Donnie Wahlberg is 38 years old. 38. And I think Danny Wood is even older.
I don’t know why I should be so shocked. After all, I’m thirtysomething, too.
I’m thirtysomething, and I’m going to buy New Kids on the Block tickets and go see them when they come through Houston in October as part of their reunion tour.
The first time I saw the New Kids perform was on January 8, 1990 (a date committed to memory). The show was at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland (now demolished), and I was 13 years old. I wore fresh white Keds with no laces, frosted pink lipstick from the drugstore, and I sat next to my BFF forever, Lisa (now a mother and nurse practitioner). With my own babysitting money, I bought a black baseball cap with neon green and pink lettering on the front that spelled out New Kids on the Block. Lisa bought a Donnie T-shirt.
My dad took us.
That night, Lisa violently hit my left thigh over and over, blissfully screaming for Donnie Wahlberg, who was roughly two football fields away from us. I hollered for Joey McIntyre (birthday December 31, middle name Mulrey). Lisa’s punching left a bruise on my leg the size of a dinner plate, and in gym the next day, I told everyone I’d run into my bedpost. (At my suburban Catholic school, it wasn’t cool to like the New Kids.)
When I found out NKOTB were getting back together, I called Lisa and started laughing and screaming at the same time. I went to their Web site. I watched them perform on Rockefeller Plaza during their appearance on “The Today Show,” and when the first notes of “Step by Step” hit my ears, I felt little warm tears form in my eyes, no joke.
Once, almost 20 years ago, I saved gossip-filled notes written during class with purple ink on pink pages ripped from pink spiral notebooks. I spent hours in my bedroom on my very own phone that I’d totally had to beg for, a phone I’d decorated with bright red nail polish, a phone that I clung to even as my mother picked up the extension and said, “You’ve been on LONG ENOUGH!” I did MASH over and over again until my future life had me married to Joey McIntyre, living in a mansion, driving a red Mustang, and mothering four daughters named Savannah, Delilah, Alabama and Victoria. (As for career, I considered fashion designer or interior designer, natch.) When Lisa and I got together for sleepovers, we ate raw cookie dough straight from the tube without thinking about calories, stayed up late to watch “Friday Night Videos,” traded posters from BOP, The Big Bopper, Tiger Beat and 16, and believed with every cell in our bodies that We Would One Day Meet Donnie and Joey And They Would Marry Us.
We believed it. We believed it like we believed in God.
Flash forward and now I’m thirtysomething. I’m married to Mr. Pop Rocks, who is not Joey McIntyre, but who gently refers to my New Kids love as “kind of the way I feel about Alice Cooper.” I have a mortgage, life insurance, and the only kind of “interior designing” I have done recently is pick out two couches at Star Furniture Outlet. Oh, and I’m only now contemplating motherhood (probably much too late to pop out four).
Why do we hang on to elements of our youth? It’s not like I’m not happy now. Of course I am. I’m as happy as the proverbial clam, most of the time. But I suppose that there isn’t really anything that compares with the pure, unadulterated and totally awesome sensation of seeing the group you totally love with all your heart and soul and devote your every waking minute to live on stage as your BFF slaps you over and over, equally stunned with excitement. Like the first swallow of raw cookie dough on a Friday night, like the first time you read good gossip on pink paper ripped from a spiral, youth means something because the first time – good or bad – is always the most memorable.
Of course, I’m banking on the second time ranking pretty high up there, too. Which is why I am totally going to buy tickets to see the New Kids on the Block. And I can’t freaking wait! – Jennifer Mathieu