Sometimes I wonder about the person I might’ve been had it not been for the existence of one Britney Jean Spears in the world; although frankly, I’m not sure I’d even be a quarter of the man that I am today.
We’ll get into all that momentarily, surely, but first things first: Early Friday, I was notified by more than a few parties of the Britney Army, the semi-official title of Spears’ fan base, that we were fast approaching the 18th anniversary of Spears’ follow-up hit to “…Baby One More Time,” the ballad, “Sometimes,” being sent to pop radio, although truth be told, I’ve always considered another calendar marking related to “Sometimes” to be far more important to yours truly.
That day would be May 6, 1999, when the music video for the song was first unveiled on MTV’s Total Request Live, as part of a week-long celebration of premiering visuals from Britney, the Backstreet Boys (“I Want It That Way”) and a few other artists who escape my memory at this time; except, once again, even that feels a bit off to me; albeit, not by much.
I know, I’m over-complicating matters, but the dates are somewhat imperative to where I’m getting at. Bear with me here.
To be a little more specific, my emotional attachment to both “Sometimes” and Britney herself actually first began somewhere closer to February of 1999 when Spears, both bright-eyed and ready to show and prove what she had to offer after her first No. 1 hit, “… Baby One More Time,” ran its course on pop radio; popped and dislocated her knee while rehearsing the choreography for the “Sometimes” video, as MTV noted.
“Britney Spears had to cancel the video shoot and return to her home in [Kentwood], Louisiana, Wednesday after injuring her knee. The injury will not require surgery,” it went on to say, “[but it] has forced Spears to cancel an appearance on Wednesday night’s edition of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
For some reason, as uninterested as I truly was in Britney Spears before her temporary “Sometimes” stop — “… Baby One More Time,” the song, didn’t really grow on me until well into the promotional period of her second album, Oops! I Did It Again) — hearing of the news of her forced career pause and injury brought forth a surprising, but very real pang from my bottom of my, somewhat broken, heart.
To me, here was this then sweet 17-year-old girl with a kind smile, a contagious energy and a charmingly genuine Southern demeanor with a cute, catchy song, to boot; who appeared to remain wholly humbled by the attention of her second dose of fame (the first being from the All-New Mickey Mouse Club, of course), being temporarily sidelined at the pinnacle of a make-it-or-break-it moment in both her personal and professional life, and that just didn’t seem fair to me, for some reason. I truly felt so bad for her.
Even more heartbreaking to me was seeing how a barely-holding-it-in Britney tried to remain positive about making a full recovery, while innately knowing that it was more of a goal than something truly definitive, during an MTV News interview that was aired on TRL about a week after she first hurt herself while prepping for “Sometimes” (that choked-back sob still gets to me).
Of course, as we all know by now, Britney indeed did go on to both heal and complete the iconic visual for the underrated “Sometimes” — the beach! The heart dance! The scene of the extra scratching her crotch that wasn’t edited out! — but for me, personally witnessing her not only achieve the goal, but surpass it, changed my view of her in ways I never expected it to; but probably none more so than a year later while, in the midst of my first-ever serious relationship with a boy who promised to love me forever but truthfully, didn’t even love himself enough to know how to love another, Britney Spears managed to teach me how to love myself.
While the exact date of that particular rite of passage is a bit unclear mentally (shocker, right?), I do remember things going down sometime around March of 2000, when “Oops!… I Did It Again,” the title track to her upcoming, hotly anticipated second album of the same name, began to overrun every radio air wave, every music television channel, and every dial-up internet connection within a 20-mile radius from where I was standing at any given time — and I always stopped to listen and dance along, no questions asked, no effs given.
If “Sometimes” was the catalyst of me becoming a light Britney Spears listener, then “Oops” was the turning point of me becoming what is, for lack of better phrasing, a complete Spears’ “stan” (minus the stalking part, I assure you all) but there was a reason for that, I eventually came to realize, and it’s one that still holds to this very day.
The music, the image and the presence of Britney Spears, for all intents and purposes, just made me feel… happy. Truly happy. Happier than I had been for years, and happy enough to, after months of being in an emotionally troubling relationship where I was verbally abused and tormented by someone who told me often that I wouldn’t amount to anything more than a penny-less loser, find the strength to walk out of his house and life for the final time thanks to; of all people, his stepmother, who previously invited me over to babysit her untrained puppy and had the audacity to criticize Britney Spears in the harshest way possible just minutes upon her return.
I’ll never forget that moment (again, shocker, right?) as I sat in her living room, watching the “Oops!” video for the umpteenth time that week — and possibly that day — and feeling more and more like my genuine self with every utterance of “I’m not that innocent!”, to the point of finally realizing that I deserved so much more than the hurtful, hateful and emotionally abusive child that my ex’s stepmom co-parented; only to hear her say “I hope I don’t have to hear that annoying b**ch for the rest of the time he’s here,” as she sat the kitchen, which was directly adjacent to the living room where I was located.
I was gone faster than you could say, “tik, tik, boom.”
Since 1999, Britney Spears has found a way to the parts of me that give me the drive and push to go on in this world, no matter the obstacles that life continues to place in front of me, whether emotional or otherwise, and because of that, I will always remain dedicated to and defend her. And I know that sound a “crazy” to some people — for the record I never claimed to be wholly sane — but it’s even crazier; at least, to me, that this person that I’ve literally never met in my life and may never meet at all, other than a still-contended wave that I swear to gave to me while standing outside of MTV Studios the day after the Oops! album was released (a handmade sign wrapped in reflective foil can do wonders in getting you noticed), has given me life and strength at times when I truly believed that I had neither left inside of me.
Britney, you have truly saved my life in ways that are both explainable and not-so much, and while I may never find a proper way to repay you for everything, I can; at the very least, celebrate the moment that things began to heal for the both of us.
Happy anniversary, “Sometimes,” and once again, thank you, Britney, for just being you. Let the music play!
[Featured Image by Isaac Brekken/Stringer/Getty Images]