Sitting in one of the few chairs set up against the wall at DeLaSalle’s homecoming dance, I watch as the large crowd of excited students shrinks into one huddle as Soulja Boy’s Lyrics blast through the loud speakers: “Dis girl gotta donk. She finna shake it all night. Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow!”
The students on the outside stand on their tip-toes to see what’s going on in the middle of the circle, and everyone is hyped up to see people twerking. I’m just waiting for the song to end.
“No twerking” is one of only a few rules we have at our school dances. It falls under the category of “inappropriate dancing,” and according to my beliefs, twerking is considered sexually immoral. It’s what you might call “booty dancing” but more particularly booty dancing on a male’s privates.
Despite DeLaSalle’s rule, however, everyone is still rubbing up against each other – bumping and grinding. But soon, of course, the teachers come and break it up. Everyone laughs and goes back to “regular” dancing. It’s routine.
This is just one of what seems like millions of experiences that I’ve had as a Pentecostal Christian attending an inner city, albeit Catholic, high school. I come across many situations daily that conflict with my personal beliefs, whether it’s hearing profanity in the hallways, trying to avoid gossiping at the lunch table, or trying to have fun but still portray the image of a “Christian girl” at school dances.
There is an entire sub-culture of teens whose lives constantly conflict with what may be called the “norm” when it comes to teen society, for they have made a personal decision to remain faithful to their own strong personal beliefs and inevitably stand against the current of mainstream teen culture.
I’ve grown up in the church and also went to a very small, strict Christian grade school where everyone basically believed what I did. There wasn’t any non-Christian music, no movies could be watched that weren’t rated PG or G, and there was definitely no swearing. I was even afraid to say heck.
So you can imagine how much of a shock going to a more mainstream high school was for me. Even though it was a Catholic high school, it was a much more liberal environment than I was used to.
When I first got there, I was not at all used to the lifestyles of my new peers. I was shocked every time I heard a swear word and I thought it was a dreadful sin every time I heard anyone sing an unchristian song. Brittney Bodden, 17, now a good friend of mine, reminds me of how I was “a little nuts from time to time” during freshman year.
“You were too good, you didn’t want to do some of the things we did,” like go out before or after dances and stuff like that, Brittney said.
Marlee Dorsey, 17, also a good friend of mine now, reminded me of how I didn’t know a lot of the music they did. “You listened to weird music. You listened to like rock, Christian rock and stuff,” she said.
I understood that being so uptight not only left me clueless, but also that my new classmates could not relate to me, which is not what I wanted. I can remember the embarrassing feeling that would overcome me every time someone would bring out an iPod and everyone around me would bust out singing a song that apparently everybody knew…except me. I would always get reactions like “Don’t you know this song?” or “You’ve never heard of TLC ?!?” It was not good.
But I learned how to live in a more diverse atmosphere. I started to loosen up a little. I began listening to a wider range of music and wasn’t quick to stereotype others, but at the same time I never compromised who I was in my Christianity.
In order to not seem “nuts” to my new friends, I walk the line between my beliefs and what seems to be the main territory of teens – pop culture.
And the biggest reinforcement of pop culture comes from the media.
Victoria Oyewole, 17, also a Christian, nondenominational, who goes through a lot of the same things as me finds television especially misleading.
“It’s so superficial,” she said. “It makes life seem like there are no consequences for bad decisions.”
She was focusing primarily on shows like “Laguna Beach” or “The Hills” and how they constantly show teens partying it up, but never experiencing any serious consequences for their behavior. “So what about modesty?” I asked her. “How do you dress?”
“I like to dress cute, but not skanky,” she said.
The message that comes from those shows for young women is the fewer clothes you wear, the better you look. This is not true for Christians. It is important to be modest and to not present your body as something to be lusted after. For Victoria and me, what we wear is based on our own preference. It’s up to us to judge what is appropriate and what isn’t, however, for other teens the expectations are more strict.
Maymun Mohamed, 17, and Sadiyo Mohamed, 19, are both Muslim while also being part of American teen society. Different from Victoria and me, the Islamic religion expects women and men to follow a certain dress code. Maymun and Sadiyo not only stand apart from the majority in teen society with their morals, but also outwardly in their dress.
They are required to cover their arms and legs and also wear Hijabs which are headscarves which cover the hair and also the neck.
I asked them how it feels to stand out in this way. “It’s sometimes good, but sometimes bad,” Maymun said.
“Sometimes people stereotype us, they think we kill people and stuff,” added Sadiyo.
They spoke about how a lot of times people have misconceptions about who they are as Muslims. The same goes for all religious teens that choose to stand out.
Victoria speaks about misconceptions she encounters being a Christian “They think we don’t know how to have fun.”
John Bliss, 17, is a Wiccan who says he is often stereotyped by others. “People think we are witches,” he said.
He even spoke of a time when he was called a “satanic baby-eater” for wearing a pentacle around his neck which, in Wiccan, represents the goddess of fertility and nothing more, he said.
So many times when you choose to stand out against the “norm” you are misunderstood. In the same way that I stood on the outside, close-minded to anything secular when I first entered into high school, many teens do the same to religious teens. Because of this it is a constant struggle to stand for what you believe in this generation at this time. Whatever isn’t familiar tends to not be understood. But for us, what we believe is worth the fight and we’re proud to stand up for it.
“Standing out like this is wonderful, cool. I’m an individual, I’m different,” Maymun said.