As Long As You Love Me

I don’t care who you are

Where you’re from

What you did

As long as you love me

Who you are

Where you’re from

Don’t care what you did

As long as you love me

– Backstreet Boys

Have you ever had one of those moments when you actually feel pieces of your life click together? You know those moments? A moment when everything kind of goes in slow motion and you are granted just a split-second to watch it all come together before life starts whirling around you again. Well, I had one of those a couple of weeks ago, Ballas.

Just four weeks ago most of my tween dreams came true right before my eyes…

It was a school night. Okay, okay, so it was a work night. I left Big Blue Box on Wednesday afternoon and headed south. Tay and I had big plans – huge plans, actually.

The Backstreet Boys were in town!


Most people laughed when I told them what my evening plans were. I guess middle-aged boy banders weren’t their idea of a good Wednesday night. Whatevs. No shame here. I wasn’t going because I thought it would be the lyrical performance of a lifetime. My motives were deeper than that.

You see, we (my fellow millennials and I) grew up during a special time. We were blessed with boy bands, and girl groups, and pop stars, and pre-rehab Lindsay Lohan. We had things like Topanga, Furbies, Ginger Spice, GigaPets, Polly Pockets, Sabrina, Uncle Jesse, and Barbie Dream houses. We hated going out on Friday nights, for fear we would have to videotape TGIF. And that new song on the radio – well hopefully the other 11 songs on their new CD would be just as good!

Our lives were created just as everything good in video, television, and music was coming to a culmination. We were smushed somewhere between the death of hairbands, the birth of rap, and the underground creation of grunge. Our evenings were full of television shows that were much too inappropriate for kids our age (e.g., Dawson’s Creek, 90210, etc.) or the complete opposite (e.g., Saved By The Bell, Home Improvement, etc.). Back then, Disney was still making real cartoon movies and PG-13 meant something entirely different than it does today. In the ’80s and ’90s, people wore clothes to award shows. Sure, the clothes may have been ill-fitting, full of fringe, or just plain fugly but it was clothing nonetheless (and it must be noted that all meat… was left at home in the fridge).

Everything was still so easy then.

An entire wall in my room was covered in Spice Girls memorabilia. I collected books, dolls, magazines, CDs, tapes, VHSs, t-shirts – anything Spice, I had it. I studied them, and watched them, and practiced talking like them. I was notorious around school for having parties at my house where my girlfriends and I would videotape ourselves recreating their music videos. My 10-year-old self would have given her left lung to have seen the Spice Girls in concert. Who am I kidding, my 25-year-old self would give her left lung to see the Spice Girls in concert. To this day, I still get those same goosebumps when I see one of their names in the news.

The Spice Girls are my childhood.

Seeing television shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Friends, and The Nanny on Nick at Nite now just breaks my heart. I can remember crying when I watched Will turn off the lights in the Banks’ Bel Air estate for the last time. I can remember how devastated I was when I found out Dad had forgotten to videotape the very last episode of Friends while I was away on a photo shoot (don’t worry, he ended up finding and buying it on DVD for me). And I can also remember when Mr. Sheffield and Fran had the twins.

Nick at Nite used to be full of old black and white shows – the I Love Lucy-s and Gilligan’s Island-s. I used to lay in bed with my Nana and watch Lucy and Ethel wreck havoc all over New York. And for as long as I can remember, I would stay up every night long enough to sing the Cheers theme song. Now, my nine-years-younger little sister and her friends get the luxury of reliving my childhood night after night.

Just what the hell are those Nickelodeon execs trying to do to us? Make us feel old and nostalgic every. single. evening? Are they trying to remind us just how much time has passed? Or could it be they understand our need to stay connected to our childhood, and in turn, are in fact providing us a service?

I just can’t take this kind of mental abuse.

Thus, I watch Real Housewives of every city in the nation, and The Walking Dead, and shows about women who kill their husbands, and Paula Dean! Gasp!

My apologies. Please excuse me for a moment as I circle the wagons and dry my not-as-cute-as-they-used-to-be tears…

Moving on.

When Big gave me the Backstreet Boys tickets for my birthday I was elated. My 10-year-old self did somersaults in my mind. Wow! A real concert with a real band from my youth! This was going to be fantastic!

On the ride over to the amphitheater, Tay, her three friends, and I compared BSB fan notes. The conversation took many twists and turns but this is what I found out:


  • Tay and I realized we were both on the fence about our original Backstreet boy crushes. I mean, Brian was sweet and super cute… but A.J. was hawt. He had an edge about him that our younger selves could have never appreciated. We agreed to hop the fence. Team A.J. – woo!
  • Maddie, the middle school teacher, could not have picked a better profession. She packed sandwiches for the concert. Peanut butter, honey, banana, and cinnamon sandwiches on little English muffins, actually. Isn’t that just the cutest?
  • Kristen, Tay’s roommate, confessed she had seen the Spice Girls in concert during their prime. I was seething with jealousy.
  • And finally, Logan, modestly hinted around about the fact that she was a BSB die-hard fan. We’re talking, 10-ish concerts, following tour buses across state lines, hanging out with the Boys in hotel lobbies, autographs – the whole shebang. I was floored. The Backstreet Boys were her childhood.

When we got to the venue we chose the best spot we could on the lawn. It took a while, but gradually, the space started to fill up. Lights started flashing, girls started screaming, bass started booming, and the music started. It was showtime!

The concert was a blur. I vaguely recall working both of my cameras, singing, dancing, and jumping. Maybe it was the beer fogging up my mind (props to Big for giving me tickets to a band I loved when I was 10… when I was 25)? Or then again the concert may have just literally been a blur because I refused to put my glasses on until it was dark. Whatever the case maybe, what I do distinctly remember is looking out over the crowd and thinking, “Wow. I know exactly what year every single one of these people were born in.”

It suddenly occurred to me that I could walk up to any person in that amphitheater, reference any one of the ’90s or early-2000s quirks mentioned above, and they would know exactly what I was talking about. We knew the same bands, the same songs, the same movies, and the same television shows. We had worn the same stirrup pants, and headbands, and over-sized sweatshirts, and jelly shoes. We had played with the same toys, blew into the same Nintendo games, and cut the same pictures out of the same magazines. We had all grown up together.

And now, 15 years later, we were traveling back in time with one another.

It was surreal.

Then it clicked – my full-circle life moment.

My 10-year-old self would have enjoyed the concert, but she would have failed to see what my 25-year-old self saw that night.

She would have never noticed that hundreds of people had set aside their differences, their lives, jobs, families, kids, financial worries, religious beliefs, political views, and social status for a night full of poppy-sounding love songs. My 10-year-old self would have never appreciated our unity. She would have looked past the beautiful buzzing of a stadium full of singsong voices humming the same words and would have only heard the five men on stage. My 10-year-old self would not have had the opportunity to spend the evening scanning through the best memories of her childhood. Ten-year-old Miss Clariss would not have had the chance to think to herself, “Damn, life was fun… we really did have a good time growing up.”

But 25-year-old Miss Clariss noticed all of those things. She soaked up every ounce of childhood she could that night because she knows these kinds of things are few and far between. She danced, and sang as loud as she could, and waved her arms above her head, and smiled bigger than she had in a long time. She enjoyed herself.

And the next morning, when 25-year-old Miss Clariss felt like crying because she had only gotten four hours of sleep the night before, she realized… 10 really never is that far away.

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