burnt up

how I caught and lost the lovebug

I’d like to preface this by establishing that I am nineteen years old, a student at an Ivy League university and, cards on the table, consider myself to be somewhat cultured and mature for my age.

That said, in my early teens, I was pretty into the Jonas Brothers.

Their features were sculpted and incandescent, and even when separated from them by the gloss of a People Magazine cover, a Rolling Stone poster, or a life-sized cardboard mall cutout, I was still certain that their faces were the most beautiful sights my adolescent eyes had ever seen.

To say that I loved the Jonas Brothers would be grossly inaccurate. I venerated the Jonas Brothers; I revered them the way people revere national heroes, presidents, messiahs. Had I any sort of papal power, I would have lobbied for their sainthood more ferociously than any PETA member has ever lobbied for animal rights legislation. And what I probably considered the most exciting hours of my middle school experience occurred not on Christmas, a birthday, or any holidays of similar caliber, but fell, in fact, on a dreary August evening, when the air was so thick with humidity that I could feel the weight of the water vapor pressing on my skin, the day the Jonas Brothers gave a concert in my hometown.
Middle-school me had spent more time fantasizing about Jonas Brothers concerts than said brothers ever spent actually playing in them. My fantasy was ironclad: nauseatingly attractive 20-somethings plowing their way through diesel-powered choruses, Joe (the cutest, funniest one, of course) being smitten by my irresistible twelve-year-old’s beauty and charm, snatching me up from the audience (and from my mundane lifestyle filled with stupid popular girls who just didn’t understand me, stupid parents who just didn’t understand me, stupid teachers who just didn’t understand me), and marrying me on the spot.

As you might guess, I found the truth to be somewhat different. My experience at the Jonas Brothers concert did not, so much, begin with marriage to one of the aforementioned brothers as it did with waiting in a line, a line that stretched out of the ticket office, snaked around the enormous parking lot, and meandered its way back through several city blocks. I waited for what seemed like several paleontological epochs behind a battalion of shrieking fangirl-hyena hybrids who had probably been waiting in line to see the Jonas Brothers since before said brothers were actually born. I brooded silently in the line, glaring at them resentfully as they broadcasted their excitement. They know nothing of these immaculate men, I thought to myself. I had read the fanfiction, I had watched the interviews on YouTube for hours on end, I had scrolled through hundreds of pages of Google Images. These imposter Jonas Brothers fans did not deserve the privilege of being here. What did they know?

When I finally reached the elusive inside of the theater, confident that I was about to be treated to the concert of my dreams, I was instead subjected to, courtesy of the cast of High School Musical, an opening act approximately the length of the Vietnam War with probably at least as many casualties. Seriously, had I had a gun on hand during the estrogen-bursting conglomerates of Disney corniness that sounded infinitely more like pig-squealing contests than musical renditions of “We’re All In This Together,” the thought might have crossed my mind. The Jonas Brothers were the epitome of everything that was beautiful and perfect in the world, I knew with absolute certainty, whereas High School Musical was an absolute abomination of a movie starring the disgusting Vanessa Hudgens and the moderately-less-disgusting-but-still-not-on-the-Jonas-bandwagon Zac Efron. Only ten-year-olds watched High School Musical, and I was twelve; I was much too sophisticated for such childlike trifles.

If you asked me today, I could still provide no definitive proof that the three men who finally emerged onto the stage were, in fact, the same immaculate beings of skinny jeans, hair gel, and Auto-Tune with whom the media had been assaulting my eyes and ears for the past couple of years. They might as well have been The Backstreet Boys lip-synching for all I could see of them from my economy-class back row seat. And while my clearest memory of the concert should probably be something to do with the boys themselves, one of the only things I remember concretely is the collective roar of the crowd as the brothers entered from stage left. I remember the terrifying multitude of girls rising like a tsunami, the shrillness of their screams escalating with every second the Jonas Brothers stood before them, hollering out the first notes of their opening song, for lack of a better word. I remember trying to drown out the obsequiousness, feeling the weight of the largest quantity of starry-eyed adoration I’d ever felt pressing in on all sides, threatening to consume me at any second.

Onstage, the Jonas Brothers came and went like theatrical set pieces, and I viewed most of the concert with my fingers in my ears to keep the shrieks from shattering my eardrums. As I squinted and stood on tip-toe to catch sporadic glimpses of them scurrying around the stage like frightened ants, I couldn’t help but wonder: Where were my boys, my future husbands, my best friends? And what were these 80,000 other girls doing here, interrupting what was supposed to be our intimate moment? I thought of the hours poring over magazines, staring at posters, getting so close to the images that I knew that if I could just reach through the glossy paper or cardboard that stood between us, I could touch them and hold them forever. Were these tiny, almost comical figurines truly the men I’d so idolized?

I’m nineteen now, and the Jonas Brothers are long gone—one married, two pursuing largely unsuccessful solo careers. Crumpled up in the bottom drawer of my dresser is a t-shirt sporting three giant faces that shrinks by approximately five sizes if I so much as look at a washing machine while wearing it. I guess you could technically do worse for eighty bucks.