In 2002, my sixth grade class went on our big field trip around the state of Florida. We were supposed to go to Washington, D.C. but with the recent terrorist attacks, going out of state was not an option. One night in our hotel, the girls gathered in one room while the boys gathered in another. We talked to each other through walkie talkies. I don’t know why, but we were having the boys rank us. They went one by one and gave each one of us girls a number on a scale of 1 to 10 on how pretty we were.
As a feminist, I strongly protested this game, however, I did want to know where I ranked. When it got to me, I waited impatiently by the walkie talkie. Then it came. The number that killed me.
“Rachel’s a 3.”
I was labeled a 3 out of 10. I was below average. The one girl on the trip I knew for sure I was prettier than got a 7. Was I wrong the whole time? Was what I was looking at in the mirror actually disgusting? Had I grown to love it only because I had to face it everyday? All these insecurities started filling my body.
Later, I asked my friend about the rankings. He told me they purposefully ranked the girl I thought was uglier than me high because it was a funny joke. However, this still didn’t explain why I was labeled a 3. Also, what kind of joke is that? I was a 3 and there was no denying that would stick with me for the rest of my life.
I’ve always thought I wasn’t pretty enough. I’m constantly surrounding myself with beautiful people and it doesn’t help. My sister is the pretty one with all the good exotic genes and better metabolism. My best friend Emilee is the prettiest girl in the world. And now most of my friends are actors and comedians so they’re all beautiful AND funny. I just cannot win.
When I was little, I imagined high school would be this glorious place where I had a wonderful boyfriend and lots of cool friends. However, when I actually got to high school, I was met year after year with unrequited love. I would have a crush on a boy and slowly realize that boy wanted nothing to do with me. No wonder, I was a 3.
Junior year, I remember this boy started flirting with me. I thought maybe he liked me. I wasn’t interested in him, but I could give it a shot. One night, I was driving him somewhere because he didn’t have a car or a license. “Hey There Delilah” came on the radio and he told me he would play me this song on the guitar. I realized this is it – someone likes me. I’m not a 3!
We drove to the beach to meet up with some people. We were sitting in my car and I thought he was going to ask me out, but then it happened. He started to talk about Emilee. He wanted to know if she had a boyfriend and “What her deal was.” That’s when I realized I was being DUFF’d.
A DUFF is the designated ugly fat friend. The person you befriend to get closer to her “hot” friends. There’s actually a movie called The DUFF, and when I went to see it alone in a small New York City movie theater, I bawled my eyes out. The two other people in the theater gave me looks, but I couldn’t control myself. It was supposed to be a comedy, but that shit was real. I was a DUFF. I am a DUFF.
The summer before my senior year, I went to a camp and I met a boy who was really nice to me. I wasn’t romantically interested, but I thought we could be best friends. I’m always looking for those! When we got back, he went to a different school and we still talked. I wanted to attend his school’s homecoming dance because a lot of my friends were going, so I asked if he could buy me a ticket. We didn’t even have to go together, I just wanted a ticket.
He obliged, but then immediately stopped talking to me. Someone else actually gave me the ticket, and at the dance he avoided me like the plague. We never talked again and he unfollowed me from every form of social media. I just wanted to be this guy’s friend, but I think he assumed a 3 liked him and he wanted to make it very, very clear he was not interested. Message received, dude.
I have a million stories like these that confirm my insecurities. Over and over again, I am rejected and humiliated for being a 3. There’s constantly a battle in my head when I look at myself in the mirror. I tell myself You look good today, but then the demons scream louder with historical evidence proving otherwise.
I have never had a real boyfriend. I constantly hear my friends talk about their dating lives and I don’t know how to relate. I don’t date and I don’t think I want to. I think I missed the train on trying it long ago and now I’m just so uncomfortable with the idea of it. I also don’t think relationships should ever be a signifier of how gorgeous you are. I’ve seen plenty of beautiful single people and lots of hard-to-look-at couples, but I do think confidence has a major hand in why I have been single my whole life.
If I had never been told I was a 3 when I was in sixth grade, perhaps my life would have been different. I can talk about “what if” all day, but the reality of the situation is I was told I was a 3. I have worked hard to prove otherwise, but life keeps confirming what that group of stupid boys told me.
But I’m okay with it now. I’ve learned to love my number, and because I am a 3 this is what’s happened:
1. I have worked my butt off to have other things to offer to the world besides just good looks.
2. I’m able to have guy friends and comfortably know they don’t secretly want to sleep with me.
3. I can walk around town and not get sexually harassed as much. I say “as much” because we all get sexually harassed no matter what number we are.
4. I know girls aren’t intimidated by me because I can’t steal their boyfriend even if I tried.
5. I can wear whatever I want. It doesn’t matter what I throw on my body, I still have a 3 face.
6. I don’t have to wear makeup because even if I did it wouldn’t hide anything.
And the best part is that I know it can’t get any worse, but could possibly get better. I got that going for me.
I am a 3 and if Schoolhouse Rock! taught me anything, it’s that 3 is a magic number! Oh, yes it is!