My Love Letter to Magazines of the late 90s

M subscribes to National Geographic and Harper’s, and his parents recently got a free subscription to New York Magazine and passed it on to us. I was happy to see the issue with Larry David on the cover and it reminded me of my excitement about buying and subscribing to magazines when I was in junior high and high school.

Does anyone remember Alicia Silverstone on the August 1997 issue of Seventeen?

Alicia Silverstone seventeen magazine 1997

My family was going on vacation that August and my mom laid things out on the dining room table to organize and pack. She bought me this magazine to read while we were traveling and it lay on the table for days, beckoning me. I was always too nervous to disobey my parents, plus I knew that I would be so effin bored on the trip if I wasted the magazine, so I just sort of stared at the magazine longingly, as it restedbetween the sunscreen and and snacks and pairs of socks. The cover image is burned in my brain but I remember nothing about the contents. I guess “bopping with Hanson” wasn’t all that memorable.

Another cover that I will never be able to escape is Sarah Michelle Gellar on YM‘s January 1998 issue.

Sarah Michelle Gellar YM Magazine 1998

Not because it taught me valuable love lessons or because of the free Hanson poster (what a weird, mmmbopping time it was). It was because this was the magazine I excitedly, naively, brought to my hairdresser just a few days before the start of seventh grade. I was pretty sure this was the haircut that would prepare me from my triumphant entry into junior high. I was not aware that my coarse, thick, wavy hair and utter lack of blowdrying skills and knowledge of hair products meant that this look was straight up un-achievable. Why didn’t my mom tell me? Why didn’t the hairdresser? I cried on the way home from getting this cut, and later that night, at a birthday dinner for my grandfather, I sneaked to the bathroom to peer in the mirror. Maybe it wasn’t that bad? I tentatively pulled my hair out of the scrunchie (again, it was a weird time) as my 6-year-old cousin walked out of the bathroom stall. “What happened!?” she gasped.

Fun Fact: Back when I was reading YM  it was stood for “Young and Modern” but my mom always referred to it as “Young Miss,” what it had been called back in her day.

Finally, I remember being in the Shaw’s checkout line in 1999 and seeing the first ever issue of CosmoGirl. I knew Melissa Joan Hart from Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, I knew Ben Affleck from the PBS educational special Voyage of the Mimi and more recent discussions held in my English class about if he or Matt Damon were the hot one.

Melissa Joan Hart cosmo girl first issue

I had crushes but no boyfriends, and the idea of buying the first issue of anything sounded pretty exciting. I bought it and it became my favorite magazine. I loved the letters from editor Atoosa Rubenstein, I loved the comic series The Adventures of Cosmo Girl, I loved the way it was aspirational but never made me feel like I was awkward or unfashionable or inexperienced. Though I stopped reading it at some point in high school, I was sad to hear that it shut down in 2008.

I wish I could recapture the excitement that came with picking up a magazine from the rack or, even better, pulling one out of my mailbox. It is probably for the best that I now know what my hair can and can not do and I don’t live in fear of an embarrassing moment a la YM‘s “Say Anything.” But still, I wish Cosmo or Real Simple or Food and Wine brought me anywhere near as much pure pleasure.

Who knows, maybe Hanson was, in fact, they key? Some Ben Affleck stickers wouldn’t hurt either.

Images via


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