Hi. My name is Sarah. I’m 30-something years old… And I’m a DUFF.
For the most part, I’ve gone through life believing I was no different than the company I kept. My friends were my friends because of who we were—not what we looked like. But looking back, were there clues that pinpointed my DUFF-dom status?
To examine this case study, I present four examples from my past.
When I was a newly launched college freshman, my (older) boyfriend sent me to my first fraternity party with a warning. “Guys always know the ugly girls have the hottest friends.” Whaaaat? The pure manipulation of such a comment is palpable. Yet, at that tender age, I accepted it. I should’ve dumped him on the spot, but I didn’t. It took me two more years. His warning, however, I never forgot. Was this my introduction into DUFF-dom?
Case Point 2 – The House of the Hotties
Despite an auspicious beginning, I had a wonderful collegiate experience. Full of typically clichéd intelligent, theater and music students who were “good kids” that wore a lot of overalls. I settled into a group of TRULY amazing girlfriends who just happened to be beautiful. I saw them as silly, vibrant women who had no problem farting and laughing. But I will never forget the day that a guy friend—let’s call him Dan-- told me I lived in “the Hot House.” He made the comment in jest but I read between the lines. My roomies were hot and everyone knew it. They were desired, and I was the funny one along for the ride. Was THAT a sign of my DUFF Flag Flying?
Case Pont 3 – Viva Las Veg-Duf
At 24 I moved to Las Vegas, set out to make my own path. I shoved my toes into the cracks of doors and flung them wide open. Despite looking different, I felt strong and powerful. I knew I was pre-judged but that never stopped me. I never stood in the corner and waited for permission, for someone to decide I was worthy. I talked my way into jobs in entertainment public relations and marketing. Here I lived life behind the velvet rope. Guest lists, bottle service and industry privilege. I was associated with people who were beautiful and desirable, and I was ingratiated into their world. I never once questioned if I fit in. I simply made a place for myself. It wasn’t until one night at an industry mixer that I looked around the room and realized that I was the only plus-size woman working in Las Vegas entertainment PR. No joke. The absolute only one. Wait… Hold on---- Was I the DUFF OF LAS VEGAS? (gasp)
Case Point 4 – The Modelizers
I have spent the last few years working within the plus-fashion industry. I’ve become close to some incredibly beautiful plus-size models and industry folks. When they tower over me with their 5’11”, curvaceous bodies and full-lipped pouty smiles, I don’t think I’m any worse then they are because I stand a paltry 5’4”, unblessed to have their natural stunning looks… Then I remember the guy I met on line who on our second date blatantly hit on my friend, asked for an introduction, then declared he never liked me anyway. Or the countless men I encounter in the world of online dating who, when seeing a picture of me with those I love, exclaim a little TOO enthusiastically, “wow, your friends are HOOOOT!” Was this the Duff Evidence I was searching for?
I called Dan the other day—my House of the Hotties friend- and we had a long chat. He confirmed to me what I suspected all along. The idea of a DUFF is simply a tool.
“The thing is, Sapora,” he explained, “is that all that had less to do with you and more to do with ME. That was a way for my 19-year-old self to put my sh*t out there and justify it with a label. Because, sometimes that’s what people do to survive. They label others. Because without those labels, they can’t figure themselves out.”
People come in all shapes, sizes and colors. I don’t think there is harm in recognizing our differences. I refuse to live in a world where acknowledging our differences is so taboo that it makes us desire some homogenous ideal of Beauty. I hate the eggshells we walk on when describing one another. Like women of size who you can’t mutter the word “fat” around, even though it’s just a descriptor. (It’s a word, people, just a word!) Physical descriptors are just that---- observations. Descriptors don’t determine our worth. It’s what we do with them that can get us into trouble.
People are different.
Weighing all this, there is only one conclusion I can draw. Call me a DUFF if you will. I can’t stop you. And, I assure you, it won’t stop me. I know who I am. Who you are, and how you see me, has nothing to do with me… And everything to do with you.