Actually, honey, your bum does look big in that
With swimsuit season upon us, questions like: “Does my bum look big in this?” or “Do you think I look fat?” are guaranteed to send a chill down the spine of most men.
A new study has scientifically established there’s a good reason for this fear, particularly for men whose partners have poor body image. (Let’s face it, this is most of them.)
La Trobe University researchers have found women who don’t like their bodies much want the honest truth rather than flattery from their partners.But there is a catch: honesty will not make women happy, but it will make them feel closer to their men.
The study of 192 women found most want their low body image affirmed by their blokes, as it makes them feel like he understands them.
But flattery will make them feel better.
The research team, led by psychologist Jennifer Brown, conclude that the issue is “very complex” and there are “costs and benefits” of both agreeing and disagreeing with women who don’t like their body shape.
In an upcoming edition of Body Image journal, they suggest either path will have “implications for his partner and their relationship”.
Gee, most guys would feel they didn’t need someone with a degree to tell them that.
Any guy with a girlfriend with a pulse has to deal with dreaded body image issues from time to time.
The way I see it, there are three main types of women.
There are some women who continually battle with their weight and always feel bad about the way they look. These women don’t need a comment from their partner to make them feel bad: them own poor self esteem guarantees a regular round of “fat days”.
This involves cowering under the doona for hours, with only a a family pack of Magnum Ego Caramel icecreams for company. (Hint: if the only ego you have is a brand of icecream, there’s a problem).
Sadly, anything her man says - even if it’s one hundred per cent positive - doesn’t make one iota of difference.
Other women are mostly happy with their figures, but something like trying on swimsuits fills them with self-doubt. Suddenly being confronted with their white, hairy bodies - and a back view of their arse from an angle they have never ever seen before - sends them psycho.
They become convinced they’re Caspar the Friendly Ghost’s obese sister who will die alone and have to have a wall of their house removed to get the body out. Most men will know reassurance is what’s needed, and lots of it. (Either that, or stay clear until she’s had a spray tan.)
Most of us have perfectly normal bodies. We’re never going to be supermodels, but we don’t have to shop at big girl shops either. Trust me, we’re the worst. Our normality tricks our guys into thinking they can say what they think (“Oh, I’m surprised you’d wear a dress that tight” or “I’m not sure you can really pull off the yellow bikini”) under the assumption that they are dealing with a rational person who will calmly acknowledge they are right. Possibly she made the same point herself half an hour earlier.
Don’t be fooled for a moment. What this woman wants is reassurance and praise, not an honest appraisal of her bodily shortcomings (which she is well acquainted with anyway).
So why do so many women hate their bodies? A recent Glamour magazine article reported 97 per cent of women think negatively about their bodies at least once an hour. It’s no wonder London writer Samantha Brick became the most hated woman in Britain after she asked in a newspaper article: “Why do women hate me because I am beautiful?” People didn’t hate her for being beautiful; people hated her for boasting about her beauty in a mass-selling daily newspaper.
Most of the people I know who love the way they look are either under 25, and beautiful because they are young, or over 45 and had quite a lot of work done.
Often the latter women might feel good about the way they look externally, but all the energy, money and time they put into their turning back the clock stems from an inner hatred of who they are as a person.
I remember being that younger woman.
When I was in my twenties, my great achievement was not getting a little food baby after eating a big meal. Boy, I felt good when people praised my flat stomach.
Nowadays, I’m sorry to tell you, elastic is my best friend - but I wouldn’t like my husband to remind me of the fact.
It’s no wonder that unless guys are dating Heidi Klum or Miranda Kerr, it’s best they tread carefully at this time of year.
As the La Trobe researchers found, lots of women really want their low opinion of their own body both challenged (“Your stomach looks great in those bathers”) and reassured (“Probably a caftan to match would be a good idea, though”).
Don’t let anyone tell you beach season is a breeze. It’s not; it’s a battlefield.
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