As #LoveWins trended around the world earlier this year and people were pictured holding “full equality at last” banners outside the historic Stonewall inn, it was clear that for some, human intimacy achieves its highest realization through state-endorsed coupledom. Everyone irrespective of sexuality deserves a shot at unhappiness, but what exactly love has won is unclear. When love becomes law, the appeal of marriage has to be understood through its monopoly over entry to an array of legal, economic and social privileges.
In her essay “Why Girls Love The Dad Bod,” Mackenzie Pearson lays out an ethnography of desire in which dadhood redeems the male body from the rock hard abs that haunt it. In terms of purely physical descriptors, the dad bod knows very well what it isn’t: it does not have muscles so defined you could break dreams on them, nor will it stand out on a crowded beach, nor still will it be able to lift you up without getting faintly winded. Pearson’s essay champions a body whose desirability lies in both what it is and what its image negates: “the dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out.” The dad bod isn’t ripped, but it’s not a million miles away from it either. For Pearson, the dad bod represents the impossible notion of physical normalcy, the aesthetic middle ground. If the dad bod could speak, according to Pearson, it would say: “I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends.” It’s not too muscular, not too fat, it’s just right.