I got out of the mentality that my ‘ugliness’ protected my prettier friends.
My friends and I have known each other for more than a decade, and through those years of joy, tears, fights, reconciliation and love, never have I been comfortable in my own skin.
We didn’t really have ‘body positivity’ back then (we’re all in our early 30’s okay? The oldest set of millennials, if you will), and god knows my friends would never make fun of the way I looked; it was all just me you know? I kept putting it into my head that I was the ‘ugly’ friend, and it didn’t help either that as we were navigating the volatile waters of pre-teenhood that a lot of our peers seemed to agree.
My gorgeously long-legged, athletic, and well-dressed best friends were always getting invites to parties and dates, and I was just sort of the on the scene because they wanted me to come along. People remembered me as the friend of so-and-so, and not really as my own person.
I guess I could fault society and the culture that I grew up in at the time with my generation’s attitude towards valuing appearances much more than depth, but I also ravenously consumed movies, books, and other art that had the unlikely heroine coming out on top: she who everyone sought to change and make her conform, but she managed to rise to the situation by being her own person.
Well, not me. Not for a long time.
When we hit our partying phase, I somehow had it in my head that since I was sooooo unattractive, I would be my friends’ protectors from unwanted advances; you know, coming in between them and creepy grinding dudes on the dance floor, raising a ruckus when things got a little too aggressive, and even flat out challenging a guy to a fist fight.
All this because I thought it was my place as the ‘ugly’ friend, not realizing at the time that women of all sorts of appearances had to look out for each other.
You can say epiphany came in the form of one of my best friends, who, as we stumbled drunkenly to her door one night coming from a club, cupped my hand to her face and said “I wish I could be half of the amazing person that you are,” before she passed out on the couch, still holding my hand and smiling contentedly.
I was dumbstruck. Didn’t this part-time model, high school track superstar who once dated a Brazilian football player see how high up on the spectrum of amazing she was?!
I spent a long time brooding over why she thought I was an amazing person. I could have flat out asked her of course, but I figured that might just be fishing for compliments.
I looked in the mirror one night, and you know what, slowy, I could see it. Physically, I was OK; I was relatively healthy, I had great teeth, thick hair, and dare I say, ample enough breasts. But then I took a look at the pictures of me and my friends washi taped on my mirror, and I could see what ‘amazing’ meant.
I was fiercely loyal, I loved each one of them to bits, and hated when guys acted gross around them. I did the things I did for them because I thought it was my ‘place’ as the ‘ugly’ friend, but in truth, I did it for them because I loved them, and that’s how friends, women especially, should be towards each other.
And that was the moment I realized, nobody is anybody’s ‘ugly’ friend.