I can't remember the first time I heard them. I'm not sure who introduced me to their music. But I do remember that it was love at first sight. Five young men sporting acid wash jeans and gelled hair wormed their way into my heart and apparently still hold a place there.
I speak, of course, of New Kids on the Block.
It was sixth grade and we had just moved (mid-year) from Nashville to Franklin, Tennessee. This was fairly traumatic for me because I had to leave behind my boyfriend, Zander Lentz, and my BFF, Annie Michaux. It is also worth noting that through great skill and charm I had worked my way into being The Most Popular Girl in my school. I'm not exaggerating people, I was It. I mean, who else had the finesse to juggle two boys at once the year before? My simple "yes" to Tony's "Will you go out with me?" made dreamy blond haired, blue eyed Paul Kunath realize that he wanted me. And so I promptly dumped Tony to go out with Paul. Not that we went anywhere but we certainly did exchange many moony looks, furtively held hands and I'm pretty sure there were lots of phone calls where we never actually spoke to each other but our friends did it for us. Sixth grade was also the year that I dressed as Paula Abdul from the "Straight Up" video for Halloween. Clearly, I was a forward thinking girl.
So, with many tears and hundreds of exclamation points in my diary ("I am not moving!!!!!!! I am not leaving the love of my life!!!!!!!! I HATE MY PARENTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"), I packed my Debbie Gibson and Amy Grant posters and hit the road in our family minivan. We moved into a gloriously big house with a huge front and back yard perfect for a moody loner of a pre-adolescent girl. I don't have the fondest memories of the rest of that school year. I went from It Girl to Geek Girl pretty dang quick. Who knew the coke bottle glasses and mouth filling retainer wouldn't go over as well in Franklin?
But I did meet Melissa. And Melissa introduced me to all things NKOTB as well as adolescent girl backstabbing. But that's another post. Melissa had a NKOTB bedspread and I was sooooooooo jealous. I had posters and I had managed to save enough money to purchase several buttons for my acid wash jean purse. But I didn't have a bedspread and it was a bitter burden to bear.
If you're resonating with this at all, you'll know that I had a favorite. Oh yes, one out of the five who had a special claim to my heart. The one whose name I would shout out at the Tiffany/NKOTB concert later that year...."I LOVE YOU JOEY!!!" Oh, Joey McIntyre. The youngest of the bunch and therefore closest to my age (only five years older!) and the one I thought I stood the best chance of making fall in love in with me. My Joey button had a special place on my purse and my jean jacket. He was my true love.
It is also worth noting that it wasn't just the good looks of NKOTB that I so admired. Oh no, their music was inspirational to me as well. So inspiring, in fact, that for the 6th grade talent show I performed an improvisational lyrical dance to "Watcha Gonna Do About It". Improvisational, people. I just let the music move me however it would. Sadly, there is no video of this blessed event. But I clearly remember one mom telling me afterwards that I reminded her of Janet Jackson. I clung to that for years. And perhaps it still explains something about me now.
Sadly, NKOTB lost steam and faded away from the limelight. The posters came down and the buttons were stored in a dresser drawer. But the love has remained. As I watched the following video this morning, heard that familiar music and saw those five handsome face, I am not ashamed to say that a few tears slipped out and my heart swelled with pride.
They're back. And they're hangin' tough...