As a 35-year-old journalist, I sometimes get weird looks from people when they find out I’m a huge Backstreet Boys fans. Usually it’s new people that give me those looks because they tend to find out five minutes after first meeting me.
Whether it’s someone at work seeing my pictures with the boys and my friends on my desk, or someone at a drive-thru window seeing my Nick Carter VIP pass hanging from my rear view mirror, the looks from people are usually the same.
A look of confusion.
“You still like the Backstreet Boys?” “Aren’t they old?”
But they just don’t get it.
When I say I’m a Backstreet Boys fan, it goes deeper than just being a fan of five guys that I think are particularly nice to look at and can sing their tooshies off. It’s not just about having a poster on my wall like I did back in 1998
Being a Backstreet Boys fan means that I have a family that only fans of a particular fandom can understand. After watching a documentary on “Back to the Future,” I noticed that the BTTF fandom has that same kind of loyalty and family atmosphere.
I became a Backstreet Boys fan by accident on May 1, 1998. It was Brian Littrell’s last show before his heart surgery at Grad Nite at Walt Disney World. AJ McLean had his dreads that he wore on “Saturday Night Live.” Nick Carter had the long blonde hair with a part in the middle. And I walked over to see their show just so that I could tell my little cousin about it, but it sucked me in. The music, the dancing, the entertainment, the show and of course, that blonde guy who was my age when he looked at me and asked if he was sexual.
The next week, I asked a freshman girl in one of my classes for a poster of Nick Carter from her teenybopper magazine. A few weeks later, I bought their “All Access” video and began staying up to watch “Total Request” on MTV (before TRL) and my life was never the same.
My friends from high school didn’t really get my new fandom. My family surely didn’t understand it, even though they all should have known considering my loyalty to New Kids on the Block since I was six or seven.
And in the past 17 years, a lot of things have changed because of the Backstreet Boys.
Because of those five guys, I learned more about myself than I ever learned in the 18 years before I knew about them. Because of them, I found my love of writing, design and web work, which lead to my future career. It was Nick Carter that lead me to going back to college after a horrible depression. It was all the boys that helped me through that depression. If it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.
One of the few people who has always supported my love for the boys is my mother and it shouldn’t be a surprise considering she took me to my first concert, New Kids on the Block, when I was in fourth grade. I always told her that me loving a boy band, going to concerts, making websites, etc., is always better than the alternative – doing drugs or getting in trouble like a lot of my family and friends from high school did.
And it’s because of that “boy band” as people call them that I met friends that I’ve had for years – some more than 10 years. There’s Kristin in Boston who I’ve known for more going on 15 years that I have never had the chance to meet. There’s Rachel in Jacksonville that I went on many Nick Carter “Now or Never” tour adventures with. There’s Michelle who I met several years ago because of my website and I watched the Backstreet Boys help change her life while she dealt with cancer. There’s Hannah and my other cruise sisters Mara and Julieanna. There’s so many to list and talk about that have touched me or helped me whether I still talk to them or not.
And the friendships go deeper than just the Backstreet Boys. I don’t just talk to them about the group or whatever is going on with them. Sometimes, they aren’t even mentioned.
It’s those friends that I met because of some silly group that have become my family. When my Mom went to the ER and was unconscious in August, was it any of my family that came to check on me? No, it was my best friend Julia who I met because of the Backstreet Boys that lives over an hour away.
It’s birthday celebrations or weddings or baby showers. It’s random trips that have nothing to do with the Backstreet Boys. It’s phone calls that don’t involve something that Kevin Richardson tweeted. It’s being there for one another no matter what the circumstance. It’s watching our boys become husbands and fathers and seeing their family support them – both their real families and the fandom family. When one Backstreet Boys fan dies, the others are there to mourn. When one is sick, most stick by to try and help them. And when one of the boys needs our support, we are there for them in more ways than they may ever know.
And even if there was fights or cliques of fans who don’t like one another, it’s okay. Because at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is all of our love for the band that brought us all together. It’s about keeping the Backstreet pride alive. The tour dates are holidays and the cruises are our family reunions.
It makes me think… what would my life be like without the Backstreet Boys?
And it scares me to think about what would have happened if I hadn’t walked over to that stage to see my little cousin’s favorite band. I wouldn’t be who I am right now. I wouldn’t have the memories or the friends that I have today. I’m 99.9% sure I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for those five guys that bring so much happiness to so many.
Fandoms are families and even though it sometimes infuriates me like a family, I wouldn’t trade being a part of the Backstreet Army for anything