Responses to Barefooting in Public

Thirteen years ago I decided not to wear shoes regularly any longer (hence: BarefootBetsy) and over these last 13 years I’ve gotten many different reactions to barefooting in public.

Most people who see me barefoot in public think it’s pretty cool and ask questions. I’m usually happy to answer respectful questions. I think that many people who would benefit from going barefoot or who secretly want to wear shoes less often likely do not eschew shoes in public because they believe some of the many myths our culture has created around barefootedness.

So dispelling those myths is something I typically enjoy doing.

Then there are the concerned people who worry about me getting hurt or my feet being cold or hot or otherwise uncomfortable. Their concerns are easily addressed. I’ve personally experienced no negatives to barefooting over many years so I can be pretty positive about it. Yes, there can be drawbacks (like having strangers feel entitled to comment on my lack of footwear whether I want them to or not) and there are absolutely times when shoes are beneficial (shoes are tools, after all!) just like there are times when gloves are beneficial.

But, by far, the most ridiculous responses are from people who think that they need to give me incorrect information in order to get me to wear shoes. I’ve mainly had this issue with staff at various establishments. These have primarily been staff at grocery stores, hotels, and professional offices.

These people will give me all kinds of reasons why I should wear shoes in their establishment, but the two most common are:

 

1 – It’s dangerous for you to be in here without shoes! We’re liable for your safety!

Um, well, I run miles at a time on pavement barefoot and walk around in big cities barefoot so…. if your establishment is really more hazardous to my feet than those activities, you’ve likely got more serious issues going on than whether or not I’m wearing shoes.

Also, I always offer to sign a waiver when people bring this up. I’m more than happy to take 100% responsibility for any potential injuries I might incur due to being barefoot on private property. Not a problem.

However, employees of establishments have never been willing to sign a waiver taking responsibility for any injuries I may incur in their establishment due to wearing shoes. I used to twist my ankles frequently before I started barefooting regularly. Shoes are more slippery than bare feet and it’s more difficult to tell when a floor is slippery with the tactile input dulled through the sole of the shoe. If I’m being required to wear shoes somewhere that I need to be, then it makes sense that they should be willing to take responsibility for their policy’s potential injurious effects on me.

Yet… they never have and always seem shocked when I politely suggest that they might offer to do so.

 

2 – The Health Department/OSHA requires that you wear shoes in here!

This is simply a bold-faced lie in the USA. No state or federal health department requires customers to wear shoes in establishments (food or otherwise) and most county Health Departments follow the state regulations.

OSHA only regulates what employees wear, not what customers wear. Interestingly enough, I’ve never had any issues in restaurants other than once in a McDonald’s many years ago. Typically, the nicer the establishment, the less likely they are to hassle me about shoes.

 

Truly, I’d much rather people just be honest than to tell lies about “government authorities require that we require you to wear shoes.”

Own the fact that you have a discriminatory policy for no good reason (since the safety and liability concerns don’t apply in my case). Own that you just want me to wear shoes because it makes you or your customers uncomfortable or nervous. Own that you might have have unconscious prejudices and biases against bare feet. Maybe examine what those might be.

In the end, I’m far more likely to respect someone who says, “Yeah, we just require shoes because I or the owner prefers it.” without giving any other reason. At least they’re being honest. Because there’s no other good reason for me to wear shoes somewhere that I’ve scoped out and deemed safe for my feet. Their personal preference-based policy, no matter how politely presented, may still result in me taking my business somewhere else; but at least I respect the people who give me that sort of answer.

Giving me reasons that don’t apply to me (especially when you then resort to false appeals to authority once you realize that none of your reasons apply to me) makes it all the more likely that I will never darken your door with my money again. I don’t take kindly to being “protected” from my own harmless decisions by random falsehood-prone employees who don’t even know me.

I’ve been doing this for 13 years. I know what I’m doing. Don’t bs me about your reasons. I’ve heard it all before and will hear it all again soon, no doubt.

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An Autistic Announcement

Many people who know me well already know this because I’ve been increasingly open about it, but I want to make a general, public post about autism so here goes.

Around two years ago I received an autism diagnosis. For those who are surprised, please read this.

Knowing I’m autistic is not a bad thing. In fact, this is the single most helpful thing I’ve ever learned about myself. There will be many links in this post if you also want more information.

You may want to read Nick Walker’s What is autism? to start with. Here’s an introduction geared towards a newly diagnosed child if you would prefer a simpler explanation in very clear language.

Being autistic explains my life. Every struggle, every confused moment, everything. I’m not interested in rehashing my history so you’ll just have to trust me about this. The diagnostic process took months and involved a thorough and harrowing look into my past and then-present struggles.

I’m going to make a list for the rest of the post. These are some important things to know if you care about me, especially as April “Autism Bewareness” Month approaches:

  • I use identity-first language. I’m autistic. I don’t “have” or “live with” autism. If you want to learn more, this post looks at the significance of language choice and has links to commentary on all sides of the person-first vs identity-first debate. This brief post (with a nifty comic to illustrate the point) effectively sums up my thoughts about the issue.
  • I struggle a great deal with communicating clearly in person even when I seem to be communicating just fine. If you’re not sure what I mean, please ask for clarification rather than making assumptions. I may need a moment or two to process what you’re saying, especially if you say something unexpected. I may then need another moment or two (or even years, in extreme cases) in order to figure out how to turn my response into words. Sometimes I can’t talk effectively or at all and this may cut a conversation short. I almost always prefer conversing via text (online, email, etc) rather than via spoken word.
  • I often get overwhelmed very quickly when socializing and/or in a situation with a lot of sensory input and it can take me a while to respond to texts, emails, and private messages. I’m also terrible about getting together with people in person. Please don’t take such delays personally.
  • I’m not interested in having anything to do with puzzle pieces, lighting it up blue, Autism $peaks, or ABA. I don’t particularly want to be tagged in or sent posts about those things either, especially in April when that rhetoric is unavoidable to begin with.
  • I do not use functioning labels (such as “high functioning” and “low functioning”) because I’ve found they are not helpful, can be harmful, and aren’t accurate anyhow. Some days are easier for me than others and if you see me out and about then it’s probably a pretty decent day.
  • If you have an autistic child or think you may be autistic yourself and want help sifting through the available information, please contact me privately. I’m usually happy to send you specific links and/or chat with you about your situation as I feel able. I’ve read/saved hundreds of links, have read dozens of books relating to autism (mostly from other autistic perspectives), and I love sharing autism information with people who are sincerely interested in learning more.
  • I’d rather you directly ask me questions about autism than use google because most top google sources are written by non-autistic people and often don’t accurately reflect the experiences of #ActuallyAutistic people. I co-founded a local autistic advocacy/support group and post autism information regularly on the group’s Facebook page, which you can follow, if you’d like.

Thank you for reading ❤

~B.

Driving in a New Town

Learning to drive in a new town is… interesting. We moved to the Augusta, GA area in the middle of December, but I didn’t start driving around until about a month ago because we also have a new car and we weren’t able to move the seat  forward which meant I couldn’t reach the pedals. Eventually we bought a cushion from the Salvation Army so I can sit forward enough even though the seat still doesn’t move… and I digress…

I was very nervous about learning to drive our new car (a ’78 VW bus) in a brand new town. I’m a good driver, but I’ve never regularly driven in a large city or in a town where most of the roads are 4+ lanes wide. I learned to drive in Kitsap County, WA – Land of the Two Lane Roads. Driving on two-lane roads is nice and I really like it, but I found myself at a serious disadvantage when we moved here and I realized that I have virtually no experience driving on large roads.

Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten more practice and am gradually getting more comfortable on the larger roads here. I’m rediscovering that I *am* a good driver and that I can do this! I’m finally starting to feel as though I know where I’m going sometimes without having to print out a long list of directions from mapquest. I’m learning the names of the roads and which roads to avoid during rush-hour (pretty much all of them in Columbia County…).

I’m also getting comfortable with the VW clutch again after having driven an automatic for the last year and a half. I’m more used to having such a large vehicle behind me and virtually nothing in front of me. I’m discovering that VW busses are incredibly fun to drive and almost as fun to drive as a VW beetle – which was my first car.

I’m beginning to enjoy driving again. Life is good 🙂

~B.

Relax, Take it easy, Unwind, Pause

My children are napping, my tea is brewing, and my husband is working. It is that lovely time of my day when I truly have time all to myself.

It is a pause between my morning and evening, this time that I have to myself.

I read, I write, I recharge. I sip my tea.

I forget the laundry that needs to be folded. The dishes that need to be washed. The carpet that, once again, needs to be vacuumed. I concentrate on being relaxed. I take deep breaths.

I ponder deep thoughts. I pray for myself and for others. I ask for patience and wisdom.

The dog is relaxed as she sleeps on the rug. The cat is relaxed as she gazes out the window.

The sun is sinking lower and relaxing in the sky.

I lazily sip my tea.

There will be time later to do the dishes. Time enough in the future to vacuum and fold clothes.

There is not much time for just me, and I take it eagerly when it comes.

There is not much time to relax, take it easy, unwind, and pause in the middle of the day.

I let the silence wash over me like the sun’s rays.

The tea is gone. It is time to plan, to do, to live actively! The pause has done its job well. I am refreshed. I am ready to face the rest of my day.

Dishes,  laundry, carpet, dinner! Children, husband, friends! I can do it all. But not without my restful pause.

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