I remember it so well. It was 8th grade... or maybe it was 7th. Okay, so maybe I don't remember it that well. Anyway, it was one of those magazine drives in middle school. If you went to a public school in the 80's you might recall that they would pull us out of class for an hour or so (sweet! no math today!) and corall us into the gymnasium or the cafeteria or whatever other large meeting area there was available at the school. There would be a highly energetic guy with a microphone up front and he would get us all excited about winning crap prizes.
And there was always some super fantastic amazing prize available if we sold some ridiculous amount. Back in my day it was a Nintendo. Nowadays it's probably an iPad. Every kid would mentally calculate how it could be possible for them to actually win the super amazing prize and formulate a plan. Unless they were spoiled and already had whatever the super awesome amazing prize was, in which case they smugly told every jealous kid around.
"I already have a Nintendo with Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt. And I have the Legend of Zelda and Tetris, too."
That was me, by the way. I had all that. But I wasn't spoiled... I actually saved up my modest $5 weekly allowance for months to get the original NES. It was a hundred bucks and when I was up to $75 I happened to get a stomach virus and my dad felt sorry for me and pitched in the extra $25 so I would have something to play with in between vomiting. It was the best stomach virus I ever had.
But I digress.
So it was a magazine drive and I had to sell like three magazines to get whatever little stupid thing I was aiming for. I sold my mom and dad on renewing their bathroom subscription to Reader's Digest and I think I managed to get B1 in her new adulthood to fork over the money for Cosmo or something like that. Just one more subscription was needed.
I reviewed the options and decided to fork over $7** for the cheapest subscription on the list.
I hadn't heard of Sassy magazine. I didn't know what it was other than the description on the order form which was probably "Magazine geared toward 13 to 21 year old girls" or something equally bland and non-descript.
Whatever, it was only $7 and I was getting my prize!!
By the time my first issue of Sassy arrived, I'm sure whatever the doo-hickey was that I so desperately wanted was already broken or forgotten in a drawer under a pile of brightly colored scrunchies and those blue rubber keychains that came with my Keds. Little did I know, my life was about to be forever altered.
Middle school was a time of identity crisis. I moved all over the social status ladder in middle school, never quite hitting the bottom rung, but never being really anywhere close to the top, either. I wasn't sure where I should fit in, where I wanted to fit in, or what my options were.
Sassy said "screw that noise and be yourself" and it was like Jane Pratt personally reached out from the pages of the magazine and flicked me in the nose. I was instantly in love, devouring every page of it within a day of its arrival in my mailbox. Sassy taught me to think for myself, to make my own decisions, to open my mind to the possibility that what "everyone was saying" might not be the right thing.
It wasn't a teen magazine that told me what to wear or what kind of boy to like. It wasn't about what lip gloss to wear or how to banish the flabby parts on my thighs. Sassy told me I could embrace my flabby parts and if the boy I had a crush on liked a skinnier or blonder girl, then so be it. There were plenty of boys who would like me for who I was.
And even if they didn't, that was okay.
Every month Sassy would throw out new definitions, some of which I still use today.
I can't tell you how many times I've used "Party Hats" in that context over the years.
There was a page in every magazine called "stuff you wrote" and it featured witty observations, thoughtful poetry, and rhetorical questions from readers. It was probably my favorite part of the magazine and usually the first page I turned to when it arrived. It opened my mind up to the humor in irony and showed me a glimpse into the minds of other girls who were thinking the same weird thoughts that I was thinking.
So when Sassy was taken over by Petersen Publishing my junior year of high school and the whole thing changed I was hurt. It was the first time I had to deal with the death of some type of media that I loved. (Later I would feel the pain again with Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me.) My February 1994 issue of Sassy arrived and it felt.... wrong... dirty... gross.
It felt like my best friend had been replaced by a clone of my best friend who looked a lot like her, but without any pimples or split ends. And she had forgotten all of our funny inside jokes and didn't really know me anymore.
All of a sudden Sassy was telling me how to get rid of my flabby bits and which lip gloss was going to look good on me. I canceled my subscription and took a long, hot shower that didn't make me feel any less violated.
Over the years I've thought a lot about Sassy. Whenever I pick up my old scrapbook and see the pieces I clipped and pasted in there. Lots of glossary definitions, a piece on the Gore girls and their silent mockery of poor Chelsea Clinton, tons of poetry and some Converse ads... I miss Sassy.
So it was with a giddy pleasure that I discovered the other day that Jane Pratt has a site where a lot of the old Sassy writers are still writing and kicking ass. We're all a little older now so things are geared a little differently, but reading the articles was like going to that monthly book club meeting with the friends you never get to see. You know, the one where no one actually cares if you read the book and you drink wine and talk about whatever comes up.
**Yes, I'm well aware that whatever little prize I was going to be awarded could probably be purchased elsewhere for so much less than $7. However, this was the 80's and we had no Internet and I'm sure whatever little forgotten gadget they had bribed me with wasn't something I had ever seen before and I was blindsided by its gimicky crapness.