Early Influence: Sassy Magazine / by Leslie

When I moved to the United States from Canada after college I left a bunch of stuff at my parent's house. Over the years I have brought things home slowly, the most important bits first, but I still had a bunch of stuff there like my college portfolio case filled with my own artwork and a bunch of work from my classmates, a box of books and 2 trunks filled with who knows what. Now that they have moved it was time for me to claim my remaining stuff and either throw it out or ship it to myself. In the box of books I found my old Sassy magazines from 1988 and 1989. These were the early issues, before the publisher changed hands for the first time and when it was still run out of New York, instead of LA. The magazine went through a number of redesigns but I love this first version the best.

I started reading these when I was in grade eight and they carried me through my defining grade nine years and might have influenced me landing squarely in the alternative/goth camp, at which time I stopped buying them. They straddled the line between pretty, mall going, model type girls and the rebellious, alt-rock, gay-friendly girls like me. Eventually the magazine leaned too far towards the pretty and away from the grit and grunge that I loved, but I devoured these early issues and this magazine made it ok for me to be me.

Having a look on eBay and chatting with a few people online who were also fans of the magazine when it was on the stands convinced me that I was smart to save them. Issues from later years are fetching fifteen to twenty dollars a piece online and there seems to be a special place in many hearts for the magazine. There was even a book written about it! Here's an interesting review of the book that also explains how the magazine had so much potential but couldn't sustain it's edge. An excerpt from that article perfectly sums me up, I think:

"If you subscribed to or even occasionally read Sassy, the teen-girl magazine that existed from 1989 to 1996, then that makes you, approximately, a pro-choice registered Democrat who came of age listening to alternative rock. You grew up on R.E.M., the Smiths, the Cure, Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth, Liz Phair, Hole, Bikini Kill, PJ Harvey, My So-Called Life, and John Hughes. Your romantic ideals were forged by repeated viewings of Dead Poets Society, Say Anything, and Morrissey riding around on a tractor in the middle of winter for the “Suedehead” video. You published a zine or bought zines, issued seven-inch singles or bought seven-inch singles. You were probably a high-achieving malcontent, a wearer of black in high school who became a thrift-store-haunting feminist theorist in college. If you were going to get married at all, you were going to marry an enlightened, sensitive man who washed dishes, and you’d do it for enlightened, egalitarian love—not money! Or else you were going to, or did, come out proudly as a lesbian, or you took up with members of both sexes and didn’t feel guilty. You were under the impression that the girls who came after you would never have to shave their legs."

So all of that is relatively accurate. Except for the shaving my legs part. I've been shaving my legs since I was 10 and I can't really see myself stopping. Anyway, it seems Sassy was made for girls just like me. If you read it too, I image we have a lot in common. We'd be BFFs for sure. The amazing thing is that for all us grown up Sassy readers, there is little out there like this for the teens of today. So, what shall we do about this, fellow Sassy-inspired 30 year olds? Is it time to resurrect a new magazine for teens in the same spirit, as 13 year old blogger Tavi has requested? Is it even possible in this day and age to have the same kind of angst ridden, rebellious environment that made Sassy possible? Is the world of blogs just one big Sassy magazine? Oh, so many questions. I'll be thinking about this over the summer, and reading all these old issues. Sometimes early influences can become current inspiration.