July 27, 2005

You'd better learn how to answer this question right.

For, lo, the pitfalls are many. The question is: “Do I look fat?”


DaveG said...

I adopted a different strategy:

"Do I look fat?"



One big blow-up, but the question has never been repeated.

Ron said...

I've heard you're up for the lead in that Paris Hilton biopic -- that's hot!

Ron said...

daveg: Well, hell, if you're gonna Drop The Big One because you're crazy, yeah, this question won't recur!

"Mr. President, I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed! But no more than 10-20 million, tops! Depending on the breaks."
-- George C. Scott, Dr. Strangelove

Anthony said...

You must start the entire relationship by avoiding this type of question entirely. A male can successfully do this by relying on the stereotype that men have no fashion sense, but the illusion must be rigorously maintained; any slip-up and your cover is blown and you will then be expected to answer. E.g.:

♀: Do I look fat?
♂: Why don't you just wear a bikini?


♀: Do I look fat?
♂: mmmMMMMmmmm. (while shrugging shoulders)

Alternatively, one can adopt daveg's suggestion (again, thoroughly consistently) and never give a straight answer, falling back instead on humorous, off-the-wall comments. E.g.:

♀: Do I look fat?
♂: Like a hippo with a gland problem, darlin'.

One must maintain complete vigilance however. For instance, if the two of you are out somewhere and she makes a comment on another woman's clothing, you must not contribute with something like "Yes, I agree, an A-line skirt should never be worn with kitten heels in that shade of blue."

CM said...

This drives me crazy. When I ask, "Does this make me look fat?" I want an opinion about whether I should keep or change my outfit. But instead my husband is convinced that I'm trying to trap him and refuses to say anything. All because of posts like that one!

Goesh said...

I recall a plump lady I was dating some years back and when she asked me if I thought she was too heavy, like a fool I replied, " I like warmth in the winter and shade in the summer, darling" - any time a woman asks that question she is mad about something and wants to vent and there is no escaping some form or degree of anger, because there is no correct answer or any answer that will please her. Some realistic excuse for a quick exit needs to be in the back of the mind at all times.

Meade said...

she: Do I look adipose?

he: I don't know from adipose, but you do look phat.

she: Oh my god, make love to me! Now!

bill said...

here's a couple versions.

1. misdirection: No, but that outfit doesn't look good on you.

2. Confusion; turn the conversation into something resembling this dialog from "Firefly."

Are you Alliance?

(not understanding)
Am I a lion?


I don't think of myself as a lion.
You may as well, though: I have a
mighty roar.

I said "Alliance".

Oh. I thought --

No, I was...

That's weird.

Scipio said...

The bottle asks you no questions, but it does tell you lies.

Matt said...

Another alternative? The Jedi mind trick. Just wave your hand in front of the questioner and dismissively state--"These aren't the droids you're looking for."

EddieP said...

Sounds like Senator Schmearer practicing to diss Judge Roberts.

A man can have no expectation of a fair hearing on the "Do I look fat" thing. I'd rather face Torquemada.

Joe T said...

CM wrote: 'When I ask, "Does this make me look fat?" I want an opinion about whether I should keep or change my outfit.'

Firstly, if you really want to know whether you should change or not, why not ask "should I keep or change this outfit?". Why bring "fat" into it at all?

Secondly, your post brings up another trap. Even if the focus is switched from fat to clothes, many guys think their girlfriends/wives look great the vast majority of the time. Hence our sartorial advice at any given moment has a high probability of being useless. This is as frustrating for the asker as it is for the askee.

On a personal note, the one time I was asked this question by a woman and actually expressed a strong negative opinion about her appearance in an article of clothing, it just made her angry and she wore it anyway.

Simon Kenton said...

After Wallace STevens, 5 ways of answering the fat/phatic question:

"Do I look fat?"

"I'm an experienced bachelor. It will require much greater subtlety than that to catch me."

"Do I look fat?"

"At least you don't have too much back fat."

"Back fat? BACK FAT? What's back fat? O my god, where's the full length mirror?"

"Do I look fat?"

"You're right. We ought to end this now, while we are still relatively uninvolved. We aren't going where I want, either, and I'm glad you had the courage to face it for both of us."

"Do I look fat?"

"Lemme check." Carry her into the bedroom, peel her out of the outfit, and do the complete inspection, one cm^2 at a time. Answer "no" an hour later.

"I'm sooo fat...."

Scroll down to the anecdote beginning "Here is a true exchange..." from the great John Ross:


Masked Menace© said...


1) Your hubby isn't refusing to answer because of posts like that. Your husband refuses to answer because women have been trapping men with this question for ages. The post doesn't create the (false) perception of entrapement, it just reflects the largely true observation.

2) If you want to know whether you should change outfits then you should ask him "Do you like this outfit?" not "Do I look fat?" We can't read your minds. Don't ask us one question expecting the answer to another.

Ann Althouse said...

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."

Masked Menace© said...

Admit it, you like fighting WWIII in your bedroom don't you. :-)

APF said...

Glances at watch...
"We look late."

Meade said...

"Does this dress make me look fat?"

What dress?

The Management said...

Her - Do I look fat?

Me - Get me a beer.

Harkonnendog said...

"Do I look fat?"

"Yes, you are definitely Pretty Hot and Tempting."

Dean said...

We've been married 30 years so I know she's fat and she knows I'm fat (or overweight for the euphemism).

She asks, "Does this make me look fat?" and I answer yes or no. Or I will go for, "It doesn't become you."

She has me "trained" so I feel pretty comfortable.

Gort said...

Honest answers will kill you. On a related note my wife recently asked me if I remembered her telling about something to do with her mother's hairdesser's cousin. She was amazed I could not recall this vital information. When she pressed the issue I said "honey, you tell me so much useless information. I really can't keep track of it all." The fallout was not pretty.

Bruce Hayden said...

It is said that the Britts and the Americans are seperated by a common language. Well, that is even more the case of the two sexes.

Deborah Tannen, PhD in linguistics has written a whole series of books on this subject with titles such as "That is not what I meant!".

Her general thesis is that men take things literally, while women have all sorts of emotional stuff wrapped up in what they say.

Some examples:

She: Would you mind taking out the garbage (meaning, I would like you to)?

He: No. I'm watching TV (meaning that given the choice, he would prefer watching TV).

She: Can you take out the trash (ditto from above)?

He: Of course I could take it out. I'm not in a wheelchair (he is offended because she questioned his competence).

She: It would be nice if you took out the trash.

He: Yeh, it would be. Remind me after the TV show.

In all of these, the woman is making some inaccurate assumptions about men, and, visa versa. A much better way, I will suggest, for a woman to ask a man for this is:

She: Will you please take out the trash. It will help me so much.

Here, she asked for what she wanted directly, not indirectly, and almost as importantly, instead of questioning a guy's competence, she turned him into her hero, which we all love.

Ann Althouse said...

Bruce: I disagree. I think the woman should call bullshit on him. He's knows what she's asking. Why should she get nicer when he's obviously being a jerk? And why is him doing his share a matter of helping her?

Bruce Hayden said...

I really think that much of this difference is innate to women. The nurture versus nature argument.

My ex wife is quite masculine in how she deals with guys. I never faced any of these questions during my marriage. When she wanted something, she asked for it. Not about it, or if I wanted to help, just asked for it, etc. Never any questions about fat, outfits, etc.

My daughter though is just the opposite. She is always asking for things the feminine way. At 14, I am getting the outfits and fat questions already. Which is surprising in a way, as she has no family role models who act this way. Not her mother, father, step father, uncles, or grandfather.

If she is learning it anywhere, it is from her peers at school.

Bruce Hayden said...

Well, he probably wouldn't mind if she "called bullshit" on him. That would get out in the open what she wanted.

But I respectfully disagree with you that he knows what she wants. In many cases, he doesn't. The reason that I read all those Tannen books is because I didn't understand this sort of female indirection.

I agree that most guys figure this sort of thing out after a period of marriage (but for the exception, see my intervening post). And then, you are right. After a couple of times when she explodes when he doesn't take out the garbage when she indirectly requests it, he knows that is what she wants, though still resenting that she doesn't really ask for what she wants, as a guy would.

For me, after growing up in a family of 5 boys, and no girls, reading Tannen was like a light going off. You probably say dense, but you are a woman. And, from your point of view, you are right.

So, a couple of years ago, before she died, my mother would ask me if I wanted to take out the garbage. I would say, quite honestly, no, I didn't. My father, married to her for 57 years, would tell me that I knew exactly what she meant and to do it now. And, of course, I then did.

But for probably the first 45 years of my life, I didn't know what she meant.

Ann Althouse said...

Well, she should be less roundabout too, as I've said. Look, most couples are pretty ridiculous, one way or the other. Most people are pretty inept at getting things done and getting what they want. And when you pen two of them up together indefinitely, there's going to be some fighting or some serious stewing. That's life.

Beachcomber said...

This is like that other dreaded question, "what are you thinking?" Sometimes the best response is to just state the obvious - that there is no good answer to such questions.

Bruce Hayden said...


I agree. The problem is communications, and most of us aren't that good at it to start with. When you add in the (typical) sexual differences in modes of communication, you are asking for problems.

The answer, I suggest, is knowledge. Partly that means talking. But, often, that alone isn't sufficient, given that the two sexes often mean different things with the same words. So, part is also figuring out these differences.

As a note, as always, I am talking means, and not suggesting that all men are this way, and all women that way. Or even that all men don't understand what women are saying, and visa versa.

My parents always suggested that if we had had sisters, instead of so many brothers, we wouldn't have been so clueless. I think they were right.

Meade said...

Another thing that helps is to not be a humorless jackass.

Bruce Hayden said...

Most of us are humorless jackasses at times - with, of course, the notable exception of our esteemed hostess.

I think the problem is that when they are living it, most people don't step back and really analyze what is going on. It is too immediate. And, frankly, most people are not very self-analytical.

Or, for that matter, can a lot of people laugh at themselves, esp. in such an intimate setting as a marriage.

I think that the big reason that I can now is that there is ten years between me and my marriage, and since I only see my girlfriend every month or so, I am not caught up there either. It makes it a lot easier to be self analytical, and, yes, laugh at yourself, when you have this distance.

Simon Kenton said...

Bruce -

A soft answer turneth away wrath.

Nicely riposted, to a remark I couldn't see you deserved, a remark no one could easily construe as constructive.