Today I’m bringing up a story from the archives on its anniversary.
It’s from a pretty long time ago. But every now and then, someone will still ask me… “Hey, whatever happened with that crazy Backstreet Boys singing contest thing that you did?”
OK, first of all, it was not Backstreet Boys. But if that’s you, then read on.
I am re-posting the complete story below to refresh your memory. There, I have included a loosely-defined “update” for those of you who wonder.
“There’s something you need to know,” I say to my young self. “It may seem a bit much to take in right now, but just bear with me. In fact, you might want to sit down.”
Teenage me slowly eases into a chair.
“In 2009, you are going to sing for New Kid on the Block Jordan Knight in an audition. Of sorts.”
In typical, hormonally-charged teenage fashion, my 13-year-old self leaps out of the chair and launches into a disbelieving tirade. “No way! You are lying. Don’t manipulate my emotions like that!”
With that, 33-year-old me mysteriously disappears, with fairy-godmother type sparkles left in my place. (This is my made-up story. I don’t need a DeLorean.) And teenage-me is left standing there breathlessly, hands shaking. She is a skinny little kid with bird legs and puffy permed bangs whose voice quivered whenever she sang in front of the church. How in the world was she going to have the guts one day to sing in front of Jordan Knight? It didn’t matter. She would figure it out later. Regaining her wits, she reaches for the phone to squeal the news to every single New Kids on the Block fan friend she ever had.
In the days preceding the event, my stomach started to tie up in knots and the insomnia kicked in. Am I really going to do it? I thought to myself. And why am I freaking out like this? I was used to singing in front of a church. But THIS…this was different.
Later, as the line snaked past Jordan himself backstage, the girl in front of me told him that we were nervous. And I said, stupidly, “You have no idea.” I quickly amended that statement to, “Well, I guess you do have some idea.” He said that now we know how he feels. (Really? Jordan Knight still gets nervous?)
When Donnie Wahlberg squeezed past us, I had the opportunity to look right into the infernal dark glasses that he insists on wearing indoors and to tell him that I had written the blog he had tweeted recently. As it registered, he spread both his arms out and wrapped me in a big bear hug. I thanked him for sharing that link with the fans.
He graciously signed a copy of it that I had brought along, and then he started to read the whole thing again. I stood there beside him, awkwardly, and I finally said, “Um, you don’t have to read it now.”
By that time, it was almost my turn. As Jessa, the nice girl in front of me destined to become my cruise roommate, sang “Amazing Grace,” my nervousness started to ease up. I found my feet carrying me forward, and Kendrick Dean, the emcee, putting his arm around my neck, asking me my name, where I was from, and what I was singing. “But I gotta say my twitter name,” I said, since he had asked previously asked each contestant what their twitter name was, and it was relevant to the song I was about to sing, a re-write to the old NKOTB song, “I’ll Be Loving You Forever.”
“I’m not that kind of girl with a five-star VIP,” I sang, referencing the high-priced concert meet and greet tickets. The crowd responded with laughter, and Jordan did, too. I felt more comfortable. I started to warm up. “There’s just so much that I wanna say,” I sang. “But when I try to tweet, all the spam gets in the way!” When I finished, Jordan jumped up from the judges' sofa and reached up to hug me, and Donnie was on his feet. “That’s why I had to say my twitter name,” I said.
I floated off the stage. My teenage heart was soaring, not because of any abilities I have, but because I set out on a solo adventure to pursue a long-forgotten dream. I went that night all because my teenage self told me to. Her voice does not often surface, and when it does, I don’t always listen to her. But every now and then, she has a pretty good idea. I pause to consider it. And if she’s lucky, I carry it through. So, teenage me, I'm glad you're still a part of my life. I hope you’re still around 60 years from now when I’m 93. Because then, I’m certain, we could really have some fun.
Addendum: Two years have passed. As far as we know, no word ever came to anyone about the results. It simply “is what it is.” Or rather, it was what it was. Could it have been a PBI, maybe? A partially-baked idea? It seemed good to everyone at its inception. Make no mistake, it was. But I suspect that it was too complicated to carry it through to a resolution, for any number of reasons which I would not presume to speculate upon.