I have been waiting for over a year to write the follow-up to Aaron Carter Hates My Guts. But I’ve been waiting my whole life to speak to a Backstreet Boy. Nick Carter announced a solo tour and it was coming to Grand Rapids. Nick. The guy. The Backstreet Boy. I had big plans. Plans that involved a title like, “Nick Carter LOVES My Guts!” but could also end up being, “I Peed My Pants In Front of Nick Carter”. I’m an OG boyband fan. One who spent the entirety of her teen years sleeping underneath countless Backstreet Boys posters. One who legitimately thought (at 14 years old), that if we only had a chance to meet, she’d be romantically involved with Nick Carter at some point.
The big day kind of snuck up on me. I wanted to lose 20 pounds and prepare a happy medium between losing my actual mind and keeping my cool/calm comedian plot to collect “awkward meet & greet photos”. But instead, I went on with my life and my #fatgirlthings with reckless abandon until Nick-Day came and the only plan I had was to show him the photo of me with Aaron Carter and just sort of ask him to do better. So, in lieu of crafting a genius bit that would show Nick how hilarious I am (so that he’d want to be my best friend and hang out with me always), I decided to fill my insides with alcohol. Because alcohol lowers my inhibitions and makes my aversion to touching less of a thing. Hugging is of major concern to me. I don’t have a germ phobia but I do have a big ol’ case of intimacy issues. Hugging = smushing your entire body up against someone else’s. Which seems intimate. So when I know I’ll be in a situation (like a Meet & Greet) where a hug is expected, I overthink it and get real weird with it in an accidental body language kind of way. Coming at me for a hug is probably a lot like trying to embrace a life size doll (sex doll…I mean a sex doll). The limbs bend, but the heart’s not in it.
If you’ve never paid your way into a celebrity’s embrace, here’s the way a Nick Carter VIP pass works:
You get an email the day before the event with very specific instructions. That email self-destructs upon opening. It doesn’t. But it does all seem very secretive and official. We were told to arrive and meet outside the box office promptly at 3pm. So we did. The email stated that we’d be met by the VIP coordinator and that the box office would have “little to no information about the VIP process”, so we had better wait for that VIP coordinator to lead us to our very exclusive Meet & Greet-slash-photo op with the Backstreet Boy himself. Otherwise we may be lost in the bowels of a mid-size music venue forever. Surviving by chewing on paper wrist-bands and lapping at puddles of spilled Sex on the Beach.
I was beginning to feel doomed to an eternity of wrist-band chewing after about 2 hours of waiting in line outside The Intersection, running across the street to the Tin Can to put more small quantities of alcohol inside my body, and mixing with the common-folk. The ones who didn’t have VIP passes. Once we finally made our way inside, we were herded to the front of the venue where most of the girls rushed to the front of the stage. In my somewhat buzzed mind, they were being dumb. Because. If we were supposed to have a picture with Nick, we’d have to line up anyway. Before the show. So. Like. What are you doing? So, me and my radiating superiority complex milled around the outskirts of the crowd and took sassy Instagram pictures about “gelled-hair men doing a sound check”. Until Nick came out and did his sound check. Right there in front of us. And then I’m the asshole. I had no idea a sound check was part of the deal. I couldn’t rush the stage after I had JUST posted that snarkily-captioned photo, so I did what anyone in my position would do. I slowly edged forward like a sarcasm-covered starfish and posted another Instagram photo of his outfit choice. Which in my defense was really bad. There are pie charts to back me up. Part of his outfit was promotion for a film he recently directed and starred in. Which I suppose is just good business.
After Nick checked his sound and sang a few 90s grunge hits, he hopped down and instructed us all to get in line for our photos. This was the moment. The one for which I had meant to prepare. The plan I did eventually come up with, however, was genius. I stealthily made my way to the back of the line, making friends and ushering people ahead of me while trying not to appear as if I had a scheme in mind. The scheme, of course, was to be last and therefore not rushed through the process. To have time to explain my purpose. My idea. To frame it in a way that made me sound funny and cool and make him want to participate with me and my funny/cool ideas. Except. As we got closer I got more and more nervous. Was I drunk? I didn’t feel drunk. But I had to be a little drunk. The girl in front of my group was certainly drunk. Drunk and talking about calling into work with a family emergency so she could skip being a teacher for the day and cuddle up to Nick, then rush home to pump-and-dump all that alcohol she ingested into her breasts before she gave it to her infant child. Seems like we’ve all been there.
I was about five people away from my literal teenage dream when it happened. I heard the photographer and the VIP Coordinator tell a wheelchair-bound girl to wait at the end of the line so that Nick could take another minute or two with her. I was crushed. Here I was, put in the awful position of having to continue being a human person and not a boyband-crazed monster. I had to just suck it up and give over my coveted last place in line. You better believe it was begrudgingly. On the inside. I had to keep up human person appearances on the outside (although my face is overly expressive so I’m sure I did a terrible job of masking my disappointment). But I was flustered. I was thrown off my game. I watched the ladies in front of me get their hugs, their “Hi sweethearts” and their smiling photos. I knew in theory that I was next and that I would have to think of a way to condense all of my words into about ten seconds. But I wasn’t ready. It was too fast!
I walked up, wide-eyed and wheels-a-turnin’ in my brain. I probably looked insane. I’m sure the photographer paused a moment and considered whether or not I should have kept that special place at the back of the line. For the safety of the others. Nick must have picked up on my crazy-vibe because he didn’t call me sweetheart. He nervously hugged me and asked me where I was from. I replied with, “Here.” Implying that I maybe lived at The Intersection, subsisting on those paper wristbands and puddles of sticky-sweet mixers. He sort of smiled and gently nudged me into photo position while I panicked and thrust my hand forward, presenting the photo of me with Aaron Carter from a year ago. I said something like, “This is what your brother did. Let’s do another!” Which of course makes no sense. He squinted at it, and me, and again nudged me gently toward a photo-appropriate position. So I said, “Let’s do a weird one. Maybe I don’t know you’re here?” And then this happened:
I promise you, “Maybe I don’t know you’re here?” is what I said, exactly. 100%. It does not make sense. I give Nick a lot of credit for managing to pose at all, but up until 10 minutes ago when the photo was posted on his website, I didn’t know what he was doing behind me at all. I had some scenarios in mind, but none were this sort of bewildered, fuck-it-all-here-we-are extravaganza of a human exclamation. I love it. I hate it. I have no idea who I am anymore. Except. This is exactly who I am. I’m the girl who meets her teenage dream man and gets super weird with it, literally retracting into herself and muttering nonsense. This is how I spent my one and only interaction with a Backstreet Boy. And then I just left. I didn’t thank him or pat him awkwardly on the upper arm. I just sort of ran-walked away and into the cruel light of day.
And then I got really drunk. Like, really. I was disappointed and disillusioned and I just went for it. I spent the concert texting myself notes for this blog (none of which I have used), dancing badly and staring at Nick’s hot dad bod. He got a little chunky and I was loving it. He did approximately 6 Backstreet Boys songs, to which I swayed nostalgically and sang loudly and off key. At one point I wandered up to the merch table to harass Riley, the opening act. She was a good sport, but probably a little bit nervous about a drunk old lady asking her to take awkward photos. She did indeed let me take awkward photos. She was wearing a “cool girl” flannel and looked like how I think I’ll look in my head when I wear high-waisted pants. But I look like me and she looked amazing. I believe I dance-battled two other girls when “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” came on. When I tell the story, I nailed it. I danced while an impressed bouncer looked on in amazement and then walked away amidst congratulatory high fives. But it probably looked more like when your grandma cuts loose at the end of the wedding reception. You know she’s having fun and you just don’t have the heart to tell her that her dress is tucked into her sagging pantyhose, you’re just glad to see her finally moving around a bit.
I went to a few bars after the show, making at least 3 different bartenders hold on to my prized, autographed Nick Carter poster. I told anyone who would listen that I met Nick Carter and I botched it. I botched it good.