Do women actually find dad bods attractive?
By Tom Burns — Last updated on Sep 07, 2023
Photo: Motortion Films | Shutterstock
Earlier this week, multiple friends of mine all forwarded me the same link. It was a 2016 news story titled “Chubby older fathers are more attractive to women and live longer, scientists say.”
I was tempted to reply to them all with an angry, all-caps “Why did you send me this?” but I knew why they’d sent along the link. I am a chubby, older father.
There’s no real hiding it. I’m almost 40, I have a family, and, yeah, my waistline does prevent me from shopping at certain stores at the mall. My body image issues aside, I am definitely 100% in that headline’s target demographic.
I think my friends were being well-intentioned. I don’t think the subtext was “Ha-ha, you’re chubby and old!” I think the subtext was “We all know you’re chubby and old, but it turns out it might be good for you!”
The truly ego-bruising part of both scenarios is that they both involve the open acknowledgment that I am, in fact, fat and ancient. Which, frankly, shouldn’t make me feel insecure or any different than I do every other day.
If I had a problem being fat, I could eat a lot less pizza. And if I had a problem being old… well, I could exercise more or use Rogaine or do things that don’t make me look so much like I drank from the wrong grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (That’s a 1989 film reference, in case you forgot that I’m old.)
The “science” behind the “everything is awesome for chubby dads” headline comes from a book by Professor Richard Bribiescas called How Men Age: What Evolution Reveals About Male Health and Mortality. And, frankly, from just reading the brief summaries in the Telegraph article everyone forwarded me, I’m not really convinced by his argument.
From what I can tell, Professor Bribiescas thinks that it’s a really good thing that my testosterone levels are decreasing now that I’m old and overweight.
He says my low-T “actually prolongs lives and strengthens immune systems,” and the article claims that being husky makes “dads more likely to invest their time in their children rather than looking for other women, while the increased levels of fat could make them more attractive to women.”
There’s no real citation for that last claim — that “increased levels of fat” make men more attractive to the opposite sex.
To give Professor Bribiescas the benefit of the doubt, I haven’t read his book yet. I’m just commenting on the viral article about his work that clogged up my inbox on Monday. But, on the article level, I have to say, as someone who’s spent a lot of time as a chubby, older father, I don’t see much evidence to back up the headline.
It’s not easy to feel attractive when you’re a fat, aging father.
When you’re an old, chubby dad and you’re around younger people, you realize that you’re almost invisible.
Like, if everyone was trying to figure out who they’d most like to be intimate within the room, I wouldn’t even factor into the equation because, according to their radar, I’m a desk lamp. I’m a filing cabinet.
I am a walking, talking piece of stealth technology.
And, even around older people, you begin to realize that, in almost every scenario, there’s a man your age who somehow doesn’t seem to have all of your deficits and deficiencies.
When I end up surrounded by a group of dads, there always seems to be a fit dad, a dad who isn’t balding, maybe even a super-young millennial dad who’s in a band or makes YouTube videos or some cool thing that I can’t even understand.
What I’m saying is, that even with science (apparently) on my side, I don’t see a lot of opportunities for chubby, older fathers to dominate or live longer than my peers. I need someone to show me the math because I’m not buying it.
Is it a lovely fantasy? Sure. Are there women who prefer dadbods to ripped bods? Apparently so. But studies and surveys like this one don’t really do anything to boost my confidence. They don’t make me feel fortunate to be a fat, old dad. They make me feel pitied and patronized.
Either older, chubby dads needed a pick-me-up OR someone saw a pudgy guy married to a hot woman and asked themselves, “How did that happen?”
And those arguments tend to hit me in my body-image soft spots. But, here’s the thing, none of this needs any explanation.
There’s no practical reason for it. Professor Bribiescas’ book won’t make any lonely guy suddenly turn pudgy and old in an attempt to find a girlfriend. Society doesn’t need (or deserve) to know exactly WHY my wife finds me attractive.
Heck, I don’t get it either. She could do much, much better.
But she doesn’t care how society views chubby dads. Or the science behind why she decided to start a family with me. She just did it. And, for that, I’m eternally grateful.
So, beware of click-bait medical articles that tell you that you’re either the most attractive person ever or that your demographic is a major turn-off.
It’s all broad, dumb, social research that has about as much practical application as a liberal arts degree (which I totally have).
I’m old and fat and I’m totally fine being women’s romantic ideal OR being completely invisible to them. Despite my ego’s occasional complaints, I don’t really care how I fit into the world’s sexual food chain.
All that matters is whether or not I appeal to one very particular person and, fortunately for me, I got her pregnant, which makes it a lot harder for her to run away from my aging, flabby ass as we grow old together.
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Tom Burns has served as a contributing editor for 8BitDad and The Good Men Project, and his writing has been featured on Babble, Brightly, Mom.me, Time Magazine, and various other sites.