Today's teenagers don't just worry about what to wear to an M.C. Hammer concert, how to be the most popular at school or if that nasty pimple will disappear by Friday night. They're also confronting explosive racial tensions, family breakups, bloody street fights over drugs, deadly sexually transmitted diseases, even the possibility of losing a sibling in war. And magazines for teenagers are responding.
In the January issue of Sassy, Kim France reports in "What's With All the Asian-Bashing?" that during the '80s, America's Asian population grew by 70 percent. Similarly, she says, hate crimes against Asians increased. The writer explores the catalysts for Asian-bashing, the history as well as the present-day emotions. She points out that many attacks are provoked by a hatred against one race that is manifested against another. Such was the case with a young Chinese man beaten to death with a baseball bat at his bachelor party by a non-Asian auto worker who resented the Japanese for taking away his livelihood.
France writes that Asian-bashing has been popularized in contemporary media, citing Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jimmy Breslin's recent newsroom tantrum in which he called an Asian female co-worker "slant-eyed" and "yellow cur"; Donald Trump's declaration on "Donahue" that "the Japanese are ... ripping us off"; and novelist Kurt Vonnegut's newest "futuristic nightmare," which centers on what France calls the "the paranoid premise" that the Japanese have taken over the United States.
She also relates frightening accounts of teens viciously attacking teens solely because of racial hatred. Last August in Houston, 15-year-old Hung Truong, a Vietnamese who moved to the United States 10 years ago, was kicked senseless, allegedly by a skinhead known at his high school for having extreme racist views. Although paramedics treated Truong at the scene of the incident, he refused to go to the hospital. Later in the night, after complaining of a severe headache, Truong died. (The case has not yet gone to trial.)
"People need to realize," writes France, "that racism is as serious a problem as any other forms of hate... . It's time to recognize the gravity of the problem and change things before one more person gets killed."
Facts on Plastic Surgery In Sassy's regular Q&A monthly column, "Zits and Stuff," one reader writes, "My ears stick straight out! I don't want to have plastic surgery, so is there a way I can wear my hair to make them less noticeable?" The letter is signed "Dumbo." After presenting suggestions from New York hairdressers on how to visually minimize the protrusions naturally, the columnists mention, "There are 12 million Americans walking around with their ears sticking out, so drop the 'Dumbo,' okay?"
However, if a teen is truly traumatized by the size or shape of a physical feature, 'Teen magazine writer Elizabeth Karlsberg provides the pros and cons of cosmetic surgery. Primarily addressing rhinoplasty (nose jobs) but also touching on otoplasty (ear pinning) and breast augmentation and reduction, Karlsberg discusses how to choose a good surgeon, at what age plastic surgery is safe, and what side effects may result from the procedure.
Karlsberg says that some procedures may be done for medical reasons (such as breast reduction to alleviate back strain). And there are times when a feature is grotesquely out of proportion with the rest of the body and if surgically enlarged or reduced can improve a poor self-image. However, she warns, if a teen is seriously considering plastic surgery to become a perfect package so he or she can attract more suitors or become more popular, beware.
"Plastic surgery alone, no matter how successful," Karlsberg writes, "cannot buoy a self-esteem that's really sinking."
When Fathers Leave In "The Case of the Missing Father," in Seventeen this month, Leslie Morgan talks to young women who feel rejected by their fathers after divorce. "More fathers are abandoning their families after a divorce, both emotionally and financially, than ever before," writes Morgan. And the facts that Morgan presents to prove this point are staggering: Six out of 10 children born in 1990 will grow up in homes split by divorce; nearly 50 percent of the children who live apart from their fathers have not seen them in the previous year; more than 50 percent of these children have never been to their fathers' homes; and only 38 percent admit to having a close relationship with their fathers.
One young woman states that the only time she sees her father is in court, while her mother fights for back support payments. Another says her father's girlfriend dislikes her so much that the daughter has been forbidden to call or visit. A third hasn't seen her father in four years and says she doesn't miss him one bit. The problem, says Morgan, is that some girls build "an emotional barricade that won't allow any man to hurt -- or help -- them." Morgan reminds readers that counseling and therapy can help overcome the pain and frustration of growing up in a fatherless home, and that it is okay to feel overwhelmed or drained by the loss. She further states that young people should remember that it was not their fault that their parents divorced or that their father doesn't visit anymore.
"It's not that you weren't good enough, smart enough or didn't clean your room enough," explains one psychologist. "Many men feel they've been asked to leave the marriage, and so they find it extremely painful to visit a daughter who's living with the woman who rejected them."
If you've noticed that -- although many of the articles cover subjects important to both genders -- the magazines mentioned are traditionally thought to be for teenage females, well, you're right. It's hard to find any varied-subject magazines written exclusively for teenage males that aren't connected with some organization, such as the Boy Scouts of America. One colleague said it's because guys move from Ranger Rick and Highlights to Sports Illustrated and Playboy just like that. "If we've got any questions," he said, "we can find the answers there."
Charles Trueheart is on vacation.