfriend, I would be taking a long look at my relationship with you, because you come across as a bit selfish here.

    • avatar Annie H says:

      Wonderful Comment!

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Yes, there are positive aspects about this relationship between the GF and the kids.

      Here’s some potentially negative ones.

      – The relationship goes south and the ex uses the kids to hurt or manipulate the GF.
      – The ex does something or starts behaving in a way that puts the kids and their welfare at risk.
      – The ex gets a new GF or wife who doesn’t want the old GF to have contact with the kids anymore.
      – The GF and the LW have their own kids and no longer have time or energy for the old kids.
      – The ex decides he doesn’t like the LW and doesn’t want him around the kids, forcing the GF to divide her time.

      And so on. I had a friend who became attached to the kids of multiple exes. She felt responsible for maintaining some semblance of normalcy in their lives, because the exes were addicts, or abusive, or distant, or whatever. It didn’t matter that these were reasons why she entered into the relationship to begin with (because she felt like she could “fix” him and that he needed her). It just made cutting ties and moving on that much harder, and every one of these men would use their kids to manipulate my friend to the point of getting money, or using her time as a free babysitter to the point where she had no time to herself. She might has well have been the actual mother. Yes, this is an extreme example—however, getting involved in the family dynamics of an ex is not merely “good” or “bad.” Before we split up, my ex used to beat me over the head repeatedly with how important his children were in my life and how I had a family and therefore needed to set my priorities accordingly—because family is forever. Well, it’s not. Once we split, they disappeared out of my life post-haste, and I’ve heard from one of the adult children once. If she maintains contact with this family, it needs to be with limits. And involving the new BF in the kids’ lives is not the best of ideas.

      • avatar lisakitty says:

        David:  did you read the same letter?  I think you are projecting a bit here.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          I never said anything about this being the way things ARE. I said that this is the way things COULD end up. After all, did the GF and the ex think they were going to break up when they started dating and everything was rosy and happy? Probably not.

          LW needs to be very careful with investing his time, emotion and money in a family dynamic in which he’s only a guest—it’s a dynamic that can, and will directly affect the relationship he has with his GF and potential wife.

      • avatar R Scott says:

        David – I agree. Nice post and you have some great points. And of course your projecting a little we all do.

        • avatar R Scott says:

          …little. We all do.

        • avatar A R says:

          Projecting? Sure. I’m okay with that. :) That just means that he is speaking from relevant experiences–stuff he’s either experienced or seen firsthand.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Applying anecdotal information, which is based on prior personal knowledge or experience to ***possible, plausible or potential*** outcomes or analysis of a given situation will guarantee that you will be accused of “projecting” on this site. This is a terrible, mortal sin, possibly equivalent to kicking puppies. You will be accused of being a know-it-all, of having “issues”, and of being ignorant and lacking in understanding and probably deserving of being pilloried and bombarded with rotting vegetables and eggs.

            Of course, logically, how else are intelligent readers supposed to reflect and then comment on a thread but by reviewing their own lifetime of experience, learning and knowledge? I think the secret is…Reality TV. Media demagogue taking heads. We must all base our comments on low morons whose only claim to fame is…sorry, I don”t know. Why DO people value the opinions of Kardashians, or Knowles, or Gosselins, or Duggars…or Suzanne Somers, or Jenny McCarthy? Or Oprah, Rush, O’Reilly, Olberman or Maddow? I’ve never understood why being in the media instantly raises the IQ by 50 points in so many peoples’ estimation. Some of these people are blatant idiots…but the celebutard junkie bows to their every whim, and hangs on every breathless, clueless, sometimes lethal bit of misinformation and sheer stupidity that drops out of their mouths.

            I apologize for my irritation…but I am tired of hearing reasoned commentary from clearly intelligent, thinking readers dismissed because it is based on their own thought processes and experience. I’ll just take my meds and go to back to my cell now…

    • avatar MichelleF says:

      lisakitty – respectfully, if it were about sucking it up for one night it would probably be a non-issue. If it were only a one-time occurrence, what would be the girlfriend’s reason for wanting her new boyfriend there? To meet the old kids “just this once”? For what purpose? To show him off to the ex?

      But logically it would follow that if he’s gone to one event, then why not the little league game the following weekend? And then why not all go camping together? If this girl intends to indefinitely continue the relationship with these kids (which by the way I think is totally fine, and up to the dynamics/personalities of this specific group of people we know little about) then she’s not going to want the boyfriend to be involved once. She’s either going to live with his decision to not engage with the kids or she’s going to want him to come along regularly. If the guy’s mind is made up, then he should establish the precedent for going forward earlier versus later.

      If it’s bad for kids to be introduced to all kinds of new “parents”/partners/lovers all the time (which I agree it is, although I’m not a parent myself) then introducing the (unenthusiastic) boyfriend of someone who used to “parent” them is only going to add another layer of confusion.

      I just don’t get what type of relationship this guy is expected to have with these kids. If it’s to show support for his girlfriend, I think he is more than doing that by not reacting jealously and not being dramatic about her decision. Surely it’s more comfortable for the girlfriend if her new boyfriend is not present anyway, so as to avoid all the discomfort that goes along with socializing with an ex in the company of your new partner.

      • avatar lisakitty says:

        Michelle:  I can see your point, but how can we know how far it goes based on the letter itself?  Also the LW seems to want her to cut ALL contact: “We’re hoping to start our own family after getting married, and I honestly would prefer that the kids from the past relationship were out of the picture (if it were up to me).”  I think the LW is being compassionate.  It’s kind of sad that some people here can’t be thinking of the kids.  This is a situation where compromise is in order and some of it has to come from the LW.

    • avatar wendykh says:

      agree 100%. This man is searching for drama where this is no need to make any. She has some friends, who happen to be children, and goes to their events. Get over it.

  23. avatar Annie H says:

    LW #1- I think your girlfriend is a wonderful person.  As an adult child of divorced parents, I can tell you how much it hurts a child to think that your Dad’s girlfriend is your friend to find out after the break up “I cannot be your friend anymore because I don’t like your Dad any longer”.  Yes, I had a woman with a child tell me this.  Instead of thinking of your comfort, you might want to think of the innocent kids that have had a relationship with your girlfriend for years.  They didn’t do a thing wrong and shouldn’t be treated like they did.  It says a ton about your girlfriend that she would care that much about these children.  Imagine what kind of Mom she will be.  If you dont want to be involved, don’t and come to a compromise.  

    LW #2 Your letter reminds me of a Sex and the City episode.  Carrie was asked to take off her four hundred plus designer heels at a party and someone stole them.  She ended up with someones tennis shoes, I think.  Anyway, I hardly ever have my shoes on at home.  I have five rescue cats that think shoes are the devil (some slippers and slipper socks, too).  If you are a guest at someones home, you must be respectful. Even if that means not wearing your shoes.  It would be nice if the hostess warned people or provided slippers or socks. However, it is her house, so take your shoes off and bring some slippers.  If you are worried about expensive shoes put them in your purse or ask the hostess to place them elsewhere (politely). 

  24. avatar Scrapper79 says:

    I don’t normally comment, but of the few rules we have in our house is a “no shoes” rule.  I have 2 toddlers that crawl and play on the floors, so it’s very important to us to keep the floors as free of dirt, mud, sand, leaves, etc. as possible to reduce my girls putting stuff in their mouths and to help keep their clothes from becoming filthy.  We have a cabinet by the door where our friends keep their personal slippers or slipper socks so when they come over, they don’t have to remember to bring anything with them.  No one minds because they want to help us keep our daughters safe and they all have the same rule in their house. 

    • avatar dianel76 says:

      I see your point, but seriously, you can’t live your life in fear of germs. It is actually better for your immunity to not live in a super clean home. I have a 2 1/2 year old who was never sick the first 18 months of her life. She has had a few colds since starting day care, but nothing serious. We have 2 dogs, and yes, I do like my house clean, but I am not a freak about it. Life is too short to be overly concerned about a little sand or dirt on the floor. I never have and never will ask people to partially disrobe before entering my house.

      • avatar HannahS says:

        agreed. that said, I understand the cultural norms expressed by John Lee and a few others, which make sense to me (one of those “when in Rome” things which I think many can appreciate). Germaphobia seems silly, however, as we have just as many germs on other parts of our bodies (the hem of our pants, our socks, our hands) as we’d track in on shoes.

        And while I’m on the side of the “host should warn the guest before arrival or provide socks/slippers” types, as that seems to engender respect on both sides (one never knows these days if someone does have sensitive feet or need orthotics or be wearing stockings which could cause slipping/injury/splinters/lawsuits), I also think it’s silly for someone to be paranoid about gum and dog droppings. I mean, seriously? How many times in the course of your life do you actually encounter those things? And if you do, wouldn’t you, as a polite guest, offer to remove your shoes before entering someone’s house? I just find that ludicrous that THAT’s someone’s concern. I’m pretty sure I’ve encountered both those issues combined less than 10 times in the total years I’ve been alive. So silly.

  25. avatar Divaesque says:

    I think it is rude to demand that dressed up guests remove their shoes.  And I certainly never demanded a perfectly clean floor at all times for my children when they were little.  I allowed them to live normal lives in a normal house.  No one got sick or hurt.  In my opinion houses are made to be lived in, not kept spotless for the next owners (or for the weird germaphobe current owners). 

  26. avatar ShiverMeTimbers says:

    “Old Kids”, take it easy.  In time, your girlfriend’s ex will ease her out of the picture, and ease in the new girlfriend.  They’re probably doing the best possible, most unselfish thing for the children, which is to say, letting the children continue to have a relationship with your girlfriend in spite of the fact that the adults have moved on to other people. 

    Adults these days introduce their sexual partners to their children, then break up with that partner and expect the child to just “get over it”, as though that child hasn’t bonded and befriended the ex-partner.  It’s cruel and thoughtless and now we’re raising an entire generation of kids who either can’t or won’t connect and also experience “attachment disorders” because the adults in their little lives act like it’s nothing more than a revolving door, in and out with nary a thought for what the child experiences in the way of loss and grief for that loss. 

  27. avatar May Voirrey says:

    LW#2 I have had the same complaint for years. I hate standing around in my stocking feet at a party. What irked me most was that no hostess ever thought to mention this rule ahead of time. If they had, I would have either dressed differently or brought slippers with me. Until I develop the ability to levitate and hover above the floor, I will resent the request to come to a nice party and then go without shoes.

    Eventually, I got to know who cared more about their floors than the comfort of their guests so I could plan accordingly or not go at all. What if I end up walking in someone else’s foot fungus?Maybe I’m old-school, but I was raised to cater to my guests’ comfort when they’re in my home, and not demand that my guests be uncomfortable so that my house doesn’t remain in pristine condition. For example, I don’t smoke, but I have created a comfortable smoking area outside for my guests who can’t get through a visit without a cigarette. I also own a good vacuum cleaner and a mop so the floor can live to see another day.

    I remember reading this very question about ten years ago in either the Dear Abby or Ann Landers column. If I could find it, I’d post the link. Essentially, the answer was that if you want guests to take off their shoes, provide slippers, but understand that carpet is meant to be walked on and if your reason for asking guests to go shoeless is not cultural but to preserve the condition of your carpets, you chose the wrong carpet. I clipped that column and saved it for years, and LW#2, I wish I had it so you could share it with the hostesses who make you take off your shoes for the sake of their housekeeping. Yea, Abby or Ann!–whichever understood how to be a gracious and welcoming hostess.

  28. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #2, I have no issue with being asked to remove my shoes but realize, and completely understand, that not everyone is comfortable with that. I think it’s the “good host(ess)” who let’s people know ahead of time about the house rule and provide (washable) socks and slippers to their guests.

  29. avatar MichelleF says:

    Concerning LW1 – It doesn’t seem to me that his issue is with the girlfriend’s continuing relationship with the kids (he’s “not threatened” and acknowledges it’s “not up to him”) but rather with her expectation that he develop some type of relationship with them himself.

    Wouldn’t that be odd from the kids’ point of view? You’re at school getting a perfect attendance award or something and some complete stranger is there to watch/support you? It doesn’t sound like even the girlfriend is THAT close to those kids (“once every few months”). It’s sweet that she would continue to make herself available to kids whose lives she has been a part of for (at least) 6 years now, but it sounds like she’s not playing an active role in their daily lives, which is probably as it should be if she’s ready to commit to the new relationship and move forward.

    The problem is that the tie to the kids inevitably equates to ties with the ex. I don’t blame this new guy for not having any desire to awkwardly attend school functions or social outings. The dinner conversation is likely to include all sorts of allusions to the past life when they used to live all together and probably took “family” trips, had “family” inside jokes, shared “family” specials holidays, etc., because that is the common/shared experience among everyone at the table except new guy. Even if the guy is not a super jealous type, nobody relishes hearing cute stories about the happy times from their partner’s past relationships.

    I think Margo got it right – the guy and his girlfriend should both respect the wishes of the other. It might be a good test of how well they understand each other and their ability to compromise, if they’re thinking marriage/family for themselves.

    • avatar wendykh says:

      no he does resent her involvement. He says flat out if it were up to him they’d be out of the picture.

      he’s an ass and she should dump him.

  30. avatar D C says:

    Several years ago we were selling our house.  We had a showing and left between the appointed window of time, and sat in the car nearby to watch for when we could return.  It was nearing dinner time, and I had plans to cook.  The window of time came and went, and we gave them an extra half hour, and then figured it must be a no-show and went home and commenced to make dinner.  We were all sitting at the table starting dinner when the doorbell rang and it was the realtor with the lookers.  I told her they were welcome to come look around, but that we were going to have our dinner. 

    My sons always slip off their shoes when they come into the house, so their shoes were there.  It’s not a house rule or anything, they just like to drop them out the door so the next time they need to go out, the shoes are there.  So the family saw the shoes at the door and they and the realtor all slipped off their shoes as they came in. 

    My youngest child, who is autistic, hates shoes, and most clothes for that matter — I’m sure he’ll be a nudist when he lives on his own — and he takes them off constantly.  It’s a problem at school, but luckily we had it written into his accommodations that as long as he’s doing his work quietly, he can slip off his shoes at his desk.  Now if we could just get him to sit in his desk most of the time instead of lying on the classroom floor…

  31. avatar MichelleF says:

    Concerning LW2 – Personally I find some people’s feet grosser than any dirt their shoes may track in. I think of that every time I have to walk through airport security and everyone has to walk through barefoot. How often are they sanitizing the floors there?! It’s totally disgusting.

    With that said I think it’s the homeowner’s/host’s call and respectful guests should comply accordingly. Probably no one cares about your shoes complementing your outfit.

  32. avatar A R says:

    LW1: What I think is that if your girlfriend and her former boyfriend stopped living together, she should have quite playing parent to children that were not hers around the same time. I don’t have any appreciation for their shared attempt to pretend that she was/is still significant to their lives when they were not her kids, the adults never married, and they permanently split up. If you ask me, it’s pretty screwy and kept everyone hanging on instead of moving on with their lives (her, him, and the kids included).
    Meanwhile, she’s put you in a bizarre position. If it were me, I’d probably move on to someone who is not emotionally obsessed with a family that she’s not actually a part of. I would go so far as to say that she is as emotionally unavailable as a person who is still in love with someone else.

    LW2: Being asked to remove your shoes is no worse than being asked to smoke outside or put your glass on a coaster. At the end of the day, you should respect the home of the person you are in—you are a guest, not a renter. You seem a little too preoccupied with your clothing and under-concerned about your so-called friend’s home. Can you not wear a pair of pants with flats to those folks’ houses?

  33. avatar ch says:

    I love the people who assume that being asked to take off shoes means the home owners care more about their flooring than their friends. The woman in the letter appeared to care more about her pants and her pantyhose.

    I suspect neither of those viewpoints is 100% correct.

    Yes, I said I understood the value. Yes, my family has health issues. Our friends who know us understand this and have no problem removing shoes. They comment how much more relaxed they are knowing they can.

    My mother-in-law wears special shoes and never takes them off, nor do we ask her.

    A good host/hostess does what they can to make their guests feel welcomed and comfortable and does not insist, respecting their guests. 

    A good guest respects the host/hostess and when accepting an invitation, understands and respects the “culture” they are about “visit”.

    It’s a two-way street, particularly if it’s a valuable relationship.

  34. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – I think the GF may want to start distancing herself from the family especially if the Ex is now seeing someone else seriously. Just a thought. I think Margo’s suggestion is on target though. New BF does not have to attend and be a part of the happy family if he doesn’t want to.

    LW2 – I’ll kick of my shoes if the host will provide me with something else to put on. I don’t know who/what has been on their floors. I don’t know how healthy your feet are or how clean they or your sox may be. I do not want to stand in front of the hosts toilet in my bare or socked feet. No thank you. I wear shoes for protection as well as fashion and warmth. I stepped on a straight shirt pin in someone’s carpet one evening with no shoes on and it still knots my stomach to think about it. Straight into the ball of my foot. Hurt like a motherfu……….. it hurt really a lot.  

    I have to admit though that if the LW does know she’s going to Hostess X’s house with these rules why doesn’t she where shorter pants and flats? It’s not like no one doesn’t know she’s short. And yeah, throw some sox in her purse and put them on.  

  35. avatar Lila says:

    “My girlfriend was close to the ex’s three young children.” and: “These are not her kids, she has no financial or legal ties to them, and honestly, I wouldn’t expect that a few years in a surrogate parent role would entail an ongoing lifelong relationship.”

    Well, apparently SHE understands what the LW does not, that children do indeed feel abandonment differently from adults. The ties are not financial or legal, they are emotional, which is far more important and binding if you see children as human beings rather than simple obligations. Maybe, just maybe, she actually loves these kids, after spending 3 formative years in their young lives?

    As for those who suggest that she should “bow out” since there is a new woman in the father’s life, that would imply that mother-figures are as easily changed as light bulbs. These are young children, according to the LW. They need stable bonds and reliable adults, not a rotating gallery of disposable “Dad’s current girlfriend” types. What would that teach them about relationships, commitment and responsibility? That love is never permanent, and no one can be relied on or trusted.

    Kudos to the LW’s girlfriend for being a responsible, caring, constant and reliable adult.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Lila, I guarantee you that there’s money involved as well. Do you really expect someone to be as involved as the GF is with these kids and not spend anything on them?

  36. avatar R Scott says:

    With the exception of foul winter weather where the slush, salt mud etc. is hard to avoid and, of course boots and outer wear is removed, do some of these folks have to tread through stock yards, pig wallows and tar pits to get to the front door? Wouldn’t a nice bristly welcome matt work to wipe off the shoes as they come in? With all due respect to everyone I’m just tickled at the very strong opinions about this – mine included. Very interesting. Something I just never thought a lot about I guess.

  37. avatar lia71 says:

    I wear slippers around the house and prefer that everyone else does. My boys and I put our slippers on as soon as we get in. Guests have their own pair here or bring slippers with them. We don’t do formal dinner parties, they are more casual gatherings. I dont think it’s rude to ask your guests to remove their shoes, but it’s best to warn them in advance.

  38. avatar animelily says:

    All of you that would refuse to take off your shoes will never be invited over to my house.

    My infant daughter likes to eat leaves and dust bunnies and she manages to find things faster than I can usually catch her. There’s nothing quite so gross and sweeping out a dust bunny covered in baby drool out of your child’s mouth. She hasn’t managed to get a hold of any road salt thanks to people taking off their shoes. That would not only be gross but very harmful. Thankfully I have very thoughtful friends.

    Is it really that much of a put out? The people who are going “shame on you for making us take off our shoes.” Really? I mean really?

  39. avatar llmcr says:

    I have lived all over the world and what is interesting is that it is only in the States that wearing outdoor shoes in a home is common. Anywhere else it is considered good manners and hygienic to take them off. Even on American sitcoms you see people lying around on sofas with the dirty shoes on them. It makes no sense. What is the benefit of having dirty shoes on inside a home? Anyone who thinks people are more important that floors should then always be taking off their shoes as it is showing respect for others and their belongings.

    The few people that I know that routinely leave their shoes on (or always “forget”) have co-incidently a self- esteem problem and like to feel that they are more special than others, for example, “my shoes aren’t dirty”. That is okay as I see it as their issue not mine.

    • avatar Daisy Adair says:

      For the longest time I thought it was only on TV that Americans wore shoes in the house.
      When I learned that they really do that I was shocked and horrified.

  40. avatar sarajane says:

    Obviously if the letter writer puts so much effort into planning her outfits, she is not going to be happy with the advice to “bring a pair of socks” to wear over her stockings! If the issue is the that the hostess has carpet which she does not wish to get dirty (which I think is a totally reasonable request especially if it has been rainy & is muddy outside) the writer could wear ‘outside’ shoes to the party & then when asked to remove them, she can pull out her party shoes and assure the hostess that they are clean and carpet-safe.

  41. avatar Daisy Adair says:

    I have to STRONGLY disagree with your answer to The Hostess and the Shoes.
    It’s revolting to wear shoes in the house. NO ONE comes into my house with shoes.
    Period. I’m not “trying to live like the Japanese” — this is the custom of everyone that I know.
    The only people that I’ve known that allow people into their house with shoes on live like pigs and never clean the floors anyway. In Canada, you bloody well take your shoes off or you’re not coming in the house.

    • avatar wendykh says:

      Please do not speak for all Canadians. You can keep your bloody shoes on and your disgusting bare feet off my floors thank you very much. I am completely grossed out by bare feet and would rather mop. Revolting. Where are your friends walking that need shoes off?

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        I don’t know if you know this, but there are now things called “socks” that normal people put on their feet before they put their shoes on. These “sock” devices are readily available in many stores and frequently go on sale at very low prices.

        Perhaps you should investigate these things.

  42. avatar Ann Hipson says:

    On shoes–
    When I visit a home, if the host asks me to remove my shoes, I do even if I am more comfortable with them on.

    In my house, I always wear shoes. My floors are (hard–oak) hardwood and tile, with dark rugs. Both the wood and the tile are too hard for comfort on my old feet and I don’t find slippers comfortable long term, either. I do not ask people to remove their shoes and if they wish to remove their shoes, I tell them my floors are rarely barefoot clean but if they prefer, sure.

    I try to be a thoughtful guest and a thoughtful host. In either role, I see no reason for a power struggle about my feet.

  43. avatar SherryDAmore says:

    Ummmm…..I think we’ve gone off in two different directions!!!  The original letter was about a woman who was invited to a PARTY – a social event, where she was dressed up and told to take off her shoes.  At a one evening social event, I would never ask anyone to do this.  I believe that the care and comfort of my guest supercedes floors or anything else.   

    However, I now live in a part of the country with a lot of mud, rain and snow, and just as a nomal thing, we take off our shoes in someone else’s house.  That’s fine.  But I never been told nor would I ever tell someone to take their shoes off.  I have a golden retriever, and she brings in all sorts of thing on her coat.  Yes, she gets brushed, but stepping on one her surprises, like a burdox hurts!  Also, I have had plantar warts, and DS has had athletes foot.  I never want anyone in bare feet walking on my floors, even though a vac. and mop daily. 

  44. avatar NevadaFriend says:

    I lived in the Aleutian Islands for many years, no sidewalks, no paved roads. No one would even think of bringing mud and dirt into another person’s house (and no one had white carpets). We had dozens of house parties and went to dozens of house parties and no one ever minded in the least to remove their shoes. We’d wear our clean socks for the most part but many folks brought a pair of slippers to wear. Even to church we’d wear our boots and bring a clean pair of shoes to change into. You left your boots usually in a mudroom or a designated spot where the coats would be put (in a person’s house or at church). In the seafood plants people never wore their boots and outer clothing into the galley(galley is a name for dining room or cafeteria) either, as it was against the rules. People went stocking footed or carried a pair of slippers or flip flops.

  45. avatar Annie Chan says:

    #2 you know… I don’t know anyone who goes walking around the house in shoes, maybe slippers but those are made for indoor flooring and stuff. Most times, for me anyways, it’s a given that I wouldn’t be walking around inside a house in shoes UNLESS I was told otherwise (and usually it’s in a designated area, you know what I mean?). If you really need to wear shoes, such as for medical reasons, by all means bring the right kind of shoes. If it’s just for show, try to be more understanding and find a substitute. Personally I wouldn’t care if my husband towered over me… I’d actually like it ;P

  46. avatar Grace Malat says:

    I’m a bit late on replying on this but still felt the need to.

    On the first letter, the woman went out with the man and lived with him for three years, then they broke up and 3yrs later she has started dating another man, doesn’t say how long they’ve been dating. In the meantime the ex has started dating someone new whom he is serious about.
    It may be all well and good intentioned for her to stay in touch with the children for a short period of time after the break up, But during that time with the help of their father and mother if she happens to be around she should have started limiting her interactions with the children and slowly extricating herself from their family dynamic. By now she should not be having any contact with the children. It was not in the grand scheme of things a long relationship and while during that time she and the children became close, the main relationship, the one with the father ended. She really has no place in their lives at this time and should have ended it a long time ago.
    Now the ex has a serious gf and yet his ex is still hanging around for the ‘sake’ of the children but they are not her children. I might feel differently if they had dated/lived together for a much longer period of time but it was a short 3yrs. It is time for her to back out and give the new gf a chance to develop a healthy relationship with the ex bf and his children without his ex gf showing up for family oriented type events or any event. I’m surprised that anyone is putting up with this. They’ve now been broken up as long as they were together. How long does she plan to be a part of their lives? Forever? And why? This is just a bit strange.
    The current boyfriend is right to not want to go, and she should not be going either. She needs to talk to the children as does their father about time and life moving on, it’s taken her far too long to no longer be a part of a family that she really has no right to be a part of and most likely is very confusing to the children.

    LW 2 with the shoes, my daughter would feel the same way you do. She is on the very short side and has a thing for heels and wears them more often than not so everything is hemmed to their length.
    If it’s concern for dirt or such you can get booties like doctors wear in surgery and keep those in your purse for just such occasions and slip those on over your shoes, although it will slightly take away from the fashion sense you’ve put together your hostess shouldn’t have a problem with that.

  47. avatar Rienne says:

    LW1: It is simply respectful to follow the rules of the house, regardless if you feel inconvenienced or not. I also insist on shoes being removed on my home…the sign on my front door states to please remove your shoes upon entering. Never has anyone had an issue with this. Even the cable guy removes his shoes due to the sign on my door and he is only in my home to work. I have told him it’s not required as he has to frequently enter and exit my house to complete his job. Not only does this cut down on the wear and tear of my carpets, but it also dratically cuts down on staining of the grout on my tiled floors, the wear and tear on my vacuum and my back from constantly sweeping and mopping. I see it like this: if my children’s friends have the common courtesy to remove their shoes upon entering my home, why shouldn’t an adult offer me the same courtesy?