How To Be a Teenage Girl

If you haven’t yet discovered Tavi Gevinson and her webzine Rookie, it’s time you did.  If you know any teenage girls, you need to send them a link to Rookie, because every teenage girl needs to think about the stuff Tavi Gevison and her writers think about.

In her original editor’s letter, Tavi explains that she did NOT conceive of Rookie as

your guide to Being a Teen. It is not a pamphlet on How to Be a Young Woman…Rookie is a place to make the best of the beautiful pain and cringe-worthy awkwardness of being an adolescent girl. When it becomes harder to appreciate these things, we also have good plain fun and visual pleasure. When you’re sick of having to be happy all the time, we have lots of eye-rolling rants, too.

Despite this disavowal, I wish every teenage girl I know would take Rookie as a guide.  Exhibit A: this article entitled “An Actually Useful Article About Dressing for a Party” and subtitled “…without any mention of your body shape or your style personality.”

Gevinson has been clear that Sassy magazine – a fond memory to women in my age bracket – is a major influence.  I loved Sassy, but what she’s doing is so much better.  Sassy was fun, and smart, and acknowledged that some teenage girls have sex.  It was revolutionary, but it was of its time (and it spawned, indirectly, the horror that was Jane magazine.)  Rookie takes what Sassy did and makes it fresh, immediate and interactive, which is exactly what an Internet mag should do.

(The fact that Rookie makes regular references to River Phoenix and [see video above] Stevie Nicks doesn’t hurt, though.  Do teenage girls know who these people are?  Is Gevinson really a 43-year-old woman in 16-year-old eye makeup?)

The mag posts three times a day and has monthly themes like “Transformation” and “Power”.  Sound all second-wave feminist to you?  Well, yes, but so much more.  For example, March’s theme was “Exploration” and included articles like “Literally the Best Thing Ever: National Geographic” and “How to Look Like You Weren’t Just Crying in Less than Five Minutes.”

The ONLY reason I wish I were fifteen again is so that this magazine could rock my world as hard as it should.

I know a lot of teenage girls.  Wait – I shouldn’t say that.  I don’t know them.  I spend a few hours a week with them for fifteen weeks, and maybe fifteen weeks more if they like me enough to look me up again.  They mystify me and enthrall me and make me crazy.  Why are they walking around wearing things that resemble pants but ARE NOT PANTS?  Why do they all, down to the very last one, insist on straightening their lovely frizzy hair?  Why are they all reading those awful Twilight books or, even worse, watching those awful Twilight movies because reading the books is too hard?  Why are they dating that boy?  Yes, that one, missy – he’s just going to drag you down!  And while you’re at it, do up your sweater!

And then I read Rookie.  I know some of the girls I know are reading it too.  It reminds me that teenage girls are just amazing.  Even the ones who aren’t reading it…even the ones who wouldn’t like it if they did read it…even the ones who are wearing those things that ARE NOT PANTS…they’re amazing.  There’s so much going ON when you’re a teenage girl.  Life is so full of STUFF.

No way I’d go back there again.  But Rookie is a delightful, painful, funny travelogue.  Spread the word.