June 20, 2024
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Starting Off on the Wrong Foot

Welcome back to “How Should I Know?”—the column that tries to help people with their problems the same way your toddler tries to help you in the kitchen by getting in your way and putting toys in the cupcake batter.

Dear Mordechai,

I want to know why my two-year-old puts her shoes on the wrong feet 100% of the time. Shouldn’t it statistically be 50/50?

F.S.

Dear F.

She’s probably wondering the same thing about you.

First of all, to your daughter, the matter of which shoe goes on which foot seems 100% arbitrary. It’s not like mittens, where there’s a separate area for your thumb toe. And actually, who’s to say you’re right? It’s not like shoes come with instructions. At some point, one of your ancestors decided which ones are the right feet and has been passing it on to their kids, and you happen to have been lucky that both your parents and your husband’s parents held the same way about shoes.

For the sake of researching this article, though, I put my shoes on what I consider the wrong feet, though not in public, because of shidduchim. And the first thing my wife asked me when she came home was whether I was feeling okay.

“Pretty much. Except for my feet.”

So I think that adults all put them on the same way because they just don’t want to have to deal with the constant annoying questions. Whereas two-year-olds cannot get over talking about their shoes, and unfortunately, two days after you bought them, you pretty much stopped talking about them. But she finds that when she puts them on the wrong feet, you not only comment on them, but you then take them off AND put them on, which is all she wants to be doing all day anyway. You’re rewarding misbehavior.

I also have my own theory, which is that small children usually have shoes with buckles or Velcro, and those close on the outside part of the foot. Here’s an experiment: Imagine you’re a two-year-old with limited hand coordination, wearing buckle shoes on the wrong feet. If you sit down on the floor and put the soles of your feet together, you can buckle both shoes. But now imagine you put them on correctly. How would you have to sit to reach both buckles? And do you think a two-year-old can do that?

You don’t notice this, because you mostly wear tie shoes and slip-ons, but small children’s shoes fasten in a way that makes it easier for other people to put them on. It’s kind of the same way that women have dresses that close in the back, because once upon a time other people got them dressed, whereas nowadays we realize that that’s very weird. But you are going to occasionally find your two-year-old putting a dress on with the buttons in the front so she can close them whenever it is she figures out how to close buttons.

Dear Mordechai,

Is there any way I can get the gabbai to give me an aliyah every once in a while?

Baruch Usher ben Binyamin Yosef

Dear BUBBY,

There are a few techniques you can try: Keep making simchas. Have kids, throw them bar mitzvahs, marry them off, and if you’re really desperate, make up grandkids—no one makes you prove grandkids. Don’t be the guy who makes long mi shebeirachs that include everyone in the shul individually. Stay in the forefront of the gabbai’s mind. Stand uncomfortably close to him throughout leining, either at the top of the bimah with the kids or to the gabbai’s left, between him and the guy who just got an aliyah. Look in his chumash with him. Be unforgettable. Gabbaim like matanot. So whenever he does give you an aliyah and you’re standing next to him afterwards, offer him a mint. Come late to shul and be in middle of Shemoneh Esrei just as the gabbai is looking around for someone to give an aliyah to. (Not recommended.) You’ll be one of the only people already standing. Show up to shul on Yom Tov and buy all the aliyot. Be the ba’al koreh. That way, he has to give you any aliyah that involves heavy amounts of curses. Keep showing up in disguises so he thinks you’re a guest, until your fake moustache plops off onto the sefer Torah. Then pick it up and kiss it like that was intentional.

Have a question for Mordechai? Show up at his shul and stand uncomfortably close to him until he can’t ignore you. Mint?


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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