If this was a real-life crush, I would have realized that a relationship, or even a tryst, was never going to happen. Instead, I latched onto what I thought were "signs." Like the night I ran into Joe at my local Duane Reade, and his bodyguard asked for my number. I went to their hotel suite that night, taking my friend Toni with me for safety and support. We shared a few awkward drinks with the bodyguard, but there was no sign of Joe. We got the hell out of there, and I was immediately taken over by a creepy sensation of going too far. Being in that room made me realize that I was being delusional to think something would ever happen. Time to grow up.
Joe's solo pursuits waxed and waned over the next few years, but I kept my distance (if you call going to see him in Tick, Tick Boom and sing at that nightclub on Canal Street with my husband "distance"). If I did meet him I ducked my head. There was a fine line between Joe recognizing me and thinking I was a crazy-stalker-fan.
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After four or five quiet years, the New Kids on the Block reunited in 2008. Most of the guys have kids now. Joe's married. I'm married. I no longer think about chances and predestined moments. And yet—I've been to a handful of their reunion concerts, and on their cruise. Try explaining that as an evolved, intelligent adult.
Today the relationship feels like a familiar friendship, not unlike the way you feel when you reconnect with old classmates via Facebook. We have history, but I can laugh at our past and the way I used to act. I can experience this reunion with a wink and a wry smile.
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My husband recently asked me if, now the cruise had come and gone, would my renewed New Kids activity wind down? No, I had to tell him. They're on tour all summer. And God knows what else in the fall. I'll be at their shows, and hoping for a chance to talk to them again as a journalist. Maybe there will come a moment where I finally get to tell Joe what he means to me—how much he's shaped my life. With thousands of screaming fans (and a few big strapping bodyguards) trailing them everywhere they go, it's unlikely I'll get the chance. But I won't let go of the idea just yet. You never know.