So apparently having a Dad Bod is now a “thing.” You can certainly Google the term or drop it in a conversation. Most likely someone will chuckle and refer to a loved one who can be described as such. A Dad Bod, essentially, is a physique of middle-age that can been described as masculine, reasonably muscular and slightly overweight. What is intriguing and, counter-intuitive, are the positive connotations almost universally associated with this common and easy to achieve body type. Putting aside years of denial, I’m prepared to admit to having a Dad Bod but also to realizing that the concept is some kind of odd societal rationalization that is in reality just vaguely insulting to men and women.
Personally, I’ve had my weight fluctuate over the years for many reasons. I can say, first hand, that being too thin or too heavy can be really unpleasant. Of course, I’d like to be as fit-looking as possible but eventually one realizes that certain physical ideals may never be fully achieved. For me, probably the best personal state of my body is to be a few pounds heavier than I’d actually like to be. Aesthetically, believe me, this is not a thrilling state of existence but with maturity (Ha!) I’ve realized that the way I look is secondary to being as healthy a person as I can reasonably manage. What’s particularly galling about the Dad Bod movement is that while I’m strenuously trying to accept myself, it somehow makes this effort more difficult by making me feel slightly patronized by an entire culture.
I’d love to be writing this as an exotically rare middle-aged Dad with wash-board abs, 20:20 vision and a fast metabolism but I most definitely have to check none-of-the-above on those. From that super-fit perspective, I imagine it would be so easy to be enthusiastically supportive about the Dad Bod thing precisely because I wouldn’t be stuck in one. However, living in this body, as I must, I refuse to smile politely if someone wants to essentially say that the very same body I am regularly struggling to learn to accept is now, (drumroll please) objectively attractive. I just don’t buy it. There is some kind of passive-aggressive condescension connected with the embracing of Dad Bods.
As for the female members of our culture, I can only imagine how they must feel about the acceptance and celebration of Dad Bods. It’s something of a cliché but I’ve heard women confirm the difficulty in dealing with their own aging process in comparison to men. You know, men become more distinguished, the lines on their face only add character, etc. This is a societal reality. Look at movie stars. Clooney & Pitt will be leading men for decades to come because they’re perceived as only getting better looking as they age. Leading ladies of the movies hit the age of 40 and abruptly must decide between character parts, plastic surgery or professional oblivion.
Why is there no female version of the Dad Bod? The closest thing I can think of is Mom Jeans and that association is quite the opposite of the now sexy Dad Bod. Why are we, culturally, not prepared to embrace women with a female version of the Dad Bod as universally attractive? Obviously, in 2018, there’s still a lot of work to be done on gender roles in society. If Dad Bods are, presumably, built upon men who have worked hard professionally and, perhaps, parented as well, then why aren’t women afforded the same leeway in how their bodies evolve? Especially considering how child-birth can affect one’s physical being. It just doesn’t seem fair.
I suppose what really irks me with the whole Dad Bod phenomenon is the reality of analyzing someone’s physical appearance and imparting a judgement upon that particular bodily state. There is an impermanence of one’s physicality that is just a fact of human existence. I question why we assume that being kind about chubby Dads is any more appropriate than telling a woman she looks sexy or criticizing someone for being too fat or thin.
Don’t get me wrong. I know attaching the Dad Bod moniker to a middle-aged gentleman is essentially a way of saying we love you just the way you are. That’s a great lesson. We should all learn to love acceptingly as best we can. However, as a reluctant member of the Dad Bod club, I implore you to think about what you are actually saying when you label your slightly corpulent loved one as such. Might I suggest a karaoke dedication of Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” instead? Just not Dad Bod. Please.