It’s boring here: The suburban teen lament, but what are they actually talking about?

In asking readers to share their vision of Walnut Creek and its future, one reader expressed a view I’ve heard countless times—including from myself when I was a teenager living in Walnut Creek.

“Except for the movie theater, there is not much for kids to do in Walnut Creek.”

Sure, I know what this writer is talking about.

At the same time, I’m scratching my head.

When I think of myself, as a 16-year-old saying “it’s boring here,” or of kids and parents saying similar things today, I wonder: What are you actually talking about? What would you like—or what would you like your kids—to be doing?
Okay, indulge me for an old-geezer moment by opining that kids today have it much better than when I was their age, in terms of choices of things to keep themselves occupied in suburbia. Sure, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m amazed by the wide range of what I’ll call healthy, positive, enriching activities in which kids can get involved—in school or out of school. It’s a definitely a bigger choice than when I was in teen.

Sports leagues, even for non-competitive athletes … arts and dances classes, theater training, performance groups … school and teen-focused groups that let kids participate in a variety of recreational, social, scientific, environmental, philanthropic, and political issues.

The City of Walnut Creek also has pools, parks, a skateboard park, recreation programs, counseler-in-training programs.

Yes, we have the movie theater, and the Lesher Center offers student discounts for plays and dance and music performances in their venues. We also have “cheap eat” restaurants, coffee houses galore, Barnes and Noble, and Red House, a live music venue which says it admits, at least at certain times, underaged patrons.

For those so inclined, there is also shopping, shopping, shopping.

Of course, we have a nightlife, maybe as lively, probably according to the police, as nightlife scenes in Oakland, Berkeley or San Francisco. Of course, teens can’t partake of Walnut Creek’s nightlife, assuming that downtown bars and clubs are scrupulous about carding. But, then Walnut Creek teens shouldn’t be able to get into more edgy cool bars and clubs in Oakland, Berkeley or San Francisco either.

True confession from my misspent youth: When I was a junior and senior in high school, and when I would come home on breaks from college but was still underaged, my friends and I would head into San Francisco to go to bars and clubs. Back then in the DECADE REDACTED it was easy to find bars and clubs in San Francisco that didn’t card. That’s one big reason, in addition to experiencing that exciting city vibe, that my friends and I thought the City was soooo much more fun and interesting for hanging-out purposes than quiet, suburban, boring Walnut Creek.

And in speaking of my youthful successes in skirting parental supervision and underaged drinking laws, I’m getting to what I believe is a key point in my question to teens and their parents: What would you like—or what you like your kid—to be doing?

Trying to channel my former teen mindset, what did I want to be doing?

I wanted to hang out with friends, laughing, talking into the night. Sometimes, we liked to do “cultural” things like go to plays and movies. My artsy friends and I headed into San Francisco to go to art-house cinemas—before we’d go drink in bars that didn’t card. We also liked to spend the day at a beach in Marin or go on hikes in the Oakland hills.

Mainly, we liked to hang out with one another, which we could do at people’s houses driving around in a car, here in Walnut Creek, or in other parts of the Bay Area.
And when we hung out together, we sometimes liked to do things our parents wouldn’t want us to be doing: looking for ways to drink alcohol, or, yes, to try other mind-altering substances, and looking for ways to have sex.

I don’t things have changed all that much, but I’ll find out pretty soon, when my soon hits high school. Preteens and teens like to hang out with friends—these days, either in person, or online via instant messaging or texting. And, if we’re being honest a fair share—no, not all—want to engage in and experiment with activities that their parents and other adults wouldn’t want them to be doing.

Yes, it’s terrible of me to say this about our “good” high-achieving suburban sons and daughters, that a number of them are up to no good? Well, I’ve read the results of the Healthy Kids surveys of public high school students in our area. For example, here are the 2007 results of surveys of ninth and 11th graders in the Acalanes high school district, and these results show that a majority have tried alcohol and a fair number drink on a regular basis and have used other drugs.

You can view results of surveys of other districts here.

My point about what kids really want to do—hang out and do things we adults don’t want them to be doing—is that kids can do that in suburbia–as well as anywhere else.

So, when teens complain that there is nothing to do here, maybe they are complaining that there are few 21-and-older options for them here, such as nightlife and clubs.

However, given the prevalence of alcohol and drugs in suburban teen social life, it’s obvious that teens aren’t having much trouble getting access to certain adult experiences. Disposable income, and kids in our affluent communities have that, comes in handy when you want to do things your parents don’t want you to be doing.

Then again, maybe it’s just in the nature of teen-agers to complain about being bored, and that there is “nothing to do here.” Looking back, as much as I might have complained, I don’t think I was all that bored. In fact, I have fond memories of hanging out with my friends, doing silly things, legal and not, in suburbia.

6 thoughts on “It’s boring here: The suburban teen lament, but what are they actually talking about?

  1. This cracks me up. I grew up in Red Bluff CA in the (decade redacted) which is in the middle of nowhere off of Interstate 5. To do any type of convenient/mall shopping or go to any major chain restaurant, one had drive an hour north to Redding or south to Chico. Teen and kid art/dance/music/sports programs? Yeah right!
    I don't say all of this to say “Poor me” but I find it hilarious that kids who live in “the sticks” have the same complaints as those who live in the cities/burbs. I, for one, could not wait to move closer to the Bay Area just so I could have many more opportunities for activities. And with as much as I see to do here, it just goes to show that teenagers will always complain about being bored. Won't they?


  2. I tend to agree with 2:36 pm. Being a teen is all about angst, complaining and perceived boredom, right? I grew up in Walnut Creek and think there is plenty to do. I remember going to the movies, riding our bikes around town and dancing with a date one night in that little white building in the park under the christmas lights…. Hmmm, little nostalgia.


  3. Was that you in the gazebo Masterlock? …

    just kidding. I too would agree with the previous posters, it is you job as a teenager to be bored. You actually have to grow up before you can admitt how much fun it was to be a teenager.


  4. I went through my teen years in three different states (none in California).
    My friends helped me to invent our entertainment in each of them without help from our parents.
    Our pursuits were pretty tame compared to others here discussed.
    I urge parents to encourage young people rather than to discourage them. Children are required by their DNA to celebrate. Parental guidance at the dinner table starting at birth will probably result in a good outcome but it is not guaranteed.
    Best wishes to everyone's children and their parents.


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