What It Feels Like To Be The Duff

By Nikki Rigney // As Told to Lauren Bluthardt

“Middle school was the best,” they would say. When you looked like a beaver who dyed her hair one too many times, that statement changed. Because when you looked at me – which I doubt you had, cause man oh man, I surely wouldn’t have – you saw a girl who craved popularity. A girl who strived to be in that circle. A person who shook her mental stability for middle school fame. And if you did happen to see me, you would probably only see her. Her being the go-to, wanna be, “I’m pretty and I pretend I don’t know it,” girl. We all know one, and we’ve all felt like the decrepit, murky sack behind her back. You see the black, foolish blob? Probably me and probably you too, at some  point. I know I should have seen it coming. I mean, we all have felt it. Her one layer of mascara equaled three of mine. Her buoyant personality continued to sink mine.

I definitely need one more layer of concealer.

Boys saw her first, boys asked about her first. I get it, she’s pretty. Every time you mentioned her name I continued to beat myself up for it. I was being submerged at home by a merciless shadow of fear. And on top of that, deflated by you. It wasn’t the way you treated me, but the way I treated myself around you. The way I kept my voice sheltered and how my body seemed to want to mold to your figure. But the more I tried through the years, the more I realized how concrete I was becoming. I desired what she had. She could walk into a room and like owls, heads spun to catch a glimpse of her glorious figure. I definitely wanted that. And with rounded eyes I saw all, felt all and realized how disconnected I felt. Or in reality, how self conscious I felt being around her. We walked side by side for years, but to this day I can’t seem to get her name out of my head. For every time I heard that seven letter word, I continued to fall deeper into my thoughts of insecurity.

It was at this moment that I realized I am the DUFF. I am officially the designated ugly, fat friend. The one who is continuously shadowed from the social hierarchy. The person who doesn’t truly exist.

Just a few more curls.

“Hey, beaver head.”

I was on a different level, I could see it when I looked in the mirror, but you wouldn’t know that feeling. For a mirror was as distant a thought as how oblivious she was to the attention she drew. Boys were her mirror. Friends were her mirror; everyone looked back at her in awe, and everyone who looked back at me saw nothing. Boys came to me to talk about her. I get it, she’s pretty. I was just the caved-in wall, where she was the stainless steel spine. Just like a storm, I was basically the cracked memories of the past that became destroyed, and she was the eye.

I desired to have her charm. We all knew the chains suffocating my teeth wouldn’t bring any invitations like the flip of her hair did. Yet there she stand, having not a care in the world. For she had half the amount of the self-ruining, black shadow of insecurity that I had. Your mind is content, but mine continues to falter. But still, I desired to be her. When group projects were assigned, she had a group and I was in it of course; invisible. But was I really? We could have been locked in a small room together and I would still feel like I was on the outside. This stuff felt like it mattered.

“Dang, that girl is cool.”

Not me, but her.

Maybe one more curl.

The desperation in my eyes was masked with layers of mawkish soot while the Milky Way rendition adorned yours with grace. I was the “best friend” and the “go-to” until those words held miniscule meaning. Of course I beat myself up over it; I damaged my own self in the process of striving for a figure I wasn’t meant to have. I was so infatuated with the way you stole the show that I forgot to focus on myself. You were the main event and here I was, the shadow in the back pulling the strings for you. I kept pulling the strings harder, wishing the strings controlled me as well. I kept pushing myself further and further until I had only my thoughts left. And that’s when I realized, I can be pretty; I will be pretty.

People say new beginnings are as cheesy as cheddar, but seriously, I realized the summer of 2015 was going to become pretty dope.  I was seperated from my best friend, the one who “ruled the school” and killed the game of life, but I found out that without her, I’m even stronger. She was not me, but rather an add on to me, a person who accompanied me in life as my best friend, not a confidence killer. As sophomore year rolled in, little did I know I would find someone special. It was that once in a lifetime type of obsession. In that moment I realized someone does notice, someone does care, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

I brushed out the curl that day, and I came to the conclusion that I sure as hell am not the DUFF. The idea of the friend who is only talked to and used as a safety vest in societal ways has now been redefined in my head. Reality smashed into me hard, breaking the chains of societal norms and the pressure I put on myself to be the best, to be her. It doesn’t matter what I look like, who I am, or more importantly who I was. Shoot, I am carefree as hell, and I wouldn’t change a thing.