You know, I fancy myself a sophisticated woman. I talk easily with most people and feel reasonably comfortable networking. I have a full-time job, write religiously and am devoted to my family and friends. Though I might not be the snappiest dresser around, I carry myself with an air of confidence.
In short, I think I’m a good person. And a grown-up. And a decidedly logical woman.
Until Taylor Hanson shows up.
Hanson is a real-life fountain of youth, my friends. One moment I’m 25 and chattering with my sister and boyfriend, and the next I’m 12 and wallpapering my bedroom with posters while listening to “Middle Of Nowhere” on repeat. It doesn’t matter how many concerts I’ve attended in the past (seven, I believe); heat overtakes my body the moment my favorite band appears.
On Saturday at The Sound Garden in Baltimore, Md., I arrived with Katie and Spencer to find a crush of girls milling around a makeshift stage in the tiny music store. It struck me immediately how much we all looked alike: young women in leggings, jeans or boots; some of us in glasses and some with ponytails; many in lightweight jackets or flowing tops. We were redheads, brunettes and blondes. We were all in our 20s.
We were all obsessed with Hanson.
Getting there early worked in our favor: we were right near the small stage for Hanson’s in-store performance. And as it drew closer and closer to 4:30 p.m., the magic time they were scheduled to appear, my eye rarely left the door. My attentiveness was rewarded with a glimpse of the Hanson brothers pulling up in a cab, then disappearing; my mouth opened and closed like a fish. Not my most glamorous moment.
“They’re here!” I hissed to Katie. I figured yelling that any louder would be the equivalent of shouting “FIRE!” in a crowded movie theatre and, you know . . . that’s illegal.
While we were waiting and my excitement was growing like a sparkly weed, I had this uneasy sense that I didn’t want Spencer to see me like this. I mean, I’m his girlfriend — a writer; a daughter; a friend. I pride myself on being level-headed and poised. As a general habit, I don’t run around screaming and crying over . . . another dude.
But, you know. Some things are beyond my control.
When Hanson finally made their way toward us, camera flashes exploded from all sides. Voices lifted up in madness, shouting and calling and whistling. Someone screamed. It was something about being soclose to them, and in broad daylight, that sent a serious tremor through me. Just to the right of the stage, I could have lunged forward and grabbed Taylor’s boot. And when they launched into “Shout It Out,” the title track from their new album, Katie and I were dancing with the best of them.
The performance went on this way: me singing and shouting; Katie and I grabbing each other when Taylor looked right at us and grinned; me worrying that Spencer thought I was a total nutjob.
“Are you going to break up with me after this?” I asked him between songs, taking in the scared deer-in-headlights look on his face.
“Yes,” he deadpanned.
After Hanson finished their small set, it was time for autographs. Leading up to Saturday’s festivities, Katie and I had been careful not to think about whether or not we’d get the chance to meet our idols — men we’ve loved for 13 years. Through countless changes in my life, the brothers have been a constant: a source of inspiration, joy and comfort. Their music has been the soundtrack of my life. And the chance to meet them after all this time? Well, it would have just been too good to be true.
But it happened. After buying “Shout It Out” and getting little red tickets for the signing, we lined up outdoors and waited for our turn. As the line inched forward and the boys came into view, I felt like I’d snorted ten cups of coffee. Adrenaline made me feel like my skin was on fire.
“What are we going to say?” Katie murmured, her cheeks flushing. “We need to say something memorable. Something cute and not scary.”
I blanched. “What? Don’t put that kind of pressure on me!”
You’re a journalist, everyone tells me. You talk to people for a living.
And I think, That’s not true. I’m a writer! I make up conversations with people for a living!
Taylor was seated to the left of the table — the first in our own meet-and-greet. My hands were shaking uncontrollably as I passed my camera off to Spencer. Katie, a journalist herself, skipped right up to where the boys were seated — and said something like, “We love you guys so much! We listen to your Christmas album every year!” (True story; “Snowed In” is the best.)
Seeing Katie be so bold, something stirred me into moving. Plus, you know, I had to get in on that action. “We’re sisters!” I practically shouted, motioning between us. “I’m sure you hear this all the time, but we’ve loved you for 13 years. And yes, it’s not Christmastime until we listen to your album.”
As I handed Taylor my CD and he began to sign it, he hadn’t yet looked up; I watched his Sharpie glide across the smooth surface of his own face on the booklet. When he finished and passed my album along to Isaac, Taylor met my eye. And smiled. “Well, I’m glad we’ve been a part of your lives.”
“You have,” I gushed. “You really have.”
Then I thought, Oh my God. I’m having a conversation with Taylor Hanson.
And, Oh my God, he’s looking at me. His eyes are so blue. Taylor Hanson is talking to me.
And then, I’m just standing here — I should say something. I should do something. I’m a confident woman — I’m not 12 years old.
But, Oh my God, I am 12 years old. When it comes to Hanson, I’ll always be 12 years old.
While I went through this mental stand-off, my sister had seized the only opportunity in her life she may ever get to do something rash: she hugged Zac Hanson. After telling him that she became a drummer because of him, Zac joked, “Well, you must be pretty terrible then!”
“I am terrible!” she beamed, proud as can be.
“No, I mean — because you learned from me,” Zac amended.
“Well, you inspired me.” Katie smiled like a radiant sun. “I was the only drummer in my elementary school, and everyone was impressed because I was a girl. And I just . . . I have to give you a hug.”
When I looked over at my little sister, she had her arms wrapped around her idol. Zac’s face, turned toward me, was creased in a broad smile. She shook Isaac’s hand and scampered away, and that’s when I panicked and realized I was standing dumb-faced in front of my musical heroes.
I said something to Taylor. He and Isaac smiled. I don’t remember what it was. And then I panicked even more and realized, Hey — I should be wrapping this up.
“Thank you so much!” I crowed like an idiot. Poise, confidence and a college degree mean nothing when faced with a man for whom you’ve carried a torch since middle school.
And just as I was running away, trembling with excitement and anxiety, Taylor half-stood. And reached a hand out to me.
I don’t remember.
I took his hand and shook his hand and he smiled at me and I looked in his eyes and I died.
I’m typing this post-mortem.
And my own boyfriend — kind, handsome, intelligent, good-natured, sweet as can be — struck up a conversation. With Taylor Hanson.
After Taylor leaned forward to say something dude-ish to Spencer, one of the only guys in attendance, they shook hands, too. And Spencer — photography lover, man of the people — eyed an old camera to Taylor’s right and said, “You shootin’ 35 millimeter?”
That’s right, friends: no digital for Taylor. The Hanson brothers are old souls. Of course he has an old camera.
“Yeah. It’s a cool old camera,” Taylor replied, smiling at us as the next person in line came forward. Sensing our moment was coming to a close, we inched forward — and shared final smiles with each of the three brothers.
Katie and I took our signed albums and waved, then scuffled over to the side to take a photo by Hanson. Since the line was so long, we were discouraged from asking for photos with the boys — and that was fine. I didn’t want to waste my one moment in time begging them to take a photo with me so I could brag on Twitter and Facebook. I got something much better: a conversation. A brief connection. Eye contact.
And that whole thing lasted 60 seconds. I spent a half hour typing up a reenactment of an event that occurred over the course of one minute on November 13.
When Katie and I were little, we listened to “MMMBop” with the rest of ’em — but, unlike many teen girls, our love for Hanson didn’t evaporate when we entered high school. The boys have put out a slew of albums in the last decade plus, all married and have children, and toured the country countless times. My sister and I have seen them in concert in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Baltimore many times over. We’ve both grown up and gotten older and graduated college and fallen in love. We’ve all become adults.
But inside, I’m still the 12-year-old girl in a Hanson T-shirt, standing in the parking lot of Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Va., with my parents and sister and best friend. I’m still clutching a homemade poster and screaming the way only a girl can scream when she first hears the voice of her teen idol. I’m still in my seat on July 2, 1998 — a date I can recall immediately, vividly, without any prompting — when Hanson first took the stage. The first time I saw them live. The first time I fell in love with music.
No one can take that away from me. And it took 13 years, but no one can take Saturday away from my sister and me, either.
It’s good to love something — or someone — so much it hurts.
And, you know. Their show at Sonar that night was all right.
Looking at the photos now, I smile. It was amazing. Most of all, it was amazing to be there with my sister — someone I love, admire and share everything with. And amazing to be there with Spencer, watching as he shook hands with a man I’ve loved for half of my life.
There’s a surreal moment for you.
And please excuse me while I re-run my inner, shiny reel of that evening for the next 70 years.
Or you can watch this — and try to pretend you don’t hear my tone-deaf voice singing along. Please take special notice of Taylor glancing at us around the 11-second mark.