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Data show men were thrown into a vortex of confusion by the new trend-that’s-not-a-trend—the dad bod

Di Caprio dad bod
Reuters/Lucas Jackson
Don’t believe everything you hear about the dad bod.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

It’s that time of the year again—the time someone in the US comes up with a new, seemingly absurd “thing” that then becomes a trend. Last year, it was normcore. This year, it appears to be the dad bod.

The dad bod—for the uninitiated, a casually under-toned male body, epitomized in the persona of Leonardo di Caprio—was introduced to the masses by the New York Magazine, just as it did with normcore (coincidence?). This suggests that the whole thing originated in New York, where everyone knows people have nothing better to do than get excited about things that are not that exciting at all.

Another unsurprising similarity the dad bod shares with normcore is that it was most definitely not a thing before it became a thing. (Men who become untoned after having kids are hardly new phenomenon.) As of April 28, there’s a name for their shape:

Since becoming a thing, there are 4,490,000 articles about the dad bod, according to Google.

Some of them are surprisingly earnest—do women really like dad bods?; others point out the double standard women face; and some are just plain arrogant, like this journalist’s explanation for why women love his dad bod (something to do with his being able to pay extra for guacamole) that will likely haunt his relationships forever.

Yes, everyone jumped on the dad-bod-bandwagon (including us). There’s the Voxplainer. The “rigorous, analytical look” at the dad bod (with numbers!). And of course “the only dad bod video you need to see. Ever” (spoiler: you don’t really need to see it.)

The problem with this dad bod trend-that’s-not-a-trend are several. For one, it is a bit annoying that the first time there is a trend about men’s appearance it’s that how they naturally look as they age is an attractive thing. But lest this article be read as a feminist rant, aimed at undermining men’s self-esteem, they don’t all have to do with the gender divide. In fact, the dad bod is a dangerous concept for men, first and foremost—taken to the extreme, it might encourage them to follow a less-than-healthy lifestyle. But more importantly, when men are judged for their appearance, they get very confused.

You see, when the question of whether women have a “beach-ready body” starts trickling into the pages of all sorts of publications, women don’t lose their cool. They don’t wonder, for instance, what a beach body is, or whether it’s perhaps enough to have a body, and take it to the beach. No, women have been informed for years about the shapes and sizes of their bodies, and what is right and wrong with them. We’re used to the judgment.

But men, bless their souls, don’t know how to navigate the perilous sea of requirements about how their body ought or ought not to appear. And because men hate not knowing almost as much as they hate admitting to not knowing, they ask Google.

Indeed, a look at the past week’s worth of Google searches related to “dad bod” paints a picture of distress, with people the world over taken to search, led by, you guessed it, Canada:

The list of the countries most interested in dad bods shows that the term has made it across the ocean and is puzzling much of humanity, from the Philippines to Morocco. In the US, where the trend started, there is one place that’s overwhelmingly more interested in knowing about the dad bod:

This also offers an interesting clue as to who might be searching the internet for answers to dad bod question: Ithaca is full of single men—140 per 100 women. Supporting the theory that it’s men who are trying to understand what’s up with the dad bod is the list of most commonly googled dad bod-related questions:

All the clues are in question number six (46 inches is probably too much heft to quality) and its alarming specificity (no woman would ever ask Google that, inches and all), and the fact that there is little interest in how to get a dad bod—basically, a quintessential manly can’t-care-less attitude: Not trying to not try. If this was a scheme to make men aware of how hard it is to live up to some aesthetic standards, it failed miserably.

Internationally, things are at least a bit different. The questions go deeper: The 46-inch waistline makes no appearance, nor does any interest in attaining a dad bod; however, it seems that the telephone game that brought the dad bod to the world so quickly left searchers under the impression that it might be a bad thing.

The search interest around the badness of the dad bod is abysmal. But just in case, no, confused men of the world—the dad bod is not a bad thing. It’s not even a thing. This first attempt of society to make men understand what women feel was pathetic. Move right along, nothing to see here at all.

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