“And I know, the years go by, but it’s nothing we can’t rewind…” Donald Edmond Wahlberg, Lars Jenson, et. al.
I haven’t been around much, and I guess I haven’t had much to say. It may very well be winter blues. It’s now March of 2023, and it’s getting to the point where I have to push myself to pour a bowl of friggin Fruit Loops in the morning instead of grabbing an EggMcMuffin. This is also the worst month of the year for a teacher because there are no days off. The Northeast weather is bipolar – in the morning you have to dress as if you’re in the movie The Day After Tomorrow, but by 3 pm you got the car windows down, blasting Depeche Mode – or maybe that’s just me.
It’s a tough time for everyone because we’re ready to say goodbye to the gloom and dregs of winter, ditch all the fleece, and welcome Spring. Then comes June, and most of us are ready to dig into summer foods and hot sand – and maybe catch a carnival, a food truck festival, or a concert here or there.
Now, I may be in the minority here, but summer just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Everything pumpkin-flavored doesn’t taste right, I hate sweating when I’m doing absolutely nothing, and excessive heat makes my head, eyes, and hair hurt. If I were able to take a dip in a pool whenever I wanted, it would suck a whole lot less. When I was a kid, I was a summer bug. Hell, I was born right before the first day of summer. But getting older often makes the dead-of-summer months feel like countless hours of watching CNN and Fox News at the same damn time.
Bottomline, summer seems to lose its magic once you reach a certain age – what was once its own universe of memories and joy is now the same as any other season. Sure, we still have family vacations – big and small – camping, beaches, boardwalks, amusement parks, you name it. But there was something about a GenX summer that’s next to impossible to duplicate now. All of the aforementioned activities have a different vibe and many adults have to donate plasma in order to get themselves and their kids a bag of cotton candy and a few rides on a rollercoaster.
But then there is a whole society of 80’s and 90’s kids who willingly hang themselves out to dry by spending hard-earned money every year on the perfect GenX escape – The NKOTB Cruise. Four days of sleeplessness, boozing, swimming, laughing, dancing, and bringing back to life a person you never knew you lost – yourself.
I experienced my first NKOTB cruise in October of 2022, and the anticipation carried me through the majority of the year, from February to the day we set sail. I expected a party and that’s exactly what I got, but it was so much more than that. This trip is not just about being a New Kids fan. Sure, they’re a major plus to the experience, they make 50 look damn good, and they can throw a hell of a party.
But it’s also about taking some time to pause, process, and reevaluate your life – what got you from Teen Beat magazines to over-forty multivitamins? It’s overwhelming, and sometimes troubling, to think about how much time has gone by and how much we’d give up to have some of it back. Experiences like this cruise help a lot of us put life into perspective. Out of nowhere – whether it’s listening to one of Donnie’s beautifully uplifting speeches, floating in the pool on a quiet late morning, or watching the ripples of calm, Bahamian water – something is going to hit you in the face, and it’s not going to be one of those bat shit crazy “fans” fighting their way towards a chance to get up on stage. You will be hit with the realization that you might have to pause and/or rewind this VHS tape you call your existence and start finding who you’re really supposed to be.
So when I’m asked why I’m going on another NKOTB cruise, and I know I’ll be sarcastically asked numerous times, I’m going to say, “Because I need it. Because I want it and deserve it. Because more than half my life is done already, and I simply just don’t give a f@#! anymore about expectations that are not my own.” And on that note, I would like to close this with a little poem in the spirit of, well..because…
Why We’re Midlife Crisis-ing like a Mother F$#@&! Right Now (I can’t think of a better title)
Because we want to remember
what it was like to wear stacks of bracelets
on both arms, and we want to play
dirtier games of M.A.S.H.
Because we want to keep buying Lisa Frank stuff
and getting mad when the Fruit Stripes gum
loses its flavor after 10 seconds.
Because we want to make asses out of ourselves
while doing the running man,
and we could help bring back wide-legged jeans
to trip on.
Because we want to nail Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” dance
until what’s left of our knees turns to dust,
and we want to pound Fun Dips until our teeth hurt.
Because we want to shamelessly kiss posters
of the New Kids on the Block again, and take magazine quizzes
that will tell us which ones we’ll marry.
Because we want to collect cards again –
Garbage Pail Kids
Because we want the old Care Bears
and the old My Little Ponies back.
Because we want to again feel the breeze
hitting our faces when we’re skating in circles
at the roller rink, and we want to remember
the thrill of a first sip of beer, a first kiss,
a first fight, then a first detention.
Because we want to know there’s more
than just bills, wills, debts, regrets, and survival.
We need to remember there was a time,
when time didn’t seem to cave in on us
like a front yard igloo during the first signs of Spring.
Because there is so much time to bring back
the kids we never lost anyway.
*photo credit goes to winebusiness.com
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