Being the DUFF

Ellbie Tronvik challenges the prominence of stereotyping in society by reflecting on her experiences.

Photo: Example of “The Duff” movie promotion, explaining the problematic trope.

If you look up the definition of the “DUFF” online, you get this:

DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

“Two hot chicks at a bar will have a really nasty fat ugly b***h hanging out with them, referred to as a “DUFF”.

“Wow that fat DUFF is hanging out with those two attractive ladies, too bad.”

I didn’t realise that this was a thing until I saw the movie “The Duff” from 2015, which opened my eyes to the term. Opening my eyes is maybe not the right phrase for it , because that term shouldn’t exist in my opinion, but it does. I thought we lived in a world where generalisation had stopped.

I’d started to believe that we lived in a new and better world: a place with no labels, and after this movie, somebody proved me wrong. Speaking from my own experience, I am definitely the “DUFF” of my group, I always have been. Someone tried to explain this to me once, and their attempt to make it sound like a good thing failed:

“It does not mean that you ARE fat or ugly, it just means that you are the least attractive in your group and that you are the key for others to get close to your hotter friends”.

I know, right? I felt so much better after hearing that. Not only were they calling me fat and ugly, but also telling me that the only reason people are talking to me is to get to my friends. Friends who apparently didn’t really care about me but were using use me and would throw me away, because I’m the “DUFF”.

My whole existence is to make my friends look better to boys? Well, that’s better than being called fat and ugly, right? I don’t think so, honey.

It was one of those movie moments. Your whole life is just falling apart right in front of your eyes and you don’t know what to do. My life hasn’t been plain sailing. I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, suicides, bullying and a boyfriend (now ex) that wasn’t very kind, to put it nicely. After all those struggles I’d kind of gotten my life together and was fairly happy, but there it went again, right in front of someone who didn’t really care.

So I went home, drank, cried and listened to sad music, as you do. The next few weeks I could hardly look at my friends. I was suspicious of anyone that came over and talked to me. Did they really want to talk to me, or were they just trying to get to my friends? Clubbing was (and still is, I’m more of a pub gal) horrible My friends would get boys grinding all over them, and I would have to stand there and dance by myself for a while. I didn’t want to be the cockblock or a party pooper – if they want to have some fun, I won’t stand in their way. Unless they give me a signal, then I’ll gladly do my job as their friend and guard.

Just once I wish it was the other way around, but it never has been. I’ve always been the friend that talks about boys I can’t have. I’ve learned that society has “rules”. The popular handsome one shouldn’t even be friends with a “DUFF”, never glance in their way because that’s just so humiliating. Must heaven fall to hell if they start dating? A “DUFF” shouldn’t even be allowed to date – their whole purpose would go to waste! Imagine the horror!

Being the “DUFF” shouldn’t be looked at as a bad thing– the term shouldn’t even exist. There will always be someone prettier, richer, smarter, more handsome and so on. Why should we always label things Labelling is just a method used by people so they can have control and make themselves look better by comparing themselves to someone that is different. Someone that is not “normal” ”. Just because someone thinks or looks a different way or dresses different, that doesn’t make them less human. Just because they have more insulation on their body, doesn’t make them more ugly. It just gives them more play doh to love and play with.

Everyone has one body and one soul, which make us all equal. This world has become too shallow. Most people focus on what’s on the outside instead of focusing on what’s on the inside and this film is about that very trap. I admit I fall for that trap myself sometimes, about others and myself. It’s all programmed into our brain, and it all starts in kindergarten, the first social place we experience. I am now in a process of getting rid of the stereotypical thoughts, and realise that they are wrong. Not only for others, but also for me. I’m trying really hard to accept myself and realize that I actually am enough and that I have no one to answer to about that.

If you still look at me and think “She’s their friend only so she can make them look better” – fine. If that’s what you want to think, I can’t do much about it. All I can do is not care, tell you that you’re wrong, be on my way and hope that you’ll see what damage it does and that it shouldn’t be that way – people shouldn’t judge one another. Why should my body shape and face decide how you look at me? Why should a label tell me who I should be friends with and not – especially who I should date or not? Why should one label tell me that I would end up alone because I don’t look a certain way or act a certain way?

All I can hope for is that I can be more confident after realising this. It will take time and some hard work, but it is so worth it. I hope anyone who has had a similar experience of being stereotyped or feeling like they don’t belong can also come to the same conclusions and realise that a label does not define you.

This world is what we make it, and we are the ones who have to live in it. So why make it such a hard world to live in for others, and for ourselves? Such a small thing – one word – can have such a huge impact on how somebody feels about his or her self, and society needs to stop letting this happen. This change has to start somewhere, and why not here? Why not now? There is always time for positive change, and there’s always room for compassion.