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Waitresses in restaurants, kids at home, even students in classrooms have set aside their traditional ballpoint pens in favor of gel pens, the latest trend in writing utensils. Mainly products of Japan, these colorful pens have mesmerized teens in the area.

"People use them for everything, anything!" said Svetlana Kombarova, a senior at Williamsville East. Gel pens come in over 33 different colors; they also come in "thin" and "medium," for a variety of writing styles. "I have eight," said Beth Russo, who bought her gel pens for Williamsville East's band trip last April. "We made a scrapbook for the band trip and it had black pages," said Beth. "I needed something to write with, so I bought the pastel ones and gold and silver. The scrapbook was really cool." Many teens find the pens appealing, and they don't mind that the pens have a few inconveniences.

"They run out pretty quickly," said Alex Papavramidis, whose family owns Royal Family Restaurant. "One of our waitresses had a purple one and she finished it in two or three days."

The pens also smear. Svetlana signed her name on a calendar in French class, and her teacher touched the ink before it had dried, creating a smudge where Svetlana's name had been. "What kind of ink is this?" she cried out. However, Svetlana did not mind the outburst. "It looks more beautiful than average pen writing," she said.

Despite their short life span, the pens also appealed to Alex. "I've never used one," she said, and then added: "I want one. I think they are neat."

Gel pens were among the presents some students received during the holiday season. On the day before winter recess, Shelley Irvin said: "I got one for a present today." Shelley used her gel pens on her English research project, Beth said.

The pens may be in vogue now, but they've been around for at least five years. "I used them in Latvia all the time -- since seventh grade," said Svetlana. "Here? I noticed them like two years ago." Even after five years, the pens still appeal to Svetlana. "They're cool," she said.

Gel pens are a trend that promises to be long-lived. This is because they add color and a distinct style to the user's writing. The gelled ink makes writing look more milky and indistinct, even though the user feels like he's writing as usual. As a gel pen advertisement in Teen People explains: "The power to express is the power to be yourself and that is the greatest power of all."

Lina Mountziaris is a junior at Williamsville East High School.

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