Making Eye Contact

Blog entry posted by Jon from PDX, Sep 21, 2018.

I never gave much thought to the social aspect of going out into the world with bare feet. But, this is a thing, at least here in Portland, Oregon: people look at me.

Some of them just stare at my feet. If they were in the middle of a sentence, they stop talking. One guy today came around the corner in a tall strut, then saw me, and by the time he went past he was stooped down almost chin-to-belly as if getting closer would let him see my feet better.

Other people look at me like I’m a lost puppy, as if something horrible had to have happened for me to go outside without shoes. Or they look from my feet to my face, back to my feet, then back to my face with bewildered confusion.

Others, though, are more social. I’ve never had so many people greet me with a “good morning” as happens when my feet are naked, some as if being polite is a talisman to wave away the evils of an unjust world, some after they realize that they’ve been staring and need to do something dignified to make up for it. Or maybe it is a test: do I respond like the sane person I appear to be from my ankles up, or do I utter rabid jibberish like someone who cares so little about anything as to wear no shoes?

One kind gentleman told me that only a real man could go barefoot, and he shook my hand. I wonder how he’d react if, say, a high school women’s XC running team went past, all barefoot.

I have to say that I think I like this increase of attention. I’m the kind of person who feels like it is only correct and proper to greet the people I share spaces with, including at least making cordial eye contact with folks I pass on the sidewalk. It shouldn’t take a rousing rejection of social norms for others to respect, well, other social norms, but it seems to mix things up just enough to move me momentarily out of invisibility and into some sort of community. I’d rather be rejected by some than ignored by all, and going barefoot seems to force that issue.

It undoubtedly helps that I’m usually smiling when I have bare feet. A happy grin has a way of putting everything else in the right context.
Jeremy Reynoso likes this.
Jon from PDX

About the Author

Jon is a nerd with an affinity for sport. He loved playing soccer until a growth spurt led to knee pains that ended his running career, but went on to bike recreationally and row competitively while studying physiology and psychology (go, uh, Raiders?). He then studied law (go Irish!), and became a business writer (“Shark Tank” is for entrepreneurs on Easy Mode), and is currently running again for the first time in decades thanks to going barefoot.