How Sassy Changed My Life

Posted by Miss Ess, March 19, 2008 04:43pm | Post a Comment
Growing up, my best friend and I were obsessed with reading.  We would spend time together whiling away the summer in the hammock in her yard, voraciously reading through any books that came our way.  My best friend's sister was 5 years older than us.  Although she was basically nerdy too, she was, by age association alone, more advanced and thus cooler than us.  It was through her that I discovered Sassy Magazine at the age of 11.

When I think about the major influences on my life, the bits that I've clung to and that have truly created and informed who I am today, the first thing I think of is The Beatles and the second is SassySassy was utterly unique-- a teen girl's magazine that addressed feminism, individuality and intelligence.  Sassy gave voice to ideas I was too young to communicate and also acquainted me with relevant topics I had never read about before.  It bolstered my already- formed beliefs in honesty and creativity, and it gave me a sense of self-esteem in those dreaded middle school years.  It showed me there was a world outside of my preppy high school-- a world where there was more going on than wearing Gap Jeans and driving a Mercedes.

It was written by a small group of young women (and a few men) in their early and mid 20s who had clearly made it out of adolescence and had, in my eyes, made something of themselves.  They embraced the high and the low culturally and taught me to look with an even keener critical eye at popular culture.  They seemed to have complete freedom in their lives and spent their days, as I imagined it, meeting stars and adequately tearing them down or flirting with them, listening to music, gossiping amongst themselves and of course, writing.

Sassy was where I finally could see that there was an underground, not just what we were spoon -fed by mass media.  At a very tender age, I was introduced to Bikini Kill, Sebadoh and Courtney Love through the pages of Sassy.   I eagerly read articles slamming everything from homophobia to 90210 and absorbed every word and image to the point where I can remember certain pieces' layout and photos to this day.  I embraced each issue like it was a letter addressed directly to me and arriving in my sheltered mail box from the actual real world.  It was comforting to know something else besides middle school was out there on the other side.  Reading through each issue and its various articles gave me the feeling that it was perfectly okay to be whoever I wanted to be, to be whoever I was, and to relax a bit through the process of figuring all that out.

I write all of this because I've just finished reading a new book paying tribute to the long defunct Sassy.  It's somewhat grandly called How Sassy Changed My Life.  While the title admittedly sounds over-dramatic, I must concede that in many ways, for me and I am sure many others, it's actually true.  The fact that I am at a place like Amoeba now is directly tied to my all-consuming Sassy reading all those many summers ago, swinging in that suburban hammock.

Reading HSCML is a bit like visiting old friends, as Sassy's staff writers were so well known and loved issue to issue that they went by first name only.  Many ex staff members are interviewed.  The tone of the book is interestingly academic, hardly what I expected since its topic is one of the most resoundingly conversational magazines ever.  The authors of HSCML are also kind of preaching to the choir-- Sassy's cultural impact and importance are proven again and again in the book, but those of us who were compelled to pick up HSCML already know all about that.  We are much more eager to read about all the behind the scenes goings-on.  Luckily, moments in time from Sassy's offices are occasionally interlaced with all the academic jargon.  If only the authors had allowed for more of that!  And when is someone going to publish each and every Sassy issue in one book? Is that even legal?  Someone should be working on it!

For a taste of what Sassy was, check out Christina Kelly's 1992 interview with avid Sassy fans Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.  Also, here's a sample of their monthly 'Dear Boy' column, in which an "Established Male", such as Thurston Moore or Beck, or in this case, J. Mascis, answers girls' questions.

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Courtney Love (13), Kurt Cobain (17), Book Review (5), How Sassy Changed My Life (1), Sassy (1), J. Mascis (1)