I am 30, and tomorrow I will go to a roller-rink birthday party for a guy my same age. This is exciting to me. We are all adults, and roller-rinks are more fun for us now. When I was a kid, Skate Country was the greatest place on earth. Skate Country had everything. The 40-something self-loather dressed in a referee costume, the giant fuzzy dice, the strobe lights and the disco ball and the arcade with Whack-a-Mole that would spit out tickets you could redeem for those little rubber finger monsters or Pixie-Stix or Fun-Dip. The laser pointers and the Barbie knockoffs cost more tickets than were feasibly earnable, but we didn’t care. We had those things already.
I fancied myself the fastest skater in all the land. I’m pretty sure I was. But I had to exit the rink floor when they played the Couples’ Skate song. I say “song” as though there was only one, because there was.
“One More Try,” was the intensely negative force in my life that kept reminding me that, at the world-weary age of 9, I would never have a boyfriend and I would probably die alone. “One more try,” he would sing, and I’d think, “I never even got ONE try.” “I didn’t know how much I loved you,” Timmy would croon, and my pursed lips spewed angry, lonely hellfire words, “YOU NEVER LET ME SHOW YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE.” I wanted to be the most important thing in someone’s life, and Timmy T and his stupid Couples’ Skate song kept reminding me that I wasn’t.
So I set my sights higher than the 4th grade boys who played football badly and made fun of me for my ability to win spelling bees. I decided my one true love was no other than Joey McIntyre, my very favorite New Kid on the Block.
I had the orange plastic lunchbox. I had the puffy-paint tee-shirt. I had the neon-green plastic earrings. I had the bedsheets and the pillowcases and the Teen Beats and the board game. My dad taped all their TV appearances for me on Betamax, and I watched them until they wouldn’t play anymore. I had conversations with Joey during which I would spill secrets I didn’t even tell Jesus. I had (and still have) all their cassette tapes. Posters. Trading cards. Lunchables with their five faces on them. Katie Smith and I would run home after school every day and practice the “The Right Stuff” dance where you hook your thumbs into the elastic in your Jams and kick your skinny legs out from side to side (see minute-marker 1:19 in below video). We perfected the parts in “Hangin’ Tough” that sounded eerily like the Wicked Witch’s Palace Guards’ chant from the Wizard of Oz, and watched the part in the video where they air-guitar with baseball bats about a thousand times.
And then, in 1990, my aunt appeared like a dream at my house with three tickets to the goddamn New Kids on the Block concert. She was going to take my cousin and me, and we would go to it and then we would be complete humans, not the sub-par, barely-carbon-based, non-NKOTB-witnessing idiots we were before the concert.
When we got there, all decked out in our boy-band paraphernalia, I thought I might lose my mind. I am pretty sure I peed in my hot-pink overalls. My side ponytail was hiked up high enough to make me look like a bona-fide cheerleader. I looked good, and I wanted to make sure Joey saw me. This was my only chance.
My aunt presented us with NKOTB cassettes that we did not own yet, which was enough to send me over the edge and bring on spastic fits of excitement that had to be distilled in no way other than screaming Joey’s name at the top of my tiny lungs. We were in Row LL, which was 38 rows away from the stage, so I yelled loud. And hard. I screamed. I jumped. Boy George. I tried so hard to get him to notice me that I did not pay attention to my body screaming out in protest. Three hours later I was in the hospital.
I had overexerted myself while attempting lifelong happiness and, in doing so, I gave myself a hernia.
I shit you not.
It was the first (and last, at this point) time I had ever gone under the knife. I didn’t care. My parents brought me more Teen Beats than I had ever seen in one room and they brought my Nintendo to the hospital and bought me Paperboy and I played that shit till I mastered Saturday.
I thought for sure this stunt would get me on Joey’s radar, and I’d love to say that it did, but I can’t. He’s still out there somewhere, and I will always love him, Timmy T style, and if he’d only give me One More Try, I could honestly say that I have more to show for my devotion than a 21-year-old scar that’s still numb to the touch.