My best friend Zandra and I have an uncommon addiction for most 35-year-old women. We are and have always been obsessed with boy bands. We listen to their music and talk about them frequently. We email pictures of our favorites back and forth. We spend copious amounts of cash going to their concerts and buying their merchandise. We often fantasize about what a boy band music festival in the same vein as Lollapalooza or Sasquatch would be like. Picture New Edition and the Backstreet Boys on the main stage and less popular boy bands like O-Town and High-Five on a secondary stage. In the corner, a tent stage would feature tertiary groups like O-Town cast-offs LMNT and my personal favorite, Five. We figured that this summer’s “The Package” tour with New Kids on the Block, 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men would be the closest we would ever come to this dream so we quickly scooped up tickets.
Two days before the concert I woke up to a text from Zandra that said, “Call me when you wake up.” Instead of a greeting Zandra said, “So I won this contest.” I started giggling uncontrollably as she explained her prize, a V.I.P. package to the show with the opportunity to meet all of the New Kids and sit in a special section near the stage. Even though we had already planned to go to the concert, my mind was still blown and racing with excitement.
Zandra is what is known as a “Block Head” a sort of cream of the crop New Kids fan who follows them on Twitter, travels to other states to see their shows and has gone on one of their cruises. (Yes. You read that right. Every year, Carnival hosts a New Kids on the Block cruise where you can actually hit the high seas with the New Kids and thousands of other Block Heads.) When we stepped up onto the sidewalk outside of the Tacoma Dome about an hour before our scheduled meet and greet the nervous energy was palpable. Crowds of anxious women waited to go inside. Because of her Block Head status, Zandra knew a lot of ladies milling about.
She introduced me to many of her friends and my first introduction went something like this:
Zandra: This is my friend Kerry. She’s never done Meet and Greet before.
Block Head Woman: Squeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What kind of girl are you?
I knew by attending this concert with a V.I.P. ticket that I was entering into a secret part of American subculture that I knew nothing about. I was trying to act cool in order not to out myself as a fraud. I mean, I like the New Kids, but these ladies LIKE THE NEW KIDS. This question confounded me and sent me into a soul-searching panic.
“What kind of girl am I? I don’t know. Am I a good girl? I could work on some stuff and become a better person,” I thought. While my inner dialog raced, I stood there with a dumbfounded look on my face.
Block Head Woman: You know. Who is your favorite New Kid?
Oh!!!! Now I get it. She wasn’t trying to see into my being and find the quintessence of my very existence. She just wanted to know which New Kid I liked the most.
Me: Oh. Jordan. I’m a Jordan girl.
It’s true. I have loved Jordan Knight since hearing him belt out “I’m not that kind of guy who can take a broken heart” at the beginning of “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever).” As a Jordan Girl, though, I am a total fake. I don’t follow him on Twitter or know his favorite color. I have no idea if he has kids or is married or when his birthday is. I just know that when I was 12, I thought he was the prettiest man in the world and I believed he would love me forever.
The Block Heads are a well-organized bunch. While we waited for the doors to open the ladies sorted themselves into groups for the photos with the guys. Calls of “We need a Danny girl” or “Two Jons over here” were heard above the din. They try to organize themselves so each girl can stand by the man of their choice. (Sidenote: I’m still surprised that there is a Block Head subspecies known as the Danny Girl. It’s a rarity and I assure you, I have seen it. It does exist.) This controlled chaos worked surprisingly well and by the time we were ready to go in everyone seemed to have a group.
While we waited we talked to the other winners, used our drink tickets and pawed over the contents of our V.I.P. tote bag, which included New Kids branded tube socks. As the line became shorter and shorter and our time with them grew near, I became less nervous about going in to meet them. Perhaps it was the two beers I drank that helped me relax, but a sense of calm washed over me as the New Kids’ security guard ushered us through the curtain and into the room where Donnie, Danny, Joey, Jon and my Jordan waited to meet us.
Time moved very quickly in this room. I was ushered down a line having time to hug each guy and say maybe a sentence or two until it was on to the next one. Danny was first and he hugged me like a bro which makes sense since his gigantic biceps probably prevent him from hugging like a regular person. In hindsight, I wished I asked him how many push-ups he could do. This is a fact I would like to know because I imagine it is roughly 50 times the amount of push-ups that I can do. Then it was on to my Jordan and I have to admit I was disappointed in his wimpy hug. It was akin to hugging a wet noodle. Using this hug to judge, 12-year-old me would not have been convinced that this man would love me forever.
Things picked up when I moved on to Donnie. This man knows how to work it for his fans. I told him that I liked his glasses and he replied, “I like YOUR glasses” in a pseudo-sexy way that just didn’t work for the Jordan girl in me. His hug was like a full-court press which felt a little odd for total strangers to be exchanging. I moved on to Jon as quickly as I could, leaving Zandra a hard-core Donnie Girl to have more time with her man.
The end of the line by Jon and Joey was great. Before we entered the room, Zandra had warned me not to look directly into Joey’s eyes. Apparently, his eyes are so blue that their vast dreaminess has been known to cause paralysis in even the most casual New Kids fan. I couldn’t resist sneaking a quick peek and I can confirm that the blueness is as deep as a bottomless pool of unicorn tears. Oh, and his hug was good, too.
Jon’s hug was easily the best of the five. I estimate Jon to be about six inches taller than me. According to my calculations, this is the mathematically correct height differential for the perfect hug. These six inches allow the shorter hug participant (me) to rest her forehead in the crook of the taller hug participant’s (Jon) neck. Now unfortunately, Jon was preoccupied with a cell phone and hugging Zandra. When he turned to hug me, he was tangled in the cell phone and Zandra’s strong grip so I received a one arm side-hug. Normally this would be a letdown, but Jon is so immensely talented at hugging that this side-hug was far superior to the rest of the guys. He put his arm over my shoulder and squeezed with the proper amount of pressure. The pressure level was one you would use for an old friend and not some strange girl who won these hugging privileges in a contest posted on Facebook. He folded me into the sweet spot, where his shoulder met his neck, and at the risk of sounding like a total creeper, I took this opportunity to smell him. It was a dreamy and expensive smell. I was hypnotized. At this moment, it crossed my mind that perhaps 12-year-old me was wrong; I had chosen the wrong Knight brother. I was tempted to ask what cologne he wore but didn’t have time since our pictures were about to start.
A professional photographer took one shot and then it hit me. I was sandwiched in between Joey McIntyre and Jonathan Knight. They had their arms around me and we were posing as if we were old friends. I started to freak out inside and realize how huge a moment this was. I was in a room with some of the biggest crushes of my childhood. What was happening? How did I get here? What actions did I take in life to lead me to this room with these people? How did I get so lucky as to live exactly one floor below my future bestie our freshman year of college and meet her and remain friends for 17 years so she would chose me as her +1 on this day? *CLICK* the picture was over. I was convinced that the photographer had caught me with so me sort of Charlie Brown exasperated frown on my face. I had most likely ruined the picture but before I could protest, we were whisked from the room.
Next, we decided to go find our seats. As we walked closer and closer to the front of the stage looking for our section, I noticed that there were seats inside the security barricade that separated the stage from the throngs of screaming women. This couldn’t be where our seats were. It was too close! It was too amazing! We showed our tickets to the lady blocking access to inside the barricade and she pointed us to our seats just inside. These seats were incredible. I could reach out and touch the stage. If I sat on the padded seat, the stage rose feet above my head. We still had about an hour to wait before show time, so Zandra mingled with friends while I sat smugly inside the barricade. I wanted to enjoy every minute of this $1000 seat even if nothing was happening on stage.
The girls around me were dressed to impressed. They had tight dresses and high high-heels. I was out of my league in my white floral dress, denim jacket and sandals. They were prepared for a night of clubbing while I looked picnic-ready. Sensing no immediate threat from me, they opened up about their Block Head lifestyle. They told me about spending $1250 for their seats which included the “Ultimate Individual Photo Upgrade.” This package is limited to 10 women per show and includes an individual photo op with the guys and a few minutes with them in their dressing room. They admitted that they had also done the Meet and Greet at the Los Angeles stop on the door four days earlier. Their devotion to the New Kids is both awe-inspiring and pricey. Next, they mentioned seeing the guys at their hotel the previous night and before I could determine what “seeing” meant, the preshow music stopped, the lights went out and the screaming began. The show was starting!
Look for part II later in the week, where I’ll discuss the concert including details about which member of 98 Degrees shaves his armpits. I’ll have all this and more facts you’ve been dying to know.