Friendship Project Day 11: Lessons from a Boy-Band

*I’m getting ready to leave for Allume and thought of this talk I wrote for a women’s conference I organized several years ago.


If any woman is going to be my friend, she’s going to need to accept this one secret shame of mine I love boybands.   New Kids on the Block, Bel Biv Devo, 98 Degrees, One Direction, BOYZ to Men! I love them all, but one particular boy band holds a special place in my heart.

The Backstreet Boys


(True story we had this exact poster on our bedroom wall)

They are truly eye and (arguably)  ear candy, but somehow God is resourceful enough to use them to shape how I approach female friendships.

It all started with my little sister.  Who is too much like Mary, sister of Martha, worrier of all the wrong things.

I completely relate to Martha in her story in Luke 10  because much like Mary my sister was the laid-back, in the moment, outgoing personality who could charm just about any boy after a couple of sentence.

When I was studying away for my AP Geography midterm, she was studying Teen Vogue to put together an outfit for that was “on trend”.

While I cooked dinner most nights for our family of 8, she take up all the extra mixing spoons and bowls to make an all natural acne cream… in the same kitchen….right in my way.  She was oblivious.

While I agonized over the details of my summer math camp application, you could find her sitting at the feet of TV biting her nails down to the quick over the most recent break-up on 90210.

We were completely different my sis and I and we fought constantly until one fateful afternoon when we found common ground in one slightly risque music video of  five extremely cute boys, dancing in the rain, begging us through the screen to “Quit Playing Game With Their Hearts”

It was magical that moment our love for the Backstreet Boys transcended our need to argue or compare.  We bonded quickly and intensely over BSB.  We’d put in from our allowances to buy a Teen Beat and share the posters, we’d read the articles and quiz each other on the trivia facts about our favorite member.  We even tried to convince our dad to let us go to a concert if we could pay for our own tickets, since neither of us drove and the closest concert was a good hour away, it was a “no go” for the Whitney girls. But, the shared experience of loving a boy-band helped us see that we really aren’t that different at all.  That there is common ground that we both can stand on.

The first lesson I learned from a boy-band about relationships is that there is something powerful and fun when you encounter someone who shares a common interest or common passion as you.

But, although my sister and I bonded over that shared experience, after BSB fizzled and new boy bands vied for our affection, the real work of connecting came in.  You see, we took different paths in our boy band loyalty. I choose the all American clean cut ‘Nsync, she chose the edgy bad boys 98 Degrees.

And that shook us to the core.

We couldn’t rush to the TV at the same time to see “our guys” there was not longer an “our”.  Teen Beat had the terrible habit of putting different bands on either sides of the pages so there were plenty of fights over wall rights and Jesus be a fence, if one of us unwisely cut out our favorite guy from a shared poster.

Looking back, I realize the BackStreet Boys were a nice distraction, a fun prop to our friendship, but once we no longer had them to unite us, we went back to our bickering, resentful, and ultimately lonely ways.

The second thing I learned from a boy-band is that you can’t rely on common interest or common experiences alone to nurture a friendship- you need be intentional about staying connected.  

You can’t strengthen a sisterhood with a prop. You need a shared calling, shared experiences, and yes, shared trauma.  Having a common interest or standing on a common ground is the beginning, this right here, is the invaluable messy middle. Your intentional and sometimes scary steps of faith in friendships makes the bond forged so much stronger.

I learned from my stint of loving a boy-band with my sister that, deep meaningful friendships are scary to initiate, frustrating to maintain, but worth the work.

Right after we both had our third children, my sister reached out to me on a particularly frustrating mommy day.  We started to talk about her fears and I encouraged her with stories my my own mothering. At first when she started to call me for advice, I was annoyed, ‘oh no! I thought she’s going to suck me into her drama’ or I was angry, ‘gee I’m not Wikipedia- get a smartphone!’  It was hard to take the time, but I soon realized how much I laughed when she called, so I continued to let her in.  Sure there were probably a ton of other things I could do, I mean, I did have three under three at that time, but I wanted a friendship with my sister, I prioritized our phone calls, I pressed into the awkward pauses and tense moments. Now, she’s my closest friend and the first person I want to call when I need fashion advice.  I’m her first call for books and mothering.  All is right in the world- especially when we showed our girls the Backstreet Boys video.  I mean…five extremely cute boys in the rain- timeless!

So, I guess my Shalom Step at this point of the project is to actively push past the common ground I have with a few friends and be intentional.  The coffee dates are a great start.  Tomorrow, I’m borrowing a top from a friend for Allume.  Y’all that’s really real, she’s sharing her clothes.  I think we’re well on our way to best friendship…I just wonder if she’s into Brian or Danny…

Shalom, Little Sisters, and Boy Bands,