A Girl Never Forgets Her First Love… (Part 3)

“We’ve come a long way, baby!”  
Pictured: My cousin Emily, me, my sister Cher and my cousin Niki before the NKOTB concert in Nashville on June 21, 2011

From Part 2:

“The New Kids on the Block reunite!” the headlines screamed, and though the teeny bopper in me had long been replaced by a mature woman, my heart stopped and my face instantly flushed as my NKOTB radar surged back to life. I grabbed the nearest phone and punched in my sister’s phone number at lightning speed.

“Oh my gosh…did you HEAR?!” she screeched as soon as she picked up the phone, seeing my name on the caller ID.

“YES! We have to go!!!!!”

Though the NKOTB stalkers in us had been lying dormant for 20 years, it was as though we had never skipped a beat. Instantly we were eleven and 14 again, plotting our plan of attack for getting ourselves as close to the stage as we possibly could. We doubted very seriously if my dad would be game for dusting off the old lawn chair and camping out for us again, especially considering the Great Underwear Debacle from a few years before. I don’t think he ever truly forgave the New Kids or their tiny underwear for cutting off circulation to his nether regions for an entire day…so Cher and I knew we were on our own this time.

Seeing the New Kids at age eleven, when we thought we were gorgeous and were convinced we were going to sweep them off their feet with one glance at our frizzy poodle perms, hot pink jelly shoes, and leather suits had been truly amazing – but to have the opportunity to see them again in our 30’s, when we KNEW we were gorgeous, and had driver’s licenses, conditioned ends, and boobs was beyond what I could really even put into words.

The day the tickets went on sale, I got online thirty minutes early and refreshed my screen until I saw the sale had begun. I was honestly a little bummed because we ended up in Section 6, Row 6, which is about the equivalent of Row 40. I was excited to be on the floor but had hoped to get closer seats. I even looked online in the days leading up to the show, on Ebay and Craigslist, and debated about spending another pretty penny to get closer seats. Ultimately I decided I didn’t want to spend the money when we already had decent seats. So I didn’t.

When we got to the show at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, decked out in all our Grown Woman Glory, we automatically noticed that there was a blocked off section right beside us that looked like a riser with a piano on it. We got excited because we assumed maybe one of the guys would come out and play the piano or sing during the show. But we got downright verklempt when the girls next to us got there, seasoned veterans from attending a show in St. Louis, and explained that ALL FIVE guys would be popping up on the riser during the show. Not only that, they told us the exact moment during the show that it would happen. Seated beside us by mere coincidence, these girls turned out to be our secret weapons to getting up close and personal with our childhood loves for the first time in 20 years.

When the guys came out to the platform in the middle of the show, me and our two new friends managed to work our way up to blockade surrounding the riser and were the first to push our way through, which meant we were the closest to the guys. And when I say “managed to work our way up,” I mean we blew past everyone and everything standing in our way, parting the Red Sea of fans with fixed determination that would make Charlton Heston proud, to secure a prime position against the railing. My sister stayed back, thinking that as a responsible married woman with kids, she probably shouldn’t risk getting squished in a stampede. As for me, not at ALL a fan of confined spaces, I was already seeing the headlines flashed on tomorrow’s paper: “Girl squashed to death by rabid fans at NKOTB concert.” The girls behind us were pushing us up against the partition so hard, I slipped a $10 bill to the bodyguard on the other side of the blockade in exchange for his word that he would fish me out of the pile to safety should the crowd get unruly and storm the stage.

The momentary lack of oxygen was totally worth it, though, when the guys launched into three or four songs on the riser, only a few mere feet away from where we stood. I snapped pictures frantically while trying to flash my most seductive bedroom eyes at Donnie. Since Donnie was now officially single and I had developed my penchant for bad boys since the 80’s, I had jumped ship from being a Joey girl to a Donnie girl. Unable to draw a deep breath because my ribcage was pressed up against the barricade from the frantic swarm of girls trying to push their way closer to the guys, I feared my “bedroom eyes” came across as more of a pained grimace than a sexy invitation. Apparently, I did something right, though, because as the rest of the guys started to make their way back to the main stage, Donnie hopped down and began to work his way toward me and my two new friends. He started at the other end, planting a kiss right on the first girl’s lips…then moved to the second girl…THEN…as time stood still, he came toward me…could it be? Was this really going to happen? Twenty years after my mom proposed marriage to Donnie on my behalf, were we really going to…


He swept me into an embrace and the next thing I knew, Donnie Wahlberg’s lips were on mine, my arms wrapped around him, my heart racing, my world stopping on its axis for what felt like half an hour.

Then it was over and I was left standing there, the 10-year-old version of myself FREAKING OUT inside the body of my 30-year-old self; my mouth hanging open in stunned silence, the culmination of my every fantasy as a child wrapped up in one moment, where time ceased to exist and one of the biggest wishes of my idealistic, innocent, stubbornly faithful heart was granted, just like that, in one fell swoop.

When I was ten, my biggest dream was to kiss one of the New Kids on the Block. In fact, I used to kiss their posters every night before bed as practice. At age 30, it actually happened. How many women can say they actually got to LIVE OUT one of their childhood fantasies?

The whole night was honestly one of the best of my life. From the moment the opening screen flashed up with the message: “Fifteen years ago, they walked away. Tonight, they’re back. Are you READY?” – I was instantly transported back to another time…another place…a time of innocence, and dreams, and belief that anything could happen. I could almost picture my 10-year-old self standing there, gazing up at the stage with wide eyes, wishing I was old enough to catch the eye of one of these guys I thought hung the moon. If I could have only told that little girl: “Guess what? In 20 years, you are going to get to kiss Donnie Wahlberg!!!” It might sound silly, but that kiss reminded me a lot about who I was and who I used to be. For one brief, s
hining moment, my 10-year-old self and my 30-year-old self collided…and it brought a great, big, goofy grin to my face.

And after the year I had just been through, the pain and turmoil and heartache of a failed relationship with someone who always made me feel not quite good enough, or pretty enough…or simply like I WAS NOT ENOUGH…Donnie Wahlberg swept in, like a Knight in Shining Armor, and just as he did when I met him at age 11, made me feel beautiful…and perfect…and special…just as I was.

I’m sure to some it might seem like nothing more than a silly, simple kiss…but for me, it was a truly defining moment that reminded me that dreams DO come true…and amazing things CAN happen, for no reason at all…and that I WAS worthy of the kind of kisses that you see only in fairytales. I walked out of that concert with a pep in my step and a confidence in my stride that hadn’t been there in a very long time.

And that night, I went to sleep with a sweet smile on my face… memories of yesterday in my dreams, excitement for the future in my heart, and a kiss I had waited 20 years for on my lips.


I like to think that this journey we’ve traveled on for the greater part of our lives, this sisterhood of devoted fans we call “Blockheads,” this torch we’ve carried for five guys we don’t even really know for 22 years is about more than just a teenage dream none of us are ready to wake up from. No, I think it goes deeper than that. It’s about a simpler time…a time before broken hearts and failed relationships and bad dates…an era of our lives when we had not one but FIVE Prince Charmings who made us believe that even our biggest wishes could come true.

And though I may not ever get close enough to touch Jordan, Joey, Jonathan, Donnie, or Danny again (although I AM still holding out hope that I’ll someday get to interview the guys for my column)…each time I have another NKOTB adventure, I reach across time and distance and touch a part of my youth that reminds me of the girl I used to be…a girl that’s not so different from the girl I am today…a girl who is lucky enough to have an eternal connection to my childlike optimism because I am a part of a sisterhood that has stood the test of time and is stronger today than ever before.

I am also forever linked to my fellow BH sisters through The Single Woman, as this devoted, fiercely loyal, colorful and at times completely irreverent group of ladies was one of the first groups to catch on to The Single Woman message, more than a year ago. In the early days, they helped build my Twitter following far beyond what I ever could have hoped for or imagined. Many of these ladies I still follow to this day…and am both moved and inspired by their bond with one another.

So I can think of no better way to end this than in the words of our guys:

To my five brothers and a million sisters…

“I love you…I guess I always will.”






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Something wonderful is on the horizon
Turn Toward the Sun CoverLife doesn’t always look the way we want it to look. In Mandy’s upcoming book, Turn Toward the Sun: Releasing What If and Embracing What Is, you’ll find encouragement to live in the moment, sit with your experiences, and trust God with the unknown.
Preorder from Baker Book House for 40% off and free shipping!*
*US shipping only