When I was about 13, I was a huge fan of the boy group, New Kids On The Block.
Similar to the Backstreet Boys (with whom they were on tour this past summer) and ‘NSYNC, they were a boy band phenomenon from Boston in the mid-eighties through the early nineties.
I know many girls swooned for the Beantown quintet, but I sadly admit I was one of those girls whose admiration bordered on obsession.
Okay, okay, so there was no “bordered” about it, it was flat out obsession. I had T-shits, jackets, sheets, buttons, posters and just about everything imaginable. As excruciating as it is for me to admit, I even had a New Kids sleeping bag. Obsessed.
Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one. I had several close friends who were as head over heels about them as I was. We would sit up on sleepovers watching Friday Night Videos just praying they’d play one by New Kids.
Everyone had their favorite, from the baby of the group to the older, wiser “big brother” figure. Many arguments were started by the simple utterance of, “My New Kid is cuter than your New Kid." Even my sister and I, who also loved New Kids On The Block, disagreed about which member was better.
I saw them twice in concert. Once, in December of 1989 at The Dunkin Donuts Center (then the Providence Civic Center) and also during the summer of 1990 at Gillette Stadium (then Foxboro Stadium). Both concerts, to my young teenage mind, were the best nights of my life and I thought for sure that nothing would ever compare to them.
For as many people that loved them, though, it seemed as though there were twice as many people that didn’t. To this day, I still hesitate when someone asks if I liked New Kids On The Block, or NKOTB, as they were called by their fans “in the know."
Actually nowadays, that’s what they are called by pretty much everyone, but anyway, we felt like hot stuff walking around abbreviating their name (as if no one would figure it out). We were like a club. Embarrassingly, some called us “Blockheads."
I always felt because so many other kids in school didn’t like their music, those of us that did were like this secret group. Maybe not that secret in hindsight, but I always felt there was a sense of belonging even though we risked being picked on every day.
Now I realize that most of us have that connection at some point in our lives with a music group, singer, or actor. At that age, I think it’s inherent for young teenagers to look for their music to provide them with a voice or an escape from the torture that can be teenage-dom. Some are just more universally popular than others.
I have long since gotten rid of my jackets and sheets. Alas, even the sleeping bag, has gone the way of the dodo and long since been lost to time. All of it is gone. I do regret tossing everything. It would be nice to open my trunk and see them sitting there, reminding me of a much simpler time when all I worried about was when the new issue of Teen Beat was coming out.
I listen to their music now and I’m filled with nostalgia. Is there some special meaning passed from their songs that will open up the earth and create world peace? No. Will their music survive and be relevant one hundred years from now? Probably not. But being a fan of their music and sharing that interest was my first experience to have a sense of belonging. It was comforting knowing there were others like me and that it was all right to like things that were unpopular to others.
To me it will always be a part of my youth and despite the lack of jackets and T-shirts, it will always be a part of who I am.