Greatest Teen Magazine In the World...Tribute.

I was reading Bust when I saw a book review for How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time by Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer. Sassy? I remembered the glossy cover and felt an entirely-unknown emotion: nostalgia for my middle-school years.

Ironically, was first exposed the Sassy at church camp. I was eleven, the year was 1991, and I was in a cabin with a girl named Erin, who really didn't care too much about what Jesus was up to at a camp in rural Iowa. She wore flip-flops and sunglasses and had a tangle of brown hair down her back and two issues of Sassy in the bottom of her Caboodle. I had a blonde afro, glasses, and those Umbros with one teal leg and one purple leg, and I was in awe of her. While other girls read their bibles on the porch of our cabin, she and I pored over those two issues, over and over again, and I was officially in love with a magazine.

If you did not read Sassy, the premise is this: teen magazine for budding feminist, independent, alternative girls. Instead of tips on how to get boys to like you and what makeup to wear, Sassy had exclusive interviews with Kurt and Courtney, real sex advice, political features, and DIY articles. My bedroom walls went from pictures of pop-musicians to pictures of Sonic Youth, Evan Dando, 10,000 Maniacs, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, bands that seventh graders from the East Side of Des Moines had never even heard of, let alone listened to. Instead of the Guess jeans and rugby shirts that cool kids wore at my school, it was okay for me to wear Chucks and thrift-store corduroys.

Sassy was too sassy for it's own good, and it's ass-kicking format was dropped in 1994, right when I moved to the suburbs, only to be replaced, briefly, blasphemously, in 1994 by a Teen clone that was eventually put out of its misery, along with the few readers who hung on to the last death-rattle, in 1996. Infamous editor Jane Pratt then founded Jane, hoping to take the cult-following of Sassy into their adult years, but Jane never retained that indie spirit of Sassy, and Jane eventually left Jane, and legions of readers found their way to Bust. But it was Sassy, dear Sassy, that paved the way.

Sassy was smart and empowering, and for, me, validated my stand in the struggle that all adolescents experience: that in the quest to figure out who you are, who you really are is completely okay. It was okay to be smart, even if you were ostracized for it. It was okay to crush on the local gayboy. It was okay to listen to weird bands that weren't on the radio, and to be pro-choice, and to have chipped nail-polish, and to not define yourself by what boys at your school thought of you.

People who know my family wonder how I turned out so adamantly liberal, feminist, independent, and political when my family is fairly apolitical (though they love the gays and their guns) and, at times, downright conservative. I, too, wondered where my identity developed--and I think it absolutely comes from Sassy. I learned everything I needed to know to survive middle school from my surrogate big sisters: Jane, Christina, Marjorie, Karen, and the rest of the writers at the greatest teen mag of all time.

1 comment:

...Banter said...

man, i used to love it when my sister brought these trash-rags home. granted, it was no dudes mag, but what really is?