It was around 9 a.m. on a Saturday. Mel was in the bathroom doing her makeup, and I was in the bedroom without a shirt on. I walked into the doorway, rubbed my stomach a little, and said, “Have you heard about this Dad Bod thing?”
Mel was leaning into the mirror. She stood up straight, looked at me, and said, “Nope.”
She looked confused.
I told her about how it’s a new fad that is trending online. It’s a body type that is being toted as sexy, now. It’s the kind of person that used to be fit, but has a little flab on them. “They look like a dad… I suppose. Apparently college girls are all about it.”
Mel opened her eyes wide, let out a breath, and said, “Lucky you.”
“I have a feeling,” I said, “that this is going to turn out like when a father and son both wear a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. The son is seen as retro cool, and the father is seen as living in the past. Chances are, I will still be seen as fat.”
“I don’t think you are fat,” she said. Then she pinched a very small patch of flab around her navel and said, “I’m the one getting fat.”
If I were to describe Mel in one word it would be petite. She stands about five four and weighs just over 100 pounds. She has never been fat. I think a lot of women would love to have three kids and be as lean as she is, and yet she still feels as though she needs to loose weight. But the thing is, I think she is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met, and her beauty goes far beyond her physical appearance. She is a good mother, and a sweet wife. She is smart and capable and candid in ways that make me melt. None of that has anything to do with the size of her body, and yet, she feels compelled to be like the women on the cover of magazines.
“You are not fat. You are the sexiest woman I know, and frankly, this Dad Bod thing pisses me off.
Even though it seems to be a social understanding that fathers are allowed to let themselves go after marriage, in my experience, I don’t want to. I find the dad bod offensive to fathers because it makes my stage in life a stereotype.
I will admit, the moment I heard about the Dad Bod I wondered if it was my time to shine. I was once fit. Back in my 20s. Now I am a little flabby from sitting at a desk all day drinking diet soda. And honestly, I’ve really struggled with gaining weight. I feel really unattractive because of it. My weight has fluctuated quite a bit, but it has never gone down to where it was before I got married. I hear a lot of women go on about how there is a double standard for men. How they don’t have to worry so much about their weight because it’s okay for them to be bigger. And this Dad Bod thing obviously confirms that. But the reality is, I’m very self-conscious about the weight I’ve gained since marriage. I’ve tried several different diets. I exercise five days a week. But the fact is, I just don’t lean up like I used to. Most of my dad friends feel the same way. Two in particular, John and Sam, have become like a support group. All three of us are in our mid to early 30s, work desk jobs, and have struggled to lose weight. We exchange dieting tips, apps, and exersize plans. We work out together. We share successes and failures. Basically what I’m trying to say here is that most fathers I know, struggle with their weight, don’t take pride in looking like a fat dad, and try really hard to look good for their wives, and this Dad Bod thing is simply making dad’s look bad. Every time I hear it, I feel like someone is saying, “You are fat. But it’s okay.”
And I want to say, “No!” It’s not okay. I don’t want to be fat. I don’t want a Dad Bod. I don’t want fat associated with my stage in life.” But the fact is, being 30, having kids, and working at a desk job can make a man fat. And on the flip side, Mel is associated with a different double standard. She feels she needs to be fit and super skinny, even though she has had three kids. And what all this boils down to is that it’s really difficult to be fit while raising a family and getting older. It’s not impossible, but it’s really difficult.
None of this should shock anyone.
“I assumed dads would be happy about something like this,” Mel said. She was straightening her hair now.
I laughed. “You know. I’m sure there are some asses out there happy about it,” I said. “But honestly, I think it just masks a problem most fathers are truly struggling with. I want to look good for you and I want to be healthy for myself. I’m not looking for an excuse to be a fat ass. Or even a sort'a fat ass, like the Dad Bod seems to tote. I want to look fit and young, not like some overweight 30-something that sits at a desk all day… and I just described myself.”
Mel smiled. Then she said, “Well… I want to look hot and skinny, like I did before kids. I mean seriously, my stomach sticks out as far as my breasts. That’s not sexy.”
I let out a breath, “You are very sexy. In fact, I think you’ve gotten sexier. The size of your body has very little to do with why I find you sexy right now.”
Mel laughed. “I think the same about you,” she said. “Then why are we trying so hard to be who we were in our 20s?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “But what I think this all means is that we are really worried about what people on the internet and in magazines think we need to do to look sexy at this stage in life. But the funny thing is, I think the way your body looks is only 70% of why I think you are sexy. I think sexy changes in your 30s. It has a lot more to do with being good parents and good partners, and caring for for the one you are with. You are amazing at that stuff, and that’s why I’m complety attracted to you. Your hot body is just a bonus.”
“So you are saying I have a hot body,” Mel said with a snicker.
“Shut up and kiss me,” I said.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley