This article was originally published on Five Thôt.
Remember that old TV show “The Odd Couple”? There was an episode where Felix Unger (played by the inimitable Tony Randall) is trying to get out of a citation for scalping theater tickets. He cross-examines the complaining witness about whether he ever asked her for money for the tickets. “No,” she admits, “I just assumed…”
“Never assume!” Felix thunders. He goes to the court-room’s blackboard to explain. “When you ‘assume’, you make an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’!”
Clever wordplay aside, assumptions can be dangerous. It’s very easy to forget that they were assumptions and confuse what you’ve assumed with what you know.
But you only live once. Let’s live dangerously. Let’s throw caution to the wind and make some assumptions — and the riskiest kind: assumptions about men and women.
Assume that all other things being equal, men prefer skinnier women to fatter women.
Assume that rightly or wrongly, women believe that men prefer blondes to brunettes.
Assume that women want to be attractive to men.
All these things seem to be true in the general case. Kate Moss probably finds it easier to get dates than the incredibly talented and charming but zaftig Adele. More natural brunettes bleach their hair than blondes dye theirs dark. There are certainly exceptions and extreme cases, but they’re more true than not.
The odd consequence of these assumptions being true is blondes will be fatter than brunettes. Stick with me, because I’m not kidding here.
Before I explain why, let’s discuss another odd observation, one for which (unlike my theory, which I call the Chubby Blonde Hypothesis) I have empirical proof. This observation is, anti-lock brakes don’t save many lives.
Why should this be so? Obviously, if you need to make an emergency stop, you will stop faster and straighter with anti-lock brakes — confusingly called ABS for “Anti-lock Braking System” — than without. So they help, right?
Nope. Someone — two people, actually: Charles Kahane and Jennifer Dang at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — went and crunched the numbers. Cars equipped with ABS are not involved in significantly fewer injury- and fatality-producing accidents.
So something isn’t adding up. Why isn’t the ability to stop fast and straight keeping people from dying?
The problem it turns out is in the word “if”. If you need to make an emergency stop, ABS is a good thing and likely to save your life.
But the need to make emergency stops isn’t beyond the driver’s control. If the driver drives very cautiously, staying below the speed-limit, watching the road, maintaining a safe following distance, it’s unlikely he’ll ever have an emergency and need the ABS.
Which would be fine, except people hate staying below the speed-limit. We’re too busy to watch the road. I want to leadfoot it up to 70 MPH, texting my friends and tail-gating those idiots ahead of me in the Hyundai.
Without ABS, physics — plus the common psychological phenomenon known as “the fear of flaming death” — puts a damper on that sort of behavior. Sure, I don’t want to drive sensibly like a schnook, but I also don’t want the logo on my BMW’s steering wheel imprinting itself on my soft palate, so what the hell, I’ll slow down to 65.
With ABS, the calculation changes. The people who invented ABS thought I would drive the same speed, but at a lower level of risk. Screw that! I want to drive faster at the same level of risk. I get there sooner and I feel more macho doing it.
The mystery is solved. ABS would save lives, but drivers are just driving faster and less cautiously to compensate.
Incidentally, some people took these numbers to mean that ABS was useless. Those people, so far as I can tell, are the ones in the Hyundai ahead of me, going 50. ABS may not save me from dying per se but they do keep me from wasting my life putt-putting slowly down 101.
Which brings me back to the Chubby Blonde Hypothesis. Women would like to be attractive, but being skinny ain’t free in this society: you have to exercise, you have to pass on food you’d like to eat. Like the drivers who “spend” the additional safety provided by ABS driving recklessly, some women spend the extra attractiveness given by blonde hair on eating doughnuts.
Is the Chubby Blonde Hypothesis true? Not a clue. And I don’t care if it is. I am interested however in why it may be wrong. There’s nothing wrong with the math, but remember those things I told you you’d forget? The assumptions? Let’s go over those.
For example, women may not in fact care about being attractive to men. Arguably, any concern they have about their appearance might be about how they look to other women (which I would believe). Or they may not care at all (which I wouldn’t). Or they could have given up completely on the blonde/brunette thing. It is pretty dated.
It’s very difficult to test. Even if you could get a bunch of women to volunteer to be weighed — and I wouldn’t want to be the one to ask — you’d never be able to weed out other factors, like the fact that skinny women are more likely to be willing to stand on a scale in front of some jamoke with a clipboard, and how blondes are likely to have ancestry in Northern Europe and therefore be, as they always claimed, “big boned”.
Like I said, I don’t really care whether the Hypothesis is true or not. For one thing, I’m married.
To a slender brunette.