In the continuing saga of dating in the third millennium, nothing gets both men and women more worked up than the question “Do these [insert item of clothing] make me look fat?”
It looks very innocent, this question. A simple sartorial inquiry that invites a flippant, off the cuff response. A simple Yes or No answer. But oh foolish is the person who believes this. Because, and you heard it here first, there is no right answer! And along with “Have you stopped beating your wife?”, it’s certainly not a question that can be answered with a simple Yes or No. A lot of footnotes and appendices are required.
And note that the question is only ever asked by a woman or a gay man. In the entire history of humanity, no straight guy has ever looked at his bum in the mirror and wondered, “Do these pants make me look fat?” It’s just not a question that figures large in the straight universe.
Saffy once asked me this very question. "Do these jeans make me look fat?”
In my defence, I was very distracted at the time, so I wasn’t really paying much attention. I looked up briefly, looked at Saffy and replied casually, “Uh. No. You look fine.”
“You hesitated,” Saffy said, her face a little strange.
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yeeees,” Saffy drawled. “You did. You said, “Uh”.”
“Which is a word.”
And much as one barely senses the moment that one has taken a wrong turn somewhere on a dark deserted road, it occurred to me I had, quite without intending to, ventured into very unfamiliar territory. I hesitated and tried a little back-pedalling. "
"That conveys the impression of hesitation,” Saffy said, her bosom slowly inflating.
“Well, you look fine,” I said encouragingly and gave Saffy my most winning smile before turning away, hoping she'd go away.
"I may look fine,” Saffy began from the back of my head, “but you still haven’t answered my question. Do I look fat in these jeans?”
“Absolutely not!” I said firmly.
Saffy huffed. “But you didn’t say no the first time I asked! I do look fat in these, don’t I? Oh dear God.” She turned on her heels and marched to her room. A few seconds later, I heard Amanda ask, “Why aren’t you dressed yet?”
Saffy’s reply rang through the apartment. “I was dressed, but then Jason said my bum looked fat in these jeans, so now I have to change!”
“I said that she looked fine!” I yelled. “I never said anything about fat or bums!”
“You hesitated!” came Saffy’s voice.
For days afterwards, it was all I could talk about. “Ooh, you should never attempt to answer that question!” cooed Barney Chen. “Don’t go anywhere near the bum unless you know what you’re doing. Like I do,” he added with a loaded look.
“You hesitated. Fatal mistake,” said Karl, my best friend. “It’s like a legal contract. Clause 16 – Hesitation shall be taken to imply fatness and unattractive bums and no further correspondence shall be entered into. The second worse question is ‘What are you thinking about?’”
“Well, all I know is that I’m never going to answer that question ever again. Saffy hasn’t spoken to me for days. It’s ridiculous!”
“Which isn’t necessarily such a bad thing,” said Karl, unhappily married man.