Over wine and polenta, a friend of mine told me a recent Cosmopolitan Magazine article claimed women prefer men with love handles over those without. "Why?" he asked me. "I just don’t get it."
"I don’t get why you’re reading Cosmo."
"Well, I’m not. Mark is. Ask him to send you the article."
Imperfection in our mate releases the pressure valve. He’s not perfect, so I don’t need to be either. She feels less inhibited with a softer body, and she panics when he mentions he wants to diet. "God, I’m definitely in much worse shape than he is, and he wants to lose weight? I can only imagine what he must think of me." God, some women really think this way. I’ve been "some women" many many times.
I used to get pissed when the Wasband said he wanted to go to the gym. More pissed if he suggested we go together. He might as well have grabbed a Sharpie marker and circled my flaws because "let’s go together" was interpreted as, "you could stand to lose some flab there, Missy." I made it about me, began to cry at the suggestion, and then, he’d stay, setting his Walkman down on the table with his testicles. I am embarrassed I was that manipulative. I hate how much I hated myself and took it out on others. I hate how miserable I was with myself.
When my boyfriend told me he wanted to shave off 10 lbs., I panicked, thinking,"if I’m happy with the way he looks, and he knows it, why would he want to change? Obviously, he wants attention." Of course, without a doubt, now I know that’s not the case. I know it because no matter how secure I am with any man, and no matter how beautiful he says I am on repeat, I still want to fit into the jeans I wore last summer, and it has nothing to do with my want for him. It has everything to do with my want for myself.
Men aren’t off the hook. He sees her in a bar, with her plunging neckline, and he thinks, "now she is hot." Fast forward to their exclusive relationship months later. She’s dressed to kill, and he wants to kill her. "You’re not going to wear that are you?" She’s wearing the exact outfit she wore when he first met her. Now that she’s his, he doesn’t want anyone else to want her, unless he’s there beside her. Even then, he’s not sure he wants men staring at her, despite his feeling lucky.
Insecurity is our worst abuse. Women prefer imperfection because it makes us feel safe. It’s false security, but it does its job at soothing us here and now. We don’t want more women to notice him, and we don’t want him to want beyond what we do. But when we turn it inward, we know our desire to become more tone has less to do with him and more to do with our ability to be outgoing, personable, happier when things button without sucking it in.
When my boyfriend broke up with me, at sixteen years old, I phoned him months later to tell him I was thin. I thought he’d love me again if he knew. We can’t control who loves us or who will cheat on us if they get extra attention. Love handles more than love handles; it handles washboards, ripped triceps, and plunging necklines.