Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Barefootin' at Work?

Dear Social Grace,
I work in a preschool and there is one teacher who insists on walking around barefoot when the temperature gets above 70 degrees. As it happens, she is advanced in age, and has been here forever, so it's not a peer relationship that would enable me to say, "that's gross; cover up those dogs". On the other hand, she's not my boss. I think this is disgusting, and it teaches the kids this bad habit, too. How do I deal with this?

Grace Says:

Walking around barefoot at work? When your job is anything other than a lifeguard? Allow me a moment to cringe, and another to compose myself. I don't even like to enter homes that require me to shed my shoes. For one thing, the shoes are generally an integral part of my outfit (remember that Sex and the City episode when Carrie lost her Manolos at a party in a shoe-free apartment?). I shudder to think. For another thing, it's just gross.

As far as the problem of Shoeless Jane, investigate your facility's guidelines regarding dress code and hygiene. There may be a policy that SJ is violating with her podiatric nudity. If so, alert your supervisor or Human Resources department (requesting anonymity) and ask them to address it. If not, you could casually mention it to some of the more neurotic parents--you know who I mean--the ones who bring their kids to school sealed in cryovac to avoid germ exposure. Do it in the form of an amusing anecdote: "When Angelina did her customary pirouette into the song circle today, she stepped on poor Miss Jane's bare feet--you know how Jane loves to go barefoot--I think they were both a bit shocked, poor things." Smile adoringly on Angelina. Her mom just might then do your dirty work for you.

Good Luck!


Bekah said...

It is fascinating to me that you consider going barefoot to be disgusting. I don't think it's the smartest choice all the time, nor appropriate for many work situations, but there are striking cultural differences even among the same class of Americans on this subject.

Then, too, not that long ago, women going out in public sans gloves and hat would have been viewed as nearly obscene.

Social Grace said...

Excellent point, Bekah. It is important to be mindful of cultural differences. The reader who submitted the question seemed to be from a place and in a setting where barefeet was not really acceptable, and sought advice specific to her concern, but thanks for the reminder--it is indeed supremely important to recall and respect cultural differences--perhaps above all.

In the 1920s it was a huge scandal when Flappers showed their stockinged ankles!

Thanks for writing!