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The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

An abundance of Nathans


Nathan happens to be the name of my first boyfriend. It also happens to be the name of my first love. They happen to be different people.

By Kathryn Saffell

For a woman who’s only been in three relationships, I’ve got a pretty good track record. For consistency, that is. (Everything else is debatable.) I’ve got a “type.” I know that seems shallow, but I’ll have you know it’s not a physical type, so stop judging. No, I only date boys whose names start with N.

…And end with -ATHAN. I date Nathans.

There’s a book by John Green called “An Abundance of Katherines,” in which the protagonist, Colin, only dates girls named Katherine. No Catherines or Kathryns. That pattern seemed unhealthy.

And yet, here we are.

I met Nathan the First in a play. My high school was tiny, and if you didn’t know a person directly, you at least were aware of their existence and knew strange, discordant factoids you had no right to know anyway. So I should say that Nathan Michael and I got to know each other during road trips for state drama competitions.

Nathan Michael was a good boyfriend. Even though I did the driving until he got his license, he opened the door for me every time. He gave me roses and chocolate for Valentine’s Day. He had sunny blue eyes and smiling dimples.

In a few months I would graduate and move to college 10 hours away. Long-Distance is not the killer of all relationships, but I knew it would kill ours, and I think he knew it, too.

The 500-mile gap between us left little room for regret. Turns out, neither of us were big on The Proclaimers.


By the time I realized I had met another Nathan, it was too late. There’s as little sense in un-liking someone based on a name as there is for liking them for it.

Nathan Paul and I met second semester of our freshman year. Swoon alert: He made cringeworthy puns and kept up with my obscure movie references. I thought I was being pretty discreet.

(Narrator: She wasn’t.)

It didn’t take long for my secret to come out, as secrets do. Fortunately for me, New NathanTM saw the humor in it.

Granted, Nathan the Second did not particularly like the name Nathan the Second. My friends refused to call him anything else. It didn’t make much difference to me — as far as I was concerned, he was the only Nathan. I changed his name in my phone because I’m sappy. This also drastically decreased the probability that I accidentally texted “I love you” to my ex.

I ended up having to repeat my problem of long distance with the second Nathan. It wasn’t the prospect of long distance that ended us: It was the aftermath.   


The problem is the world, as it so happens, is full of Nathans.

When I got home that summer, wreckage strewn 500 miles behind me, I spent a week confined to the couch after getting my wisdom teeth removed. I watched the National Dog Show, hyped on pain meds, cheeks stuffed with gauze. I liked seeing the small dogs zip across the floor like caffeinated feather dusters, and rooted for Michael the Scottish Terrier for Best in Show. The winner? A giant bloodhound named Nathan. I turned to my mother and said, “I’ve just found my next boyfriend.”


Nathan the Third was a friend of my best friend from high school, Taylor. It was a hot summer evening, and he and Taylor had just finished swing dancing. He was sweating and he pulled off his glasses to wipe them on his shirt. His hair was dark and his face was nice and his biceps – well, let’s just say I’m not a girl who normally notices biceps.

Taylor introduced us, his name shooting up between us like a signal flare. “Sorry if I ask you your name again later,” he said. “I’m bad with names.”

“I’m good with Nathans,” I almost said. Almost.

Somehow, Nathan Henry liked me in spite of the name thing, and – the real miracle – I liked him in spite of his name. Or maybe because of it. Maybe both.

He put his name in my phone as Nathan For The Last Time.

It was a summer of recklessness and long nights. I learned(ish) to swing dance, I learned to kayak, and I heroically kept my opinion on country music to myself.

Summer, of course, came to an end, and so did the relationship. Maybe it was the long-distance again. Maybe I didn’t belong in his world. Maybe there’s only so many times one can humiliate oneself at swing dancing and karaoke.


So I get it. Three isn’t a big number. At least I’m not Colin, with 18 different Katherines. I can’t even imagine dating 18 different men (it took me long enough to find three). I’d say 3/3 is a pretty impressive statistic. That’s 100 percent. That’s an undefeated season.

I know I should quit while I’m ahead. Anyway, who needs boys? I have a nice bloodhound to sniff down.

But, like, if you know any nice, available Nathans, you know where to send them.

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