There are no places for teenagers to go. This epiphany struck me on March 3rd. The juniors were taking the ACT, and I needed a quiet place to do my homework, as many often do. The first solution was obvious: my house. But like many students, my house is always too loud. I rattled off and eliminated a few more options. Finally, I went to the school’s library and hoped it would be open.
Later, I thought more about my difficulty finding a place to go. I realized that I often had trouble finding a place to go, not just when trying to study, but when out with friends too. If it is not a school sponsored activity or place of work, nobody wants a teenager there, much less a whole group of them.
What about the park? It is free, and there is always one within walking distance. But it closes at 10, which is just about when every other teenager and I get done with homework and extracurriculars. Seriously, an open, unlocked, non-building closes at a specific time. Even if I had a free day, parents and their young children hangout at parks, and will either stare at you until you leave, or they will come up to you and ask you to leave. Apparently it is “creepy” for teenagers to hangout at a park. The one free place to hang out, not allowed.
What about the movies? Do you have transportation? Do you have $12 for a ticket? Do you have $14 for popcorn and a soda? Are there even any good movies playing? Even if the answer to all of those questions is yes, what about the adults and employees who glare at teenagers for laughing? Are you comfortable with that?
What about a restaurant? Again there is the transportation and money issue. Do all of your friends have enough money for a restaurant? Probably not. Probably only enough for fast food. I have worked in fast food, and teenagers were our least favorite customers. They are loud, do not buy much and never clean up after themselves, which causes businesses to be further unwelcoming towards teenagers.
What about the mall? Are you eighteen? Signs have been posted all around the mall, letting everyone know, you have to be eighteen to be allowed in the mall without parental supervision.
Where else is there to go? Laser tag is expensive, escape rooms are expensive, professional sporting events are expensive, concerts are expensive, and sit-down restaurants are all expensive. Teenagers do not have enough money. We are either saving for college, trade school, a car, prom, a new instrument, clothes or an apartment for after we graduate. Every teenager is, or should be, saving for something. We are socially locked out of restaurants, movie theaters and libraries, prevented from space to exist.
So what if all of us decided to stay home? Being home all of the time is boring and you don’t get to see your friends. If you stay home too often, you face parents who complain about how you need to be more social, get out more. So you do. Then they will complain about how you go out too much, and they never get to see you. So you stay home, now you are lazy. So you go out, now you are avoiding your responsibilities.
Teenagers don’t have space to exist. Ever wonder why we are always upset? We are told to act like adults, but are treated like children. We are told to be responsible, but still have to ask for permission to use the restroom. We are in limbo, unwanted and unsure, waiting until we graduate and go off into the world, so we can figure out where we stand… or if we are allowed to stand.