As soon as I saw the current cover of Us Weekly, with Britney Spears and Kevin Federline enjoying their no-longer-secret Fiji honeymoon, I knew it was only a matter of time until my secret lust for Mr. Federline-the baby-momma-leaving former backup dancer-was forced into the open. What I was surprised to discover was that I’m not alone.
It turns out that my peers also harbor Kevin Federline obsessions, and they’re not ashamed to admit it anymore. We are women whose boyfriends know more about Bright Eyes than Britney. Yet we want to tie Mr. Federline’s bandannas, dry-clean his track suits, keep his Nikes sparkling white. We like the messy hair, the soul patch, the tanned chest beneath the wifebeater. People may whisper that he’s white trash, but we think it’s all part of the Federline mystique.
“He’s like a guilty pleasure,” 26-year-old freelance writer Kristin Meyer told me, sipping coffee and poking away at her laptop in a Brooklyn Starbucks. “He’s everything indie boys can’t be.”
Pity the guy who, upon coming home to his girlfriend, finds her sprawled on the couch with the latest issue of Details (the made-over Kevin as cover model). But Kevin-lovers can’t wait to learn more about their usually reticent object of affection-and they’ll defend him, too.
“He’s like a good old American boy,” said Abby Feldman, a 27-year-old Prospect Heights landscape architect with dyed black hair and big plug earrings. She compares Kevin to the skater boys she used to date. “You always just sit and watch them from afar and pine away,” she said, a little wistfully. Like skaters, Kevin’s got that edge. “He looks good scruffy. He’s foxy. It’s like he’s unambiguously all man.”
Where our modern boyfriends are sensitive, Kevin is tough. Where they don’t shut up-about their feelings, our feelings, obscure bands-Kevin is silent, and therefore powerful. Our indie boyfriends ride vintage bicycles; Kevin rides a huge Harley.
And Kevin is totally content to mooch off Britney’s riches and use her for her fame. He’s the type of guy who always thinks he’s better than his woman-even if his woman is Britney Spears. And, naturally, that makes him even more desirable.
“Those type of dudes make you work for it. He’s got a big ego,” Ms. Feldman said.
There’s no convincing a man like Kevin to do something that he doesn’t want to do. And he’d remind us of that every step of the way. When Britney asked, “Is it O.K. if I stay?” during his Details interview, he replied: “I don’t care.” Swoon! We don’t even mind that he’s managed to make Britney into the ultimate sugar mama (buying her own engagement ring-hello?).
Men have their own unique take on Mr. Federline. Just ask Kristin Meyer’s boyfriend, 26-year-old ad man Mike Treff, who used to run the indie record label Tiger Style. (“We live separately in Carroll Gardens,” Ms. Meyer said.)
“His attitude’s pretty cool,” Mr. Treff said. “He clearly just doesn’t care at all about what anyone might have to say. He’s gone from nothing to something because of his women.” Then again, Mr. Treff is that rare New York man who seems to understand the Federline mystique: He and Ms. Meyer dressed as Kevin and Britney for Halloween, even wearing track suits emblazoned with “Mrs. Federline” and “The Pimp,” like the couple did in real life on their wedding night.
“For his Halloween costume, Mike was incredibly excited to wear an oversized track suit,” Ms. Meyer said. “I thought he looked absurd. He was more into it than I was.”
Of course, Mr. Treff would never actually wear the Federline wardrobe in real life-probably not even the made-over Details version. But it’s not the Details Kevin that’s appealing, anyway.
“His style has a lot to do with it,” Ms. Feldman said. “His shoes make his feet look like he’s wearing moon boots. They’re so white … they’re the hugest, puffiest white tennis shoes.” White Nikes are a significant part of the appeal-they’re perhaps the ugliest sneakers on Earth, but they’re also hip-hop, and that’s a good thing.
“You know he can dance. That’s always attractive,” said Ms. Feldman.
Mr. Treff’s roommate, 29-year-old Chris Etcheverry-“I’m a punk-rock fag,” he said unironically-claims that all of this has to do with Britney envy.
“Hipster girls tend to like the same cookie-cutter boys,” he said with a gay man’s authority. “Kevin is more of the white-trash kind of attractiveness. Hipster women who think they’re too cool for school want to be able to steal away Britney’s husband. It’s more of a conquering thing. He’s not better than any one of the Strokes or the Killers.”
Indeed, said Mr. Etcheverry, women’s attraction for Kevin Federline has less to do with irony and white-trash kitsch than it has to do with a grown-up version of Mean Girls. “They don’t have to go after Federline,” Mr. Etcheverry said dismissively. “They’re going after him only because he’s owned by Britney.”
But therein lies the crux of the issue: Would I actually want to date Kevin Federline? Do I even really want to sleep with him? (My boyfriend, it turns out, was none too pleased to hear the news of my unrequited crush.) Maybe we could take him out dancing-but deep down, we know Kevin Federline would never want to go to brunch or do the Times crossword. Is he just the ultimate bad-boy fantasy for a generation of overeducated women?
“I more or less have done everything right,” sighed Ms. Feldman, who has degrees from Penn and Harvard. “I have to live vicariously through the boys.”