Last night I watched a couple of episodes of My So-Called Life with Sarah and a few of her friends. We of course, watched the “Boiler Room” episode, the perfect moment, of which I have spoken of in the past. Watching it this time, though, gave me a different impression. I realized that the happy hand-holding scene at the end didn’t relate at all to any formative moment of my adolescence. Rather, this scene, earlier in the episode did:
Rejection. The pain and anger that Angela displays on her face after Jordan callously tells her, “You are kinda crowding me,” that is what I remember from my prolonged adolescence.
I say prolonged adolescence, because in high school, I didn’t date or have boyfriends. I kissed an assortment of boys, but only one of them did I kiss on more than one occasion, and he was nothing approaching a boyfriend. So although, I experienced rejection in high school, it wasn’t the heart-stopping, throat swelling, can’t get out of bed the next morning kind until I went to college. I was a late bloomer, so it figures that “your kinda crowding me” moment came much later than Angela Chase’s. But I did fall in love in an Angela loves Jordan kind of way in college and found myself behind the Morris Center, the same way Angela was in the boiler room, only, I didn’t get my hand-holding, music swelling moment at the end of an episode. I just got dumped. Like Angela Chase, I was pretty sure, at the time that I could turn a makeout into a meaningful relationship (or that, even more hopefully, it was an indication that I already was in one). Angela was a victim of the high school repeat Non-Committal Make Out (NCMO), but she got her happy ending, one that made girls swoon even decades later. I got the make-outs and the Sunday night, that “made you want to kill yourself” inevitable emotional overreaction, when I ultimately realized that no such meaningful relationship was intended on the other party’s end.
I think that is why all of us can derive such simple satisfaction from still seeing the happy ending. Because who in real life had that? Angela Chase conquered the beast that the rest of us failed to do – turning an obsession from a distance, into the non-committal make-out, into rejection, into hand-holding in the hallway. Sure, she got dumped in the next episode because she wouldn’t have sex with Jordan and he later slept with her best friend, but she got the series finale happy ending. Or rather, she got the love-letter, written by her nerdy neighbor, Brian, who was tutoring her “rudimentary reader with low literacy skills” object of her affection, but signed by Jordan, which led to a hallway makeout, and the ambiguous drive-off at the end of the episode after she realized Brian wrote the letter in the first place. But she did get the Jordan loves Angela ending, that was pretty unambiguous. That is what made Angela Chase every girl’s hero. She successfully took a situation where she was the one who thought non-stop about someone else, seemingly way out of her league, but turned it into a situation where he wanted to be with her more at the end of the day. I am sure, out there somewhere, there is still fan fiction devoted to the Angela/Jordan cause for that very reason.
However, what made her seem easy to relate wasn’t her ultimate triumph, but rather, being rejected, again and again and again. Of course, that is also her greatest indictment; because Angela Chase made us all think that even after public humiliation and rejection, we still had another chance. We failed to move on, because we were quite sure that there was something more we could do, something more we could say to turn around the Jordan Catalanos of our lives. We thought that with dogged persistence, even when faced with continual rejection, we too could conquer. Some girls took it too far and stalkers were born. For the rest of us that didn’t have underlying mental health issues, it nonetheless meant having to face down multiple rejections from the same person, without the realistic likelihood of Angela’s eventual happy ending, long after we should have just moved on.
Thankfully, when I was done with law school, I finally graduated from my prolonged adolescent Angela Chase view of the world, and realized all previous rejections from presumed Jordan Catalanos were final, and instead I was finally able to take a more practical view of things.
One season of a well-written, perceptive show can just take awhile to forget.