THE BACKSTREET BOYS will be in the Washington area this weekend, performing a pair of sold-out concerts at MCI Center. Sure, critics hate them, but the crooning quintet -- Kevin Richardson, Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough, A.J. McLean and Nick Carter -- has a dedicated legion of fans: The group's current North American tour, for example, sold out in an hour. Weekend asked Cheryl Thompson, 16, a junior at Montgomery Blair High School, to describe the condition known as Backstreet Mania.

You know you've got it when:

10. You buy any magazine that has the slightest mention of the Backstreet Boys. You daydream about how it would be if you were hanging out with Brian, A.J., Nick, Kevin or Howie, because you know they would never break your heart.

9. You cannot stand 'N Sync! You've put big "X" marks on all their magazine pictures and are always ready to wage a debate on why the Backstreet Boys are superior. 'N Sync has a much younger audience, making you a mature Backstreet Boys listener.

8. You taped every single TV appearance the Backstreet Boys make. You have every music video on tape and know all the dance moves in every video. You are now qualified to be one of their backup dancers.

7. You want to buy a Backstreet Boys T-shirt but, uh, only to sleep in. While you're at it, you may as well get the pen and notebook, too.

6. Your room is Backstreet Land. You have magazines, pinups, articles, anything pertaining to the Backstreet Boys plastered all over your wall. It's getting to the point where you can't see what the original wall color was.

5. You have the phone number for MTV's video request show, "Total Request Live," on speed dial. You vote every day for the Backstreet Boys' current video.

4. You can't remember the last time you listened to the radio. You love Backstreet FM: all Backstreet CDs, all the time! You, of course, have all of their CDs, including the import you begged someone going overseas to buy for you.

3. You know almost everything there is to know about the Backstreet Boys, including the stuff other people don't. You could easily write their next biography.

2. You desperately want to be on MTV's "Fanatic," the show where celebrities get to meet their biggest fans. You've seen every episode with the Backstreet Boys, and know you're a much bigger fan than the show's last winners.

1. You can stand up and say, "I LOVE THE BACKSTREET BOYS!" even though critics and, more important, your friends think they're a lame bubblegum band and wonder why you camped out for tickets. However, knowing what you like and who you are makes you an even greater person, so don't be afraid to be yourself. And remember, Brian from the band wrote a song about you: "Larger Than Life," dedicated to all BSB fans.