Why 'Dad Bods' make women feel good

My colleague gently explained to me that Dad Bods are not a dads' only thing. They can belong to non-dads. One can be a college kid, and still have a Dad Bod.

By Sushmita Bose (freewheeling)

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Published: Fri 29 May 2015, 10:06 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 7:50 PM

Traditionally, fathers are not supposed to be sexy… I’ve always clung on to the notion that it’s rather out of place to be checking out, say, your friend’s father’s body, or judging your own father’s body (using the same yardstick that you to do to judge David Hasselhoff), so I was at a bit of a loss when I first heard about “Dad Bods”. In case you’ve just woken up from a long period of slumber, à la Rip van Winkle, the now-trending — like a trailblazer — “Dad Bods” is a coinage that encapsulates what women are finding particularly attractive about men these days.

“What bods?” I shook my head in disbelief the first time a colleague brought me up to speed on the Dad Bod phenomenon, trying (very hard) not to visualise my father doing lunges and squats and whipping himself into shape.

My colleague gently explained to me that Dad Bods are not a dads’ only thing. They can belong to non-dads. One can be a college kid, and still have a Dad Bod. It’s just a usage. An American student named Mackenzie Pearson got the term going when she blogged about ‘Why Girls Love the Dad Bod’. Even though it sounds misleading, it has nothing to do with the Electra complex; but everything to do with the stereotype that daddies don’t have bodies which could give anybody a body image complex.

‘Daddies’ — if I may use the word in context of those who won’t be allowed to audition for a lifeguard’s role in Baywatch — are, reportedly, “nicely squishy”, and don’t expect the ladies to join them for a gym workout at every available opportunity (I’d once read about a Bollywood hero who was so ‘body-conscious’ that his idea of ‘quality time’ with his then girlfriend meant hitting the treadmill together); therefore, women don’t feel intimidated, and want to gratefully cuddle up to such men.

I found that mystifying. Why should a man who’s a father be buttonholed into a particular body image — so much so that it becomes a generic title? Plus, it’s untrue. Brad Pitt is a father in real life. But he doesn’t boast the new-fangled daddy body; he has a physique that compels out-of-shape men — daddies or no daddies — to jump onto the wannabe bandwagon. Closer home, there’s another doting father Shah Rukh Khan who may have had a Dad Bod in the pre-Ra:One (terrible movie, I know) era, but didn’t he then opt for six-pack abs and all the rest of the trappings that put him in the ‘sculpted’ category?

In the pecking order, Jon Hamm’s body has been doing the rounds for being the quintessential Dad Bod because his physique is non-threatening — no washboard abs or sculpted shoulders. I actually did a Google images search to look at Hamm’s shoulders — when I last saw him in Mad Men, he seemed to have perfectly fine shoulders. The images thrown up were identical to what I remembered. “No, no, do you see how they tend to droop ever so slightly?” my colleague pointed out. “And if he took off his shirt, you’ll see a little belly fat.” I didn’t want to search for shirtless pictures of Jon Hamm at the workplace and rustle up needless speculation, so I nodded my head and pretended I’d cottoned on — when I actually hadn’t.

But since we live in an age of gender equality (or at least pretend to live in one), the immediate issue on hand is: what about Mum Bods? Will men find out-of-shape women as appealing as women do dad-shaped bods?


The author is the Editor of Wknd magazine.

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