Rookie's Last Ride: A Reflection on How the Publication Influenced One Teenage Girl
Dear Rookie Magazine,
I am writing to tell you that I love you. You’ve been writing to me for the past seven years and I wanted to write you a reply. Even though you’ve stopped publishing content, I know it’s not forever, because you’ll always be there---in archives, in Rookie Yearbooks, in the hearts of Rookies everywhere, and in the work I make, the way I dress, and the way I see the world. I want to thank you for the laughter, tears, inspiration, discoveries, and for making me feel at home in the fear and excitement of being a teenage girl.
I’ve struggled to compile all of the velvety, glitter-gooed, riot grrrl-soundtracked feelings within my heart into a coherent testimony to what you meant and still mean to me, especially to share with people who might have never known you. I compiled a string of lessons you taught me, plucked from the wisdom of your advice articles, litanies to movie characters, interviews with musicians, actors, and scientists, and monthly editor letters written by your creator, Tavi.
I transferred to an all-girls school for highschool when I was 14, and while initially overwhelmed by the candidness and unchecked expression of my classmates, I grew to adore learning in an environment where I felt supported, by not only my close friends, but a whole school of scrappy, intelligent, diverse girls. Rookie taught me to look out for my fellow girls through its nature as a community run and made-up of girls my age; additionally, there were grown-women who contributed and, along with men, helped run the magazine, but it was the teen-girl energy that made Rookie what it was.
Now in college, I think of Rookie when supporting female creatives at Ohio State or when looking out for any girl I meet in class, in AROUSE, or on the street, whether it be to ensure their safety or make them feel accepted. Rookie taught me the fantastic power of female friendship and fellowship.
This sounds sappy to admit, but cut me open and I’m about 90% Rookie. But every Rookie is different---some Rookies feel what I feel but much deeper. Others knew Rookie from a whole other side, reading articles that spoke to Golden Girls enthusiasts, Hanson-lovers, or poetry-fans. The magazine guided my obsessions with Twin Peaks and teen movies, with posts like Friday Playlist: Hanging Out With Laura Palmer and Moving Images, a piece that catalogues a list of films about yearning, such as Mermaids and The Virgin Suicides. Rookie taught me so much about art, writing, and the importance of learning. The publication made me feel like the things I was passionate and excited about were magical and worth sharing.
When I was grappling with the weight of my existence as a wee middle schooler, and then as a high schooler, and, inevitably, as a college student, the website was full of testimonies of other people feeling awkward, afraid, and anxious. Rookie curated the way I processed my teen angst and anxiousness, with advice pieces like How to Look Like You Weren’t Just Crying in Less Than Five Minutes and Fake It Till You Make It, which spills ways to trick yourself into becoming confident by simply acting confident. By reading essays about what to do when you’re totally crushing on someone, or how to smoothly converse with strangers at parties, I felt like Rookie was a best friend unwaveringly at my side, expelling advice when I needed it most.
The writing, artwork, and ideas young people, especially young women, produce is important to support, foster, and collect, to both encourage their expression and document what it means to be a young person at a given point in time. Hence the importance of Rookie and publications like it. Zines, or self-made/small-publication magazines, were popular in the 1980s and 1990s among punks, riot grrrls, underground communities of women seeking advice and comradery. In the 2010s, Rookie arose as a place where young people could both speak their mind, find answers, and learn how to survive teenhood. There are loads of incredible self-published zines, magazines, and blogs out there, such as the local and lovely Dollhouse Magazine. These publications are so amazing because of their organic, often friendship-filled beginnings, making them deserving and reliant on the support of a loving community.
Rookie opened-up a way of expression that exhumed the ways of fanzine culture and paralleled the dialogue popularized by online forums and message boards, where anonymous people can bear their souls and ask for advice. Through advice essays, the Ask a Grown series, and the general honesty and candidness of Rookie’s writers, Rookie fostered a digital community of trust. Whenever I had an issue with a friend, was struggling to handle my anxiety, or wanted to find a movie that mirrored an emotion I was feeling, I could search on Rookie and find a piece that fulfilled what I was searching for.
We’re all searching for a community that makes us feel ok about the shit that besets our life. AROUSE is this kind of community for so many of us, a group of great people who we can joke, chat, dance, and listen to music with---a group of people who distract us from the stress of getting older. But this group, like Rookie, is something we outgrow. Yet, it grants us friends, makes us who we are today, and will stay with us even after we graduate, move away, and search for another group that will make us feel a similar comradery (even though a group like AROUSE is hard to come by).
Rookie feels so synonymous with my youth, like a best friend that I’ve had since middle school whom I cherish because of the bonding moments we’ve had together. The thought of losing this friend, one who I’ve shared so much of my soul with, one who knows my favorite movies, TV shows, and songs almost as well as their own, is difficult. Yet, that’s what we’re doing as we wave goodbye to Rookie.
Thank you for everything,