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Monday question: Boatiquette

Posted by Robin Abrahams  August 5, 2013 09:26 AM

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I've tackled the question of shoe-removal policies before, but the boats are a new angle. One fussy homeowner is one matter; trying to buck an entire subculture of shoe-removal is another:

My husband and I live aboard our boat, and meet many other boaters casually out on the water. It is very common to be invited aboard other boats for a visit or cocktail hour, even though we may have just met.

My dilemma is that I have a medical condition that does not allow me to take off my shoes, and a majority of boaters have a "no shoes aboard" policy. I've even seen custom made "welcome" mats that say, "No shoes, please!" Not very welcoming to the handicapped, I'm afraid.

I feel like my choices are:
1. Ask when the invitation is issued about the shoe policy, and decline "no shoe" boat events. Awkward, since many invites come over the radio where all body language nuance is lost and others are often listening in.
2. Ask permission when entering the boat for an exception to the "no shoes" rule, and leaving if denied permission (it has happened!) Annoying and embarrassing.
3. Bring those white tyvek booties to slip over my shoes. Ugly and distracting at cocktail parties. "Hey, why the giant white balloon thingies on your feet?"
4. Sit on the outside deck while the party swirls inside. Alienating.

Am I missing a better option? I hope so! I'd love to have a first introduction to potential new friends not always be about my aching feet.

Option #3 seems the least-bad one. The booties are ugly but if everyone is in bare feet, well, c'est la vie. Also, wear them once or twice and I bet a few other people would pick up on it as well: the LW is almost certainly not the only person who dislikes having to remove her shoes.

Advice, dear readers? I'm from Kansas, you know. Boatdwelling etiquette isn't exactly something I grew up with!

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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