I can’t believe it’s taken me over three and a half years to finally blog about one of the most important aspects of my teenager-hood. I’ve covered The Baby-Sitters Club, Judy Blume and Jerry Spinelli, et al extensively. But one thing I really lived for was Sassy Magazine.
I have always been a magazine junkie. I can’t not flip through even the trashiest of magazines at the grocery store. I read Entertainment Weekly and Consumer Reports cover to cover, even when an article holds no interest. Before I became a stay at home mom, I worked in a law office, where we got People, Time and Sports Illustrated for the waiting area. For the nine years I worked there, I read every single issue.
It all started with Sassy. In the nineties, girls had a choice of magazines. YM, Seventeen, and Teen (for the slightly younger set), were all basically the same magazine. Tips on hair care, periods, boy troubles, and some pictures of Mark-Paul Gosselaar thrown in for good measure. But along came Sassy and turned the whole teen girl magazine on its head.
Sassy was started by Jane Pratt, known for Jane magazine, and it showed. Sassy was a devoutly feminist magazine, which pushed things far more intellectual than Seventeen or YM was pushing. They had a great book review section — a book review section where I first saw The Virgin Suicides reviewed. How many teen magazines are going around reviewing Jeffrey Eugenides, I ask you? Sassy was the only one.
But where Sassy really stole my heart, was with the girls that they chose as models. Girls who were pretty, but not in the conventional Seventeen sort of way. The editors at Sassy clearly had a think for freckles, which thrilled me beyond belief. I was (and am to this day) a pale freckle-faced girl. I grew up thinking freckles were unsightly….a mere notch above acne on the facial-spot scale. But oh, those adorable freckle-faced models in Sassy. I became so devoted to freckle-pride, I actually got upset when my freckles began to fade as I entered adulthood. (They’re still there, just a little lighter. Every summer I get excited as they begin to pop out again from the sun.)
Also, here’s my arm. My arm freckles have never really faded:
With no offense to Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who I am sure is a very nice fellow, Sassy was more concerned with a different level of celebrity. My favorite cover ever was one featuring Mayim Bialik (Blossom being another very important teenager thing to me.) If you look close, you can see the freckles on her nose.
Also, an article on the B-52’s! In a teen magazine! An article about feeling alienated! Probably their advice was to go read The Catcher in the Rye. Seventeen would have told you to join a club at school or go to youth group/BBYO at church/synagogue. Also, see where it says Election Mania at the top? This was the ’92 presidential election. I’m going to blow your mind here. I learned who James Carville and George Stephanopolous were from Sassy. That’s right, ladies. A magazine aimed at teen girls had an article (though I’m not sure it was the one in this particular issue) which discussed Bill Clinton’s very charismatic and very sassy campaign advisers.
Sex was dealt with in a really open and honest way in Sassy. Instead of encouraging girls to tighten up their chastity belts for the sake of purity, because that’s what fucking SOCIETY expects of you, Sassy encouraged girls to respect themselves. Sex was OK in the world of Sassy, as long as you were doing it for the right reasons, and you were doing it with a fella who liked you. Birth control was widely discussed in a matter of fact way, as were the consequences of sex without birth control.
In addition to pushing the likes of Jeffrey Eugenides on us (seriously, Sassy. Thanks for that), Sassy pushed other pop culture that would have been inaccessible to girls in the pre-internet days. Quentin Tarantino – I read reviews on both Reservoir Dogs and True Romance in Sassy….and went to see True Romance in the theater as a result of that review. Also, you know who worked at Sassy? Chloe Sevigny. It-girl extraordinaire.
Sometime around 1995 or 1996, Sassy was bought out by Young Miss (purveyor of the crappy other teen mags, YM and Teen) and it became decidedly less sassy. In fact, it became just another YM and shortly thereafter, it ceased to exist at all. But here’s a cold hard fact: If Sassy still existed today, in its original sassy form, I would still be a devoted reader.
Just for fun, let’s look at some old Sassy Covers!