We all have one. Our own Jordan Catalanos. Those boys who enter our lives and then refuse to leave. Their names are written in Sharpie on our Fruit of the Looms with a small speckling of hearts. They’re older, cooler, and have a certain nonchalance that makes them men among boys.
I first heard about the species known as Jordan Catalano the summer before my freshman year of high school. To prepare me for the next four years of torture, my parents decided it was time to watch the seminal 90s cult classic “My So-Called Life”. The show follows the life of sophomore Angela Chase as she navigates high school with a new group of friends. She faces many obstacles- family, teachers, friends, but both importantly, the irresistible love interest, Jordan Catalano.
I met my own Catalano that same summer, Max. While Max lacked the gruffness and rough edges of Angela’s love interest, to me he seemed as bad as boys got. I had gone to elementary and middle school with almost the same group of 20 students from kindergarten through 8th grade. It was difficult to find my male classmates attractive when I could still remember the days when we shared nap-time.
Max, though, was different. He was older, for one thing, probably 16 at the time, and had long, shoulder length hair. He was quiet and played bass. He was unassuming, though was beyond cool in my eyes. I would say we became friends that summer, but that would probably be an over exaggeration. He had his own friends and girlfriend, but it seemed like none of that mattered.
My closeness to Max became an “in” for me at a new high school among the other freshman girls. I quickly learned that despite our perceived closeness, I wasn’t the only one who saw Max as her own personal Catalano. While this could have easily lead to negative tension between us, our mutual affection helped us grow closer.
To us, Max was worthy of rock star adoration. We would analyze every wave and smile. Even a passing glance counted as evidence towards his true feelings.
I became close with two other girls named Gretchen and Nanni, both who shared just as strong feelings for Max. Nanni was quiet, but had enviable blonde hair and blue eyes. She never slept and constantly had bags under her eyes that added a certain amount of character. She didn’t speak much, but whatever she said packed a punch.
Gretchen, on the other hand, was the one I looked up to. She would always look chic with her long brown hair controlled in a tight chignon, something that was contrasted perfectly by her oversized 90s dresses that she wore over her black dance clothes. She was the first girl I ever knew to wear red lipstick and go to “real” parties. She only spent half the day at my high school and then the other half at a different high school with an elite dance program.
She seemed to always have something to do and was always going somewhere, though could always devote a few minutes in between classes to discuss a recent interaction with Max. When Gretchen wasn’t around I felt lonely and insignificant. I imagined her spending her afternoons doing pirouettes and plies while I sat in Geometry. I envied Gretchen mostly for her electric personality. She was infamous for her forward demeanor and inability to hold back, though it felt like everyone knew her, or at least of her. When I was with Gretchen, it felt like some of her popularity rubbed off on me.
Like many high school friendships, though, ours soon dissolved. While there were many factors that led to our separation, specifically a long-term divide between Gretchen and Nanni, it was Max that was one of the final straws. After cheating on his girlfriend many times with many girls, he eventually broke up with her.
And now, it was at a party that only Gretchen was invited to that she finally got the chance to kiss Max. While this kiss never lead to anything serious between Gretchen and Max, the fact that one of us had finally kissed him lowered him from a god, to a mere mortal.
His availability made him ordinary and boring. The kiss seemed to leave no lasting impact on Gretchen and her indifference made us question what really made Max so great. There was nothing that interesting about obsessing over a boy who was not a man. Gretchen, Nanni, and I now had nothing to bond over and we soon attached ourselves to different friend groups.
Soon after this, Max transferred to an alternative school. I no longer saw him on a daily basis and he became a memory of my first few months in high school.
I ran into Max a few weeks ago, working as a waiter at a thai restaurant after not seeing him for a year or two. I would be lying if I said my heart didn’t flutter a little when I caught his glance as I sat down at the table and again when he came over to say hi.
Max will always be my own personal Jordan Catalano. He is a reflection on my first few months of high school; when I giggled by my locker and gossiped in the bathroom with the first group of high school girls I ever considered my friends. We were still caught in the whirlwind of high school, not ready to leave. We grasped on to everything and found meaning in nothing.
And as high school already begins to feel like a distant memory, I know Catalano will never leave, no matter how hard I try to shake him. Because somewhere, in the back of my mind, I’ll always dream he’ll ride up in his beat up car, ready to take me with him.