I am nearly 42, well educated, married, a mother of 2, and somewhere in the middle class. I say this so when I make my next confession, you will not pass it off as the ramblings of a naive teenager.
I LOVE. JUSTIN. TIMBERLAKE.
I’ve loved him longer than I’ve loved my children. I’ve loved him longer than I’ve loved my husband. I loved him the minute I heard his voice on “I Want You Back,” and saw him dancing around in his Lycra mock turtleneck on a space station. For a long time, it was a love I rarely spoke of since I was 21 and he was merely 16…..and wore too much product in his curly hair. And I’ve done……things……embarrassing, awful things…….for a chance to see him perform or meet him in person. In 2018 terms, I’ve stanned him.
It started quietly, almost innocently. I bought all the magazines with him in them, I videotaped his performances so I could enjoy them on a constant loop. A co-worker quickly became a friend as we bonded over our mutual love of the quintet. Her favorite was JC Chasez, so she was my perfect complement. We had a tv/dvd combo in our inventory room for training purposes that we used to watch the performances we taped while we worked together.
Then, N’Sync went on tour and were coming to The Mark. Buying concert tickets before the age of the internet meant having nimble phone dialing fingers or standing in line for hours at a Ticketmaster. And the only re-sellers stood outside the venue before showtime. The day tickets went on sale, I hit redial on the landline phone at the men’s clothing store I managed for far too long, but had no luck getting through. My co-worker Niky also attempted to secure tickets, but was shut out. We were not quitters, so we plotted other ways to catch the group while they were in the QC.
Our first idea, while unsuccessful, was ingenious. We wrote a letter to the groups management, inviting them to come shopping at our clothing store while in town. We offered to open early exclusively for them the day before their show, rationalizing that they never got a chance to shop between their touring and recognizability and that they would obviously be busy rehearsing the day of. We even offered them our discount, hoping to entice them with the thought of discounts.
Our second idea was equally as brilliant. The group had no performance the day before their QC performance, so we booked a room at the nicest hotel in the area at that time. We both showed up to work at 8, 2 hours before the store opening, to wait for the boys of N’Sync to come patronize our location. When they didn’t show, we were not dissuaded. We still had plan B. I had scheduled us off early, so we could get to our hotel as early as possible. Riding up the elevator after check-in, the bell hop asked if we were back up dancers. We were flattered, and knew we were on the right track. Niky coyly asked, “If we were with the band, what room would we be in?” He gave us a room number. Score! As soon as we got to our room, Niky called the room number that the bellhop gave us. She reported back that she thought a bodyguard had answered, but she swore she heard Joey Fatone in the background. We were far too timid to go to the room, so instead we went to the venue, hoping to catch their tour bus leaving and follow it back to the hotel. We didn’t end up following their tour bus, and I can’t recall why, but what I do remember is driving slowly through downtown Davenport, talking and laughing.
Our next adventure is one that shames me the most, and now, as a parent, I realize what a dumb kid I was even in my early twenties. I know now the possible repurcussions of our actions and I regret them, so before any sanctimommies come for me…..I know….
The second leg of N’Sync’s tour brought them to Chicago. Again, we attempted to score tickets but were unsuccessful. We refused to give up this time. There were single tickets available, but they were nowhere near each other, and this was long before either of us had realized the joy in solitude. We purchased the single tickets and hatched a plan. I called the venue, and told them that I had knee surgery and couldn’t walk for extended lengths. I sensed the hesitation in his voice, so I told him that I had to use a wheelchair until I healed further. And I needed Niky to help me get around. He immediately offered the handicapped accessible seating outside of the suites. (And even as I’m typing this, I am cringing) I genuinely fretted to him that I didn’t want to take up space for someone who deserved it much more than I, and he assured me that there was plenty of space available. I borrowed my cousin’s brace from her knee surgery, and we rented a wheelchair from a medical supply company. We packed it all into the trunk of my Chevy and headed to Chicago. We were both so anxious (and I’m sure a little guilty) that we would be caught that the car ride there was filled with nervous laughter. We wore our matching dresses and headed to the arena. Niky barreled me through the gravel parking lot, almost spilling me out of the wheelchair several times. Once inside, we were guided to the elevator to the second floor suites. The gentleman on the phone was right. We were the only ones in the handicapped accessible area. Obviously, the concert was amazing, although I had to be reminded several times that I couldn’t stand up and dance. Once it was over, we sat in our car, waiting for N’Sync to exit the arena. After an hour of no activity, we gave up and headed back to the hotel, still high from our victory.
Over a year had passed since our obsession had begun, and we were no closer to Justin and JC falling madly in love with us. Then MTV started a show where superfans had to submit videotapes explaining why they were superfans, and got the opportunity to interview their subjects in person. We borrowed my Mom’s video camera, and my roommates abs and set about convincing MTV to choose us to interview N’Sync. We fanned out all of our N’Sync paraphernalia, told abridged versions of our adventures, and wrote in lipstick on my roommates stomach “Pick us.” In between tears from laughing, she too convinced them that were crazy about the group…..or just crazy. MTV never chose us, and I’m scared to think that that videotape is still floating around MTV studios to this day. By the way, we would have been way better than the girls that did get to interview them……
Soon after, I began dating my now husband. I made it clear to him from the start that I would leave him in a heartbeat when Justin finally realized that he wanted to marry me. He was pretty comfortable with that fact. He also acknowledged my love for the group, gifting me with a video from N’Sync’s very own choreographer, that taught viewers how to do the dance from “Bye, Bye, Bye.” Darren’s Dance Grooves, in case you’re interested.
N’Sync disbanded a short while later, and Justin started his solo career. I still bought all the CD’s and watched all the videos and appearances, but I was financially preparing for a wedding and buying a house, so concert tickets were not in my budget. And then came babies in rapid succession.
They knew instinctually who won in the N’Sync/Backstreet Boys battle. Even in utero, they both became active upon hearing the first chords of “Bye, Bye, Bye.” At a young age, I introduced JT to them as their “stepfather,” and explained how Mommy and her boys would same day go live in his big house with him. The oldest wanted to know why his hair sometimes looked like spaghetti…..Get that crazy talk out of your system now, little one….
And then, Justin took a break to focus on his acting. And I focused on his acting. I watched every movie he was in, even the horrible “Bad Teacher.” I glared at the women he dated. I watched every appearance on “SNL” multiple times, and the realization that he was funny just deepened my love for him. My husband still tolerated my obsession, making sure to DVR all of his talk show appearances for me. My oldest son betrayed me and switched to team Backstreet Boys. It was decided he would stay with his dad once Justin and I married.
Justin loved Ellen, so I loved Ellen. Taylor Swift loved Justin, so I loved Taylor Swift. These people would be my friends some day too.
And then, the first album in a decade came out. It was the first music I ever paid for on ITunes. I bought the CD as well. Then, he went on tour again. Between his summer tour with Jay-Z and his tour supporting his album, he came to Chicago 3 times in a year and a half. I went every time. Niky and I weren’t as close anymore, but I shared those concert adventures with new friends. Those same friends and I tag each other in anything Justin Timberlake related on Facebook, and we sometimes argue about which one of us he’s going to marry. I don’t tell my kids that I’m going to leave their father for JT anymore, as they are old enough to understand what divorce is, but we secretly know it’s going to happen. I had a friend who claims he lived across the street from Justin in Vail, Colorado and would see him out and about but refused to send me pictures. I stopped talking to him. It was for a completely unrelated reason, but deep down, I know why. I got mad at my friends for talking during his Super Bowl performance, and got defensive when people complained about his Prince tribute.
When his most recent album, “Man of the Woods,” and it’s first single dropped, I was in Vegas getting ready for a night out. I paused the process and my niece and I sat on our bed and watched the video several times in a row on my small phone screen. He announced his tour to support the album, but I had DisneyWorld related priorities to attend to first. I had a friend that shared video right beside the stage during Justin’s performance in Chicago, and I immediately disliked that friend. He’s making a second leg through Chicago later this year, and I’m working hard to clear our Disney plates so that I can make the trip and spend another night celebrating my future husband with a good friend.
It’s been over 2 decades that I have harbored my undying love and devotion for Justin Timberlake, and I’ve seen him through all of his iterations. I loved him even when he wore shiny plastic pants, and Cameron Diaz. I’ve tried to hate Jessica Biel, but she’s so darn cute that I can’t. Plus, she is the mother of my stepson. Sometimes, I think it might be juvenile, but then I see all the women my age who comment on things on social media, who scream for him at his appearances, and who sing along at his concerts. I also feel like I should feel some sort of kinship with these other women, but I can’t. I just feel like they need to back off my man. But he, and his music, have created so many great memories and fostered many of my most meaningful friendships. And, if by some slim chance, Justin reads this, all I can say is “Call me.”