Miss Conduct

Can you decline to remove your shoes?

And, advice on thank you notes.

Illustration by Lucy Truman

> This evening my husband and I were asked to remove our shoes before entering our hosts’ home. To add insult to injury, the hostess put on flip-flops. Is it rude to refuse to remove one’s shoes? 

B.E. / Framingham

If hosts want guests to remove their shoes, it’s the hosts’ responsibility to make the experience as pleasant as possible. This means, at the very least, notice of the expectation and an area in which people can sit equipped with Febreze, a basket of slippers or socks, and a modicum of privacy.

If hosts don’t provide these courtesies, or even if they do, it’s perfectly acceptable to decline. Feet in 21st-century American culture are considered a somewhat personal body part. No excuse is necessary — “I’m sorry, I can’t” is adequate. One need never give a reason for wishing to remain clothed in public. And keeping your reasons to yourself means that folks who have more personal reasons to remain shod — fallen arches, a genetic predisposition to stinky-footedness — will realize they needn’t bare their souls in exchange for the privilege of covering their soles.


Your flip-flopping hosts get little sympathy from me. They’re going to have to clean the floor afterward whether or not the guests wore shoes. And while it is true that one’s relationship with one’s parquet continues long after the guests have left, it is nonetheless terribly bad form to be so overt about valuing one’s floor over one’s friends.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here


> My daughter is making her First Holy Communion next week. We are going to donate her monetary gifts to Children’s Hospital. My question is whether to mention that the money was donated in the thank you note.

K.S. / Jamaica Plain

Yes, you should always say what the money was used for. And if anyone gives money dedicated to another purpose — e.g., “Buy a new dress” — your daughter has to spend it on that.

She should also mention the reason that she is making this donation. (Because it is her decision, correct? And she is at least helping write the notes herself. The age of First Communion varies, but if she’s attained the age of reason, she’s well past the age of excuses as far as basic courtesies go.)


Some folks might be momentarily disappointed, but it seems right for First Communion money to be spent more seriously than birthday money. And if gift givers want to ensure that the money is spent the way they like, they should give gift certificates. Giving money is always a risk. The fungible may be misspent, the frangible may be shattered. People with nervous constitutions should stay away from giving either.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.NEED MISS CONDUCT’S HELP? Write to her at And get advice live during a chat with Robin Abrahams this Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m.