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Her Story: Tamara


No one would dispute the fact that Tamara, 14, has flair. Her baseball cap is jauntily cocked sideways. A gold stud glistens in her nose. Eight of her fingernails are painted bright blue. She is wearing a mass of rings on both hands. Her lipstick is black.

Tamara, a student in an alternative education program, has been busted for "oh, so many things," among them grand theft auto and petty theft. She calls herself "non-calm," meaning that her temper is so hot it scares her best friends. Most recently, Tamara was thrown out of school for beating up "some girl who was yapping in my face."

Tamara lives with her mom in Lake View Terrace but stresses that "I only go there to sleep." She is not in a gang but runs with guys from at least seven gangs. Standing very straight, Tamara might be 5-foot-2. She weighs 115 pounds, maybe. Here is Tamara, talking about her life:


I never had a bad temper till I got to be like 12. Then I started getting upset by every little thing. Now I really don't associate much with girls. All they do is gossip. It makes me in conflict. I don't behave like a boy. I just hang around with boys.

If you ask why I get in trouble, I'd have to say it's from hanging around with the wrong people, at the wrong time. Being with people who do bad things, things in a different way. The only way I fit in when I'm with them is if I do something bad. In order to earn respect, you got to do it too.

The first time I got in trouble, I was like 12. I took the car keys and I left. I drove right by a cop and I was like, "So what if he notices?" My mom reported me as a runaway. I pulled two kitchen knives on her. Then my friend, she was racking out of JCPenney, so they considered me stealing too, even though I didn't take nothing, I just carried the backpack. So each time I got caught, I thought, "Oh well, who cares, so what, it's just more time."

Now you know I hear that straight life lecture all the time, every time I do time. It goes in one ear and out the other. Sometimes I try, but I forget. It's like, "Oh well, I messed up again." There's just too much out there. You can't keep me in a glass jar or nothing.

My friends, they won't let me get my hands on a gun. They say I'm trigger happy. I had a gun once, I saw one of my enemies and that made me boil over. I would see her and think, "Oh man, she just says stupid things. She's like a little rat." I go, "Hey, I have to put a stop to this." I was like really seriously about to shoot her. My friends, they were like, "It's not worth 25 to life." I'm like, "Hey, it's my life. I serve 25 years, I'm still only 39 when I get out." My friends, they talked me out of it. Then later I thought, if I had done her, she wouldn't be here to bother me.

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