Brain Go Ouch

Actually, It’s Both… My Shoe Size and My IQ


Generally, maturation is defined by a person’s reaching a physical and emotional “growing up”–the result of experiencing and benefitting from life’s innumerable lessons and, ultimately leading to each of us becoming the best us we can be.

As kids, we sponge-up as much information about life as we can because it is, from a basic primal instinct, required for all of us to survive. Such things as language, memory, why that thing is okay to touch, why that thing hurts, what that other thing even is exactly and why does eating it cause dizziness and an ability to hear colors. Without this necessary evolution of our individual selves, humans as a species would have long ago gone the way of the DoDo (not the bird, but the 1931 off-Broadway show about talking hair do’s that subsequently closed after only two weeks due to the smash success of the neighboring, less insistent musical, TryTry).

Doris Jenkins in her final performance as Hattie the Hairpin, one day before her suicide
Doris Jenkins in her final performance as Hattie the Hairpin, one day before her suicide

Growing up, I learned at a normal, healthy, socially acceptable rate. I was not gifted, nor was I a cause for my teachers to speak slowly or my parents to proudly frame my participation awards (of which there were many. Not that I’m bragging…). Much like an income of $4000 in 1954, I was average. So, it should be safe for someone to assume that, by a certain age (somewhere between, say, 25-55), I should know the basics required to function in life.

Well, not only would that someone be wrong, but they would also have egg on their face (which is a little strange when you think about it. I mean, I’m not saying that that particular someone is abnormally kinky and borderline sociopathic, but I’m not not saying it, either. wink-wink)

A few weeks ago, a pebble made its way into my shoe and squatted between my sock and big toe. Instead of taking my shoe off to remove it and free myself from discomfort, I did the I’ll-wiggle-and-flex-my-toes-enough-so-that-the-pebble-is-lodged-in-an-out-of-the-way-part-of-my-shoe thing. Untying and then re-tying a single shoe – Who’s got the time, am I right?

My wife, noting my awkward and unnatural movements, asked ‘what the $%#k are you doing, weirdo?’, but in a nice way. “Sweety, what are you doing with your foot? You okay?”

“I have a rock in my shoe.”

“Well, why not just take your shoe off? It might be easier.” (translation – Are you a two-year old? It’s a problem that most infants can solve)

I shrugged, indicating that, ‘yeah, that’s an option, but I’m already so far into this process that stopping now just makes me a big, fat quitter’. After a few more toe flexes, the rock is exiled like a foosball ball. “Ahh,” I say. Not an ‘Ahh’ that signals total relaxation in a bathtub of hot water or warm pudding, but an ‘Ahh’ that sometimes goes with figuring out that final crossword hint after obsessing on it for more hours than it took the author to create the puzzle. “Ahh.”

My wife’s eyes searched the carpet immediately in front of me. “What happened to the rock?”

“I finally moved it.”

“I know, but where did it fall out?”

“It didn’t. I pushed it into the extra front part of my shoe.”

Polishing up the extra front part
Polishing up the extra front part

“Extra? Are your shoes that big on you?”

“They’re not big.”

“Well, why else would you have extra space in your shoes?”

Aww, my small town wife. It was cute how naïve she was. “Um, because that’s how shoes fit.”

She asked me to stand. Holding down the front of my shoe with her thumb, she asked me to wiggle my toes. “Your shoes are way too big.”

Ever so slightly defensive, I said, “No, they’re not. You’re supposed to have extra space in front.”


Why was this so hard to understand?! “Because, when I was growing up, my mom would take me shopping and always test my shoes to check that there was extra room in the toes.”

She now had the same subtle look of concern she gives our dog when it coughs once or twice while eating. “Are you being serious?”

At this point, I sense something is definitely wrong and, given that I would never debate that my wife was ten times smarter than me, I was pretty sure any small and awkward feelings I was having were about to blow up Hindenburg-style. “Is that wrong?”

Taking on an air reminiscent of Ward Cleaver, wise and understanding, my wife looked at me with sweet empathy. “Well, parents do that because kids are supposed to grow into their shoes. That isn’t how shoes are supposed to fit adults.”

Instead of responding, I looked around the room anxiously, waiting for the oven to begin speaking in tongues or drunken Mormon missionaries to pound furiously on the front door, something, anything, to take the place of my red-faced reality at center stage. Nothing happened, of course. Stupid reality with it’s being grounded in reality.

"I'll eventually grow in to them, right? I mean, I'm only 30."
“I’ll eventually grow in to them, right? I mean, I’m only 30.”

“What size shoe have you been wearing?”

“Nine and a half.”

“How did you figure out that size?”

“By measuring.”

“And it said you wore a 9.5 mens?”

“No, I just measured my foot with a tape measure and it said my foot was 9.5 inches. So…”

“That’s not how you measure a shoe size, though. You didn’t know that?”

My toddler-in-trouble-because-he-poured-an-entire-box-of-soap-into-the-laundry-machine look was answer enough.

"I dressed myself, honey! Let's get to your company party early, whaddya say?"
“I dressed myself, honey! Let’s get to your company party early, whaddya say?”

“Oh, sweety,” she laughed. “How long have you been wearing that shoe size?”

“I dunno. 20 years?”

“Haven’t you ever seen those foot measurement tools at the shoe store?”

“The ones that look like spaceships?”

“Uh, I guess…”

When I was little and forced to accompany my mom and sister shopping and when we ended up in a shoe store, I kept busy with the silver toy spaceships that littered the ground. The width adjustment – that was the cockpit. The sliding arch marker – a rear laser turret. So, as customers and employees moved about trying on shoes as they would in any other retail establishment, a two-man fighter ship took part in some of the deadliest battles against legions of enemy fighters from the unnamed bad guy planet. And, although unfairly outnumbered, the silver fighter, with it’s captain flying aerial acrobatics that other pilots would be afraid to attempt and it’s rear gunner making every shot count (that young gunner was a prodigy at the space academy), fought its way to victory while a constant barrage of laser blasts and explosions rocked around them. And since I was somehow unable to limit my imagination to my mind, each sound effect that represented a blast or explosion was shared with the entire store.

The next evening, after my wife got home from work, we went to a shoe store to discover, after decades of ignorance, what my actual shoe size was. Turns out, I was an 8.5.

At home, I opened my side of the closet and stared at the 12 pairs of shoes that no longer (uh, you mean never?) fit me. Black and white spectators, I’m going to find you a good home, someone that will care for you and take you places where you will be appreciated and admired. Patent leather, you’re gonna do important things someday, I just know it. Army boots, cap toe shoes, wing tips, you’ve been great and I’m proud to have known you. PF Flyers, well, I think I’ll miss you most of all.

Fortunately, several of my friends (those annoying we know our shoe size smarty-pants’ who think they’re so worldly with their body awareness) were size 9.5, so the shoes worthy of a good home were placed with care.

Today, I received in the mail my second pair of shoes that are my size.

The only problem I’ve found, so far, with wearing shoes that actually fit is this: if there is a rock in your shoe, you pretty much have no choice but to take your shoe off. There is absolutely no room for toe flexing.

157 thoughts on “Actually, It’s Both… My Shoe Size and My IQ”

    1. I’m not alone! After my wife and I got back into shape, recently, we both had to purge so many clothes. It seems that I never actually knew my true jeans size, either. I got rid of several pairs of 32″s and had to buy 29-30″s. Math am hard.


  1. Calahan – you are so endearing. What’s funny about this – my father does not accept that my husband is a 9.5 shoe size b/c he said men don’t have feet that small (because that makes sense in what world?) Ironically, my mom’s MOM said that woman shouldn’t wear shoes bigger than a 7.5… where do these weird ideas begin? How do they get perpetuated into the universe and believed by sane humans?


                    1. Denise–I want to start an anonymous website JUST to complain/post/make fun of weird gifts from parents and in-laws. It may or may not be called “My In-Laws are Crazy” in my mind. My MIL gave my 11-year old step-son a lettermen-style sweater jacket. It was blue and beige with a heart, well, over the heart. It was a women’s brand. WTF? Same day, she gave my husband a used, wrinkled, Wrangler-brand shirt with a stain on it. She’d gone thrifting. For Xmas, she sent my daughter a pink shirt after we told her that my daughter no longer likes pink and is really picky about clothes. This is the same woman who gave my husband a girlie calendar for Xmas. Sigh.


    1. Happily, all shoes went a guy on Craigslist who was adult enough to know his actual shoe size. The guy’s a friggin’ genius!

      I love cap toe shoes. Do you actually wear them, Ned?


        1. They’re great shoes because you can dress them up or down. You can get some really good ones on ebay for pretty cheap. “There goes Cap Toe Ned,” they’ll be saying pretty soon.


    1. Thank you, Guap! Those are totally spaceships. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Lying!

      I’ve never owned a pair of boat shoes. They seem pretty versatile, though, actually. I’ve seem them worn in a lot of situations. Except in a hot tub. Haven’t seen that, yet.


  2. I actually used the line “Is that your IQ or your age” (a variant of the shoe-size gag) on a kid in 8th grade. Oh man, did I get my ass kicked!

    My shoe size varies depending on the shoe. Typically I wear 13 or 14, but I’m currently wearing 15 sandals that fit just fine (although there’s probably a full inch of “scoop” beyond my toes). Switch back to 9.5s and let the rocks roll out!


    1. At a certain age, everything was a spaceship of some kind. Next time you go to a shoe store, I strongly encourage you to pick one of those spaceships up and fly it around the room. People will totally admire your creativity.


  3. Has anybody already made the joke… if the shoe fits, wear it? Or did everybody just think it too trite and obvious?

    Maybe wearing the right size will protect you from rocks getting into your shoes. I used to think they were limited to Birkenrocks and Birkenstones, but now that I wear a wider variety of footwear, it turns out those stupid rocks can get into all my shoes. Even boots? HOW??

    Last, if you were a pregnant lady you WOULD have to buy shoes a size up to make room to grow. True Story.


    1. If and when I ever become a pregnant lady, I will remember that buying a size larger is okay.

      Also, you were the first to make that joke, so kudos and bragging rights to you, Kylie. 🙂


  4. This is the funniest thing I’ve read all day. Though not the shoe sizer thing, that seriously–very seriously– looks like a spaceship.

    I know I have some sort of similar story like this…. but my brain isn’t awake yet so I’ll bow to your small-footed wit.


    1. It’s totally a spaceship, right? When I was a kid, anything (paper clip, bottle, dog toy) could be imagined into a spaceship. In hindsight, I should probably have been put on some serious meds.


  5. You and your shoe size naivete are adorably charming, Lord Calahan. If it’s any consolation, it sounds like something Mr. Weebles might do. Bless. He tells me I have feet like gunboats because I wear a size 9.5, which is pretty big for chicks.

    So now that you’re wearing shoes that are the right size, how’s life working out for you? Aside from having to take your shoe off if you have a pebble in it, I mean.


    1. Thank you for asking, Weebs. Things are, as you can imagine, vastly improved. I stand taller, I don’t slide around when I walk, my complexion has cleared up, my voice changed and I’m feeling confident enough that I’m considering finally going to that senior prom.


  6. This gave me quite a panic – how many things am I doing now because of habits my mother set in place?!

    (You are strong – I am way to attached to my shoes, would not have been able to part with them ! )


  7. That’s not that bad if you want to hear something stupid listen to this when i was pregnant with my first child i couldn’t fit in my regular clothes after about five months, well i decided to clean out my closet and threw everything away while my husband was at work when he came home i thought he was going to die laughing i had not even thought about what i was gonna wear after the baby came it was like in my mind i would forever remain pregnant


    1. Ha. That’s a horrible realization to come to. I hope you took yourself shopping for post-baby clothes. I will keep this story in mind, though, if ever I find myself pregnant. 😉


  8. A few years ago, a Range Rover ran over the extra front part of my shoes (a friend assumed I got inside and took of – it’s a big car and hard to see what’s happening in the back seat). I escaped injury only by having no toes in that extra front part, and ever since then I just can’t bring myself to buy a shoe that’s exactly my size.


  9. Actually, you are right and your wife is wrong. There should always be a little bit of space between your toes and the front inside of your shoe while you are standing up in the morning. Your feet swell throughout the day and need that wiggle room to not cut off circulation or distort toenail growth. And plus, you know, the fluffy winter socks thing. So, always measure before lunch.

    Also, depending on your gait and footfall, a different fit might benefit your stability and flexibility, especially if you wear inserts of any kind. If you have wide or squarish feet, all the more reason.

    Consider, you’ve been allowing your feet some nice breathing room for many years. They may revolt if suddenly forced to endure the ubiquitous skinny, pointy look all clothes seem to need to conform to these days. You may not feel it at first in your foot, either. It may present in your calves, your legs, your back, your neck, or even your head. Alignment, baby. It’s a bitch.


    1. Now at 8 1/2, there is a little room, just not room enough to store a wallet as before. The right size did help me stand straighter, though.

      I’ve never worn inserts, but I have worn the hell out of excerpts!


        1. There’s a reason that all of my hipster skinny jeans are always adorned with a fanny pack for all of my belongings. I’m pretty sure it earns me a lot of respect and admiration.


  10. Mike – firstly congrats on FP
    Secondly, I used to work in mens footwear (many years ago) and ALL men think their shoe size is bigger than what they actually are… I always thought it was a vanity thing but maybe they just thought they would grow into them? 😉


    1. Congrats to you, also, Daile.

      I don’t doubt that there is some arrogance or machismo in having bigger shoes, but I also don’t doubt that many adult men are wholly unprepared to shop for clothes when transitioning from adolescence.


  11. It is too bad you are disposing all of the shoes. I found after a certain age (not to be disclosed) that my feet began to grow again. I am now two sizes larger that I was as a middle aged adult.


  12. Never thought of it before, but your absolutely right. A foot-measuring gadget does look an awful lot like a spaceship. Guess if you turned it upside down, it’d look like a Klingon Bird of Prey. Two for the price of one!

    By the way, I loved this post. As an 8.5 triple A in an even-sized, medium world I always have room for a few pebbles in my shoes, even if they fit just fine lengthwise. The downside of all this is that I can’t wear heels, or ballet flats, or any type of slip-on shoes without them falling half off my feet when I walk. The upside is that, since my shoes never touch the sides of my feet, they never rub, and my feet almost never hurt.


  13. Questions abound. What kind of rock? Did you frame it? Is it the same rock I had in my shoe in 1989? Are all rock the same? Was it a rock of angels? Was it the rock from rock and roll? And did it rock on? So many questions and only a small space to conform it to.


    1. This rock did not had no indication of moss, so it’s likely it was the same rock, traveling around causing havoc and despair. As far as which rock it was, I believe it once belonged to Bill Haley (although I couldn’t match it up to a clock, so I might be wrong.)


  14. Delightful post. I remember shopping for shoes as a child as well. We would place our feet in the little x-ray machine and watch our toe bones wiggle within the shoes on the green colored screen. Did you know that John Wayne was a size 8 shoe? That is why you rarely see his feet in his movies; he was a little embarrassed by it.


    1. My mom was telling me about shopping for Hush Puppies and that they did, in fact, use an x-ray machine to measure their feet. That seems so crazy to me! Seriously, did Hush Puppies employees wear lead-lined coats at work?

      I did hear that John Wayne’s feet were on the small side. The coolest part about that is that my feet are still bigger than his. I’m bigger than John Wayne!


  15. I was a little bit bummed on how that all turned out to be honest. I was just thinking that I might want to get bigger shoes for the stray rocks too. Many of the shoes I’ve owned are purchased on the ability of putting them on and taking them off without ever undoing the laces but as I’ve become an adult and professional those shoes aren’t as socially acceptable. I guess I’ll stick to warm sandal-wearing weather as much as I can for a while… -Jana


    1. Sandals sound like a good idea. Personally, I can’t wear sandals because I spend the whole time constantly self-conscious about my feet: are they too pale? should I trim that one nail a little more? Is that a hair on my big toe? Basically, if I could wear a giant body bag that covers me from head to toe, I’d be sitting pretty. 😉


  16. This is amazing! And I also used to pretend that shoe sizer was a spaceship. And by used to, I mean still do. Because I am immature and hate going shoe shopping. Especially with my mother.


    1. I actually enjoy going shoe shopping with your mom. She has wonderful taste and always makes me stand up and walk around in them before committing to any pair.

      I’m so glad you realize that those are spaceships, too! We need to each steal one of those shoe sizers, personalize the ships and then have the ultimate space battle. 🙂


  17. I was wondering through FP’d trying to find something funny, and found this.
    It delivered.

    Even better was the “what folks are saying “- people love to write about how they spit stuff out from laughing, but I actually did projectile vomit semi-swallowed pretzel over those quotes.

    That’s a good thing, by the way.


  18. Reblogged this on O'lee Branch and commented:
    Men and their shoe sizes…
    May be it’s not just ignorance; they do lie about their shoe size the way we ladies lie about our age.

    Plus you know what they say about the size of a man’s shoe. It’s definitely that. Yes, that.


  19. This is why marriage is so much fun. Doesn’t matter how long two people know each other, there are still amusing ways for them to blindside each other. I love it!

    Also, that fighter pilot version of the shoe measurement thing is the best thing I’ve seen all day. I can’t wait to take my Star Wars-obsessed nephew shoe shopping now. It’s not an X-wing, but he’ll make it work…


    1. Don’t think of it that you missed out on spaceship battles with shoe measurement tools, but think of it as you have yet to begin. Next time you go into a shoe store, you’ll be tempted.


  20. that was a great read… we had scales that were fixed to the ground, and very different from your space ships, ours were more like huge tanks, on which we could sit, and imagine driving them..


Say What?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s