A new study says that in the annals of hot things men do, inseminating a woman and then sticking around for the spawn's birth is among the hottest. This, of course, occurs at the exact moment that the woman who birthed the spawn feels the emphatically least hot of all her hotnesses. What gives, nature? Why can't we all just be hot together at the same time? Is all this just more disturbing proof that nature is a cruel, new-(hot)-dad loving mistress, or that we're all just helpless byproducts of our basest biological drives? Or that we just can't stop culturally/collectively lusting over men who finally, at long last, do a thing women always did/had to do? Let's solve the hot new dad mystery together!
First, the sizzling facts: In a study looking at relationship dynamics during the first two years of marriage, participants — who were on average, in their mid-twenties, had no previous children, and were newlyweds — were tracked at the start, one- and two-year anniversary of their marriage, and asked a boatload of questions about their well-being, including stuff about how they looked and felt about how they looked.
Sometimes they rated their attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 100, AKA, do you feel super ugly or bangin' hot today? Sometimes they rated how they saw themselves most of the time on a scale of one to five, i.e., "I'm a usual-3, who feels like a 95 today."
So here's what happened: Dudes who didn't have any kids experienced what you might call a stabilized hotness — same as it ever was — but dudes with a newborn felt a postpartum glow, like smolderingly attractive man-people who could barely control their force field of magnetism, as it threatened to spill over onto every living person who came near them.
In other words, after a dude's baby comes out, he becomes Holly Hunter on ecstasy at the club with Queen Latifah.
Meanwhile, birth lady is at home doing this.
Researchers were at a loss as to the exact reason for this spike in self-like — was it a hormonal surge of well being, a yearlong biological touchdown victory dance? Was it merely a result of all the attention babies bring from cooing strangers?
Alicia Cast, who led the study, said:
“I was talking about this paper with my husband and he commented on the attention he got when he was seen in public holding our son after he was born. Like, ‘Aren’t you a good dad,’ ‘Look at that new dad with his baby,’ ” said Cast.
“Women get that feedback, too, because everybody loves a new baby. But that (benefit) may be countered by other things she’s experiencing that he’s not, in terms of how her body has changed and being more physically tired.”
Another possibility Cast proposes is that a new baby serves as a social signal of masculinity.
Or rather, a social signal of responsibility. When I was a single, childless person, I had no particular draw to men with babies per se. But I had a girlfriend who did, to the extent that she even went (on purpose) to an upscale grocery store in our town where lots of them frequented. I asked her what the specific appeal was, and she answered:
Their hotness made them hot, the sweet dadness was just a bonus, like a total 180 from being greasy and buying cheap beer. Also it’s like a fun little narrative: where is mom? Is she dead? Is he divorced? Is she doing other houserunning jobs right now? Is she at work? Is she in another part of the store? To see a mom alone with a kid — done all the time. But it’s still rare to see a dad alone with a kid. It's like a different kind of hot, like going to another country. If you're surrounded by Americans, many of whom are hot, you get used to it. But if you go to Italy, it's like, "Look at all these hot Italians!"
We can break down this appeal in any number of obvious generalizations about biology: Women want a secure, reliable, responsible partner who will stick around and help care for the baby. A hot dad is an evolutionary jackpot: good looking, obviously fertile (at least in the not-so-distant past) and here he is, not bolting after the baby comes out. Throw a decent pair of jeans on the fucker and a good pair of shoes and let's set aside ALL the awards for him, shall we?
According to this narrative, men look for signs of ultimate fertility, too (waist-hip ratio anyone?). And anyone who has had a baby knows that the burden of having one still falls more heavily on the woman, down to the literal weight of it.
So it amuses me that the study, which appeared in the Journal of Gender Studies, is actually titled "Why do men feel more attractive after childbirth?" Uh, maybe because they don't actually have to give birth? When I first had a baby, I felt like a sack of rusty mufflers. My husband, on the other hand, would take our infant daughter out to buy groceries and couldn't get enough offers of help, support, approval and admiration. Meanwhile, when I went out, I was often lugging my baby, two coffees, and car keys trying to get a door open, with people blazing right past me as if I was literally designed to be a mime advertising the human ability to hold many things alone.
I am trying to imagine what it would be like if both parents were at peak sexiness immediately after childbirth, and I have to say, it's unlikely the baby would survive. Something's gotta give, and it's usually your pee.
But in fairness, dads are giving more than ever. They are also really having their moment. They are more engaged than ever, more into it than ever, and it's more attractive than ever. Hipster dads are a thing, and they even have their own magazine, Kindling Quarterly, which may as well be called Hot Dad Quarterly. Some of them even see the ridiculous double standard in being praised to pieces for doing the same shit women do all the time, with virtually no recognition (or better yet, with only criticism in return).
So I'm inclined to say, let them have their hotness. There's nothing wrong with a benign incentive for stepping up to the plate, and if the notion of it being culturally appealing to be a good father sticks, that's a good thing for everyone. Still, I suspect that the more commonplace it becomes to see men out alone with their babies simply being parents (it's extremely common in Los Angeles), and the more that the bastion of inequality, the household, becomes more equal, that this whole hot dad phenomenon might seem less exotic — less like hot Italians — and more like regular American dudes doing the stuff they are supposed to be doing, and sometimes well. Some of whom will, let's face it, obviously be super hot anyway.
Besides, much like drugs that make us feel impervious to pain or a bad hair day, the postpartum bump in self-regard for men just after the birth of their children was short-lived: their feelings about their own hotness returned to the previous levels after about a year, meaning that once dads settled into to parenthood, they felt just as schlumpy as they always had. To which we say: Welcome to our world. And bring some coffee home, would you?