Beauty and the Beast

November 6th, 2008

In a classic column from 1998, Dave Barry pondered the dilemma men face when a woman asks, “How do I look?” This question terrifies men, as does its companion query, “Does this make me look fat?”

When asked these questions, men have to carefully think through various answers they might give, but they have to answer within approximately one nanosecond because delay is also subject to interpretation. Telling the truth has nothing to do with it, as any man lucky enough to survive his first truthful answer knows. In the nanosecond available for thought, men must strike a balance between the truth and a compliment that could be interpreted as less than sincere. This is the greatest source of stress faced by modern men.

However, as Dave points out, men think differently about their appearance:

Most men, I believe, think of themselves as average-looking. Men will think this even if their faces cause heart failure in cattle at a range of 300 yards. Being average does not bother them; average is fine, for men. This is why men never ask anybody how they look. Their primary form of beauty care is to shave themselves, which is essentially the same form of beauty care that they give to their lawns. …

Women do not look at themselves this way. If I had to express, in three words, what I believe most women think about their appearance, those words would be: ”Not good enough.” No matter how attractive a woman may appear to be to others, when she looks at herself in the mirror, she thinks: Woof. …

Why do women have such low self-esteem? There are many complex psychological and societal reasons, by which I mean Barbie. Girls grow up playing with a doll proportioned such that, if it were a human, it would be seven feet tall and weigh 81 pounds, of which 53 pounds would be bosoms.


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2 Responses to “Beauty and the Beast”



  1. doris |

    Never ask a question that you don’t want to know the answer to,is my theory in life. Men are terrible liars,anyway and so we know the truth,yes ,we always look fat,especially if we have low enough self esteem to ask,but we want to think you don’t think so and find us beautiful none the less. We need constant reassurance when we are young, because, the media show us only skinny ,georgous women,or young girls who are perfect. We don’t realize that is impossible,as these models starve themselves and barf,plus weigh all incoming and ,yuck,outgoing. Real people can’t live up to that and don’t have time for rigorious exercise. If you are very thin ,you either have great genes,or you are not a busy person,or ,like me you have trained yourself not to barf,no matter what .sorry. To please women,all you have to do is compliment,compliment and worship them,plus, always know or tell them they are right,we are.Older women don’t need many compliments just obedience and respect,also alot of humor!


  2. tabbi |

    Why do I care if the man I am with thinks I look fat or not in a pair of jeans? He either wants to be with me, or he doesn’t. That’s not my problem, its his. If I am comfortable in my jeans, and all my skin is covered, then, I am the best person to ask if I look fat or not. I will never be a size 2 or even 10, I am sure I will never lose a nights sleep or waste the breath from my body to ask any man if I look fat or not. I have bigger things to worry about…Like my butt..lol, just kidding.;)


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