I am all weepy, watching an old episode of Ugly Betty. Betty’s teenage nephew, Justin, has just been rejected by his best friend because he doesn’t fit in with the best friend’s posse of jocks.
Justin is a secondary character in the show. He’s also one of the most remarkable characters on television. He is a full-on pink boy, portrayed without apology, explanation, or mockery.
Justin’s mom, Hilda, a hairdresser from Queens who favors skin-tight, low cut animal-print dresses, knows a few things about the world. She tells Justin that he is perfect—that it’s the jocks’ problem, not his.
When Justin protests, his mother says: “No sweetie, you listen to me. YOU are perfect. But you’re gonna meet a lot of stupid people in your life and they’re just not going to get you. All that matters is that you never, for a second, change who you are.”
That’s when the tears start.
Hilda sees the boys’ bigotry, and she knows it is not about her son. The beauty of her speech lies in the way she offers Justin a path to self-respect. She teaches him that he should never allow others to make him feel less than whole and perfect. It’s not you, she tells him, it’s them.
I love this show.
(For a story about what it’s like for teenage boys like Justin to go to school, see yesterday’s “Can a Boy Wear a Skirt to School?” in the New York Times Style section by Jan Hoffman—no relation.)