Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Relationships 101: "Do I look fat?"

A lesson in how to answer "the question"

Here is a bit of human experience that seems to fall into the “things everyone has to learn for her- or him- self” category: how to handle the question from wife/girlfriend, etc., “Do I look fat?” And yet the pain of that relearning process seems so avoidable. We all know the question will be asked. Why wait around unprepared only to be caught like a deer in the headlights when it finally comes up:
♀: Do I look fat?
♂: No, not at all.
♀: I’ve gained weight though, haven’t I?
♂: Uh... since when?
♀: Oh, so I have gained weight since you first met me.
♂: Well, I don’t...
♀: What you’re saying is, I do look fat.
♂: No!
♀: Well, you just said I’ve gained weight.
♂: But you don’t look fat!
♀: I’ve gained weight, “but I don’t look fat.” Lovely.
♂: I didn’t say that.
♀: So I do look fat!
♂: ....?....!
♀: If you think I look fat, why don’t you just come out and say so?
Of course, no wife or girlfriend wants to be told she looks fat. Quite the contrary! Yet it seems as though she is programmed to conduct razorlike, determined cross examinations that will not end until she has broken the man's will and extracted a "confession."

Sometimes this examination may start in a more sly and subtle way:
♀: Do these clothes look tight on me?
♂: No they look great.
♀: You aren’t looking!
♂: (Looking up.) I am. Those clothes look great on you.
♀: I must have gained weight since I first bought them. They feel a lot tighter.
♂: Maybe they shrunk in the wash.
♀: So they do look tight.
♂: No...
♀: But you just said they look like they’ve shrunk in the wash –
♂: – yeah, but –
♀: – when I know for a fact they haven’t.
♂: ....?....!
♀: If you think I look fat in these clothes, why don’t you just come out and admit it!
The first mistake most guys make is to think they can correct their mistakes for next time by analyzing these conversations to figure out where they went off the rails. Clearly, in both versions of the conversation, ♂ gets himself into trouble by seeking a clarification (“since when?”) or offering helpful information (suggestion re clothes shrinkage), breaking the cardinal rule of responding to cross examination (never volunteer information!).

But on closer inspection, any attempt to respond to these questions straightforwardly is vulnerable to variants of the impossible, checkmate cross examination question: "was I fatter then or am I fatter now?"
♀: Do I look fat?
♂: No, not at all.
♀: I’ve gained weight though, haven’t I?
♂: Definitely not.
♀: You think I looked like this when we first met?
♂: Like what?
♀: Fat.
♂: I didn’t say you looked fat.
♀: Well, I’ve obviously put on weight since we first met.
♂: I haven’t noticed that.
♀: So basically, I’ve always looked fat enough that a few extra pounds doesn’t make any difference.
Nor is it possible to head things off by making assertions to the contrary:
♀: Do I look fat?
♂: No, no you look thin.
♀: Too thin?
♂: No, you look just right.
♀: But if I put on some weight, I wouldn’t look “just right.”
♂: Sure you would.
♀: So it doesn't matter to you whether I look fat or thin?
♂: No, not at all.
♀: If I looked totally fat right now, you would say I looked "just right."
♂: That's right.
♀: Well, you just did say I looked "just right."
♂: Um... yeah?
♀: So you think I look fat.
The mistake is not the fact that ♂ gives wrong answers to key questions in the “do I look fat?” cross examination. The mistake is trying to answer the questions at all.

Listen up, all you ♂s. You can avoid all these problems whenever you sense you have gotten within a mile of the "do I look fat?" line of questions, by following three simple rules:

1) Never, never, under any circumstances say the word “fat” – or for that matter, “heavy,” “gain” or even the seemingly neutral “weight.” Once you let yourself get drawn into a discussion concerning the weight of the human body, the battle is lost.

2) You should act as though you are a candidate running for the office of husband or boyfriend, and that “do I look fat?” is being asked by a reporter who is out to get you. Your one task is to stay on a single, simple campaign theme: “You are beautiful in both spirit and body, and every day I strive to remain worthy of your love.” Therefore, don’t answer any question directly at all. Do not say “yes” or “no.” No matter how much you are goaded, stay on message.

3) Be a walking thesaurus with at least a dozen words for “physically attractive” at your disposal.
♀: Do I look fat?
♂: You look beautiful.
♀: That’s not what I asked you. Don’t you think I’ve gained weight?
♂: Well, all I can say is you’re really hot.
♀: Stop avoiding the question. Do I look fat or not?
♂: You’re totally babe-o-licious.
♀: What you’re saying is, I do look fat.
♂: You were winsome when I first met you, and you’re even more so now.
♀: Winsome?
♂: Drop-dead gorgeous.
♀: Oh, so I wasn’t as good looking when you first met me, is that what you’re saying?
♂: That’s right. You’re even more lovely now.
With this strategy – which I call “the stonewall” – you can wear her down until the subject changes from weight to beauty, a more ethereal characteristic. Note how it’s harder to turn "then-versus-now" loveliness into an insult. Even the more persistent ♀ who is frustrated and annoyed that you never addressed the weight question has nothing on you but the fact that you said she’s beautiful. You hold onto the moral high ground.

The stonewall is the only safe approach I have seen in all my years of experience. If you have something better, I’m all ears.

UPDATE: "Very funny post. Are you trying to tell me I look fat?"


I am saying this in earnest - that was a very funny post!
This is the funniest thing I've read all month.
HOWLING at my desk at work! Bad blogger!
I almost wrote that this is the funniest thing I've read all week, but I see that Phantom Scribbler finds this to be the funniest thing she's read all month. I feel I can't write my original comment because it seems inadequate by comparison.

It is a hysterically funny post and left me ROTFLMAO. It ranks right up there with your bitch slap post.
What all of the previous commenters said.

I agree that stonewalling is the only way to go with "do I look fat." Though sometimes I find that the method of reflecting back the questions (in hopes that the answer will be supplied for me) works for the question of "what should I do with my hair."
B,P,Y,T & T -- Thanks for the validation.

Tom: Danger! Do not -- I repeat -- DO NOT -- try the "reflecting back" method on "do I look fat?" Hair is not fat. Can you imagine where this conversation would go:

She: Do you think I look fat?
He: Well, do you think you look fat?

A real non-starter.
I tried to send this to a bunch of friends whom I know would also "ROTFLMAO" (love that!), but I was met with the warning "The information you provide on this form will not be used for anything other than sending the email to your friend. This feature is not to be used for advertising or excessive self-promotion." Would my sending it out as such qualify as excessive self-promotion? BTW, you still haven't answered my question... B.
Ha ha! I like the analysis. Perhaps I could discretely send this to my husband whose response once was "well, lets just say, you're not as skinny as the day we got married."

He will never EVER live that down.
Oscar: yes, the downside risk of trying to use the reflecting back method for the true no-win questions merits a warning.
Very good!

My husband has learned to respond to my use of the word "fat" with "you're not fat" regardless of the context in which I used the word.

Me: I need another folder. This one's getting too fat.
Him: You're not fat.
Given your Dalai Lama level of wisdom, here's another, related conundrum for you, Oscar --

What do you say when someone you know has obviously been losing a TON of weight. For example:

You: "Wow, you look fantastic! Have you lost weight?"

Her: (to herself) OMG, I'm still way overweight so he must have thought I was positively mutant before!) (to you) "Thanks!"


You: "Wow, you look fantastic! New haircut?"

Her: (to herself) OMG, I've lost 23 pounds and he still can't see the difference? (to you) "Nah, not a new haircut. But thanks!"


You: "Wow, you look fantastic!"
Her: (to herself) So would it kill him to acknowledge that I've sweated and starved to get to this point? (to him) "Thanks!"

So Oscar -- what CAN you say?
I must say I appreciate having a husband who somehow usually has the ability to be both truthful and tactful. Of course, he always laughs and tells me I couldn't look fat if I tried and that HE's the fat one in the family.

But he does honestly and seriously evaluate whether clothes are flattering on me or not, and I appreciate that. Maybe I'm unusual in that if I ask a question like that I generally really want to know the answer.
KathyR -- *You* should be writing dialog for romantic comedy.

Liz S. W. -- Oy!

Purple K -- if my post creates an opportunity for you to appreciate your sweetie, then I've had a good day.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
I was wondering how long that last comment would last. I haven't even been deleted by you yet.
But what if she's fat and you're trying to get her to lose some weight already?
Very funny! I liked to this, so you might want to read some of the comments people are making about your post over on my blog, but let me reprint my own comment from over there.

I'm not a guy trying to preserve a relationship with a woman, so it's not really germane, but my answer to the question "Do I look fat?" would be "No, you look shallow."
I prefer the "answer a question with a question" approach:

Q: Do I look fat?
A: Are you saying I don't love you? If that's what you think, then I should just leave right now!

End of discussion.
"Do I look fat?" is a question that should never be asked. There is no good way to respond to it, and IMO the stonewalling approach will only make it sound like you're being evasive. But it might be possible to deflect it with a few well-timed pre-emptive lecherly squeezes and the purchase of a full-length mirror.

Hilarious post.

I quit asking that question 15 years ago (yes, I'll be over 40 tomorrow) cuz frankly I dont' want to know the answer.
Wow, that's a lot better answer than my usual one:
Girl: Do I look fat
Me: (running quickly) aaaaaaaiiiiieeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeee!
(fade out)
Hey, it works.
She: Do I look fat?
He: Yep hella phat!
She: (while beating 'he' with nearby blunt object) Pig!...Pig!
He: (ducking and bobbing)Phat, I said phat,(louder and from a distance) with a p.
Thought for a moment about sending this link to my wife, but then could already here her saying, "So, this is your way of telling me I look fat!"
When you can manage it, a superior method of dealing with "the question" is to gauge when she's likely to ask and pre-empt by asking if she's lost weight recently (though pre-empting with a more ethereal "you're beautiful" might be even wiser).
Because it was noticed that I was the only one who didn't comment on this wry post of yours, I shall proceed to do so.

I started to think this was very amusing, until the sample stonewall conversation, which I swear I had earlier this evening with my husband as we were getting ready to attend a play. Have the 2 of you been comparing notes behind my back?

Oh, and by the way, congratulations on the large number of comments and is this the first time you've had to moderate your comment list? That's got to be worth something, too.
I learned how to deal with this issue a long time ago. My response is quick and aggressive:

"That question is always a trick question, and I always refuse to answer it."

This only works if you stick to your guns, of course.
Tell us: Have you ever had this type of Q&A with a certain male Madison blogger who is currently posting his weight loss and is a friend of yours?
Girl: Do I look fat?
Me: Do I look stupid?
guys, words are the problem here. just sweep off whatever is on the nearest flat surface, grab her hips and grunt, yes, GRUNT
``I must have you NOW´´

if it doesnt work, you probably shouldnt be dating this one anyway.
If a gentleman grunts while attempting to lift me onto a flat surface, I will assume that I am fat.

When lifting your lady love onto random flat surfaces for the purpose of "having her now", no sounds of exertion should be heard. Not until later, anyway.
Only a fool answers "No" to "Do I look fat?"

The smart man says, "Yes, now either make me a sammich or get your fat ass to the gym and stop bugging me."
A long time ago I figured out best of all possible methods to preemptively deal with this sort of situation.

A little background first. I am a little under average height and I way about 305lbs. I am fat as in "slavering pig" fat, "I haven't seen my feet in 5 years fat", "I never met a buffet I didn't deplete" fat...you get the drift.
My wife is 4"11" tall and 115 lbs. A little bit of love handles but not too bad. We are both in our mid-40's. We have both put on 20lbs since we got married.

If she puts on something that doesn't fit too well (or anymore!!) or eats some death-dealing donut or Hostess crap, I just tell her that if she keeps it up she'll end up looking like me.

Other than the occasional slap and a glowering look, that generally ends the discussion.
Allison is right.

What I do when asked by my wife is to gently caress parts of her body (let's say starting with the hips), and ask (innocently, of course) "Do you mean here?" Then I proceed to other parts and continue asking. Until the response is mutual "caressing."

Which generally leads to something more than merely caressing {{grin}}
Fortunately, the people whom i would expect to ask me this question, already understand that i will give a blatantly (if painful) honest answer.

If, upon getting this answer, they pitch a fit, we have a 'dialogue' about honesty in relationships /friendships. Expecting me to lie to support their self-esteem is unreasonable, and serves no one.

Maybe this seems a little extreme; but it's put me in the position that i can call a spade a spade, and get away with it. Who really wants to self-censor when you can tell the fucking truth instead?

The bonus to this? Friends now come to me for honest advice; as they know i'm not going to bullshit them.
the correct answer is.."you look hot, now come over here and kiss me"....works for my husband everytime.
Just last week, my wife turned to me out of the blue and asked, "Would you rather have a beautiful wife, or a smart one?"

I've been kicking myself ever since that I didn't respond with my first instinct: "Can I have one of each?" It wouldn't have gotten me in any more trouble than what I actually said, and it would have been a lot more personally satisfying ...
In my many years of relationship interrogations, the best tactic I've found is this. her; "Do I look fat?" me; "There isn't a right answer to that question, so I won't answer it." And then, no matter what, never ever answer that kind of question. If pressed too hard I sometimes will explain my rationale. "If I say you don't look fat you'll say I'm lying. If I say that you do indeed look fat then I'm in trouble. There is no way to answer the question that won't turn out badly for me. So, again I decline to answer." Stick to your guns, when she says "So what you're saying is that I'm fat and you don't want to say so" you must remember the mantra "There is no good answer to the question so I decline to answer."
As several posters above emphasize; stick to your guns or you're dead meat.
I love it!

Here's a hint to the women, if you have to *ask* someone if you look fat, you probably don't.

I never ask because I *know* I look fat. Well, ok, it's a fun question to throw at hubby every now and then out of the blue just to see him squirm. But I'm always laughing too hard soon afterward to follow it up with very much debate.
Your page loaded really quick for all the content and images I'm impressed
Great post, I enjoyed reading it.

Adding you to favorites, Ill have to come back and read it again later.
Greatest Blog Post. Please visit this site on local phone long distance company
local phone long distance company

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Read this new book "Do I Look Fat In This?" by Jessica Weiner - it has some of the most hysterical and accurate ways to decode this language and this question. It is not about what we think. Fat is not a feeling but a catch all phrase for something else. I used her tips and tools and changed my relationship with my wife. Really good advice - check it out!
I completely agree with what that anonymous poster above me said. I must admit I used to be one of those women constantly plagueing my friends, family, and lovers with the dreaded "Do I Look Fat in This?" question. Then I came upon this fabulous book with my favorite question as the title! Needless to say, I was stunned and had to pick it up. (Even if it was only because I couldn't get over the title and wanted to show everyone.) But I actually started reading it. And I was suprised by how much of it I could relate to. I think every woman today can relate to feeling like they, and the rest of their friends, are stuck in this constant cycle of body criticism but Jessica Weiner's new book "Do I Look Fat In This?" is a witty, delightful how-to book on how we can create a powerful, healthy self-image for ourselves. And start giving the significant others a break from dealing with our, at times, dwindling self-esteem.

Oh, and I just have to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Jessica Weiner:
"Life doesn't begin 5 pounds from now!"

How true is that!
my boyfriend just recently had to answer that one and he did a pretty good job.. so i guess im posting this as a suggestion..

i asked if i was fat and he sair , very simply " you've never been fat " and every time we have sex he tells me how hot and beautiful he thinks i am and how our bodies fit perfectly together

so yeh.. maybe its just me, but that works..
Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]