Friday, March 7, 2008

Does This Make Me Look Fat?

This is the first in a series of articles about How To Understand Women.

Imagine this:
Your wife comes out of the dressing room (bathroom, bedroom), looks at herself in the mirror, and then turns to you and asks the dreaded question:
"Honey, does this make me look fat?"
What do you say? "Yes" is clearly the wrong answer, as it's likely to make her angry. "No" also seems to be the wrong answer, as it can seem dishonest or dismissive of her concerns about her appearance.

Men constantly lament that women are hard to understand. They say that we play mind games and ask trick questions and revel in drama. I think some of their complaints are exaggerated, but I'll admit that weight can be a touchy issue for some women, and so this can be a hard question to answer both tactfully and truthfully. Men's frustration with questions like these has caused Dave Barry to recommend putting out your eye with a fork immediately in order to avoid answering, as he believes such a tactic is likely to cause less pain than giving either answer will. I wouldn't recommend such extreme measures, since it turns out that there IS a right answer to this question.

If your wife asks you if she looks fat in this dress or those pants, that isn't actually the question she wants you to answer. She knows how she looks in an outfit. She knows when her pants have shrunk, and she knows that after three kids and too many late nights, she isn't a size six like she was when you married her. If you're upset about that, and look at her with longing for her once-youthful figure, you may want to take a look in the mirror. Chances are you're balding and wrinkled, and have exchanged your six-pack for a keg.

So the right answer is not to comment on her appearance, either to disparage or encourage her. The right answer comes from understanding what on earth would ever possess a woman to ask such a horrible question.

I submit that there are only two reasons for a woman to ask her husband, "Does this make me look fat?" They are:

1. She is trying to start a fight, or
2. She is feeling insecure about your love for her.

Your job is to decide which is her motivation. Likely it will be the second option, so I'll focus on that one.

Generally, what a woman means by "does this make me look fat?" is not "please give me fashion advice" or even "do you think I've gained weight?" She generally means "Am I attractive to you? Do you love me? Do you still find me appealing?" And if the answer to each of those questions is "yes," then the right answer is, "Dear, you are beautiful (gorgeous, stunning, lovely) and I love (cherish, adore, can't get enough of) you." This would be a good time to pick her up and kiss her to pieces. Seriously.

Men, never underestimate the power of a well-timed compliment. When a man notices and comments on a woman's appearance (cooking, intelligence, talents, etc), he can really make her day (and make her swoon =) ). When she feels secure in your love for her, she won't be prone to ask trick questions, play mind games, or be difficult to understand.

Sometimes, getting along with women really is that easy.

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