Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Punk Student Struggles to Fit In

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a high school sophomore, and I am finding it hard to deal with being at school. I would consider myself a more unique person than the people at my school. Everyone at my school looks, dresses and acts the same. I am the only kid who has a giant mohawk. I am into punk rock and would say I do my own thing instead of conforming to mainstream America. However, everyone at school has been bullying me, especially the jocks. It didn't bother me before, but now I hate going to school. What should I do to deal with this problem? -- Different, Des Moines, Iowa

DEAR DIFFERENT: There is a pretty good chance that there are other students at your school who are also different. They may not share your particular interests, but if you look around, you will likely notice that there are other students who do not quite fit into the mainstream. Seek them out and see if there is any synergy between you. You may find commonality in the very desire to walk to your own drum.

As far as the jocks and others who have been bullying you, since you are now feeling the emotional burden of their agitation, tell your teacher, principal and guidance counselor. Be proactive about standing up for yourself. It may seem terrifically difficult right now, but it can be easier to navigate such a tough situation if you have support.

It is also important to recognize that you have chosen to represent yourself in a way that is very different from the majority of your fellow students. Naturally, they would notice that. Rather than you being consumed by their reaction, seek out other students and/or activities that support your interests. If you have a creative, healthy outlet that allows you to be yourself, it may be easier for you to deflect the blows of others who do not understand you. Look for a punk rock club in your area. Do not give up until you find a place where you feel at ease. This may help dim the bullying.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My 10-year-old daughter is a well-groomed girl. She bathes every day and wears clean clothes. I know, because I wash them. So I do not understand how such a young girl can have body odor. I recently noticed that she has serious underarm odor. I am beside myself. I know that she washes her body every day. I do not really want to get her deodorant already. What should I do? -- Smelly, Washington, D.C.

DEAR SMELLY: I have spoken to several pediatricians about this issue and have learned that it is common these days for children as young as 9 to start puberty. Body odor is one of the signs of a developing body. Others include the growth of pubic hair and the budding of body parts.

Take your daughter to her pediatrician and get a physical. Tell the doctor about her body's changes and ask for guidance as to how to take care of her. As it relates to body odor, there are natural deodorants (not antiperspirants) that may help.