While I was growing up, my mom was the queen of subscriptions. Magazines, music clubs announcing, “twelve tapes for 1 penny,” and teen book clubs were just too much for her to turn down. We had subscriptions to Teen and Seventeen and every month we went to Kroger to pick up Teen Beat and Bop. I would tear through the glossy pages and see the clothes I would never wear and pull out the pictures of Corey Haim and River Phoenix, boys who were beautiful and untouchable. My closet door was covered with those smoldering lust-filled boys. Everything was the status quo until the day my first Sassy magazine came in the mail.
Sassy felt different from the beginning. The cover did not feature a pretty smiling blonde girl with just the right amount of west coast charm. The article teasers were not “are you fit to babysit” and “he drops you: how to cope.” Nope, this magazine was totally different. The girl on this cover was tastefully edgy. Her black boots and tights held just the right amount of rebellion. She was cocked back a little with her pelvis thrust just enough. It was sexy, but not scare-your-parents-sexual. This was a siren’s song to me, “Israeli & Palestinian teens tell why peace talks won’t work.” “Yes, this is what I should care about,” I thought to myself. Sassy made me want to buy nothing but recycled paper even though I knew that one erase mark would shred the entire page. However, for me there was a slight backlash.
While Sassy pushed me to worry about the sad life of a 17-year-old stripper, I read Karen Kepplewhite Is the World’s Best Kisser for the sixth time. I was never going to be concerned with being a bearable vegetarian unless that was a secret code for being madly in love with mashed potatoes. I was letting Jane Pratt and her magazine down. The writing style appealed to me, tongue in cheek, with inside jokes sprinkled liberally. If I was ever going to write for Sassy and become best friends with Jane, I was going to need to leave The New Kids on the Block behind and lovingly embrace Evan Dando. I liked REM and The Lemonheads, but I hate The Cure and Morrissey with a passion that cannot be explained. So, what was a teenage girl to do? Fake it. The answer is fake it. I pulled my hair back with an alice band and attempted to morph myself into what I believed a Sassy reader to be. I stripped my doors of Corey and River and covered them with bad poetry and homemade posters about saving the whales and abortion. I pretended to care about the bands and issues listed within the magazine, while at night on the phone with Kristi we tried to tape songs off of 96.9, always angry when the DJ talked over the first few notes. I wanted to love Sonic Youth, but was a dirty little secret Top 40 kind of girl. I hid it with my clunky shoes and baby doll tops.
I was living a lie, but still every month I read my copy with a near savagery. I lined the spines up on my white colonial dresser. The spines were the best part of the magazine. Each spine was a different color and infused with a message: “I dreamed I was assertive,” “Nathan has a boy disease,” “be a lion.” These were obvious inside jokes thrown around a writers’ table, a writers’ table I would never be a part of. The magazine folded around 1994 when I was 19, and by that time, some of the luster had worn off for me. Not because the quality of writing had declined, but by 1994 I had a two year old and was pregnant again. My life was now straight out of the magazine’s pages, but I had long since stopped reading.
When I started writing this post, I Googled past magazine covers to pull off the topics and blurbs and I noticed something. Just like Seventeen was trying to sell me a carefree sun-kissed life, Sassy was selling me something too. Mixed in with the hard hitting articles about STDs, drugs, and rape, ever so casually placed between these teasers, were quizzes about being ready to have a boyfriend and articles called “4 Exotic Ways to Change Your Look. The difference was Sassy had better packaging. Seventeen and Sassy were locked in an east coast – west coast rap battle of wills and the prize was the souls of teenage girls everywhere, and I was Faith Evans forever pulled between Biggie and Tupac.