It’s been a while since I’ve done a Music Monday, but something happened the other day that made me realize I still have something to talk about.
And if you’re cringing or surprised at the title…look, I have a wide range of tastes. It may be a little odd to see that the classical music elitist/musical theatre girl turned classic rocker chick also has a taste for boy bands, but hey, I grew up in the eighties. It was bound to happen.
So what spawned this new post and why am I bringing it up now?
I was at the library the other day, thumbing through the new titles, gleeing over the new Zeppelin bio and some other things when lo and behold, I came across an NKOTB bio. At first it was like seeing an old friend at the other end of the hallway. You know the drill, the person you kind of squint to make sure what you’re seeing isn’t a mirage. The whole “Is that…it IS you! Well how the hell are you doing?!” Kinda deal. I mean I haven’t been living under a rock…I’ve heard and like the new stuff, I saw all the new tv appearances, I haven’t been to a reunion show (more on that later), but it’s the first time I really came face to face with the fact that yeah, they’re still around and that’s for real. It wasn’t something I’d thought about until now.
The second thought was more of a flash of panic as I plucked the thick title out…a panic that directly contradicted my glee. Somewhere, from the dark recesses of my mind a thought bubbled up. A thought that was something to the effect of..
Crap, I’d better hide this under something else and check it out before anyone sees and can pummel me in the bathroom…
Thing is, when I was like ten or eleven, I’d just moved to a new area. New town, new people, new demographic. This was probably at the height of the NKOTB storm, and like any good little tween fangirl, I had a fair amount of merch and had no problem showing it off. It was what girls did at my old school. It wasn’t just expected, it was all there was to talk about (or listen to if you could smuggle a tape deck out to recess).
The new school? Hoo, boy, not so much. This was very much the land of country music, and other groups (whose names escape me now) were the kings. So what did this mean?
It meant I got the crap knocked out of me daily for liking a music group.
Not always literally, mind you…there are only a few occasions when I can directly remember someone (or someones…tween girls tend to move in packs) putting their hands on me. If I wasn’t ducking out of range, then I definitely heard about how inferior, awful, disgusting, and worthless my tastes (and therefore how worthless I) was. Now it seems petty and ridiculous. Back then I was trying so hard to be liked, while also probably being one of the most awkward preteen girls in the history of the species. Seriously, I had no sense of anything. It definitely was a time when individuality and quirkiness were not appreciated, not by peers and not by adults in the system, either. I never quite figured out if the daily tauntings and hazings would have happened to me no matter what (probably), and if the school system let it happen because it was the day and age of letting people work out their own problems…I’d even venture to say that some people probably thought I’d learn to act like everyone else faster if they let things take their course. (Ha, guess who won that battle…)
Of course, this presented a problem…did I give up what I loved, what I was comfortable with just to try to make people like me? We’ve all done it…said what people want to hear just to get them to leave us alone (or to accept us). Or did I stick to my guns and enjoy what genuinely made me happy. I know people have said countless things about New Kids on the Block, but their music genuinely makes me happy. It was a safe haven when I came home, it was some shred of acceptance and good stuff offered up by someone other than my family who had to like me because we were related. Granted, the whole conundrum probably screwed me up for a while, but I have to say that looking back I’m amazed that I made the choice I did…
I can still remember an art assignment where we had to choose our favorite band and embellish the logo the teacher drew for us with different geometric shapes and patterns. It probably didn’t help that the list of my fave bands included a lot of hair metal and random acts like Lionel Riche (whom fifth graders at that point didn’t listen to…), but it really didn’t help that I chose to proclaim my adoration and support of…you guessed it…New Kids on the Block. Even the art teacher asked me if I really, really wanted to publicly make that choice.
I would like to say people admired my stubbornness, my attempt to remain true to myself. I’d love to say everything was great after that and I started making friends and life was hunky dory. Nope, that was the day I got jumped in the bathroom. It really didn’t help that I tried to throw their insecurities back in their faces…yeah…if there’s anything worse than an awkward, whiny chick it’s one that acts like she knows everything as tries to be arrogant, too.
At any rate, despite the confusion of that time period, despite the hell I probably put myself through to a certain extent…it prepared me for a lot of life that lay ahead. One of the qualities I pride myself in is my tenaciousness. Those who know me well know I’ve gotten through my share of difficult situations and when I believe in an idea I don’t back down. I just don’t. I may back off, I may bide my time, but I don’t put it out of my mind.
I really don’t hold a grudge anymore, either. Kids are kids, and I’m sure people who let it happen thought they were helping to make me socially savvy, a trial by fire sort of deal. I wouldn’t repeat the situation, and I will admit that I’m always keeping my eyes open and looking out for the underdog – especially those who aren’t quite prepared to defend themselves or perhaps go about it the wrong way.
I’ve gotten a little savvier about it through the years. I don’t let people run roughshod over me just because I happen to like certain things. I don’t let people degrade me because we have different opinions. That has changed. But now, hearing songs like Hangin’ Tough and No More Games…well, I have to admit, they’ve become mantras in a sense. I walk to them, jog to them, blast them when I’m sewing if I’m frustrated. They started out as songs to cling to in depressing times, and they’ve become ways to vent my frustration at things bigger than myself. And ways to remind myself that I’m a hell of a lot stronger than I think I am sometimes.