Culture Club
Obsessions: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
AFH Photo // Vanessa Vo
McCain Boonma, 16, from West Roxbury, has a fixation. He loves his girlfriend and wishes to spend every minute with her. He says that thinking about another person constantly might seem like an obsession but it also indicates a strong sense of caring. 
Boonma says that obsessions can have a good and a bad side. If just being near your obsession makes you happy, and talking to them changes your mood for the better, then it’s a positive thing. But if you get too crazy or annoying, he says, then you have to draw the line. 
Some people might not like the extra attention, he says. 
“Stop what you are doing and take a deep breath,” Boonma says, “then think about your actions and how they appear to that person. Turn it down to a level in which they feel comfortable.” 
Miguel Medina, 16, from Mattapan, loves sports cars. He spends a good amount of his time searching for them everywhere on the street. He also goes on his phone and looks up sports cars, dreaming that one day he’ll own one. 
He believes that it’s OK to want to see sports cars and thinks that being obsessed isn’t that bad because it gives you something to look forward to. 
Unless, of course, you just want more and more and more. 
“When your behavior is inappropriate,” he says, “then it’s time to stop. 
Nardos Gosaye, a junior from the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, believes that to cure an obsession, people should be shown the ugly side of the activity. 
If they only have space in their brains to think of their fascinations, then it’s out of hand and help is required. 
For example, says Gosaye: “When someone stalks another human being beyond the boundaries.” 
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AFH Photo // Delia Fleming
Sixteen-year-old Mohamed Moallim, from Brighton High School, covers one side of his eyes as he demonstrates his understanding of labels: “As a Muslim, I get called names just because of my religion. I get called an ISIS person, or people say I hold explosives. I face a lot because of my label.”

Labels are often based on a single fact and not a full picture. In the fear of the unknown, people use labels based on religion, sexuality, skin color, gender, income, and more to try to fit everyone into a certain box.

But as they trap someone in stereotypes, labels often prevent others from seeing the complex whole and can limit a victim’s own sense of being.

A 16-year-old Dorchester girl recently came out to her family and friends but says she still feels uneasy being called lesbian or gay.

“Labels might cause people to feel uncomfortable with themselves,” says the teen, whose name is being withheld to protect her privacy.

Mathias Riddock, 16, from Dorchester, says that even positive labels can be restricting, negating one’s entire identity.

“They only see me as that smart kid, and refuse to realize that there’s more to me than just that,” says Riddock, a good artist and beat-boxer. “All the pressure the label puts on makes everyone look at you differently.”

Humans are like puzzles, made up of many unique pieces. As with puzzles, it is hard to  comprehend a finished portrait based on a single component. Instead of envisioning all the various parts, those who judge often fill-up the missing spots with prejudices of their own.
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AFH Photo // Hannah Linsay
The alarm goes off at 5 a.m. Armir Berberi gets out of bed and dresses for a 20-minute run. After the workout, it takes more than half an hour to arrive at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, where Berberi is a junior. Then it’s a full schedule of classes and soccer, and the hassles that can arise at home.

Sometimes, Berberi says, the familiar pressures can all pile up.

No matter their race, gender, or sexual preference, teenagers face a host of everyday obstacles, whether they’re about time-management or relationships, future plans, or the latest outbreak of acne.

Somehow, school always seems to lurking in the background, to one degree or another.

Mai Tran, a senior at the Josiah Quincy Upper School, seems to be set as she enters senior year, already familiar with the SATs and college prep.

Still, even Tran admits that she will be anxious as soon as college acceptances -- and rejections -- start rolling in.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Daniel Sanchez, from Dorchester, projects satisfied indifference with his current state.

The only thing on his mind these days, he says, is being behind the wheel of a car.

He says he’s never sweat the school experience too much.

“I’m not really that stressed about life like that,” Sanchez says. “I’m just living.”
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AFH Photo // Vanessa Vo
Edward Prudent believes that fashion should be a place for men -- and not just women.

“I love to express myself through clothes, so with these many limitations in the fashion industry it really becomes a struggle for me to be an individual in what I wear,” says Prudent, a junior at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, who says he gets stuck wearing the same-old, same-old basic jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers.

Teens say that many trendy stores in Boston have whole spaces dedicated to women’s clothing, with the men’s section stuck in a corner.

Dangardy Leriche, a junior at the O’Bryant, says he has to go out of his way to find stylish joggers and slim-fit jeans.

“I’m forced to go to exclusive stores or websites just to find a specific piece of clothing,” he says.  

James Dumas, 18, from Dorchester, says guys shouldn’t have to worry about peers criticizing them for losing their street cred just because they want to dress with style.

“Many men,” he says, “just want to look clean.”
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Janna Mach
He has money and is comfortable. He can get whatever he wants.

The only problem, he says, is that he’s a minority in a majority world.

Jake Azzi, a 15-year-old Lebanese- American from West Roxbury, says he has faced much racial discrimination despite his wealth and social-economic status.

“When they see me, they would ask where my camel was,” Azzi says of the bullying that he has dealt with.

Similar to the saying “Love has no price,” neither does prejudice.

Macy Tsang, a 15-year-old of Chinese descent from West Roxbury, considers herself to be of middle-class status.

She recalls how a casual walk through the streets of the South End six months ago was interrupted by a lightening strike of racial attacks coming from a school bus.

“Some young kids opened the window and started yelling at me ‘ching-chong,’ ” says Tsang, still shaken by the taunting.

Tsang says that wealth cannot guarantee happiness.

“Money’s useless,” she sighs.

Hoang Nguyen, a 16-year-old Vietnamese- American from Brighton, says his upper-middle upbringing did not shield him from the youth in elementary school who called him “lemonhead” to insult his physical appearance as an Asian kid with small eyes.

However, Nguyen is still hopeful that one day everyone will come to terms with the distinctions that abound.

“Nature makes us all different,” he says,  “but I prefer for our society to accept us as  we are.”
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