my feet are much smaller than I thought they were
How do I know? My shoes. They're way too big. ALSO: we're a Substack Recommended Publication!
My friends and I have a code word when we want to be very clear that we’re about to say something genuine. That what follows is not and may not be a joke, bit, or goof of any kind. The word is Bruce. So...
Substack featured Both Are True as a recommended publication!! I can’t believe it.
I usually try to make jokes to hide my feelings - hence the Bruce - but this is just very cool. I’ve always dreamed of seeing BAT as part of that list and thought ‘ah that’ll never happen to a dummy like me. That’s for REAL newsletters writing about REAL things.” But there it is - Both Are True.
90% of this newsletter getting here is you all, the readers, so thanks for reading and commenting and helping me believe in myself enough to keep hitting publish.
God that was hard. But I said Bruce again so now it’s over and we’re free so goof so WHAT IS UP ALL YOU NEW ABSOLUTE KNUCKLEHEADS aka READERS.
I know that I don’t have much time before you decide if you love it here or wanna kick me to the curb which, by the way, can you imagine someone actually doing that? Just sorta kicking someone in the shins, moving them an inch or two tops, all the way to the nearest curb?!
It could take a while and honestly would be worse for the kicker than the kicked.
I would try and explain what it is we do here at Both Are True, but I have no idea.
I did once get ‘show, don’t tell’ tattoo’d on both biceps, so now,
without further a-choo(no, god bless you!), let's do this.
The Opposite of A Cinderella Story
My feet are MUCH smaller than I thought they were.
By which I mean, I have been wearing shoes WAY bigger than my feet.
Like for my whole life.
I have been living a lie.
Or I had been, until the truth bared it’s sole.
Hard cut to Christmas 2019
A simpler time. If you’d said ‘covid’ to someone they’da thought you wanted to collab on a video project - ‘sure I’d love to co-vid, I got nothin goin on its 2019 babyeeee!”
I’m with my then fiancé, now wife, Lauren, and her family.
I’m a Jewish man at his first Christmas with his fiancé Lauren and her family, so no pressure, stakes are low.
But things are going great! We’re celebrating the birth of Santa Claus, eating cheese, laughing.
I open a gift from Lauren’s sister. Slippers. “Oh my god, how did you know,” I ask, lying.
She’d texted me what I wanted and I said slippers.
Might as well have asked for a grenade to destroy everything I thought I knew.
I try them on, doing my signature Sasha Sashay across the living room. (my Russian name is Sasha, hence the name of my classic walk being Sasha Sashay).
I look at Lauren and she’s looking at her mom and her mom’s looking at me and everyone is happy and I feel good for the first time in decades, but then Lauren’s mom says, “WAIT. Stop.”
So I stop.
She walks over and I think she’s going to give me a hug and whisper into my ear, ‘welcome to the family.”
But she doesn’t.
She stops short of a hug, looks down and says, “there’s room there.”
She presses the down on the toe of the slipper. And it drops like a LED BALLOON.
“These are too big!” she says, a helpful observation, were it not the gateway into my personal hell.
I try to act cool - “aaah no, no they’re - I’ll grow into them! Plus they shrink in the wash, right?”
Hello Truthness my old friend
A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
— Vladimir Lenin
On some level I’ve always known that my shoes were too big, but like all secrets too hard to bear, I have chosen to forget.
I know it’s hard to believe given my gregarious, large nature and current height of 5 ft 7 inches, but I grew up short.
And I always thought that if people saw my large shoes they might think I was tall.
It was a bold move, as a 2nd grader who’d been in America less than a year, to simply commit to this bit, hoping my feet would rise to the challenge, but no, those backstabbing tootsies grew at the same exact rate as my lie.
I woulda killed to have the Pinocchio disease where every time you lied, a body part grew. I coulda had excellent, large feet that fit. But, I was no Pinocchio. I was a real boy, with big shoes and small feet.
Until that day, Christmas 25, 2019, when my lie would die.
And all that’d be left was the truth.
Hard cut to the department store
Lauren, her mom, and I walk in and I say, “all right ladies, I got it from here…You go and do… literally anything else.”
But they say no, “we’re coming with you, you’re a thirty-two year old man who wants to marry into our family and isn’t clear on what size shoe he wears.”
So we get to the shoe department and this goofy-ass seventeen year old with bright red hair and massive feet greets us.
And I look at his name tag and it says Dick because of course it does.
So I go, ‘heya Dick, I gotta go down a lil bit from these size 9.5 slippers, maybe a 9, or a 9.25 ideally?’
He returns. With three boxes, which is weird.
“I got you a 9, an 8.5, and an 8,” he says, the Judas.
And I say, “hahahah well I’m not gonna need an 8! Not an 8! I dunno what you 8 last night but you’re nuts.’’
I put on the nines.
They don’t fit. I’m swimming in them.
I put on the eight and a halfs.
Also too large. Somehow worse than the nines.
So I bite the bullet and try the eights, imagining life as a man who wears size 8, saying little slogans in my head ‘8 is great, 8 is great.’
And this time…
Nope, they still do not fit.
And so I says to Dick, I whisper, “Do you have seven-and-a-half?”
Dick looks to his coworkers, who by this point have all gathered around to stare at the freakshow like a bunch of doctors who have never, ever seen this before, and he says, “we might have a seven-and-a-half. But... not in this department.”
I feel my stomach sink, speechless, imagining the secret department they’re about to reveal — a ‘big and tall’ on opposite day: ‘short and small.’
Lauren’s mom asks for me, “What department?”
And Dick goes, “the...boy’s department.”
The… boy’s department.
So, that would make me, in front of my fiancé and mother in law and the somehow thousands of people who have gathered to watch, no longer a man, but a boy?
Dick goes, “uh, well I’m not saying any of that.”
BUT YOU SORTA ARE DICK. YOU SORTA ARE.
If the shoe fits…
This might seem like the low point of my story. And my life.
What could I do? Quit? No.
I Sasha Sashayed my ass over to the boy’s department.
And it was glorious.
I was a king among boys, larger than many of them and older than all.
And the slippers fit like a goddamn glove.
No, they fit like a shoe.
So now, even though I no longer wear a men’s size shoe, my antidepressants have stopped working, and I haven’t seen Lauren or her mom since…
I walk a little lighter. Because my shoe weighs less. But also because i’ve realized something:
It’s not the size of the shoe that makes the man, it’s the size of the boy that makes the shoe.
I am Alex Dobrenko size seven - AND A HALF!
Tying things up
I wish I could tell you that the next morning, I threw away all my shoes and got new ones that fit me perfectly. But I didn’t.
I told myself it was because of the money—how the hell was I gonna just go out and get...two new pairs of shoes?
But really, I was scared.
When a lie becomes the truth, the truth feels like lying.
So I sorta...didn’t do anything about it, continuing to wear shoes that were all two sizes too big, thinking, ‘no one really knows how the human body works—maybe my feet are just waiting to make sure I’m serious about this whole size 9.5 stuff and now, mid 30s, would finally grow.”
But my feet didn’t grow.
When it came time to finally buy new running shoes last year, I boyed up and bought size 8 shoes - I didn’t wanna suffocate my feet with a 7.5, not yet.
And let’s just say the shoes WERE AMAZING. They actually fit!
I ran down the street once to catch Wilder and was like, ‘wait, why does this feel...good?’
All of my knee and hip problems - usually a 3-5 on the pain scale outta 10 - I’d feel while running were gone.
BECAUSE THAT PAIN WAS CAUSED BY MY BODY STRUGGLING TO ACCOMODATE THE MORONIC DECISION OF AN ENTIRE LIFETIME OF WEARING SHOES THAT DO NOT FIT.
I’m not so much mad at that young Alex as amazed by him. That little guy who wanted so desperately to fit in and be liked and seen as cool that he never again even thought about how his shoes might be too big, instead deciding then and there that being seen as a kid with big feet was more important than feeling comfortable.
Back then, shoes were a point of pride for all of us who sucked at basketball but thought if we talked about it long enough and wore the right sneakers we’d soon join the NBA.
I remember looking down at my Kobe 2s and thinking ‘these look so good, and my feet look huge!” I felt proud. Cool. Big.
Assimilation is a motherfucker, and maybe a shield in the form of a shoe is what I needed.
But I don’t need it anymore. I guess it’s like the unabridged saying goes “if the shoe fits, wear it. and if it doesn’t fit, wear it also, living a lie for the rest of your life until by the grace of Santa Claus you are forced to face your lie and become who you really are.”
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Ok so I lied. There’s one thing you can do that’s even better than sharing, and that’s taking the plunge and becoming a paid subscriber.
Both Are True takes me and a team of 45 people, all age 45, to put this together every week. I wanna do more of it (the 45 ppl are imaginary), and the best way you can show your support with some $$ greenbucks is become a paid subscriber! There aren’t perks yet but there will be soon and if you need a favor or want me to write your college admissions essay, I will.
Hey it’s Alex’s lawyer / accountant / uncle — he is in a WORLD of hurt. Please, anything you can give.
💬Best for last - let’s chat!
My favorite part of publishing these is reading all of your deranged and kind and spicy comments. They’re like a meal but for the brain. Here as always, some questions to prompt:
What’s your relationship to shoes?
Have you ever committed hard to a lie and then just sorta lived the rest of your life that way?
If you could get a surgery for free and without any side effects that made you taller or shorter, would you?
Hi and hello. How’s your week going?