Despite almost a decade of research and millions worth of pounds funding, scientists at Loughborough University's Department of Nuptial Studies have admitted that they have yet to find a satisfactory answer to the age-old question 'do you think she looks pretty?'
According to department head Dr. Michael Stevens, 'Do you think she looks pretty?' is a question that has vexed married men for centuries. 'It's like a mathematical formulae where the answer looks like it should be obvious, but in fact is far more elusive than was first thought. It is one of those intractable problems that plagues even the most harmonious of relationships.'
'Do you think she looks pretty?' or Hemmingway's Slapped Face Conundrum, was initially postulated by Professor Theodore Hemmingway, the first academic ever to be divorced on the question's basis after responding to the challenge with 'compared to you I'd rather dally with Gladstone, let along her,' in 1857. 'The need for a correct answer was quickly impressed upon married male scientists,' said Dr. Stevens, 'and that need is still as pressing today.'
'Millions of men have been caught out by the conundrum - it can spring upon you at any time - whilst watching a famous female television or film personality, attending the wedding of a friend or relative of your spouse or even when passing by a random young woman whilst out shopping.'
Since Dr. Stevens initiated research back in 2001, thousands of volunteer couples have undergone a series of role-play based scenarios, each designed to test the efficacy of suitable retorts. 'Sadly the results are always disappointing,' Dr. Stevens revealed, 'from 'no, she doesn’t do anything to me,' to 'not in that trouser suit dear,' nothing seems to assuage the resultant slow-burn of indignation from one's good lady wife - it's like being strapped to a road and watching a juggernaut coming towards you in slow motion.'
The research team have also discovered that distraction tactics, so often used during matrimonial tension, fail to provide an adequate solution: 'Results have shown that 'ooh look at those lovely geraniums' merely results in at best a frosty silence, and who can forget the disastrous 'well she's not as attractive as your sister' rejoinder, after which the entire lab had to be evacuated.'
Despite the announcement of sweeping cutbacks in government science grants, Dr. Stevens is confident that his work will continue. 'It's imperative that we maintain the pace of research - the entire fabric of social harmony depends upon it. We desperately need to diffuse this loaded question - only then can we go on to rid the world of such other evils as: 'does this make me look fat?, 'do you mind if mother comes to stay for a while?' and 'have you been wearing my underwear again?'.