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Adolescence

  • Adolescence is to life what baking powder is to cake. (And it's better to have too much than too little.)

  • A teen-ager out of sight is like a kite in the clouds; even though you can't see it you feel the tug on the string.

  • An adolescent doesn't always know where he's going; only that he isn't there.

  • The difficulty between parents and adolescents is not always caused by the fact that parents fail to remember what growing up was like, but that they do.

  • No man knows his true character until he has run out of gas, purchased something on the installment plan, and raised an adolescent.

  • Young folks don't want you to understand 'em. You've got no more right to understand them than you have to play their games or wear their clothes. They belong to themselves.

  • If in addition to being physically unattractive you find that you do not get along well with others, do not under any circumstances attempt to alleviate this situation by developing an interesting personality. An interesting personality, is, in an adult, insufferable. In a teenager it is frequently punishable by law.

  • Remember that as a teenager you are at the last stage in your life when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you.

  • Adults are always telling young people, 'These are the best years of your life.' Are they? I don't know. Sometimes when adults say this to children I look into their faces. They look like someone on the top seat of the Ferris wheel who has had too much cotton candy and barbecue. They'd like to get off and be sick but everyone keeps telling them what a good time they're having.

  • Our teen-agers withdrew to their bedrooms on their thirteenth birthday and didn't show themselves to us again until it was time to get married.

    • Erma Bombeck,
    • in Erma Bombeck and Bil Keane, Just Wait Til You Have Children of Your Own ()
  • When you're lecturing teenagers and they begin to hum and leave the room, you can sense there is hostility.

    • Erma Bombeck,
    • in Jerry Dunn, ed., Tricks of the Trade ()
  • ... I was in my own way; I myself was a dark object I could not ignore. I couldn't remember how to forget myself. I didn't want to think about myself, to reckon myself in, to deal with myself every livelong minute on top of everything else — but swerve as I might, I couldn't avoid it. I was a boulder blocking my own path. I was a dog barking between my own ears, a barking dog who wouldn't hush. So this was adolescence.

  • ... nothing is as conventional as adolescence.

  • That was, I think, the most magical dawn I have ever attended. But when I remarked to Rachel that one wet night was a small price to pay for such an experience she merely grunted and went on wringing out her flea-bag. Perhaps at fourteen one's aesthetic sensibilities are still latent.

  • It seems that one moment I was this little kid only caring about animals and flowers and stuff, and then the next minute I was this raging stew of hormones. I don't know if you've ever been a raging stew of anything, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it.

  • ... I feel I'm trying to get this really crap car going, and it just keeps stalling on me. And then other times I feel like my life's a train thundering toward me, and I'm in a car stuck on the crossroads and can't get out. Isn't it great being young!


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  • You have a wonderful child. Then, when he's thirteen, gremlins carry him away and leave in his place a stranger who gives you not a moment's peace.

    • ,
    • in Parade ()
  • When children reach the age of sixteen, they discover the meaning of life: car keys.

  • A mother can legitimately be said to 'have a baby' — but in a civilization such as ours, she can never claim to own a teenager.

  • Weariness! Weariness! This was life — my life — my career, my brilliant career! I was fifteen — fifteen! A few fleeting hours and I would be as old as those around me.

  • A shrewd observer has significantly characterized the period as the time when the boy wishes he were dead, and everybody else wishes so too.

  • One of the most common signs of this period, in some natures, is the love of contradiction and opposition, — a blind desire to go contrary to everything that is commonly received among the older people.

  • [At age 16:] I don't know as I am fit for anything and I have thought that I could wish to die young and let the remembrance of me and my faults perish in the grave rather than live, as I fear I do, a trouble to everyone. ... Sometimes I could not sleep and have groaned and cried till midnight ...

  • ... the term 'young adults' which is so often used today seems to me a misnomer, and one which, if taken seriously, may lead the adolescent into misunderstanding as to his nature and his role in life. 'Young" he is; 'adult' he is not.

  • To most teenagers, life is a strange uncharted land filled with a mixture of new joys, intensely felt, and painful confusions for which they know no anodyne.

  • At fourteen you don't need sickness or death for tragedy.

  • Youth is the season of tragedy and despair. Youth is the time when one's whole life is entangled in a web of identity, in a perpetual maze of seeking and of finding, of passion and of disillusion, of vague longings and of nameless griefs, of pity that is a blade in the heart, and of 'all the little emptiness of love.'

  • Adolescence is like cactus.

  • Children from ten to twenty don't want to be understood. Their whole ambition is to feel strange and alien and misinterpreted so that they can live austerely in some stone tower of adolescence, their privacies unviolated.

    • Phyllis McGinley,
    • "New Year and No Resolutions," Merry Christmas, Happy New Year ()
  • ... because I happen to be a parent of almost fiercely maternal nature, I praise casualness. It seems to me the rarest of virtues. It is useful enough when children are small. It is important to the point of necessity when they are adolescents.

  • Show Miss Manners a grown-up who has happy memories of teenage years, with their endless round of merry-making and dancing the night away, and Miss Manners will show you a person who has either no heart or no memory.

  • The invention of the teenager was a mistake, in Miss Manners' opinion. She has nothing against people of that age; indeed, she is quite foolishly fond of some such individuals. It is not teenagers whom she wishes to abolish, but only the category. Once you identify a period of life in which people have few restrictions and, at the same time, few responsibilities — they get to stay out late but don't have to pay taxes — naturally, nobody wants to live any other way. Thus we now have the equally unappetizing spectacles of small children and grown-ups unsuccessfully imitating teenage dress, speech, and social rites, while teenagers themselves have little motivation to learn the trappings of adulthood.

  • What great fun it is for those of us old enough to appreciate nap time to imagine wild, free youth out there overflowing with exuberant emotions and happily struggling in vain to suppress the madcap ways they keep inventing to express them. Unfortunately, however, the real chief social problem of youth is the habit of standing around looking stupid. Mind you, Miss Manners is not accusing anyone of actually being stupid. Tuning out of conversations that do not immediately concern one, responding minimally to banalities, and utterly relaxing the features whenever possible, short of allowing the tongue to loll outside the mouth, may be defended as rational behavior. ... Standing around looking stupid, however, is an extremely impractical social posture. Adults invariably interpret it as representing stupidity, or at least contempt for themselves, which they naturally believe to be the same thing. It is not a wise idea to leave this impression on adults, not so much because they have feelings but because they have beach houses, summer jobs to give out, places in schools to allot, and the ability and opportunity to air damaging opinions in front of their own children.

  • High school was great when it ended.

  • I remember adolescence, the years of having the impulse control of a mousetrap, of being as private as a safe-deposit box.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "Mom, Dad, and Abortion," Thinking Out Loud ()
  • 'Boyfriends' weren't friends at all; they were prizes, escorts, symbols of achievement, fascinating strangers, the Other.

  • Love is the only thing that keeps me sane ...

  • It's no surprise to me that intellectuals commit suicide, go mad or die from drink. We feel things more than other people. We know the world is rotten and that chins are ruined by spots.

  • I have decided to keep a full journal, in the hope that my life will perhaps seem more interesting when it is written down.

  • Bringing up teenagers is like sweeping back ocean waves with a frazzled broom — the inundation of outside influences never stops. Whatever the lure — cars, easy money, cigarettes, drugs, booze, sex, crime — much that glitters along the shore has a thousand times the appeal of a parent's lecture ...

  • I did not write it [Coming of Age in Samoa] as a popular book, but only with the hope that it would be intelligible to those who might make the best use of its theme, that adolescence need not be the time of stress and strain which Western society made it; that growing up could be freer and easier and less complicated; and also that there were prices to pay for the very lack of complication I found in Samoa — less intensity, less individuality, less involvement with life.

  • Nothing, perhaps, in all this mysterious world is so inscrutable a mystery as the mind of early youth. It crawls, the beetle creature, in a hard shell, hiding the dim, inner struggle of its growing wings, moving numbly as if in a torpid dream. It has forgotten the lively grub stage of childhood, and it cannot foresee the dragon-fly adventure just ahead. This blind, dumb, numb, imprisoned thing, an irritation to the nerves of every one who has to deal with it, suffers. First it suffers darkly and dimly the pain growth, and then it suffers the sharp agony of a splitting shell, the dazzling wounds of light, the torture of first moving its feeble wings. It drags itself from its shell, it clings to its perch, it finds itself born anew into the world.

  • Teen-agers have their hangups, / Every mother knows. / But one thing is for certain; / That doesn't include their clothes.

  • This sentiment of self-contempt is a frequent one in young people of both sexes. Their valuation of themselves varies as much as the barometer, and is as much affected by outward causes.

  • The one thing I would like to get across about my whole feeling regarding high school is how I was when I was fifteen. Gawky. Always a hem hanging down, or strap loose, or a pimple on my chin. I never knew what to do with my hair. I was a mess. And I still carry that fifteen-year-old girl around now. A piece of me still believes I'm the girl nobody dances with.

    • Nora Ephron,
    • in Ralph Keyes, Is There Life After High School? ()
  • With any child entering adolescence, one hunts for signs of health, is desperate for the smallest indication that the child's problems will never be important enough for a television movie.

  • When your children are teenagers, it's important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.

  • When girls / Get curvier, / And boys — / Obsurvier!

  • Most grown people are like icebergs, three-tenths showing, seven-tenths submerged — that is why a collision with one of them is unexpectedly hurtful ...

  • Teenagers are like cats — they have important business that doesn't involve mere humans.

  • ... it is normal for an adolescent to behave for a considerable length of time in an inconsistent and unpredictable manner; to fight his impulses and to accept them; to ward them off successfully and to be overrun by them; to love his parents and to hate them; to revolt against them and to be dependent on them; to be deeply ashamed to acknowledge his mother before others and, unexpectedly, to desire heart-to-heart talks with her; to thrive on imitation of and identification with others while searching unceasingly for his own identity; to be more idealistic, artistic, generous, and unselfish than he will ever be again, but also the opposite: self-centered, egotistic, calculating. Such fluctuation between extreme opposites would be deemed highly abnormal at any other time of life. At this time they may signify no more than that an adult structure of personality takes a long time to emerge.

    • Anna Freud,
    • "Adolescence," in Heinz Hartmann et al., The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, vol. 13 ()
  • ... while games and other amusements may serve for a temporary variety (always excepting games known as 'kissing-games,' which should be promptly tabooed and denounced, and ever will be in truly refined society), yet animated and intelligent conversation must always hold the first place in the list of the pleasures of any refined society circle.

  • ... Youth asks no greater privilege than to fight its own battles. It is mistaken kindness to shield — it weakens one in the years to come.

  • We real cool. We / Left school. We / Lurk late. We / Strike straight. We / Sing sin. We / Thin gin. We / Jazz June. We / Die soon.

  • My adolescence progressed normally: enough misery to keep the death wish my usual state, an occasional high to keep me from actually taking the gas-pipe.

  • Adolescence is a twentieth-century invention most parents approach with dread and look back on with the relief of survivors.

  • In no order of things is adolescence a time of the simple life.

  • Young people want to look like peas in a pod, and there is no use trying to make them different.

  • I've never understood why people consider youth a time of freedom and joy. It's probably because they have forgotten their own.

  • The American high school is a surrealistic institution. High school and real life coexist, side by side, like the simultaneously existing worlds in a Superman comic book. But high school is like real life thrown slightly out of whack. Everything is just enough askew that it's about impossible to do them both. It's like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time. You can hardly do real life and high school.

  • They [adolescents] are delinquent because, in addition to their tension over the individual failures of their individual families, they have no real part to play in the life of the world. They are boiling over with vitality and ability which our society does not want or need.

    • Della D. Cyrus,
    • "What's Wrong With the Family?" in The Atlantic Monthly ()
  • Adolescents are like cockroaches: They come out the minute you leave town, crawl the walls, feed indiscriminately, reproduce alarmingly unless drugged, and will certainly outlast you.

  • If you have older children who avoid you like the plague, buy yourself some expensive bath salts, run a hot tub, and settle in for a long soak. Teenagers who haven't talked to you since their tenth birthday will bang on the door, demanding your immediate attention.

  • ... you should enjoy and appreciate your days in high school, because you will remember them the rest of your life. Like when you're in prison, or you're getting mugged at gunpoint, you can say to yourself, 'Well, at least I'm not in high school.'

  • If you enjoyed high school, you were probably a psychopath or a cheerleader. Or possibly both.

  • High school and equality are forever incompatible.

  • ... childhood's garden had been barred and there was no return. In some measure this simple truth is known to every adolescent.

  • Having a thirteen-year-old was like having your own personal brick wall.

  • All the best human impulses can be traced back to adolescence.

  • ... the teenage zone: the stage when an adolescent's brain synapses quit firing while the rest of their body races toward adulthood.

    • Becky Freeman,
    • in Becky Freeman and Ruthie Arnold, Worms in My Tea ()
  • ... many of us are done with adolescence before we are done with adolescent love.

  • A normal adolescent isn't a normal adolescent if he acts normal.

  • When Jeffrey turned fourteen and Matilda twelve, they had begun to change; to grow rude, coarse, selfish, insolent, nasty, brutish, and tall. It was as if she were keeping a boarding house in a bad dream, and the children she had loved were turning into awful lodgers — lodgers who paid no rent, whose leases could not be terminated.

  • It is frequently said that children do not know the value of money. This is only partially true. They do not know the value of your money. Their money, they know the value of.

  • So much of growing up is an unbearable waiting. A constant longing for another time. Another season.

  • Fifteen takes its perplexities very seriously and grieves without restraint over its sorrows.

  • Today I discovered two kinds of people who go to high school: those who wear new clothes to show off on the first day, and those who wear their oldest clothes to show they think school is unimportant.

  • The best substitute for experience is being sixteen.

  • Adolescence always has its tragic aspects. It is only a question of degree.

  • ... the springtime of life isn't a chain; it's a pair of wings.

    • Sok-kyong Kang,
    • "A Room in the Woods," in Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton, trans., Words of Farewell: Stories by Korean Women Writers ()
  • It turned out to be impossible for me to 'run away' in the sense other American teenagers did. Any movement at all was taken for progress in my family.

  • We become adolescents when the words that adults exchange with one another become intelligible to us ...

  • Growing up crowds your mind with new thoughts and new feelings so that you forget how you used to think and feel.

  • Growing up is like taking down the sides of your house and letting strangers walk in.

  • We spend our whole lives recovering from high school.

  • It is a jesting universe where the longing for first romance couples with acne.

  • Mope — hope — grope.

  • Having a [teenage] daughter is like riding a young horse over an unknown steeplechase course. You don't know when to pull up the reins, when to let the horse have its head — or what.

  • Now that I am sixteen and can look back upon life, I find that almost everything that we do which we like has to be buried in one way or another.

  • Caron is fifteen, to put it mildly.

  • ... adolescence is a sort of underworld we have to live through. Everything is in us, even vice and crime. At the same time we discover free will. I wonder that it doesn't tear us off our bases for good and all.

  • Kids want acceptance from their peers, but in two different, opposing ways: They want to be like everyone else and they want to be different from everyone else. So the question is: How do you reconcile these opposing longings?

  • Something dramatic happens to girls in early adolescence. Just as planes and ships disappear mysteriously into the Bermuda Triangle, so do the selves of girls go down in droves. They crash and burn in a social and developmental Bermuda Triangle.

  • ... although it has been said that idle hands are the devil's workshop, when it comes to teenagers, both idle and active hands are the devil's workshop.

  • Rite of passage we / each have as a legacy / of growing up and daring / to challenge the terrible / beauty of our own alienation / our own walk in space / our own weightlessness / in a world of spiraling / centrifugal force — a race / to the unknown — / a rite of passage.

    • Pinkie Gordon Lane,
    • "Poems for Gordon: A Rite of Passage," Girl at the Window: Poems ()
  • If pornographers can hook adolescents when their hormones are raging, they know they'll have an ongoing consumer base for life.

  • Living with teenagers is like watching Jeopardy! every night. After a while you start thinking, 'Maybe I am stupid.'

  • Chloe's softball career was in full swing this year ... At one practice she chose to catch the ball with her eye. Her parents were relieved she was not concussed and savored that short period of time when she could no longer roll her eyes.

  • Josie's sons are teenagers now ... They have entered some alarming pupa stage where they grunt at her, and speak in deep voices, and peer out from under their hair like badgers from under a rock.

  • Adolescence is a tough time for parent and child alike. It is a time between: between childhood and maturity, between parental protection and personal responsibility, between life stage-managed by grown-ups and life privately held.

  • The end of adolescence is the beginning of adulthood. What hasn't been finished then will have to be finished later.

  • Adolescence isn't a training ground for adulthood now; it is a holding pattern for aging youth.

  • Adolescence isn't a training ground for adulthood now; it is a holding pattern for aging youth.

  • My mother said I was at an awkward age. I didn't feel especially awkward, so I presumed she meant that it was awkward for them.

  • ... life with most teenagers was like having a low-grade bladder infection. It hurt, but you had to tough it out.