Being emo

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Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood.

I stand out at Paul Robeson High School in Englewood, where I am a freshman. It’s not always easy.

One recent day, I walked in the lunchroom and everyone yelled out, “Freak!” and called me a Satanist. I ended up not even eating lunch that day. I had on the school uniform, but I was also wearing red contacts and fingerless gloves and my nails were painted black. I dress this way—and my peers yell at me—because I am emo. Let me explain what it means to me to be emo.

First of all, the word emo is shorthand for emotional. That means emo people are in touch with their emotions. People who are emo may dress differently, wearing dark clothing, and listening to different types of music than other teenagers.

I became emo at the age of 11. What first got me started is when I heard my first rock song, by Three Days Grace. It opened my mind to new music and I soon stopped listening to rap and just listened to rock music all day long.

Then I realized I was good with a skateboard and loved doing parkour, a form of free running and free jumping exercise. But it also is a strange thing that no one in my neighborhood understands, so they call me weird, which is understandable because it’s something no one in my neighborhood has even seen before.

I started wearing black clothing to match my personality. It was like nothing in the world mattered at all to me. I didn’t care about anything but skateboarding and rock and staying to myself. But to be very frank, all I need is emo hair, slick, shiny, hanging down over your face, and then I will be complete.

Emo teenagers are often outcasts in their schools. For example, I believe that I am the only emo person in all of Paul Robeson High School. I called my girlfriend, whose name is Railynn, and asked her if she thought emo people were treated unfairly. Railynn also has first-hand experience with this because she is also emo.

She told me that, “We are different and that’s our way of dealing with things. And if people don’t like it they can get lost and at school people report us to the principal and we have to get counseling but for nothing.

We are just being ourselves” The misunderstandings people have about emo teenagers are many. For example, my peers at Robeson sometime think that I worship the devil when I don’t.

But in all truth, I and many of my emo friends have a problem with which religion to follow, so we don’t follow any. Another misunderstanding is that people claim all emo kids and teens cut themselves.

I believe people should have more compassion for emo teenagers. We have a hard time already because we aren’t like other kids. It’s not right to be called a “freak” at lunch and it’s wrong for people to judge us for who we are.

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