We all had them, those all-consuming crushes that took over our teenage lives. In our series The Objects of Our Obsession, writers explore the deeper meanings behind those fixations, and pay tribute to the people who we found totally crush-worthy.
I was late to becoming a Fanson. My devotion started three years after “MMMBop”; I was 14 and discovered “If Only” on Total Request Live. It was a jubilant pop anthem to teenage longing, and the Hanson brothers seemed unlike any of the boys I knew in New York City. They were earnest, stalwart, and ready to settle down, according to their lyrics ("I want to need you, ‘cause I need to be with you till the end"). In the video, they grooved to a harmonica solo while the extras rode dirt bikes and sat around bonfires together. What was this beautiful Midwestern life? Who were these wholesome, forever-ready teenage boys?
Taylor was the middle brother with rosy cheeks and shoulder-length golden hair. He sang lead, so he was the one who made the promises of unconditional love. I was smitten with Taylor, but my affection extended to Isaac and Zac, too, and the idea of the Hansons, collectively, as bandmates, brothers, best friends. I started to refer to them simply as “the boys.”
I bought their tour documentaries on VHS (there were two by 1999), which I watched while riding the exercise bicycle in my living room after school. I chatted other Hanson fans on AIM and became a dues-paying member of the Hanson.net fan club. I dug deep into their discography, including the Christmas album, Snowed In, which solidified all my fantasies about how cheery life could be with the Hansons. I waited alone in line for hours for a wristband to see Hanson live for the first time. When my father joined me to pick up another wristband, so I could bring a friend, the security assumed he planned to scalp the ticket. He answered like a true Fanson: “Me? I want to see the boys.” I’d trained him well.
When Taylor became the first married Hanson at 18, I sobbed to my high school boyfriend—I’d lost my shot of winding up with Taylor and becoming a Hanson. The other brothers followed suit, as did a brood of Hanson babies, and I found myself tasked with transmogrifying my lust for the boys into something chaste, more respectable. The music helped. Hanson kept churning out the ecstatic, upbeat blue-eyed soul that was an antidote to the angst and mess of my own adolescence, and I remained faithful through all of high school and into college.
I finally met Hanson days before my 21st birthday. My roommate worked for Yale Radio, and she arranged for me to join her for an interview. I sat inches away from the boys. They were smiley and kind; Taylor complimented my style. Afterward, a friend took pictures of me, eyes shut, balled fists, shaking with joy in my dorm room. I could finally say with certainty I’d been right to go to Yale. It had brought me to the boys.
After college, and 10 years, my fandom waned. I still got a thrill whenever Hanson released a new music video or album, but my attendance at tours became sporadic. I let my Hanson.net membership lapse. I never once made it to Back to the Island, the annual, all-inclusive Caribbean resort vacation for Fansons. Last year, a friend gifted me tickets to see Hanson the day of their show; I hadn’t realized they were in town.
My husband, who fell in love with me long after I fell in love with Hanson, sometimes reminds me of my old devotion. “Why don’t you put on some Hanson?” he’ll say, especially if I’m in a funk. The suggestion irritates me, and I resist. Emotions aren’t that simple! Life isn’t that straightforward! Hanson can’t solve everything! He puts on Hanson anyway, the albums from 2000 to 2007, the height of my obsession. Without fail, by the chorus, I am dancing in the kitchen, clapping my hands, and singing along. The boys are still magic, even if we’re all grown-up.