Column: I’m afraid of teenagers who radiate middle school energy

September 30, 2023 — by Angela Tan
Graphic by Isabelle Wang
Teenage boys with baseball caps and shaggy hair block my bike, heckling over my discomfort.
My trauma started in middle school when a group of delinquent 8th graders hounded me on the way home for absolutely no reason.

I will forever be grateful for attending Saratoga High, as I no longer have to worry about bumping into a particularly terrifying breed of teenagers. To be clear, I’m not talking about that one superhuman who does speech and debate, orchestra and five sports, while also somehow maintaining a 4.0 GPA and a functional social life. 

Before coming here, I experienced my worst days during middle school in Los Gatos. The students there would do ridiculous things like jump in the trash bins during passing period, or intentionally shoot an arrow over the fence during PE, leaving the teachers no choice but to cancel the entire archery unit. Eating lunch came with the risk of being rained on by an exploding Izze, so my friends and I confined ourselves to a little corner in the back of the English wing.

My impression of teenagers was that they were loud, confrontational and very tall, all of which I was not. Additionally, my group of friends were all quiet book club fanatics, so it didn’t help my sense of inferiority when it came to being a “cool teenager.” Everyone else seemed so mature with their stylish Birkenstocks and inventory of cuss words; standing next to them, I felt childish with my Cat & Jack T-shirts and timid voice.

One of the most traumatizing moments happened as I was biking home in 6th grade. I had left immediately when the bell rang, so I quickly fused with the dense crowd of students. As I crossed the intersection of Los Gatos Boulevard and Shannon Road, I could sense the sea of curly blond heads and baseball caps swarming around me. My gaze became fearfully motionless as they sauntered past, loudly complaining about the lunch meat and recklessly shoving each other off the pavement until a car horn blared at them. 

I was attempting to navigate past the bustling crowd when I heard a holler, and a swarm of boys’ mischievous eyes honed in on me.

“Hey, are you going to run us down?” the tallest boy said, towering a foot over my cowering figure.

A group of lanky 8th-grade boys formed a wall in front of me, preventing me from moving forward. Confused, I tried to maneuver through them. The boys threw their hands up and hooted, “Whoa, whoa, calm down, are you trying to kill us?”

With forged confidence and what I hoped was an intimidating glare, I told them to please let me through.

In response, the insolent boys laughed harder, and at this point, I wanted to burst into tears and squash them into roadkill. Somewhere in my chest, I felt my dignity die as I was reduced to a helpless wooden doll, burning with humiliation. I stared at their blond mops, mockeries of hair that flopped unapologetically on their heads as they snickered in front of me. 

 I sucked in a sharp breath, anchored my feet onto my bike pedals, and accelerated, making direct contact with one of their shoes. My victim yelped and the rest of them quickly scattered, not unlike a startled flock of geese, giving me the opportunity to finally speed off. 

Since then, my definition of maturity has evolved. I no longer admire reckless teenagers who harass others for fun. As a junior in high school, I am still terrified of that breed of teenagers who can’t be told what to do. 

It’s become a habit to turn away whenever I see a mob of freshmen boys throw beverages on each other or leave their trash flippantly strewn on the floor. These immature underclassmen might not seem scary to others, but their middle-school energy makes me shudder.

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