PURPLE HAIR, pierced flesh, pants hanging down to here, perfectly dreadful music, sullen moods and, like, the occasional dark headlines sometimes can combine to make us scared of our children.
We have to remind ourselves that the majority of our youngsters are basically good kids who work hard, hit the books and are serious about the chore of shaping themselves into adults.
We have found a pair of them -- twins, actually -- who from all appearances are off to a fine, and maybe exhausting, start. Erin and Andy Masterson are concluding their junior year at Annapolis High School, having amassed honors in both the classroom and in track and field.
They seem to be pals: Erin concedes that her brother is the brainier of the two; Andy brags about Erin's athletic accomplishments.
Erin has been honored by The Sun, the Washington Post and the Capital for her excellence in track. This newspaper named her the top female performer on its All-Anne Arundel County indoor track team in March.
Her specialties are the 800 meters and 1,600 meters (roughly equivalent to the half-mile and mile). She runs six days a week, "sprints, tempo and distance runs." She lifts weights three days a week. She's attentive to what she eats but indulges in the occasional pizza. She's a teen-ager, after all.
She has a 4.21 grade point average -- based on a 4.0 system, with extra points for advanced placement courses -- and is interested in English, history and Spanish, and in possibly pursuing international relations in college. She sells curtains in a shop near Annapolis Mall five to 10 hours a week.
Oh, yes. She also plays the viola, an instrument slightly larger than a violin. "I just like the tone. It's deeper, prettier," she said. "I wish I had more time to work at it."
Well, that's understandable.
Brother Andy runs the 1,600 meters (best time: 4: 49.0), the 800 meters and a leg in one of the relays. He trains for distance, six miles a day to 40 miles a week. With a 4.28 GPA and advanced placement classes in physics and U.S. history, he's regularly on Annapolis High's honor roll and has won two scholar-athlete awards.
He is thinking of expanding his interest in math and sciences at the Naval Academy, among several possible colleges. "I think I could handle the discipline there," he said, "because it would give structure and order to post-college life."
His last part-time job was in a restaurant at City Dock. "I had to give it up," he said. "School is more important."
(See. There is hope for us yet.)
Their interest in running and history may be inevitable: Their father, Dan, is a history professor at the Naval Academy, a serious runner, a coach of young runners and lobbyist for improved track facilities.
Older sister Katie, a student at Anne Arundel Community College, set precedents for her siblings as a runner at Annapolis High.
St. John's College will have its 208th commencement at 2 p.m. Sunday on the front lawn -- its first for a long time without the shade of the Liberty Tree, brought down in the fall because of storm damage.
Beth Schulman of St. John's said: "Commencements took place beneath the Liberty Tree throughout this century and may have taken place in the 19th century as well.
"Commencement as we know it is a 20th century development. Before that were simpler end-of-year exercises."
Among 85 undergraduates and 31 master's candidates will be Catherine Cronin, Greshen Gaines and James Reyback of Annapolis, Mary Jordan of Arnold and Scott Schollenberger of Shady Side.