On Friday, July 8, a deluge of resuscitated boy bands descends upon Tacoma. The Monkees, teen idols of the '60s, play the Pantages Theatre, and over at the Tacoma Dome, '80s-'90s superstars New Kids on the Block combine into a new group with the Backstreet Boys. Seattle Times writers Marian Liu and Nicole Brodeur offer...
If life had a soundtrack, the one for my elementary-school years would play only one band: New Kids on the Block.
Fondly called NKOTB, the group was like the Justin Bieber of my generation, except instead of just one idol, there were five to drool over. During recess, we would debate their virtues. Friendships were founded on which one you chose.
I picked curly-haired Joey. I had no real hope of claiming him as mine. I was a dorky kid — braces, big purple glasses, poofy hair and painfully skinny — but he was dream worthy. Plus, it was the ’90s and dorky was stylish (slouchy shirts and socks, big side ponytails — the look is making a comeback, so save your judgments.)
My parents were really strict. They reserved all my time for studying to be a doctor, not for concerts on school nights. So they could never understand how left out I felt the day after a show when my friends were all decked out in fluorescent pink NKOTB shirts.
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These girls kept singing “Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, the right stuff” through the halls, dancing the moves from the show. I was so jealous; I felt like I missed out on a chunk of my childhood.
So when NKOTB announced they were reuniting back in 2008, you can guess who was first in line for tickets. Sure, it was a good two decades after it really mattered, but we set back the clock. My friend made puffy fluorescent T’s with handwritten love letters to Joey. The T’s were actually really embarrassing, but they made good souvenirs of a bygone moment. Hair was swept up in side ponytails. And we searched the closets for leggings, big T’s and slouchy socks. I added arm socks and she put on leg warmers.
When we arrived at the show, we immediately noticed there were plenty of older ladies who looked just as embarrassing as we did. In fact, there were no teenagers in sight — nor many men, for that matter. Fluorescent T-shirts reigned. One guy even bought a skintight pink one from eBay just for the occasion.
Hair bears were everywhere — cans of hair spray were sacrificed to create the bangs that defied gravity. We searched out all the gangs of women dressed up (it wasn’t too hard) and took as many pictures as we could, discussing with them what lengths we went through for the costumes.
I also made sure to buy that NKOTB shirt, a piece of history I was denied as a child.
And while the New Kids were now grown men, with voices and outfits no longer suited for serenading little girls — for one special night, we were no longer women. We were sixth-graders again.