March 15, 2013

"How should I respond when svelte friends pat their (small or nonexistent) bellies and announce they’re dieting to get rid of their 'belly pooch'?"

Question for an advice columnist.

Come on. This one is easy. Hijack the conversation into the topic of the word "pooch" to refer to their belly. That's such a goofball, infantile way to talk — way more annoying than the fact that they are aggressively pursuing their ideal body image. The subject of language has a little substance to it. The life of the mind! That's the thing. Let them take care of their bodies on their own time. Time spent with you should tinge toward the intellectual.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "Pooch" — the noun — as "A dog, esp. a mongrel," as in "All you do is sink your teeth in my shoulder and make noises like a basket full of hungry pooches." (1924 B. Hecht Cutie vi. 46.). And then there's a football meaning — "Ever hear of a ‘pooch’ kick?" (1978 Gettysburg (Pa.) Times 15 Nov. 14/8.)

The verb "pooch" must be turning into a noun. "Pooch," as regional English, meaning "To pout or purse (the lips)," is pretty old...
1837   in J. F. Palmer Dialogue Devonshire Dial. iii. 18   Hog pooched out es moth, and look't glum, an didn't know what to zay.
... and more recently it's come to mean — with "out" — "To bulge or swell; to stick out"...
a1903   E. H. Goddard in Eng. Dial. Dict. (1903) IV. 577/1   [Wiltshire] Look at his pocket how 'tis pooching out.

70 comments:

James Pawlak said...

My beloved wife (God rest and keep her) noted three loving children, patter her mid-section and stated "I earned this".

In noting her grey hairs, she would state: I earned EVERY one of hem!"

traditionalguy said...

As Rosanna Rosanna Danna said on SNL, "sorry, The word is paunch."

Paddy O said...

I thought patting the belly bulge was the universal way of saying "I'm pregnant not just fat"?

Paddy O said...

There are a lot of those sorts of cultural signals out there that I interpret in certain way but may not be universal.

For instance, if a husband and wife share an email address or facebook page, I always assume one of them had, or was very close to having, an affair.

Paddy O said...

My wife told me the belly one, though, so that one is hers.

wyo sis said...

I had a belly pooch when I was a child, but he bit visitors so we had to give him away.

edutcher said...

Take a look at most belly dancers.

A woman's belly isn't supposed to be flat, it's supposed to be round (obviously, you can have too much of a good thing...) the same way a woman's hips are supposed to be wide and round and her thighs should have some plumpness to them.

How much is in the realm of YMMV, but women are crazy to let women who hate other women and a few homosexual designers tell them what their bodies should look like.

Inga said...

And when that pooch starts growling at me, it means it's time to feed the pooch again. It's my feet that bark at me, especially after a 12 hour shift.

Baron Zemo said...

How should I respond when people tell me how peroxide can kill so many brain cells as to make some people barely functional cretins?

jacksonjay said...


The appropriate response:

"Are you the favorite person of ANYBODY?"

LordSomber said...

If their pooch is small or nonexistent, they're fishing for compliments.

Perhaps they're looking for their own claque.

mccullough said...

The discussion between Butch and his girlfriend about her belly in Pulp Fiction was enjoyable.

n.n said...

James Pawlak:

You must have a few gray hairs, too. We are notoriously mischievous in our early development. Before we acquire the good sense to curb our egos and moderate our desires.

Here's to a full appreciation of reality. May it be fruitful and multiply.

SOJO said...

Just don't say anything. Move on. They'll take that as tacit agreement and it will bother them all day.


SOJO said...
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Petunia said...

I used to have a friend like that. We'd go to lunch and then she'd want to go clothes shopping, and she'd bitch about how fat she was. She's about a size two. I am not.

One day, when she was bitching about how fat she looked in some size-two pants, I just looked at her and said, "How do you think your constant complaining about how fat you are, when you're NOT, makes ME feel?"

We are no longer friends, partly because of that, but mostly because of her constant uninformed hateful rants, and the fact that, in about three years of hanging out together, I was so successful at not calling her out on her BS that she didn't realize I am a conservative.

I don't miss her.

Pogo said...

My answer: Well, it's about time!

Pogo said...

Thank God! I thought it was some kind of tumor or like that scene in Alien or something!

SOJO said...

@paddyo

Re: the shared email = affairs

I assume that too. It's amazing how many ppl got divorced via facebook.


Exception: if they're very old I assume one of them is a control freak and/or computer illiterate.

Pogo said...

But hon, it matches your neck!

Susan Stewart Rich said...

Answer honestly. For example, does this friend eat horribly, say two twinkies a day? Then say to him/her, yes, you should go on a diet. Let me tell you what to eat - lots of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, beans, squash, etc. And you should probably go for walks as much as reasonably possible. Yes, you should go on a diet - and get in shape you slob.

But if your friend already does all those things, just tell them they are crazy, in the nicest way possible.

Ann Althouse said...

"If their pooch is small or nonexistent, they're fishing for compliments."

Yes, that's why my alternate answer to the question is: Just say "You look great already." Give them the compliment. Why is that so hard to do?

There's too much competitiveness among women. Why put energy into that? It's like the advice-seeker feels like the other woman's diet is challenging her, telling her she needs to diet or rubbing her face in the other woman's superiority.

Methadras said...

Body image dysmorphia.

ironrailsironweights said...

"That's fine, but why don't you let it grow back?"

Peter

Ann Althouse said...

@Petunia I read your comment after my last comment, so that wasn't directed at you.

What I'd say to you is that it sounds like you were doing things with somebody you really didn't want as a friend. You didn't tell us what she said after your outburst, so it's hard to see what things were really like, but I tend to think that if you actually liked this person, it wouldn't have blown up like that.

Anyway, if you did like her and for anyone else who has a friend like this who actually is someone that you'd miss, I would recommend seeing things from her point of view. She might actually have a distorted self-image that is tormenting her, and you could help maybe with a compliment and a distraction. And don't shop for clothes with her. Do something else! If she's sensitive about every bulge, trying on clothes will bring out self-criticism. If she thinks she's a size 2 and the size 2 pants are tight, she might get very irritable.

"We are no longer friends, partly because of that, but mostly because of her constant uninformed hateful rants, and the fact that, in about three years of hanging out together, I was so successful at not calling her out on her BS that she didn't realize I am a conservative. I don't miss her."

Were you ever friends?

Synova said...

I don't know... I think you should slam dunk their skinny butts and belly "pooches".

I think you should say something like... "Wow, you should get on that because you're a dog, honey." Or "I have to admit I couldn't figure out how to tell you you were fat."

Because skinny ladies always need to lose weight and they always tell you you're perfect and don't need to lose any at all, even if you're 4 inches shorter and weigh 10 pounds more... and maybe that's because that's what they want to hear, that *they* are perfect, but the whole conversation is a drag and no one should be indulged.

It's possible to have a supportive conversation about losing weight without patting your skinny self and complaining about your belly pooch or the pinch (a pinch!) of whatever it is on your thigh.

Ugh.

Synova said...

"I just looked at her and said, "How do you think your constant complaining about how fat you are, when you're NOT, makes ME feel?""

I think that we should learn to say this the *first* time, instead of biting our tongues and trying to be polite for years and then finally blowing up.

Synova said...

If you think about it... saying "No, you look great, really you do," is telling them that yes, they need to fish for compliments. In a weird, twisted way (and women can be really weird and twisted) a reassurance just means she's *right*. It's enabling them.

That said... I've lost 5 pounds so far. Yay!

Kit said...

Good advice, Althouse.

SOJO said...
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SOJO said...

@petunia Yes, but you're assuming she can take her head out of her own butt for five seconds to care about you - which she obviously can't - or she never would have said it.

So, therefore, don't bother denigrating yourself by asking for her mercy - which is what you did.

Man, I'm feeling dark today. Yes, female relationships can be a real 16th Century Court of France pain in the butt. lol.

But it keeps my mind of the real stuff I have to worry about at the moment -almost as functional as Downton Abbey.

MadisonMan said...

I'd say Ho-kay. And then move on.

Presumably, as althouse suggests, you are friends with this person for a reason. It should be easy for friends to overlook each others' foibles.

Inga said...

Why not just say, "What pooch? You're gorgeous.", then feel smug that you aren't that narcissistic.:)

Julie C said...

Women are weird about this stuff. After I had lost a decent amount of weight, I had a couple of different friends say things like, "now don't you lose anymore weight! You don't want to get too skinny!"

I always would smile and say, "oh, don't worry. I like food too much." But really, I'd be thinking, shut the hell up beyotch and worry about your own fat ass.

Women who say the things mentioned in that letter are, as others have pointed out, just fishing for compliments.

David said...

Thus the term screwing the pooch.

betamax3000 said...

Re: Inga's "And when that pooch starts growling at me, it means it's time to feed the pooch again. It's my feet that bark at me, especially after a 12 hour shift."

You need Wil Wheaton to rub your feet. Patrick Stewart calls it 'Eternal Youth with a Lad's Hands.'

Michael said...

On the other hand, Professor, you can play along! Instead of saying "you look great already" say somehing like, "my God I didnt recognize you. It really shows in your face". And continue every time you see her even if she looks anorexic and add on new observations like, "I think its all going into your ass now."

Nomennovum said...

... then feel smug that you aren't that narcissistic.

LOL.

Petunia said...

Interesting points, Ann!

She just said, "Well, *I* think I look bad". Previously I had always told her "you look great, don't worry!" or something, but that time, I'd just had it.

Looking back on it I'm not sure we were ever friends...she could be very kind about some things, and incredibly judgemental about others. She also went absolutely crazy-nasty to and about a couple of people in a group where we both volunteered, and got banned.

I just didn't have any desire to spend time with her anymore, whether at lunch or anything else.

Maybe we were somewhere between acquaintances and friends.

Petunia said...

Maybe I over-reacted, since I'm not THAT fat. I mean, I could stand to lose weight, but I'm not gigantic.

But I will never, ever, be as petite as this woman is. Or as self-absorbed.

Oh well.

Nomennovum said...

Frenemies, Petunia. Not so unusual. Women have a lot of them.

Amy said...

Your suggested response is the perfect for someone who wants to come across as pedantic, petty and persnickety. The best way to handle the situation is to ignore the skinny ladies' body issues and realize it's not about you. As someone who recently lost nearly 80 lbs, my remaining "pooch" gives me something to work towards. It's motivating. In fact, the fitter a woman is, the more goal-oriented she tends to be. I don't feel the need to walk on eggshells around the heavier gals. They, too, have the power if they want to take it, after all.

Birches said...

As for the shared fb accounts... I know a few newly marrieds who opt for the one account as a kind of protection to stop an almost affair from even developing. I think in a way, its kind of admirable, admitting that you are not immune to temptation. And that you really care about your marriage.

I've known way too many people who end up hooking up with a fb friend from high school when their marriage hits a rough patch. Ewwww.

betamax3000 said...

When Slender Women pat their Non-Existent Stomach Fat they are Symbolically saying "a baby would be here if I had the Nerve."

betamax3000 said...

"Do not mistake me for Pregnant: my kidneys meet in the Middle."

betamax3000 said...

"I fear Fat because I am too shallow to Fear Death."

betamax3000 said...

"I do not want to die Fat."

betamax3000 said...

"I want the Undertaker to find me arousing all of the way Until That Point.

You know what I mean."

betamax3000 said...

"It is Easy to Be Thin after Death: it is harder when You Can Still Eat."

betamax3000 said...

"The Undertaker will be Enthralled that -- even in Death -- my thighs do not Touch."

betamax3000 said...

"I look at my Shadow sideways and Judge."

betamax3000 said...

"I fear that my Soul will not reflect my Thin Shell. If every Soul is free of the Body then a Fat Soul is the Same as My Own."

betamax3000 said...

"In Heaven every Penis is the Exact Same Size. All breasts are natural and Equal. I fear the Afterlife."

betamax3000 said...

"I only pray that all the Meals I have purposefully vomited will be waiting for me, Fresh and Savory, in the Next World.

Especially the Spaghetti and Ice Cream."

kentuckyliz said...

One great thing about death, you get more "factory air" as you decompose.

Freeman Hunt said...

"How should I respond..."

Obvious. Don't make this harder than it is. You say, "Pooch?! Pshaw!" And with the pshaw, one hand waves down like it smacked a lie from the air. "I don't see any pooch!" Then she'll pull her shirt tighter around it and insist and point. You counter with another hand wave. "I don't see any pooch. You look wonderful."

Just be nice.

Freeman Hunt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

If it's not about oneself, why make it about oneself?

Synova said...

Maybe I sound mean but that's why you don't say anything the first time, or the second, or the third, you're being nice and suddenly it's a habit that you're trapped into having to tell a pretty girl that she's pretty when after a while you can't possibly avoid thinking that you've been trapped by good manners into propping up her looks at the expense of your own self image. And half the time she, whoever she is, won't return the favor.

It would be far better to not let yourself get dragged into that sort of cycle in the first place.

MadisonMan said...

I don't see a pooch. I see a bitch.

Then smile sweetly.

Billy Oblivion said...

The best way to reply is "Good luck with that. I know how hard it must be for you."

HTH. HAND.

wyo sis said...

Just nod wisely and say "I know."

Unknown said...

Just say, "I'd worry more about what's happening to your @$$".

Lonetown said...

Shouldn't you just say "I prefer men who care not about a pooch"?

game, set, match,

SOJO said...

@Amy

Dunno about that. I've always been the fit one, more often than not, and I think it's an obnoxious thing to do.

It may or may not be goal-oriented. That depends entirely on the individual.

Emil Blatz said...
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sydney said...

She also went absolutely crazy-nasty to and about a couple of people in a group where we both volunteered...

Why is it that this sort of thing happens so often with women? Once in a while a femal patient will do this kind of thing to me and my staff, out of nowhere, and be asked to leave the practice. I don't believe it's ever happened with a male patient. Not that I haven't dismissed them, but it's always been for other reasons - like drug seeking or failure to establish a therapeutic relationship. I don't believe I have ever had to dismiss a male patient for an irrational emotional outburst and nastiness, though.

tiger said...

First it called a 'pooch' by Wendy - an optician working at a State St. optometric office next to the Rathskeller.

The word made me cringe then and *still* does 37 years later.

It sounds like some woman couldn't think if 'paunch' - which is what it is - and used 'pooch' instead.

Cringe-worthy and low-rent.

Freeman Hunt said...

I liked the woman in Pulp Fiction calling it a "pot."

Jane said...

Paunch, people, not "pooch"!

And here's the deal: I'm in my early 40s. 3 kids. A bit heavier than in my pre-kid years, but not too bad. But I've got one terrible paunch, and am flat-chested, on top of it, so that it's extremely difficult to find clothes in which I don't look 4 months pregnant. swimsuits are the worst -- at least now they have the kind with the little skirt.

I don't know what's going on in this case, but a paunch can in fact be a source of serious embarassment.