I have bad news for CrossFit fellas, mud runners, and other muscle men: The hottest look on the beach this summer is not the sculpted torso and chiseled thighs of the gym rat.
It’s the Dad Bod.
You heard me. What’s got girls giddy is the plain, pasty, paunchy physique of a man who’s more likely to be dining on leftover chicken fingers and mac ’n’ cheese than he is to be hoisting kettle bells. (Is that what one does with kettle bells? Does one hoist? Endowed with a Mom Bod, I wouldn’t know.)
Since January, the Instagram feed CollegeDadBods has amassed more than 21,000 followers and 70 images of young men with guts that range from mildly untoned to Jason Segel-esque to full-on basketball rotund.
In a recent article on the college news site the Odyssey, South Carolina coed Mackenzie Pearson explained “Why Girls Love the Dad Bod.” Pearson, who’s penned such other must-reads as “Ring by Spring or Fling?” and “What Waxing Half My Eyebrow Off Taught Me About Life” (I know, said the columnist who once wrote about vajazzling: no judgment), contends there are five reasons for this sudden jones for jiggly joes — two of which are that girls look better standing beside a squishy guy. Other reasons are cuddliness, a willingness to indulge in delicious things, and the comfort of already knowing what he’s going to look like when he’s hauling a diaper bag in 15 years.
Makes sense to me. In a culture where self-involvement is at an all-time high, a pronounced disinterest in one’s own body fat percentage is a precious truffle of normalness to be sought after and savored. And if you want to do more than look at a man’s rocking body and … well, maybe rub up against it just a little bit in a nice, quiet place — ahem, sorry, if you want to make long-term plans with the human it houses, then you’d better find a guy who can hold your attention longer than he can hold a plank.
I feel this way, too, about men who are exceedingly well dressed. They’re nice to look at, but ultimately their efforts feel a little too fussy to be truly attractive. I always wonder what important aspects of his personality, career, or relationships a guy is not working on during the time he spends shopping for exactly that right pair of jeans and matching that tie to those socks.
The pendulum swings all over the place for women’s physiques, from zaftig Bettie Page to spindly Twiggy, and from athletic Elle Macpherson back to buxom Sofía Vergara. Why shouldn’t men’s frames follow suit?
Perhaps the Dad Bod phenomenon is further evidence (like we needed any) that what turns a woman on is not appearance so much as the competence that the appearance implies. And if rippling biceps and washboard abs once alerted us to a man’s highly coveted ability to hunt for and protect the clan, then do fatherly flab and patchy back hair point to a man’s commitment to focusing on the other people in his life? An absence of vanity that serves his woman and children well?
As I write this, my better half and his fit-but-far-from-burly Dad Bod are limping and nursing a gooey elbow abrasion from injuries he sustained while sprinting across an intersection to buy Pepto-Bismol for our suddenly nauseated son during the intermission of a school play. Rather than spend the 15 minutes of intermission standing in line for a brownie at the bake sale to indulge his sweet tooth — or even doing push-ups in the quad to indulge his machismo — he spent them in service, and then in pain.
And I don’t care if you’re in college, at the beach, or chin-deep in a bowl of mac ’n’ cheese. That’s hot.
Starshine Roshell is the author of Broad Assumptions.