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GIRLS: PORTRAIT OF CHANGE // Amber

Amber White, age 13, eighth grader at Safety Harbor Middle School in Safety Harbor. Family: Mother, Ann White, 43; brother, Kevin White, 16; sisters Heather White, 12, and Rochelle Katzen, 20; father, David White, lives in Arlington, Va.

I get attention . . . (for) the way I dress. I'll walk down the hallways and people will stare at me. If I go to the mall, people will look at me. I wear practically all black because that's my favorite color. They look at me really weird because I have dark makeup on, I have chains on, you know, just a lot of jewelry and stuff. Because I look different from them.

Mostly, it's because I like the color black. Me and my friends do light as a feather, stiff as a board. We like to do seances and different things. We're into vampires, ghosts, aliens, stuff like that.

I don't really like copying other people. It's kind of boring and lame.

My mom . . . she doesn't want to sit here and tell me, you can't do this, you cannot do that, like, I have no life. Some places she doesn't want me to dress like that, like, when we go to a restaurant. One day I went to church and I had a clash outfit on _ I had a plaid shirt and a flowered skirt _ and she didn't know I went out like that.

It used to be . . . I'd yell at her a lot. Me and my mom get along now. I got older. It's part of growing up. When they (adults) were kids, they just see how they were, and they want to change how they were with their kids. Just let us be. Most kids change _ it's a phase they go through. But this isn't a phase for me, just to let my mom know.

(My dad) lives in Virginia. He's all right, I guess. He's a funny guy. I think he's getting kind of dull for me. He does stupid stuff, like sticks out his tongue, and I'm expected to laugh at it, but it's not funny anymore. He's not here to see me in my changes. It's nice to spend time with him, since I hardly ever see him. But it doesn't matter to me.

School's not really important to me. But I have to go. I get a lot of referrals. I want them to not yell.

The only part I didn't like about school was getting in fights with friends. That annoyed me. Stupid stuff. Stupid reasons. Like, if I didn't wait for 'em, they'd get mad at me. Mostly it was me trying to patch it up.

You can't live without friends. We like to go the mall. Sometimes we'll go swimming. Sometimes we'll just sit around.

I'm never going to have a boyfriend. I don't see any point. I'm not going to be married. I'm not having kids.

Some of them (boys) make me laugh, because they're funny. I used to call one Bon-Bon because he had black hair and he always gave me money. Most of them (girls) like boys. "Oooohhhh, I've got a boyfriend." Whoopdeedo!

My mom usually packs my lunch for me, like, fruit. I hate most vegetables. I never go near a scale. Every time I get on one, I always start thinking like, "I've got to stop eating so much.' Just look at yourself. Am I fat or not? I'm skinny.

I love music. Marilyn Manson's my favorite band. They're like, anti-Christ people. I don't worship the devil, and I don't believe in God. I think if you don't believe in the devil or God, that when you die you become a ghost.

Amber and friends Anna Quinones, center, and Katie Emberley make calls while hanging out at Anna's house. "When I'm with my friends, maybe going to a concert _ that (makes) me the happiest," Amber says.

During a weekend visit to Countryside Mall, a favorite place to spend time, some of Amber's friends approach her group, from left to right, Amber, Anna Quinones, Tyler Hollat and Amber Bare. (Katie Emberley is seated on floor.) One of them criticizes what the girls are wearing. " "You need to get a new wardrobe,' that's what she said to me,' Amber says. "And Anna's like, well, "You need to wash your clothes.' It was funny. We all started cracking up, and they walked straight away."

Kim Barlow gives Amber a shoulder up as the childhood friends cool off on a hot summer day. Kim describes herself as one of Amber's "normal"friends. "Kim's changed," Amber says. "She likes the preppy look now. I won't wear dresses anymore. I guess I got sick of the old stuff."

"I don't get really good grades," Amber says. "I'm thinking about maybe being a writer. I'm really good at writing stories." Seated behind her in math class at Safety Harbor Middle School is Jonathan Shugarman, or "Bon-Bon," as Amber calls him. Danielle Cordes raises her hand in the background.

Amber explains to her mother, Ann White, why she is wearing mismatched socks. "My family _ it's very weird and different. I don't have to do anything around the house because my mom doesn't make me. I usually don't want to do anything."

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