It isn’t easy being a teenager these days. For starters, your body hasn’t finished developing yet. You’re probably suffering from acne and no matter what products you see advertised on TV, none of them work. Your weak and puny body probably makes you feel inferior compared to Hollywood hunks like Brad Pitt (but you’d never admit it to your mates). If you’re a girl you probably hate what you see in the mirror and wish you looked like the girls in glossy magazines. Oh and you think you’re fat even though you are literally skin and bones (the bad news is you most likely won’t ever grow out of the negative self-delusion).
Worse than the physical aspects is the fact that your brain hasn’t finished developing either. This means you have no empathy – you are incapable of appreciating other people’s points of view. It’s not a deliberate thing, it’s just the part of your brain that figures these things out doesn’t work yet. This is why your parents keep telling you you’re “selfish and don’t think of anybody but yourself” when you don’t think you are. Hint: they’re right, you just don’t have the capacity to see it (and some people sadly never do). You’re also barely in control of your emotions, that’s why you have mood swings and temper tantrums. These emotions are all new to you and you haven’t had much chance to understand and come to terms with them.
You hate school, you hate the teachers and you feel like everybody is telling you what to do and what to think. And worst of all, you think you know it all and it should all be up to you. Your only respite is being out with your mates. Perhaps there’s a comfy bench on the corner of your high street you like to hang around on. Maybe you’ll down the odd bottle of cider or do something harder so your mates think you’re tough. It’s all just a laugh really and there’s no harm in it, you’re just letting off steam.
Except when you’re hanging around with your mates, everybody you see looks at you like you’re a criminal. Just because you’re wearing a hooded top (so you can hide your embarrassing acne from the world) doesn’t mean you’re about to rob someone. But people don’t give you a chance, they treat you with no respect, like you’re scum, like the real trouble makers who wear hooded tops. And after a while you start to act that way, if they’re going to treat you like dirt, you might as well treat them the same way.
You see, what bugs me is that I used to be a teenager. When I see a bunch of them hanging around making a bit of noise, I remember doing exactly the same thing. But apparently Britain is in danger of becoming a nation fearful of its young people. Since adults spend so little time with teenagers in the UK (as opposed to countries like Germany and Italy) they see them as a threat and are unlikely to intervene if they cross the line instead of remembering that teenagers are in fact still just children pushing their boundaries (as children do), instinctively trying to find their identity by breaking out of their parents mould. The thing is, if you just let children do what they want as they grow up, never giving them limits, then they’ll really turn into everything you fear.
Sort of a vicious circle really. I guess life doesn’t get any easier once you’ve grown out of the acne and stopped being a teenager!
Update (July 2023): This article was written in 2006 and looking at the world of 2023, it’s even worse with social media, constant communication and economies suffering from the effects of rampant wealth inequality. I really should write a new version of this but in the meantime, trust me, it REALLY isn’t easy being a teenager these days!