When I was eighteen someone told me I was the ugly friend. Just like that. I don’t know why he said it. Maybe he was cruel. Maybe he believed it and wanted to make me understand my crime of having such beautiful friends. Maybe he was just a thoughtless person who said thoughtless things. I don’t know.
Later, much later, that boy went insane. In a very literal way. He was too young for his mind to decay. But it did.
So while I could be mad about the things he said to me when he was careless and young, I mostly feel sad that someone so smart became so broken and said hurtful things and then lost his mind.
Dear gentle readers, there are ugly, silly things that we carry around inside. All of us. Shit that someone somewhere said when we were eighteen or eight or last week. Small hurts and big hurts. And hurts that seem so insignificant that we forget all about them until ten years later we’re sitting in the movie theater by ourselves, weeping helplessly during a teenage movie called, “The Duff.”
In all my writing, I try to be fairly honest with you because I believe that there’s sanity in sharing your insanity. Solidarity in sharing the shit that you think makes you lonely. And good laughs to be had by all. That one is really important. I’m coming to realize that we take ourselves too seriously.
I don’t know why but I feel compelled to share this story. Maybe I’m hoping you can search deep for those little hidden hurts and start to reverse that damage. It’s also my hope that this will help us become closer to being whole, loved humans.
When this boy, the one who eventually lost his mind, told me I was the ugly friend, I scoffed it off. Truly I did. I didn’t cry. Or pout. I simply turned to another friend (a beautiful friend, it’s true) and said, “What a fucking douche.”
And it was over. I grew up into a fairly confident, self-assured woman who thinks she has a great body that men want to see naked.
Except it wasn’t over.
Because that day, he had planted the baby seed of a “hurt” plant that I unknowingly watered, so deeply buried and forgotten that I didn’t even know it was there until I was compelled to see “The Duff.”
“DUFF” stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend. That this word exists at all is proof that humanity still has some growing up to do.
I can’t explain why I wanted to see that movie. So badly that I went by myself. It must have connected somewhere to the hidden baby hurt plant deep, deep in the heart of my eighteen-year-old self.
So I sat in the movie theater alone, eating popcorn. When the movie was over, I cried silent tears. When everyone left, I cried noisy tears. Then I went to the bathroom and cried until my whole body was shaking and I couldn’t cry anymore. Because that dumb, stupid teen movie resonated on such an unfair level.
But even then, I didn’t understand the deeply planted seed of hurt. It wasn’t until four months later, when I was sitting in a taxicab, that I began to connect the dots. I can’t explain why my mind began to wander the way it did to that stupid, stupid movie. To the careless words of the boy who eventually lost his mind.
I remembered these things…
I remembered being at a bachelorette party with four of my closest female friends. Each one more beautiful than the last. The kind of women who make jaws drop when they walk in the room (though they would never admit it, because they are also kind, wonderful, and humble women). A group of four men approached the five of us and started flirting. One of them was sitting across from my friend and me, talking equally to both of us when I thought, “He probably wishes he was just talking to her.” So I got up and went to the bathroom.
I remembered that when I moved to NYC, I had a strict rule that I wouldn’t date anyone who hit on my roommate first. The night I met handsome, talented Darren, he so attentively hit on me and so intentionally ignored her. I was so absurdly happy about it. Two years after we broke up, I was drunk one night and texted him, “Thank you for never hitting on Lindsay.” TWO YEARS LATER. That’s how deeply buried and important that hurt plant had become.
When I remembered these things I felt profoundly sad for the part of me that felt this way. For the part of me that listened to an eighteen-year-old boy and made a subconscious agreement with his words. For the years I spent not feeling pretty enough because someone somewhere said something silly and planted a hurt seed.
And just like I did in the movie theater, I cried. For the part of me that suffered so needlessly for watering that seed.
The good news is that awareness can also lead to change. Because I also felt deep compassion. For myself. For the young girl still finding her way and navigating through the sometimes murkiness of life.
So I decided to have a new thought.
“I am not the ugly friend,” I said.
“I AM NOT the ugly friend,” I repeated with more conviction.
I said it again.
Again. Once more.
Three times more.
Seven times more.
I said it like it was some sort of pesticide that could kill the baby hurt seed planted so many years ago. I said it like my life depended on it. And maybe it did. Maybe future me needed to believe those words to go on and be a whole, loved human being.
And gentle readers, that’s what I wish for you.
Find your hurt seed (though there are probably many).
Maybe an old girlfriend once told you that you weren’t good at giving massages. Or a teacher placed you in a class below your true learning level. Or your mom said you were selfish. Or your music teacher said you had a bad voice. Or a lover told you that you were bad in bed. Or had a poor sex drive. Or your brother told you your business idea was stupid. Or your boss implied you were failing. Or your well-intentioned friend joked about you being tall. Or slow. Or nonathletic. Or untalented.
Or they called you ugly. They called you “whale or fatty.” They called you the weird kid. They made fun of your acne, your scars, your speech impediment, your limp.
Someone somewhere told you that you weren’t good enough.
And you subconsciously, on such a deep and bizarrely primal level agreed with them. So you planted a hurt seed that you’ve watered all these stupid years.
Find your hurt seed.
Dig deep. Grab that son-of-a-bitch out by its stupid, annoying roots. Claw at it like your life depends on it. Like your future happiness depends on it. Wedge your beautiful, nimble fingers below those ugly, twisted roots.
Then rip that motherfucking hurt seed right out of your big, wonderful heart.