When Worlds Collide

There are several words that I could use to describe myself. Wife. Mother. Christian. Speech-Language Pathologist. Joe Girl.
Let me explain.

I first noticed Joe McIntyre of the New Kids on the Block while watching my sister’s “Hangin’ Tough Live” video. And since that moment in 1989, I have been a “Joe Girl.” I barely realized that there were four other members of the group. Joe was (and admittedly still IS) my one and only celebrity crush. My room, as a teenager, was covered in pictures of him. I was a quiet, shy, nerdy girl and listening to their music made me smile. It made me excited about something. It made me feel like I belonged somewhere. You may be wondering why I have been a loyal “Joe Girl” and New Kids fan for over half of my life. Why didn’t I leave him behind with the angst of my teenage years? Because that shy, nerdy, excited teenager is still there inside of me. I think that Joe is extraordinarily talented. His voice is amazing. He is also very funny. And let’s be honest. (I’m going to try to say this in the most professional manner that I can.) The man is easy on the eyes and has a stage presence that blows me away. And, most importantly, he has brought some of the most amazing women from all over the world into my life as my friends and sisters.

As a teenager, all I thought about and all I wanted was to meet Joe. I just KNEW that he would like me too. :) The first time that I ever met Joe was in his hometown of Boston in 1993. He was so kind as to stop and talk to my friend and me. When he left, I cried like a baby and thought I was going to faint. I couldn’t believe that I actually met him. And, as I’m sure you figured out, he didn’t like me back! I have been very fortunate to meet Joe a number of times since 1993. He has always been sweet, appreciative, and generous. Joe congratulated me on the birth of my daughter, held my hand and thanked me for being a fan, flashed his smile, posed for photos, and gave me hugs. Yes, many of these meetings were a part of his “job”, but he never HAD to do anything extra special. He didn’t have to do ANYTHING. He did it anyway.

I have been a speech pathologist for over seven years. My professional life and my celebrity crush collided this past spring when I read the People magazine article about Joe’s son Rhys, who was born with severe hearing loss.   I cried when I read that article. As a fan–because even with new research and technology, Rhys may never fully hear his father’s songs. As a professional–because I knew the implications of the diagnosis. As a parent–because I could empathize with the roller coaster of emotions that comes with getting a diagnosis about one’s child. But then I was filled with hope for Joe and his wife Barrett as I read about their positive and realistic outlook on Rhys’ hearing loss. Joe and Barrett are just like all the other parents who I’ve had in my office…who we have all had to talk to, comfort, encourage, and educate.

When I learned that Joe was going to be the recipient of ASHA’s Annie Glenn Award, I knew that I had to be there to see it. And I am so thrilled that I was. I have been to numerous New Kids’ concerts and Joe’s solo shows. I saw him live on Broadway. (I may have missed a few engagements over the years–please don’t tell him!) But seeing him receive the award in Philadelphia was the most memorable and it meant the most to me. Why? Because on that night, he was there as Joe McIntyre–a father–who gave us glimpses into private moments. He was real and raw as he spoke about his son’s hearing loss. He also expressed gratitude to our profession. Joe sprinkled in some trademark humor, as well, but it was a Joe that I had never seen before. Seeing him in that light made me admire him all the more. He is a father trying to do the best he can for his son. He is making a difference, contributing to the discussion, raising awareness, and I know that he will continue to do so. I have never been prouder to be a “Joe Girl.”

In 1990, I wrote Joe fan letters and had to send them to the fan club. In 2010, I am able to tweet him whenever I want, but I am restricted to 140 characters. This blog, I guess, could be considered the ultimate fan letter. But please indulge me and let me tweet….

@joeymcintyre I am a Joe girl for life. Thank u will never be enough for all u do & for making me smile. With love to you & the Macs~Me xo

Jeannette A. Wesseldyke, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist who lives and works in northern New Jersey. She resides with her husband and their almost-4-year-old daughter. She would like to thank Maggie McGary for the opportunity to attend the awards ceremony and write this blog post.