Before New Kids, my friends and I had crushes on boys in higher grades, guys who never gave us the time of day. These five guys from Boston didn't know who we were either, but they appeared on our TV screens professing their love for their fans. They were young enough to still be in school, and if only we lived in America, maybe we'd have a chance with them. The New Kids never gave us the feeling that it was impossible.
They protected me from heartbreak, my infatuation ruling out any entanglements with flesh and blood teenaged boys pulsing with life and scary hormones. (My mother was thrilled, and happy to fuel my New Kids obsession with more T-shirts and posters.) Even after I went through my bad-boy stage, I returned to my teenage vision of my ideal man: a cute, funny, music-loving guy who would adore me, even if he didn't have the fancy footwork or falsetto of my first crush. Poll: What's The Best Song To Let Him Know You Want Him?
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Like many love affairs, my rapid infatuation with the New Kids had a crescendo—laying eyes on them for the first time in 1992—and a collapse. By 1994, they had changed. They seemed angry, sullen. They grew facial hair and wore flannel shirts. They released a song calling a woman a "Dirty Dawg." Grunge and gangster rap were in and they struggled to remain relevant. A few months after adopting their new image they called it quits.
I was in college by then, and was no longer avoiding real, messy relationships. My past with the New Kids became a dusty secret shoved in the back of the closet. Occasionally I'd still break out an old photo and lose myself in the memories, or one of their songs would blindside me in the supermarket, stirring a bittersweet feeling of an easier, more innocent time. But even though I'd grown out of the most intense phase of my crush, I believed that if I were to meet Joe, my favorite New Kid, he would recognize me. He would feel my appreciation and love and would realize that I was special. He would know me. The First Man I Ever Loved Was A Celebrity
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And then it happened.