The U.G.L.Y. Club
“Harvey understands what Harvey wants to understand.” Shelly defensively placed a hand on her hip and looked down her nose at Gavin.
Gavin paused for a beat, looked her in the eyes, and replied,
“Meaning he understands nothing?”
I bit my lip, anxiously. Come on audience...laugh like the good little audience that you are.
The dark, high school auditorium remained silent.
Ok, so I’m no Tina Fey.
Sitting back in my seat, which was on the very front row of the theater, I was grateful for the darkness.
In the dark, no one would be able to the embarrassment on my very red face.
So far the audience had laughed once and so far there had been a total of twenty jokes in my script.
Shelly crossed stage left and Gavin followed her like a puppy.
“Why are you always so worried about Harry?” He asked, giving her a flirtatious look.
“Why do you think?” She shot back at him, rolling her eyes.
I had to hand it to the two of them. As bad as my script and directing apparently were, they were really hanging in there with the acting. Totally believable.
Watching my best friend Gavin onstage was like watching a Robert Downy Jr. acceptance speech at an awards show, you feel silly sitting in your seat and watching him with that stupid smirk on your face because come on- the guy’s like a million years old… yet you continue to smirk like a dofus and even turn to glance knowingly at your friends because you know they’re all thinking the exact same thing you’re thinking.
So…how does that rambling sentence compare to my best friend Gavin?
Well, Gavin is the sweetest guy I’ve ever known.
He’s easily amused, amusing, easy to talk to, and very easy on the eyes (as you read this expertly-crafted sentence of mine, I bet you're shocked that the audience didn't laugh at my script).
What makes Gavin different is that up until two years ago, he was a geeky little butterball.
When ninth grade rolled around and my friend strolled through the doors of South Louisiana High School, girls passed out and dramatic theme music played, also he walked in slow motion. But as we passed out (notice that I include myself), he picked us up off the floor and told us to stop it.
OK, that never actually happened…but I’m using it as a metaphor to help you understand just how kind Gavin is. I’ve never met another guy like him and I think it has something to do with the fact that he’s grown up with three younger sisters who he’s very close to. I think this led to him treating girls like equals instead of dispensable objects.
Another thing is that…well, he’s not afraid to hang out with me and my other best friend Misty.
Misty and I don’t exactly sit at the “cool table” during lunch time.
Even the “average table” gives us dirty looks when we try to sneak two seats at their table.
Actually, we're not even "normal" enough to sit inside of the cafeteria.
So, we tell ourselves that it's more fun to eat outside, and actually it kind of is...
Ok, I’ll just be straight up about this.
There’s a specific oak tree in the front of the school that Misty and I (and occasionally Gavin and Shelly) sit under during lunch. We have a little sign that we put on the oak tree which says,
“The U.G.L.Y. Club”
I know… I know…
There’s a reason for this and it has nothing to do with low self esteem, believe me.
In ninth grade while my best friend Gavin was slowly transforming into Zac Efron’s hotter twin, I, on the other hand, was having the opposite transformation.
My face suddenly broke out, I gained twenty pounds, and my dad lost his job meaning that my already dubious fashion sense took a nosedive and landed head first in an algae infested swamp as my penny-pinching family and I were now forced to shop at the not-so-trendy stores.
So, as an overweight, acne-ridden, and slovenly dressed ninth grader, I sat in history class wishing I could up and disappear as the teacher called roll,
That’s right, my last name is Yugle.
And it is pronounced exactly the way you think it is.
Do you see where I’m going with this? If not, don't worry, I'll explain what's happening:
As the teacher called my name, one of the football jocks named Harold, mustered all of his brain power and used this almost non existent force of nature to make a joke,
“Ha Ha! Her last name sounds like Ugly! Laurel Ugly.”
I know. Hilarious, right?
And difficult to think of. That’s the most amazing thing about Harold’s joke… the fact that he found humor in something so concealed.
Football players are amazing when it comes to intellect.
When the entire class laughed, I blushed and didn’t quite know what to do with myself.
From then on, whenever Harold saw me in the halls, he’d throw me a huge grin and shout,
“What up Ugly?”
I could hear the laughter trailing behind me as I sped up in an attempt to quickly leave his presence.
Eventually, it became not only Harold, but the entire football team…and then it became the entire school.
Being that Harold’s insult was catching on, I decided to deal with it like a true comedy-writer.
I would be ironic and self-deprecating.
It works for Sarah Silverman, so why couldn’t it work for me?
Albeit, I’m not pretty, Jewish, wealthy, or even all that funny, but I figured what other options did I have than to just go with it?
Besides, my best friend Misty agreed that acceptance was the best policy when it came to such situations (considering the fact that in ninth grade Misty was 6’3, sporting a bad perm, and only slightly less acne-ridden than I was, I figured I could trust her advice in this sort of circumstance).
So, with assistance from Misty and her excellent t-shirt making skills, I created a shirt that said “I Am U.G.L.Y.” on the front and “Unquestionably Gifted, Likable, & a million times cuter than You!” on the back.
I walked with my head held high as people did double takes, some giggled, others didn’t notice at all. In fact, I’d say about 75 % of people completely didn’t notice.
But I felt better about the whole Ugly thing and when people shouted out,
I could give whoever it was a sincere smile and say,
“Right back at ya!”
Despite my “U.G.L.Y.” factor, Gavin still found me worthy of his friendship, which…is pretty amazing for a guy.
Coming out of my thoughts, I watched Gavin grab Shelly’s hand and spin her around before dipping her.
Shelly gasped and I frowned because that little move wasn't in the script.
Leaning towards her, he lowered his voice to a stage whisper and said,
“As disgusting as your breath is right now, I’d love to kiss you.”
Ok...neither was that line.
I gulped and glanced across the way at my drama teacher.
Ms. Finch knew my script like the back of her hand and I really hoped she wouldn’t kill Gavin…actually I hoped she wouldn’t have both of our heads for such a massive deviation from the approved script.
Ms. Finch smiled.
I relaxed and suddenly felt a nudge in my ribs.
“They’re laughing!!” Misty whispered, continuing to nudge me with her elbow.
Glancing around the darkened theater, I saw that Misty was right.
Ms. Finch wasn’t the only person in the audience who was smiling, everyone was!
Here and there, I even heard a few titters of laughter.
Relaxing, I felt a smile make it’s way to my lips and allowed my gaze to return to Gavin, on stage.
Gavin lightly kissed Shelly and then standing her upright, he smacked his lips together,
“ So, I'm guessing you had the cafeteria’s tuna for lunch?”
Shelly grinned and went with it,
“No, actually I didn’t eat lunch. But Harvey did and he had tuna.”
They were so off script.
‘But,’ I thought as I watched my best friend flash a toothy grin, his blue eyes sparkling in the stage lights, ‘I don’t mind at all.’
"What were you thinking?" Leaning against the oak tree, I ate a spoonful of my yogurt and looked expectantly at Gavin.
The yogurts bitter taste suddenly engulfed my taste buds and it must have shown on my face.
Gavin laughed as he flopped down in the grass next to Misty,
"Why do you eat that stuff if you don't like it?"
Forcing myself to swallow the diet-yogurt with live, active cultures, I shrugged.
"We're women, we do lots of things we don't want to do for the sake of our looks. Its what being a woman is all about." Shelly's voice came into earshot as she apparently had walked up behind me.