Anti-Teen Towson

Come to Towson! We have great big Barnes and Nobles full of all the books you could ever wish to read— Oh they got rid of that? Well then, we have cupcakes! Lots and Lots of cupcakes at our hometown La Cakery— Oh that’s gone to? Really? Well, we still have a mall and a movie theatre, open all hours the day— That too? You have to kidding me? Ok seriously, what do we have— Really? That’s it, all right… Come to Towson! We have lots of… apartments! I guess… A lot has changed in three years.

Towson used to be a place where teens can go to unwind after a long week of school. See a movie, buy a cupcake and hang out in the local Barns and Nobles. That was three years ago. Three years since Towson began its deconstruction process and have taken down or modified the local teen locations to make them more adult friendly. The first to fall was the beloved book store; the rest followed soon after. Even the movie theatre and the mall were not safe from the anti-teen tirade. Then they came for us where they knew it would hurt — our weekends.

As we all know, weekend time is prime time for college kids and high school kids to hang out and relax after a long week of school. The second that bell rings on Friday afternoon, we’re out and most of us have plans that would take us somewhere in the circle. To get a better understanding of the foot traffic in the Towson circle, I had to ask around and get a census of how many times the circle was visited by a student per month. The visiting range varied from student to student, the highest being four to five times a month, and the lowest being once. As I was taking my census, I opened up the floor to these students to let out how they feel about the changes in Towson because while it is good to know how popular the Circle once was, it is also important to see how it has affected our present day.

Student Juliana Salehi has this to say about the new adult center renovations. “I used to go to Barns and Nobles all the time, and when that closed we went to the mall, and then we couldn’t go there anymore… So we went to La Cakery, but now that’s gone too. Everything is gone now. There is nowhere left to go. We used to love going into the circle, but now with no place left to go we stay inside and feel lazy. It would be nice to able to go somewhere that doesn’t cost money, but all that’s left are, and those cost us money.” It was interesting to see how many students would go to the different places that shut down, I passed through the Towson circle just to see how many possible hangout spots remained and there were none.”

While I do think that it is understandable for places like Barns and Nobles and the mall to turn against the teen population because we only bring foot traffic, not money to these places. We go, we look, then we leave without spending any money. However, this excuse doesn’t work with the movie theatre, La Cakery or Bill Batemans. Two of these are food locations that yes, teens go and sit down for a while, but unlike the mall, they do bring business and money with them. The movies especially should benefit the most from the stampede of teens that loved the circle because the majority of the time it would be teens that buy more, not adults. Adults will buy a ticket, maybe an alcoholic drink, and sneak in snacks; teens will pay extra for 3D tickets, a bag of popcorn and a drink, leaving with a forty-dollar hole in their pockets. Still, the Cinemark banned teens who come without a parent or guardian after five on Fridays and Saturdays.

Student Connor Welsh, a junior at Towson high has this to say about the changes. “Since moving to Towson, I have become something of a socialite. Before I never really hung out with friends at these places and hadn’t felt the full effect but now since becoming more of a social person I have thought that finding a place to go with friends is a challenge. There really is nothing left, and it is kind of sad.”

Some students even have to go as far as to travel to the city because of this change. Student Zoe Johnson had this to say. “I am not a fan. I have to go to the city now if I want to go to barns and nobles, which is too far and it’s hard to get out there. That’s always been my favorite bookstore, and I wish Towson fought to keep it here.”

Even students who have now graduated and moved onto college still have an opinion on the changes their old hometown has undergone. Jullian, a freshman at CCBC, reminisced about his past struggles in the new Towson system. “I remember that I stopped hanging out at the mall… or anywhere in Towson since it was mostly clothes and food and after a while that got expensive. We couldn’t even just walk to the movies after school because of their rule against bookbags which is weird because I would go on the weekend with my girlfriend and she would have a purse or a mini bag. Why are backpacks not allowed?”

Listening to these stories, I realized the effect that these changes have had. People are bored. They have nowhere to go now except home to sit on the couch with their friends and play on their phones. Unless they want to walk an hour to the Senator or drive thirty minutes into the city, Towson teens are stuck.

We now know how they were affected, but I was interested to see how they think the change will affect Towson.

There are a small few that are happy that adults are satisfied with where they live but are others that are left feeling like Towson has turned against them. Juliana Salehi has this to say, “Towson is so incredibly boring now, and yea its great adults are happy about not having to deal with kids, but lots of people move here because they have families, so like… what now? When I walk around Towson in the summer, and these adults are saying things like ‘wow these kids are everywhere! Don’t they have somewhere to go, there to young to be out!’ and I just feel angry because no, we don’t have somewhere to go. Adults and parents want us to get out of the house, but they don’t want us in their stores? Personally, I don’t see myself or any of my friends as disruptive people. I walk with my boyfriend and enjoy the town. Let us be teens in peace.”

Jullian, a freshman college student at CCBC, shared the same thoughts. “Through this whole thing I’m sure the adults are happy with their new spots and their money to burn, but after the changes were made, I had less interest going to Towson because now there is just expensive fashion and food. The adults can have their peace of mind without us, but we can’t do anything anymore, and it’s terrible. Like we’ve been cast out.”

The last sentiment is one I share because it seems like teens have been ruled out for being broke or not good for business. However, at the beginning of this year during a school assembly, the question was asked, who here has a job? There were too many hands to count, and while it is fair for places like the mall and the movies to remove teens that are being particularly rowdy, it is not ok to remove teens from Towson entirely. La Cakery and Barns and Nobles was a neutral zone where teens and adults could go and enjoy their time. So I’m sure that businesses leaving like La Cakery and Barns and Nobles wasn’t an attack against the overflowing teen population, but the hole it’s gone is being replaced by things that can’t count as neutral territory between teens and adults.

It has been three years since Towson has begun its transformation. The most recent building to fall being La Cakery. The Cinemark has thrown us out, the mall has cast us out, and buildings have been leaving left and right. Sometimes it feels like there’s nowhere to go, but I hope Towson knows what it’s doing.