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‘Do I Look Fat?’ Questions that Strike Fear in the Hearts of Men

Nearly every guy has been there—that intense, pressure-filled moment when his woman says, “Let me ask you a question,” which is followed by a query that seems impossible to answer, if it can be answered at all.

Suddenly, he feels like his rear end is planted on a hot seat with blinding lights shining in his eyes. Mere moments before, he was feeling calm, confident, and in control. Now his palms sweat, heart pounds, and mouth goes dry. Sound melodramatic? That depends on the type of question you’ve been asked, the conditions under which it was posed, and your ability to think fast. Fear-inducing questions come in all shapes and sizes, like the women who ask them, but let’s take a look at some of the common ones you might be called upon to answer:

1. “Does This Make Me Look Fat?” This is the mother of all hot-seat questions, mostly because there is only one acceptable answer: “Are you kidding? You could never look fat.” Of course, once in a while the dress actually is, shall we say, unflattering. But the man can’t lose his head and say something stupid like, “Well, now that you mention it…” Blame will certainly land on him, because: (A) he said she looked fat, never mind that she asked and he was talking about the dress; (B) he let her wear the same dress in public three times last month without saying a word; and (C) it’s too late to change now anyway, so she has to spend the evening feeling self-conscious—all because he didn’t know the rules. We can’t give you a quick-and-easy reply for this dilemma, but let your response be guided by the three D’s: delicacy, discretion, and diplomacy.

2. “Do You Think [insert the name of a mutual female acquaintance] Is Attractive?” Oh, man. Most guys would rather cross alligator-infested waters on a frayed rope bridge than answer that one. Here are the factors to consider before answering: (A) on such matters, all women have lie-detection superpowers; (B) it’s not a yes or no question—you must explain your answer and give examples; and (C) invoking the Fifth Amendment will do you no good. If you really don’t think the person asked about is attractive, you’re off the hook. If you do think she’s attractive, go ahead and say so, but without excessive enthusiasm. Bad response: “Attractive? Are you kidding—she’s a knock-out. So hot!” Good response (said with a steady, even intonation): “Yeah, I suppose you could say she’s attractive.” For extra credit, add, “Of course, she’s not nearly as attractive as you.”

3. “How Did You Like [my all-time favorite chick flick] I Just Forced You to Watch?” Keep in mind, all women have lie detection—oh, just re-read the ground rules for #2. A dash of humor never hurts either: “I liked it, though I expected a Jane Austen film to have more explosions and bloodshed.” And take heart, you get to choose the next movie.

4. “Why Didn’t You Call?” This question makes the list because there are no acceptable answers. Any response is only likely to compound the crime of not calling. He’d like to know, “Can we just agree that I dropped the ball and leave it at that?” He doesn’t want to reveal that he didn’t call because he was playing pool with the guys and it was too noisy in the bar; because his cell phone battery died, and he doesn’t have her number memorized; because he got distracted and just plain forgot. It’s a classic lose-lose scenario. The best response is probably to confess your negligence and vow to do better in the future—and then actually do better in the future.

5. “Where Do We Stand?” There comes a time in every developing relationship when this question is appropriate. She wants to know if you’re “just hanging out” or “dating exclusively” or something else. The problem is, if she is so unsure of the relationship that she has to ask this question out loud, then chances are good he doesn’t know the answer! And there is nothing more terrifying for a man than to be called in front of the class to give an oral report on his feelings and his plans for future commitment—before he is ready. Worst case: he runs for the proverbial exit. Middling case: he stammers and stutters through an unsatisfying reply, but at least he tries. Best case: He ponders and contemplates, even if it takes some time, and tells her the truth about where they stand. Bonus: He can always turn the tables and ask her where she thinks things are headed.

Here’s the bottom line for men and women alike: The questions we ask each other are sometimes awkward, and often there are no easy answers. But now as always, the axiom remains spot on: Honesty is the best policy.