WARNING: This post contains photos which some readers may find disturbing – they’re certainly making me cringe!
A while ago now, I watched a film on Netflix called “The Duff”. Maybe you’ve already seen it, but just in case you haven’t it’s a romantic comedy about a girl who finds out that she is the Duff in her social group – the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. It’s actually a really good film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of the teen rom-coms I watched as a kid, such as 10 Things I hate about you and She’s All That, but with a slightly modern edge.
As I watched the film, I couldn’t help thinking. Am I The Duff?
I certainly always felt like it at school. I was never particularly “popular” at school, whatever exactly that means. After a very rocky start, I (very luckily) met my soon-to-be best friend and fell in with her group of friends – the “Arts” crowd. We were the kids who were always in the school productions, the concerts and the dance competitions. We were slightly nerdy (possibly a lot nerdy) and on the more studious side of the spectrum. There were sleepovers, murder mystery parties and general antics. It was fun.
Still, I sometimes couldn’t help but feel that I was only included because I was Faith’s friend. It wasn’t that they didn’t like me. Just that they probably wouldn’t have made an effort to invite me places without her. This changed a bit as we got older and our social groups developed and I eventually made a few very good friends. It didn’t quite stop that little niggle in the back of my mind, though.
According to the movie, The Duff doesn’t necessarily have to be ugly, or fat. She (or he) is just usually the least attractive or popular person in the group. It’s very easy to feel like that’s you when your best friend is pretty, thin, clever and talented. Oh, and generally very nice and easy to get on with. Meanwhile, I was a short, curvy, sarcastic bundle of rage who had learnt that a good offence is the best defence. I was probably more than a tad prickly and probably scared a lot of people away. It was a coping mechanism, but maybe not everyone saw that.
In the movie, the lead character casts off her “hotter” friends in an attempt to find her own way. Although there were definitely moments of jealousy from my end, it would never have occurred to me to break off our friendship. As far as I was concerned Faith had rescued me from a life of sitting in the background and I was happy to tag along for the ride. Over the years she has been more like a sister to me than a friend, so it’s a good job I kept her around. Now, as an adult, I wouldn’t be without her, but I’d probably need a separate post to tell you why! Or possibly a novel.
In the film, people often use the Duff as an excuse to get closer to the hot friends. I can certainly relate to that feeling. One particular occasion that sticks in my memory was the last day of school, when a boy (who I had openly fawned over for years) told me that the only reason he’d kissed me goodbye was so that he could do the same to her and not draw attention to himself. Ouch. Talk about tactless.
The same boy bumped into me in a club some years later and said, and I quote “If it’s any consolation, you’re a lot better now than you were then”. Hmmm, not really, mate but well done for digging a deeper hole. Needless to say, I no longer hold a torch for that particular old flame.
It’s been a long-standing joke with Mr Mess that one of the main reasons I married him was because he met me and Faith on the same day and actually noticed ME!
Without wanting to spoil the end of the film for you, the main character eventually gets to grips with her “Duff-ness” and learns to embrace who she is. I like to think I’ve done the same. Over the years, I’ve kind of grown into myself, both physically and mentally, and I’m much more comfortable with who I am now. I’ve learned what suits me (and what really doesn’t!). I’m much happier in my own skin.
Much more importantly than that though, I’ve learned that it really doesn’t matter how I am perceived by the whole world. If people looking at me want to think I’m the Duff in the group, that’s their business. I know what I have to offer, and luckily for me, so do my friends (Faith included) If I don’t quite meet up with modern day standards, I have plenty of people who love me anyway and those are the only people who I really give a damn about!