Sunday, February 08, 2015

Tell Me Why

I recently watched the Backstreet Boys documentary, "Show 'Em What Your Made Of," and it took me back. For a few years, I was obsessed with the Backstreet Boys. My friends who knew me then instantly cringe at the memory of me regaling them with the latest single or tales of Nick, AJ, Brian, Kevin and Howie.

To be honest, it was a very tough time in my life when I started listening to BSB. The summer of 1999 was a mixed blessing of working an internship at the Evansville Courier where I met lots of great people, some of which I still keep in touch with today, and working with my mom. But I was not super excited about being home for another summer while my roommates held down the fort in Bloomington.

I got the ear worm that is "I Want It That Way" stuck in my head and decided to capitulate to its charm by blaring it nonstop. It soon turned me into a full-on, non-ironic fan. I bought all albums and bootlegs that I could get my hands on. I watched MTV specials and music videos. My dad even bought me tickets to their concert in Indy for my 21st birthday. Anne and I got tipsy at a Hooters before the concert and figured we were the only non-parents there who were imbibing.

Things really escalated when mom's cancer came back.

That seems weird to say, but looking back, it is actually a habit I have. I throw myself at things, become moderately obsessed. I did it with BSB, and before that Matt Damon, and before that Indiana basketball. I was the only girl I knew that could name the lineup of the 1976 Indiana Hoosier National Championship team. I spent my sophomore year of high school reading every book that had to do with basketball in Indiana. It's why when my friend told me she was teaching at Crispus Attucks in Indy that I immediately said "That's where Oscar Robertson went."

I used to tape every Hoosier basketball game if I wasn't able to watch it live and then stay up late at night, after some sports practice or another, homework and a job to see how the game turned out. Back then basketball was something to think about other than my parents' divorce. It was something I could study that wasn't going to make me deal with my looming future or the weight of the immediate past.

And that's actually what BSB was for me, as well.

I could download songs on the Internet and listen to them for hours on end. They weren't particularly challenging songs. They were pop songs, which was a genre I had sworn off most of high school. I almost felt like I was regressing by liking BSB. I had never dove into the New Kids on The Block fad as a kid, but in my early 20s, I was following a boy band. It didn't make sense to me, and yet it made complete sense to me.

I watched the documentary the other night and it hurt a little. That time of my life hurt and the songs were both smile-inducing and soul-crushing memories. The morning of my mother's funeral, I was in the shower when "I Want It That Way" came on the radio. It wasn't played all that much by that time, but just hearing the chorus that morning made me burst into tears for the first time since the night she'd died.

I will always love the Backstreet Boys. I will never completely understand why. But I like to think they provided me with a respite from my life and thoughts at a time when I really needed it.

And for that, I will always be a fan.


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