There is a video circulating the Internet of personal trainer Jasmine Mays, sitting on a stationary airplane. She’s got the window seat, and the look on her face is one of absolute horror as the camera pans to reveal a pair of caucasian feet with painted shiny red toenails, creeping through the crack between the window and the seat, resting comfortably on her armrest. Upon seeing the video, I experienced many feelings — horror, annoyance, and then anger.
Because this sort of behavior in public spaces isn’t at all an anomaly.
It’s becoming more and more common every single day. As a matter fact, about a week ago, when I flew home from San Diego to Washington, upon boarding the airplane I discovered that the man sitting directly behind me was exhibiting this EXACT behavior. Quelle horreur! One would think I'd be surprised, but I wasn’t. Because this wasn’t the first time it happened to me. (It happened to me last year flying back from London. It was another American … Before you ask). When I kindly asked him to remove his checkered Van from my armrest, he exchanged a look with his fellow white seatmate which said, “Well would you get a look at this uppity little thing right here.”
Yup I used that coded word because that is the look that's often given to me whenever I make demands of a white person who is being rude in public spaces.
I think people with unmanicured feet should always cover them. I think my own feet are gross.
When really his look should have said, “I put my gross feet in a stranger’s space which she paid an airline her hard earned money for, and she asked me to remove my foot from her personal space, and now I feel ashamed.”
Now’s a good time to make mention of the fact that I HATE FEEEEEEEEEET.
HATE THEM. I think people with unmanicured feet should always cover them. I think my own feet are gross. I dance ballet, so I know they’re gross no matter how much polish I try in slap on them in an attempt to tell a different story. Both my toenails fell off last winter at separate times, and I vowed to myself that if they didn’t grow back by summer that I would NOT force that hideousness upon the public by wearing sandals. I was willing to take one for the team so you people wouldn’t have to look at my gross feet. You’re welcome.
You can tell I love you if I ever touch your feet. Clipping the elderly and bedridden’s toenails means I would probably take a bullet for you. Because there is no other way I could touch your feet.
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My boyfriend hates feet too. He hates his own, and he hates mine. I once tried to give him a foot massage to wordlessly express how much I loved him which ended in him almost kicking me accidentally and then saying with a smile, “You never have to touch my feet if I never have to touch yours.”
And then we high-fived and never spoke of it again. True story. True love.
On my plane ride from San Diego, there should have been shame, but there was none. And I find myself asking, again and again, are these folks high on the good fumes of white privilege or is our society becoming crasser every day? Because surely their mothers taught them, just like mine taught me, that you don’t put your feet on the furniture. Ever. And certainly not in other people’s spaces.
But that’s where the lines get a little murky. How much of public space is yours and how much is mine? Well, if the armrest is attached to the seat, I would argue that for the duration of the flight, that seat and thus attached armrest is my rented public space.
But it doesn’t just happen in airplanes.
I live in the Washington DC metropolitan area. I commuted into DC almost every day last winter by metro. Not a day went by where I didn’t see some boorish fool with their shoes on the seats or the silver pole which other people hold on to keep from falling over. They have to know that this behavior is rude so why do so many people engage in it still?
Sure, public transport is pretty germy and gross (I have become that person that walks with hand sanitizer … I know you’re judging me. I judge me). But it doesn’t have to be that way. The London underground isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it’s upholstered and manages to stay clean(ish).
Why can’t we have nice things DC? And why make it worse by attempting to smear all available surfaces with the soles of your shoes? I sometimes work in Chinatown, and the sidewalks are a mess of miscellaneous puddles (most likely urine or vomit), leftover food, and saliva. And all of that is on the bottom of your feet.
Which you are now propping up on the silver pole in the center of the train.
But it’s got an extra element of icky-ness to it. Because the place where most peoples' feet meet the pole is the exact place where a small child would grab the pole. So basically you’re ensuring that the germs from the soles of your feet are getting transferred to a young child’s hand. Which is not being a great adult, right? It’s bad enough that you put your shoes on the available chair next to you.
I had to tell someone this summer to take their shoe out of my parent’s white armchair. I once told an old roommate that she should never put her sneakered feet on my (SCREAMS INTERNALLY) … bed. I lectured my old landlord about not putting her sandaled foot on my cream sofa. All of these moments were awkward as hell. But also… Why are you like this? Don’t we all know to take our shoes off in other people’s houses?
Can we all come together and agree that whether in public or private spaces, don’t put your feet in other people’s spaces and keep your shoes off the furniture? Please? It’s not a tall order at all. It’s not even world peace.