I’ve been watching the “dad bod” debate. By now you will have heard the term. You will be aware of the original argument published by a 19-year-old student, that the desirable men’s body today comes with a comfortable paunch rather than a crafted six-pack. You will have read the columns (most recently by my colleague Barbara Ellen). And you will have clicked, perhaps, on the pictures of Seth Rogen and Jon Hamm, topless, and you may have found yourself thinking again about the gentle tufts of hair on their shoulders and under the swell of their stomach as you scan New York Magazine’s dad-bod diet (Doritos, energy drinks, melted cheese) and again, later, in the sweet internet of sleep.
Like everything that goes viral, it suggests it is new, when really it’s something that has always existed, but has not had a name, like the smell of keys or my cousin Anthony’s dog. Like everything that goes viral, its very virality seems to make it interesting. It triggered something, because it made people think about what the world finds attractive and what is a valuable body and then exactly what it would be like to just lie quietly on Jason Segel’s chest while he maybe plays on his phone.
This season’s dad bod follows last season’s beach bod, which followed, in no particular order, the athletic bod, the boho bod, the Gisele, and Grazia’s famous “soft bod” of 2012, when we all grew tits for the month then clipped them off again, do you remember? All that blood?
For pre-fall look forward to the nice-auntie bod, which is mainly arms and perfume, while the high-street option as ever will be very similar but with Dove roll-on. The January sales will clear up the last of the my-neighbour-Rajesh bods, with their wide lawn-mowering hips, and the feminist-on-holiday bod, in preparation for spring/summer’s remember-that-one-time-when-we-were-happy bod, with its long sandy toes, and the when-I-close-my-eyes-I-see-death bod, the perfect shape for Dior’s new cutaway one-piece.
I’ve been watching the rise of the dad bod with interest, of course, because I am currently the new owner of a 2014 mum bod. The mum bod is a body that carries proof of its achievements both in its looser skin and in its wraparound sling, gently snoring. The mum bod carries a weight of guilt so heavy that one more KitKat will not make a difference. While the dad bod can arrive with children – eating fast and sugarily, cheersing every bowel movement, smoking through sports day – it can also arrive with a long stag night in Prague or a life spent well.
While the dad bod speaks of passivity, the mum bod screams with action. The mum bod has performed a feat that has been described (by me, full disclosure, in an “email-all” at dawn sent from the eighth floor of the Royal London hospital) as “complete and brutal fuckery”. It has grown another head behind its ribs, and two whole other legs, and the same again for arms. And then it has schlepped it, whining, from bath to bed to park to bed, crying every time it tries to put them in a jumper. It carries its physical facts like passport stamps.
But next season, with a slice and a snap, off it comes, to make way for the correct body for then. And I’ll have to make some difficult decisions. Which bod will I apply next? Which bod should I pour my organs into for spring? Which one will best flaunt my natural bowels? Will I go for the convicted-weatherman bod, or the woman-out-of-The-Twits bod, or the Nike-swoosh bod? The joy, I suppose, is in the not yet knowing.
Email Eva at email@example.com. Follow Eva on Twitter @EvaWiseman