At 4:28 this afternoon, as I sat at my temporary job, I received this text from Carl, who is currently in New York: “Filming show for cbs with donnie walhberg but i haven’t seen him yet.”
The thirteen-year-old girl who lives within me sprang to life, frantically typing, “Oh my god. If u see him, u have to take a picture or get me an autograph. Pretty pretty please.”
I outed myself to my co-worker, Laura, because I had to tell someone immediately, and quickly gave her the background on how I loved New Kids on the Block when I was in junior high (yeah, okay, and freshman year) and how I was literally, actually convinced that I would marry Donnie Wahlberg. Obsession doesn’t begin to cover it. (More like delusion, but hey, I was thirteen.)
It was my life mission to meet Donnie Wahlberg. My favorite cousin, my best friend and I arrived early to every concert—and we went to many—determined to meet the loves of our young lives—Jordan, Joey, and Donnie. The closest we got was meeting the as-yet-unfamous Mark Wahlberg, who did not impress us.
My obsession wore off as high school wore on, and I thought it was over. Until last summer, when Favorite Cousin asked if I wanted to go to the reunion tour. I said yes, thinking it would be funny, ironic.
Little did I know that as soon as the lights went down, we’d begin screaming like 12-year-olds, and not stop. I really felt like that tween again, singing my heart out to “I’ll Be Loving You Forever,” screaming “I love you, Donnie!” squealing and giggling like I never had in my adult life. Cousin and I spent the whole next day IMing about how amazing it was and how someday we had to meet them. Also, downloading The Block, their new album, and repeating to each other how great it was.
4:45 p.m. New text from Carl. “I don’t see him anywhere. Not in this scene.”
Response. “Keep your eyes peeled. Meeting him is on my bucket list.”
Minutes go by. I’m dying. What could be happening? Is Donnie there? Will Carl talk to him? Oh my God.
4:55 p.m. “I’m giving up. too hot out here and kinda really boring.”
I left work, and went home, thrilled that Carl had been somewhere in Donnie’s vicinity. What a fun thing to break up a work week.
6:15 p.m. Carl calls saying Donnie had appeared on set and was filming a scene. He held the phone up for me so I could hear.
“IS THAT DONNIE?” I could barely contain my excitement, at merely hearing his voice in the distance.
“No, that was the director.”
“But you can see him?”
“Yeah. He’s twenty yards away.”
“Oh my God. Carl, you have to get an autograph. Please. You don’t know how much that would mean to me. Please. A photo. Something.”
“Okay. I’ll try.”
I called Cousin who squealed, “He’s standing on a TV set and can actually see Donnie? Donnie?”
The other line rang and I panicked, hanging up on Cousin accidentally, and finding, not Donnie as some part of me hoped, but Carl, saying the scene had ended, Donnie had disappeared, and he was leaving the set. I was disappointed, but still riding a high. If Carl had stood ten feet from Donnie, it was almost like I had too. So much closer than I’d ever been before. Amazing.
I called Cousin back and we squealed some more and speculated about how we might act if we ever did meet our favorite New Kid. I said, “It’s better that I wasn’t there because I would have acted like a screaming idiot, or become completely tongue-tied. It’s for the best.”
I told Carl how though I could try to find where they were filming this weekend, I feared that once word got out there would be hundreds of screaming groupies like me. He sounded skeptical.
8:58 p.m. Carl called to say he had returned to the set, because he was bored and restless and it was only a block from where he was staying. He saw a trailer marked “Danny” and a crowd gathered outside it--heavy, bleached-out, thirtysomething women. Donnie wasn’t in sight, but he had to be close.
“Do you want me to stay?” Carl asked. Because, obviously, he’s the best husband ever.
I said no. I would have been thrilled for him to meet Donnie, but it was a long day, and who knew when he would come out. I thanked him for trying, and said it was fine if he wanted to leave.
Carl started to walk away and just then, the trailer door opened. “There he is! He’s hugging all those women. Okay, I have to call you back.”
Maybe a minute passed, maybe time stopped. Next thing I knew, Carl was on the line and I heard a voice in the background with a very distinctive Boston accent saying, “I gotta get going.”
Carl said, “Hey Donnie, can you say hi to my wife?”
Pause. My heart hammering in my ears, my voice lost somewhere, the moment an eternity and then Donnie Wahlberg’s voice. Coming through my phone. Into my ear. He said, “Hi, wife.”
I waited a second, thinking he would just hand the phone back to Carl, which by the way, would have been more than enough. But sensing he was waiting for me to—surprisingly—speak, I squeaked out something like, “Hi Donnie, my name’s Julie and I’m a huge fan.”
“Well, your husband seems like a real nice guy. But I wish I was meeting you instead of him.”
The crowd reacted and Donnie hastened to explain to them. “Nah, nah, he seems nice, but she’s a fan.” (Donnie Walhberg, talking about my husband. There just are not enough italics for this situation.)
Is he still there? Has he handed the phone back? I don’t think so. Okay, Julie, pull it together. Say something. Anything semi-intelligent will do.
“I am a fan, Donnie! And I love The Block! I listen to it all the time.”
“Aw,” he said, seemingly touched, “thanks.”
Quasi-awkward pause where I wonder if he’s going to just go. But no. The man has manners. It’s clear now that he won’t just hand the phone over without saying goodbye. Even better than that, he said:
“I gotta go, but how about next time, I meet you instead of your husband?”
When Carl got back on the phone, I was breathless, jumping up and down, sputtering out words like “amazing” and “one of the highlights of my life.”
“So I don’t have to stalk him anymore? ‘cause I felt a little creepy trying to take his picture with my cell phone.”
I took a breath. “No. Mission accomplished. A plus.”
Of course I immediately called Cousin, who made the whole thing better by squealing and screaming with me and repeatedly just saying, “Donnie. I mean, Donnie.” When I recounted the conversation for her, she said, “He was flirting with you!” I must agree. His tone was decidedly flirtatious. She said, “He said he wants to meet you!” He did in fact say this.
Now. I’m a grown-up. Not to mention a lawyer. I know that Donnie meets fans every day and must talk to hundreds of wives on the phone. But the fact that I had an actual conversation with Donnie Wahlberg, my childhood love, is amazing. He’s a real person, and now he knows that I’m a person too. Named Julie, with a nice husband, who likes The Block. It may not seem like much, but the thirteen-year-old who still lives within me can now die happy. Until the next NKOTB concert.