Despite almost a decade of research and millions of pounds of funding, scientists at Loughborough University’s Department of Nuptial Studies have admitted that they have yet to find a satisfactory answer to a question that has vexed married men for centuries: ‘do you think she looks pretty?’.
‘It’s a conundrum that can be sprung on a husband at any time,’ explained lead scientist Michael Stevens, ‘it could arise while watching the television, at the wedding of a friend or relative, or even while trying to look inconspicuous holding a handbag outside the ladies’ changing room in Monsoon. And the reaction caused by a miscalculation can be explosive. It’s no wonder so many of my colleagues prefer to closet themselves away in the less controversial areas of the Large Hadron Collider and human cloning.’
The question, known in scientific circles as Hemmingway’s Slapped Face Conundrum, was initially postulated in 1869 by Professor Theodore Hemmingway, a prominent academic subjected to a scandalous divorce case after replying ‘compared with your countenance, Madam, the Grand Old Man Gladstone is a veritable stunnah.’ Yet it would not be the subject of in-depth study until the then-married Dr Stevens initiated the Nuptial Studies programme in 2001, after a particularly trying morning at home watching the omnibus of Hollyoaks.
Thousands of volunteer couples have since undergone a series of role-play based scenarios to test the efficacy of suitable retorts, but with little success. Results have shown that ‘ooh look at those lovely geraniums’ results in, at best, a frosty silence, and is usually undermined by the male subject’s sudden onset drooling; the catty ‘not in that trouser suit, dear,’ only diverts the wife’s suspicions to other elements of the husband’s proclivities which, when combined with an admission of quite liking Bette Midler, can lead to quiet weeping and suggestions ‘it’s like uncle Kevin all over again’. Meanwhile the low-point of the entire programme followed 2006 testing of the ‘well she’s not as attractive as your sister’ rejoinder, after which the entire lab had to be evacuated.
Despite these setbacks Dr Stevens is confident that his work will continue. ‘There’s an entire universe of loaded questions we need to explore,’ he insisted, ‘this work won’t be completed until man can be secure in answering the other big questions like ‘does this make me look fat?’, ‘if I died would you re-marry?’ and ‘have you been wearing my underwear again?’.
17th August 2010