The Right Stuff

Sometimes you look back on your childhood obsessions and you cringe. This past weekend, as families nationwide gathered to give thanks, I decided to give thanks for boy bands. I ordered up New Kids on the Block's Greatest Hits video collection (thank you Netflix, the gift that keeps giving).

Jessica and I sat down to watch. Immediately my mind jumped back to 1990. I was in junior high. I was wearing ridiculously ugly big puffy reversible sweaters. I had a NKOTB button roughly the size of my head (so big that it had a stand at the back, so you could set it out as a picture frame. I chose to wear it.) I was loving Jordan Knight forever (bonus points if you caught the reference). I didn't care that he had extensively long canines and a falsetto to make plastic cups shatter. That rat tail was all I needed to get by in life. (his, not mine)

The videos began, and let me tell you, they did not disappoint. These guys could actually dance. Clearly Justin Timberlake was just an NKOTB fan back in the day, because he is rocking those same moves. Perhaps their lyrics weren't the best ("we ain't gonna give anybody any slack/ if you put us down we're gonna come right back"), but hey, they were from the cushy burbs of Boston. The music was really good, easily taken from the same pile that New Edition picked from (and in fact, was), and they had great voices. Their excessive use of cavarricis and smiley-face-wearing-do-rag tee shirts was a misdemeanor really. And Donnie Wahlberg made it ok for white kids to wear Public Enemy shirts...

I could write about das New Kids for a long long time. I could tell you how I've looked them up to find out where they are now, I could tell you that i just ordered Jordan Knight's last 2 albums from Amazon, I could tell you that I've rewatched the video THRICE.

I mean, I always loved Jordan. For those of you not in the know, every girl had a favorite New Kid. Jordan had a great smile and a pompador to die for (and only the 30 year old me now realizes, the great abs). I love love loved him. Susie loved Jonathan, Jordan's socially awkward brother (who we've since decided was the hot one. But before she gloats too much let me point out that he dated Tiffany). My friend Kathy loved Donnie, the dirty one with the mullet. I may have written fan mail to Jordan (in fact, I'm relatively sure I did). The difference between this and, say, going back to your high school reunion is that they WERE as great as I remember them.

While there is so much to regret about my younger years (including but not limited to my dalliance with brightly colored flannels, pegged jeans, and army boots -- simultaneously), it was reassuring to see that, hey, I was right about New Kids. They WERE good.

But what was even more interesting as I was watching was getting some perspective on what my childhood was like relative to others'. NKOTB was my first concert, it was a BIG deal. If I concentrate I can remember exactly what I wore to school that day and how it felt counting down to go to Rosemont Horizon. Going to that show was perhaps the turning point where I was allowed to be one with music, and I was allowed to be one with my age group. (Yes, I had the one puffy reversable sweaters but more commonly my mom dressed me -- yes, dressed me -- in earthy tones, and sometimes cashmere sweaters directly from her closet. No one is as comfortable with burgundy, mustard yellow, army green, and silk blouses as I was at that age.) When mom stepped into the elevator with her pack of cigarettes and pulled the emergency stop to hide from the shrieking adolescents (true story), it was me and the Kids. Just us. I was allowed to be a shrieking teenager (sorry Susie!- she was sitting next to me). I felt a shade of normal.

At one point in the BEST OF videos, Donnie comes out in barely-there jeans. I mean, they were so shredded that it looked as if he had fastened them on his legs (before donning aformentioned Public Enemy shirt). Jessica, who was watching with me, started reminiscing about how she got bleach everywhere when she and her friend were making their own ripped, acid-washed jeans.

"I wasn't allowed to wear ripped jeans."

Silence. It was like my comment went unheard, and perhaps it did (or perhaps she was enthralled with Jordan's body rolls, which rivaled Ricky Martin's). In that one second I realized that, no matter how close I am with some people, it's hard to explain how differently I grew up. Once my friend came over with ripped jeans and went into my room and my dad heard an earful from my grandmother about how he should be ashamed of himself for not giving her the money to buy a new pair, poor thing!

Music was the one place where I escaped from a confusingly bicultural world. I couldn't wear the same stuff those girls were wearing, but I could know the lyrics just as well and I definitely had those moves down (giving me a slight edge, I might add). When I listened to NKOTB or any of the other music phases I went through, I was the same as everyone else.

Perhaps this made me a bit nostalgic for the 80s. Granted, I was too young to fully enjoy the eighties (i wasn't a teenager yet), but no on really gets nostalgic for the 90s. So the 80s it was -- I was nostalgic for what I might have missed out on. There was no way I was allowed to crimp my hair or wear tons of makeup or talk like a valley girl on the regular. My 8th birthday was a punk rock theme, so I got to dress like Cyndi Lauper for a day, but I wanted to be like that ALL the time!

So, never one to rest on my bubble skirt, Jessica and I began planning. I guess just another step in reclaiming my youth (kegstands on my 30th birthday already happened, and a return to school is underway). The circle of life really. Eighties Prom (our New Year's Eve party theme, you're invited) is underway.

And if you guessed that NKOTB videos will be playing in the background for your visual enjoyment, you were totally right.

The Parsnip Opera: A Four-Part Meditation

The birthday came and went with a bang thanks to a surprise party thrown by my family and my roommate, all of whom (who?) knew about my last-minute depression and jitters about turning that corner into my 30s. Highlights included but are not limited to:

* doing a keg stand while held up by the other four members of my family (photographic evidence may or may not become our Christmas card...)
* being pushed into my parents' unheated pool roundabout 11pm
* switching into random sweats and tee shirt and proceeding to...
* dance to Madonna megamixes (praise the DJ who will sacrifice his artistic integrity to please his birthday girl)
* chicken fighting. not in the pool, but rather on my parents' nice persian carpet in the living room

I think it was a fun night, and just acting so crazy reminded me how much youth I have in me. The walking pneumonia that I've had since is further reminder of my youthful ignorance.

The girl we love to hate. On my birthday the weather was crappy and I wasn't feeling well and had no idea how I wanted to spend the day. So Jessica and I headed off to my favorite store, Best Buy. I won't even try and save myself by telling you what else I bought in that same shopping trip. I don't need to redeem myself! The truth is, after reading a few reviews, I marched right in there and bought "Blackout", the aptly-titled new LP from said songstress.

And dare I admit how GOOD this album is? It is. I know, just flip a few entries back and you'll read me making fun of her. But that's how she LOOKS. I love her crappy VMA dance performance, and have performed it religiously myself every SINGLE time it has come on within earshot.

People, her album is seriously more-than-decent. It takes appropriate digs on FedEx, backed by Pharell, no less. It also rips off Timbaland's sound, but it's done so well by Danja (whoever that is) that I don't even care - I give him props for doing it so well. And she even has a Britney-trying-to-be-Gwen-trying-to-be-Madonna-ish song "Heaven on Earth". Just like you, when I read it I dared hope it would be a cover of said Belinda tune, but it does a good job on its own. She doesn't sound like a dirty, angry goat in any of these tracks. She sings in a higher register and it is oh so danceable. It's true. I bought my first Britney album. Maybe my midlife crisis is coming early, but so is hers. And it sounds oh so good.

A while ago, I put a few things on my netflix queue that remained distant gems for a rainy day. Alas, what showed up in the mail this sick week of mine? The Wham! video collection. I know, take a moment with that. See what you can remember. And now let me tell you- not ONLY does George have the most amazing feathered hair, short white shorts, and one-foot spins (punctuated by a timely snap), but he has Andrew Ridgely. Sometimes they are half naked in the pool, sometimes they are half naked in a broken-down car on the side of the road. Sometimes they are in feathery snowsuits, enjoying a Last Christmas together. What I know is this: One - Wham! is an underrated talent of the 80s and, Two- we were all seriously distracted by Cyndi Lauper and Culture Club at the time to not notice that this guy was gay. At one point they don't even dress up as pilots but as air stewards. Did we need a painted neon sign folks?

This book was given to me as a gag gift for my birthday, and I did you all the favor of reading it immediately. It's actually quite entertaining, and nope, 'bitches' doesn't mean what you think it does here. Suffice it to say there's some entertaining and incredibly true advice in here. I gave a friend the cliffnotes version and she's going on two dates this week (granted, this begs the question of why I can't take my own advice, as I sit here blogging, which, let's be honest, is basically emailing with yourself)

Apparently it's news to some people somewhere that men like women who have their own thing going on. Hey, if this woman makes millions selling that "secret", more power to her. It's a fun book with a little attitude. It tells you that it's great to cook for guys- and then gives you a recipe for microwave popcorn. My type of book.

I am trying to turn the corner to become a vegetarian (I've cut out everything but seafood) and a healthier eater, and this involves me finally getting to know the extended family of the produce aisle. I wish I could tell you that this week's groceries didn't involve parsnips, rutabagas and beets, but then I'd be lying. Tonight I made "parsnip chips" and they were actually really good! They're like the healthy version of french fries. (work with me here)

And you and I, we depend upon our honest relationship, so out with it. I wish I could tell you that this is the worst my grocery has gotten -- parsnips and other bizarre root vegetables-- but recently in making a (delicious, I might add) lentil soup, I needed a can of prunes to garnish. I am a prune buyer!

I figure this is appropriate now that I am "in my 30s"... but the prune thing was last month.

Well, if you'll forgive me, my metabolism apparently went on strike right before I turned 30, so I'm off to workout. I'm sure you can count on more bitching about that very soon, dear reader.