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My retainer has me bent out of shape

1st place $50

By Hana Jang, Wilson MS (Glendale)

Dear Retainers,

Photo by Victorino Martinez, 18, Daniel Murphy Catholic HS

Why are you torturing me? I thought you were supposed to be keeping my teeth straight with the benefit of no braces! Yet I wake up every morning to see that my overbite is slowly coming back and the rows of teeth aren’t aligned. Do you have any idea what I went through to get you? Now I don’t think you’re even helping me anymore.

First of all, I wasted two precious years of my life waiting for your arrival. Those braces were murder on my teeth. You didn’t experience the pain I had to go through! Almost every week, I replaced my old wires, got a tighter one with a chain of rubber bands, and an additional two rubber bands to fix my overbite. By getting braces, I had the “wonderful” opportunity to choose from a wide variety of soups. The categories stretched from tomato soup to clam chowder to delicious mushroom soup. For two years, 104 weeks, 728 days, soup became more than 90 percent of my diet. What do I have to show for my sacrifice? The object in repayment for my hurt is a hunk of plastic that doesn’t really aid me in any way.

I will admit that you kept my teeth in order for a few months. However, recently I think you’re snoozing on the job. After brushing my teeth and slipping you on, I see that you don’t even fit correctly over my teeth anymore. During some nights, you don’t even stay on the whole time. I wake up some days and feel nothing in my mouth. Then I have to take more time to thoroughly search my bed to see where you’ve hidden yourself. Do you realize how frustrated I am?

Don’t even get me started on how you affect my language. If I were to say this sentence: “Can you pass me the bottle of water?” it would come out sounding like, “Ken you peth me the ball of wudu?” Now I don’t even attempt saying words like rewind, reconnect, replay or anything else that starts with “re.” In general, you steal my ability to talk efficiently. In math class, I stand up in front of the students trying to explain a math equation, but do you know what comes out of my mouth? It’s just a string of mumbled words and I have to use all my strength enunciating the repeated explanation. The ridicule I get from my friends is almost unbearable. My ears practically ache when I hear them mimicking my incorrect pronunciation. I can’t stand it anymore!

You better shape up or I’ll have to take action. I won’t allow this kind of insolence anymore. I wash you, clean you and take care of you, yet this is how you repay me? I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for you to do something for me in return. If this continues, I’ll be forced to replace you with something better.

Wanting some changes,

I can’t stand my calculus book

2nd place $30

By Leah Robinson, Santa Monica HS

Dear Calculus Book,

Have I mentioned to you lately the deep loathing I feel churning within me as I suffer unwillingly through your cryptic pages? The unadulterated hatred I feel bubbling in my bloodstream when I am forced, day after day, to open your cover and stare at yet another foreign equation?

At the beginning of the semester, I was positive we would get along. Your brightly colored cover and interesting pictures enthralled me. Flawless graphs waited for me with every turn of a page. Challenging yet exciting new word problems greeted me at the beginning of every chapter. Within these past few months, however, I have come to realize that all these seemingly wonderful aspects are just a facade to cover your unacceptable, unexplainable behavior toward students.

The objects readers have strong feelings for

As we selected the three winners of the essay contest, we noticed that our readers shared strong feelings for many of the same objects. These are the most common objects among the more than 250 entries we received, whether the reader was praising the object or complaining about it.

Stuffed animal
Cell phone
iPod or MP3 player
Musical instrument

You somehow manage to make even the simplest instructions seem miles above my head. Communication is vital in a serious relationship and I feel like we don’t even have that. Sometimes, you will demand that I do something as simple as add four to both sides of an equation. Your wording though makes a simple step such as this completely enigmatic. After reading the directions you give me, I will be thoroughly and completely lost. It is impossible for me to respect you or our relationship if you barely even make sense to me.

Your dishonesty has also been a factor in the downfall of our love. Last week, for example, you told me that the easiest way to find a derivative was to use a specific equation. Yet, today in class you pretended as though you never said this and taught us an “easier” way to solve for derivatives. If you knew an easier way, why would you have tricked me into believing a treacherously intricate equation was the easiest route?

Throughout the semester I have flip-flopped between fighting with you and trying desperately to get along with you, each to no avail. In times of distress, I will slam you onto the floor or crash you into my desk. Other times, I will beautifully decorate your meticulously attached book cover. Regardless of the way I treat you, I get no results.

Because of you, my GPA is suffering and my entire future is on the line. I am usually very good in mathematical situations and have been told many times that I have a math-oriented brain. I have always received outstanding grades in my math courses and have never, in my 10 years of schooling, scored as low as I have on some of the tests based on your curriculum. I am a bright young woman, fully capable of earning an A in my calculus class, but you are making my goal impossible.

I hope you take these words to heart and do a better job in your next edition.

Stop judging me, mirrors

3rd place $20

By Veronica Lopez, Options for Youth Charter Schools

How many times have I seen you, yet I never get tired of you? I try to think of a way in which I can avoid you since you are my tripping stone. You always tell me the truth, whether it hurts or whether I fall in love with it. You taunt me whenever I get a pimple and flatter me when I don’t have one. You remind me when to use my Proactiv or tell me to get on the treadmill. It’s funny how you’ve grown as a part of my conscience, and yet you only remember me when you see me; you replace me so quickly. As soon as you see someone else you take me out of the picture. Have you any heart to keep me in mind for at least a second longer after I leave? I guess not. And yet your opinion is the only one that matters to me every morning and every night.

You have made me change my habits. You make me try new hairstyles, you make me wash my face, you even tell me to get a new exercise routine. You only judge me on my physical appearance and I’ve set it as my goal to not let it get to me. You are like a poison that slowly eats away at my self-image, but I will prevail over it, and soon you will be nothing more than just my reflection. I have several of you, but I know you depend on me, because what is a mirror without a person?

Lonely and sad in my cell

Honorable mention

By Anonymous, Central Juvenile Hall

Dear Cell,

Well first of all, every time I step inside you, you are always cold with a weird smell. I look around and all I see is nothing but four white walls with graffiti on them, a little window at the far end, two beds (one made of concrete and the other one made of steel) and a light at the top of the room. As I sit inside you with nothing to do I start going psycho and I start dying of boredom. Some of the time you make me feel sad and lonely because you keep me inside you and away from my loved ones. But most of the time I’m mad at you. You take my freedom away and you stress me out. The more time I spend with you, I feel like you are closing in on me, like you are trying to eat me. It’s bad enough that you are small and I can hardly do anything inside you. Sometimes you are nice enough to give me a roommate and of course you give me a lot of time to myself. But the trip is that I can’t even open you or close you because I’m locked up and they won’t let me out.

Keys calling my name

Honorable mention

By Sevana Manukian, Wilson MS

Dear piano,

You stay there, patiently waiting until the time when your keys, now dusty, will be played again. I sit here watching. Should I approach, or not? It may not seem like it to you, but for me this is a critical decision. I am afraid. For if I do approach and begin to play, there is no stopping me. When I’m alone with you, I am a different person. As my hands glide over the keys, I will get lost in the melody, and my mind will eliminate all the things around me. It is just you and I in the room and nothing or no one else. I lose control of my fingers as they pound the keys to produce each note. My hands are free to do as they please. The melody changes me from a grave, gloomy mood, to a joyful happy expression.

When I was first introduced to you, my dear instrument, I was bewildered by the colossal sound which echoed from the depths of your wooden frame. My thoughts about you have changed after eight years. I used to be so excited when I learned “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Now I find it hard to get myself to sit down and play some scales. I hide at the sound of “practice.” However, once I begin there is no stopping me. Once I begin to play familiar beautiful music, I do not want to stop. Once I hear some crazy piece of music, I immediately run to you, and try to figure out how to play it.

Over the years, I realized just how much you have affected my life. I have gained knowledge of music I would have never discovered otherwise. I have developed a musical ear, and have been introduced to many different types of music. I am now aware of music from centuries ago like the famous Mozart to popular rock bands today. By playing the piano, I have discovered unique music, and I listen to various genres. I now understand that you mean a lot to me. Since our first meeting, music has taken up a large part of my life. You have changed my life immensely. I can’t imagine my life without you, my dear piano. I will try my hardest not to neglect you, and come to you any chance that I have.


My favorite flaw

Nobody’s perfect, but just because you’re flawed doesn’t mean you can’t embrace your imperfections. Tell us about your favorite flaw. It could be a physical characteristic or a personality trait. Maybe your teachers think you talk too much, but if you weren’t so talkative, you wouldn’t have met your friends. Maybe your parents think you’re lazy, but without taking some time to chill, you’d be too serious. Or some may think you’re too quiet, but you think that makes you a good listener. Tell us about your favorite flaw. Tell us why it’s a limitation, but also why you like it and how it’s made your life better in some ways.

Write an essay to L.A. Youth and tell us about it.

Essays should be a page or more. Include your name, school, age and telephone number with your essay. The staff of L.A. Youth will read the entries and pick three winners. Your name will be withheld if you request it. The first-place winner will receive $50. The second-place winner will get $30 and the third-place winner will receive $20. Winning essays will be printed in our September issue and put on our Web site at


L.A. Youth 
5967 W. 3rd St. Ste. 301
Los Angeles CA 90036