I had landed a job at Interview magazine, and one day at work I was checking a NKOTB fan page. Usually it was just an exercise in nostalgia but this day there was actual news. Joe was going to be at a screening of an indie movie in TriBeCa. Sitting in my cubicle in SoHo, I squirmed with excitement. TriBeCa was a short walk from my office! I was now 21 years old and working at a cool New York magazine. And I was about to meet Joe in a situation that didn't require screaming at him from behind a wall of security guards. This was my chance.
Outside the TriBeCa Grill, eight or nine twentysomething women milled about in separate clusters. There was no sign of Joe. But by the time the buzz preceded him around the corner, the crowd had swelled. My heart was pounding. He was as familiar to me as a T-shirt you've worn into the softest comfort, yet this situation was startling new. I had seen him in 1992, but in tears, from the front row at a concert. Now, that 15-year-old inside me was jumping up and down in my skull screeching, "It's him! It's him!"
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Finally it was my turn to shake his hand. "Joe, I'm from Australia," I blurted, desperately wanting to set myself apart from the other girls there. "Oh yeah?" he said, not looking up from the CD he was signing. When he did make eye contact, it was brief, flashing me his toothy smile before he moved onto the next girl.
I was still wired, but the disappointment was sharp. That was it? My big moment was entirely unremarkable for Joe. He was charming and polite, but he hadn't recognized me. Even worse was the realization: Of course he didn't. How could he? Why would he?
The shock was like learning there was no Santa. I felt an uneasy mix of happiness and humiliation as I watched him disappear into the building. There was only one thing to do. I went inside the TriBeCa Grill with my new friends, and I ordered a sundae and a beer.
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I soon met him again, in my role as a journalist. After a few press events, he began to recognize me, and he knew who I was when we spoke on the phone for a Rolling Stone article I wrote on the New Kids. This was more like it! We were connecting on a level beyond fan and artist. We were professionals crossing paths. This might even lead somewhere—right? You never know.