Pop stars; the performers we loved relentlessly as kids. They were figures of fame, prosperity, and sex. And we were loyal to their personas, giving them ample space to dwell; their faces and poses plastered across our bedroom walls. There must be fifty holes in the wall of my childhood bedroom, and two dozen marks more where tape has ripped the paint right off its surface. My pop stars could dance, sing, and wore the cutting edge of ‘90’s costume couture. I watched their music videos on TRL every day after school. They were perfect, and their eternal effects on me have recently been brought to the attention of my pen. Last week, I saw Nick Carter in concert.
Growing up in a very rural, very out-of-the-way small town, I never went to see Britney or Christina at the height of their relevancy, and the Backstreet Boys- my favorite most of all- lived only day to day in my mind, amidst my hopes and dreams, in the pure skies of my determination. So when the opportunity came up to visit a personality that I had once based much of my existence on, I said yes, and Coffee got secured the tickets. And before I had given much thought to any of it, it was Tuesday night, and Anthony was driving us to the Paramount in Huntington.
I felt the heat in my chest grow steadily, increasing in temperature and pressure as we moved past the box office, the merch booth, and walked into the theatre. The feeling began to pound as the direct support blew kisses of goodbye to the crowd and the stage crew set up for the main act. My eyes were glued as soon as the band began to play… But it wasn’t until he walked on- the pop star- that I came face to face with the pre-teen version of myself, the girl who used to sneak to the dark reference section of my school’s library in order to listen to cassette tapes on my Walkman. There he was- finally!- an outline of a person I had painted so well in my imagination, now in the flesh before me. But instead of realizing we’d been strangers all along, the opposite dawned on me, and I remembered every detail of the small lifetime we’d spent together. That night, as he removed his costume helmet, Nick Carter’s straight blonde hair fell in first-song perfection across his matured forehead. The scruff on his face lent to a greater oxymoron, as it somehow made him more refined, fresher, believable. His clear blue eyes I could not see plainly, but I knew they were there, like the ocean, a detail that decades before had claimed as his favorite in teenzine spotlights. This was not a stranger on the stage before me, but rather someone I had grown up with, grown up for, and grown to respect in new manners.
As he sang, I let him take me with him once again, through a story that had never been outwardly told: I thought about all he had been through since I’d known of him. I thought about all I had been through. And I thought for several hours after the show about all the things I would have never gotten over or under or through without those voices and the eyes and the basic principle of having someone to turn to when shit gets rough. It was consuming, the great wave of realization that swept over me, and I don’t wonder if I was the only one who cried over blonde ambition that night.
Our pop stars.
Didn’t they teach us how to love? Haven’t they led us to the lives we live now? It’s because of them that I constantly want to hear how you feel for me, although I know very well; breathe for me, bleed for me, ask me to do the same for you. Every three and a half minutes I want you to find a new way to tell me! Pop stars painted our imaginations with unrealistic standards for an unlikely fairytale, and I’ve chased it anyways. Haven’t we never really settled for anything less than a piece of our dream, because aren’t they forever a part of us? When Nick Carter sung “I Got You,” I remembered that no one can touch me, that you make me safe and songs make me invincible. When he went through, “Incomplete,” I sang every word, when he hit, “Do I Have To Cry For You,” I felt the endorphins of theatrics kick in, and by “Larger Than Life” I was going through the motions of Fatima’s famous choreography.
Our pop stars; Vintage now yet still shining through some gold-plated reverie which hangs at least in the back room of our adult-made homes, made us believe in them and in turn, believe in ourselves. “I can’t live without you either,” Nick said to an audience that has perhaps been there with him since the very beginning- over a Millennium, through all the Blacks and Blues, an Unbreakable loyalty that has Never Gone and somehow still prevailed as far as one chilly night in 2012 in a theatre in Huntington, NY.
My trick to staying young, to staying inspired, is to find something that’s bigger than me. Something that makes me feel small enough to squeeze through pressures of everyday life and yet strong enough to take on the world. I have read classic literature, gone to see a city, the ocean, or like last week, a Nick Carter show. My pop star, who I have long since considered an old friend, gave me a zap of life before he moved on to finish his tour, and I have the feeling he won’t be away forever.
Have you ever made something and then kept it to yourself,because you didn’t want to know what others had to say about it?
I want to be a man of the world
With blood in my veins and a hurt in my heart
Out in the street with the noise and the dirt
And the ones still looking for a brand new start
Oh I’ve been sleeping far too long
Hiding out in a palace of gold
Show me one thing before I’m gone
That can’t be bought and can’t be sold
Show me how to come alive
Show me how to make you mine
‘Cause if you’d only be my girl
I could be a man of the world
Then I could be a man of the world.
- Marc Cohn
Lately, I just have not wanted to be Terica. I haven’t been into the idea of writing my memories, I haven’t even considered jotting spur of the moment thoughts, and I haven’t let a show really get under my skin- apart from Madonna’s performance last night at the Super Bowl. I’ve been wearing jeans, the same pair all the time, put with whatever t-shirt makes me feel the least disappointing on any given afternoon. Lately, I have been more about hiding behind the man-made walls of Mount Sinai, than I have been about wondering and recording, reaching for anything new. A couple hissy fits and several sleepy Sundays later, I consider my extending mood (which my mother appropriately dubs the winter doldrums), and I suggest it is more to blame on selfishness, than lack of sun at all.
Nate says, there are a lot of different ways to live out your dream. There are a lot of different ways to say, ‘hey, this is me and my shit,’ and there are a lot of ways to get to wherever it is you may be headed on any given afternoon. Are there not many ways to be yourself? Life is long- I don’t believe what they say- and lately, I haven’t been wondering who I am; after books full of questionable decisions, I know who that is without the hysterics and dilemmas. I have not been wishing I had the time and energy to get my own life. I’ve just been neglecting it. Taking a recess. Being someone else for a while. Someone less self-proclaimedly complicated. And I guess I’m about done now. Tonight I wrote one paragraph in the fourth section of the Second Book, watched RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Jessie J’s “Domino” video. Nate says there are a lot of different ways to live out you dream. There are a lot of ways to come back from one too.