The summer after I met and fell butt-crazy in love with my now-husband, Dan, during our freshman year of college, he started lifting (and apparently downing protein shakes, though he didn’t admit it at the time). His body had always been pretty good—like, say, Kyle-Chandler-in-his-Dillon-Panthers-polo good—but when Dan took his shirt off during a visit to my family home on Long Island, NY, that summer, his pecs and budding six-pack were suddenly venturing into Ryan Gosling territory. “Meet me in my childhood twin bed in five,” I whispered to him.
Ten years of on-and-off dating, three apartment moves, five jobs, seven overpriced gym memberships, countless fights, and one 18-month-old baby later, and Dan is still working as hard as he can to stay in Gosling shape. And though I’m forever appreciative of his Southern gentlemanliness and his willingness to change a diaper, I’m also hugely grateful that he hasn’t let himself go. In other words: Every day I’m thrilled he doesn’t have a “dad bod.”
In the event that you lost your Internet connection for much of 2015, allow me to get you up to speed. The “dad bod” was introduced to the world in an online essay written by Clemson University student Mackenzie Pearson, who defined it as an average-to-doughy physique, often with subtle man boobs. (Think: protruding man handles on early-career Seth Rogen or the bulbous, pasty midsection on Jason Segel in basically every movie in his oeuvre.)
“A dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time,’” Pearson wrote. She explained that the main reason girls are down for dad bods is that they’re warm, cuddly, and unintimidating. “Few things are worse than taking a picture in a bathing suit,” the essay explained, “one being taking a picture in a bathing suit with a guy who is crazy fit. We don’t want a guy that makes us feel insecure about our body.”
After the article went viral, the burgeoning dad bod movement seemed to get its biggest endorsement of all when the currently in-shape Chris Pratt admitted to a reporter that his wife, Anna Faris, actually prefers the fatter version of him—the big guy from Parks and Rec—because he’s “more fun.”
OK, first off: I hear her. Of course guys can take things too far—and I wouldn’t advise every dude out there to start taking HGH. And if your guy is getting paid to stay ultra-ripped to battle dinosaurs, I can see how you’d miss that late-night pizza every so often. But a guy who sits under a pile of Seamless delivery tacos on his couch in order to keep his dad bod bulky—or consistently “skips the gym for a few brews,” as dad bod advocates advise—gets old fast.
And as for this “flabby fellas are hotter” argument: It’s pretty damn sexist—after all, guys love “MILFs” for their youthful, well-maintained bodies, not because they’ve grown beer bellies. But also, the idea that women are more attracted to less-flattering physiques because it makes them feel better about their own bodies is, I may confidently add, bogus. Trust me: Most women don’t view relationships as bodybuilding competitions.
I like to stay in shape. I enjoy a good SoulCycle. I keep my cheeseburger consumption fairly low. But I’m no gym rat, either. And when Dan showed up that summer with insane muscle definition, I wasn’t jealous. On the contrary: Staring at his six-pack was mesmerizing, like tuning into the human-flesh equivalent of the Shiba Inu Puppy Cam. (Ask your girlfriend.) Plus, he’d set a goal to get fit and actually done it, and women appreciate that sort of determination.
I’m not alone here, guys. The scientific truth is that fit dudes are sexy. Not only are we biologically wired to find muscles attractive—they signal healthiness, good genes, and a strong immune system, all good things in the caveman era, according to research from the UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture—but also working out boosts testosterone, which, if you haven’t heard, is a major hormone for attracting the ladies. And a study earlier this year by the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that fitter guys have better and more frequent erections and an improved ability to have orgasms.
So let me translate that for you: If your muscles are flaccid, so is your love muscle. And you’d best believe that a guy who doesn’t lose steam after a few reps—both at the gym and in bed—is going to win out over a comfy snuggle pillow any day of the week.