Mrs. Pampalone was my teacher. I hated long division. I got my first baby sitting job. My classmates and I were the top dogs at Fieler Elementary School on 61st Avenue in Merrillville. I owned a black fedora. And New Kids On The Block sat near the center of my universe.
I bought their books. I watched their videos. I knew all of the lyrics. I wore out their tapes on my Sony Walkman.
Joey was so cu-ute, I couldn’t stand it. When he sang “Please Don’t Go Girl,” I melted.
I wallpapered my room with Tiger Beat pull-outs of Joey, Jordan, Donnie, Danny and Jon. Mostly of Joey, Jordan and Donnie, though. I read every article about them. I memorized obscure New Kids facts. Did you know that their original name was “Nynuk?” I sang their songs on the playground with my friends and squealed with delight as we dreamt up scenarios in which we accidentally ran into the New Kids and they fell in love with us.
Then, their “Hangin’ Tough” VHS came out. I don’t remember if I used my allowance to buy it or if I received it as a gift of some sort, but I owned it. And I watched it. And I invited friends over to watch it. And I watched it some more.
These were the days before in-house internet and Youtube. If we wanted to see a New Kids video, we had to catch it on MTV or record it on a VCR (I know, children. MTV playing music videos and Video Cassette Recorders are confusing concepts, but back in the day of 1989 we had both). I loved that VHS tape. I loved every one of their songs. I probably drove many patient adults crazy with my enthusiasm over five boys from Boston. I was a true Blockhead.
Yesterday, I took four sixth grade girls to see “This Is Us,” the biopic about One Direction. My “little sister” Katie asked if I would take her and then added friends to the trip all week long until my car was full.
“This Is Us” is their “Hangin’ Tough.” Kind of. Seriously, “Hangin’ Tough” was way better…to me. Probably not to them.
These girls are true Directioners. Some of them used to be Beliebers, but that silly phase is completely behind them as they set their eyes on the five boys from across the pond, make up crazy scenarios together about random meet-ups with Liam and Niall and Harry and sing and dance around loudly to their songs.
As I turned my head in the movie theater and witnessed the four of them, hardly able to contain themselves as a perfume commercial featuring the band played before the movie started, I had to laugh at my own sixth grade self. Oh, to think that Joey Mac might make his way to the Fieler Elementary playground and bump into me and believe that if that happened, he would for sure want to marry me. Or at least sing to me.
Last year, when Katie started paying attention to One Direction, I told her all about NKOTB. She thought I was nuts. I played the songs for her. I showed her their sweet dance moves–I mean, far as I can tell, 1D doesn’t dance much. She laughed at me. “That’s so silly!” she exclaimed. “Why did you like them?”
In a couple of decades, these girls will be older and their musical tastes will have matured a good bit. I can’t predict what kind of music that will mean in 2033, but something soulful and strong, I hope. But it will happen. Something will cause them to look for the “One Thing” video and they’ll time travel to sixth grade in their minds.
Here’s a treat for my fellow 30-something time-travelers today: