What's My Age Again?

The skies here were dark when Thea L. Sebastian ’08 published the first issue of Freeze back in December of
By Leon Neyfakh

The skies here were dark when Thea L. Sebastian ’08 published the first issue of Freeze back in December of 2005. The campus media industry was at the height of a feeding frenzy, with ambitious young editors starting new publications left and right for reasons that ranged from dim careerism to boredom to thick, bloody hubris. The situation was demoralizing: most of what was falling into the doordrop was either shabby or sprawling, boring or depraved. One magazine had a photo spread featuring models but you could tell by their eyes that their bones were hollow.

Freeze came out in time for Christmas and that was just about right. Writing on page 40, Sebastian, the editor-in-chief, proclaimed, in huge letters, “I believe in escapism.” The cover was hot pink; Annie Shawn was on it and kickers included “Tis the Season for Steamy Sex” and “10 Hot Harvard Men.” Freeze was a girls’ magazine in the tradition of YM and Seventeen, a frivolous book of fluff that was not so much amateurish as exuberant and joyously faithful to its genre. “Sometimes, we all need to relax,” Sebastian wrote in her inaugural editor’s note, “Yeah, George Orwell has his uses—but so does Jennifer Crusie. Never underestimate the value of making people feel good.”

I’m guessing a lot of people made fun of Freeze when they read it, but skunks aside it was obvious from the first that Sebastian got it—not only that, but she admitted right away that she didn’t care that much about fashion, that she preferred Sports Illustrated to Cosmo. She knew but she wasn’t knowing, and so, Freeze managed to be smart and earnest. Also funny! There was one part about a girl who thought the best way to handle a pushy boy was to “fake falling asleep when you become uncomfortable.” Above all, Freeze was good-natured; in her editor’s note, Sebastian sounded kind, and in her picture she looked proud.

Her magazine folded temporarily when the money ran out, and then last semester she decided to go to Paris for study abroad. Now, more than a year later, she and her friends are back with issue two on a grant from the Ann Radcliffe Trust and things are looking a little different. Sebastian says the goal was to grow up—to make the articles more serious than last time, more carefully researched. The issue, at 60 pages, is heavy with an impulse towards that vague notion of “substance” that was pleasingly absent from the first issue. That impulse is where “The Truth About Bottled Water” comes from; same with the piece on women in HIV advocacy and Sebastian’s six-pager on relationships on “How to Live Happily Ever After.”

All of it’s pretty good—spring, for whatever reason, makes much more sense for Freeze than winter—and any complaints about the editors abandoning their dedication to escapism should be satisfied by the breezy front of the book, where you get a guide to “Girls’ Night Out” AND one on “Girls’ Night In.” The first one’s all about dressing up in dresses and going out to clubs in Boston, while the second one’s about renting “The Notebook,” doing makeovers on each other, singing “ridiculous 80s songs into your hairbrushes” and prank calling “ALL your crushes.” These articles are an interesting pair because they so neatly straddle the main anxiety running through the rest of the magazine—are we big girls or little girls? Do we want to grow up or do we want to go back to basics? Several articles express frustration at the adult world and warn college students against rushing in; the position here is pro-freedom, pro-Bueller, pro-“Dammit.” The main photo spread has the girls playing at a playground, one of them drinking from a juice box and another eating cookies. Between that and “Girls’ Night In”, middle school looms really, really large throughout Freeze, its haunting memory coupled with a heightened awareness that growing up is going to happen pretty soon even though nobody anywhere is ready.

In her editor’s note for the new issue, Sebastian asks whether the change that happens when we get to college is always good—whether, “in our rush to become someone new,” we “forget who we really are.” She recommends a quiet, reflective summer: “If you have a few weeks to yourself, use it to remember who you used to be...Remember how you used to paint—you know, before your life got crazy? Pick up a brush again. Give it a chance.” More serious but less serious than the first issue, less “adult” but more adult, Freeze 2 takes on the weight of the world, and after thinking about it carefully it looks they’re saying we should go and have some fun before the sun sets for good. And it’s going to set, is the thing. It’s setting now and we should be running for our lives.