Because I was in college. And I was an adult. There are a lot of conceptions about relationships between professors and students. Some of them are sexy. Some of them are horrible. Many of them are false. It was no more fine for us than it might be for any adult man and woman. Satisfying relationships are not determined by people being mature and sophisticated and savvy.
They are determined by two people having things in common, and liking one another. There is an erotic appeal to anything that happens in secret. I do think that the environment I was in contributed towards that relationship. I went to an Ivy League school where the major draw was the professors.
If there was anyplace where they were going to be idolized, it was there. Maybe because we were so often told we were the best and brightest, students were encouraged to talk to them socially. Doing so was normal. I wanted to keep talking to him because I liked him. He laughed at my jokes. I laughed at his jokes. I liked talking to him more than I have liked talking to many people before or after. I am not a great talker, as a rule.
I worry this all carries with it shades of Tracy Flick. In my defense, I can say that I was a legal adult at the time. It is difficult to explain why anyone likes anyone else. Better intellectuals than I am have tried to explain that phenomenon — but yes, we liked each other. It might be worthwhile to remark that he was unmarried. That is to say, I think that relationships are unpredictable. We underrate ourselves if we do not think so.
Professor X and I started having lunch often. We discussed things we were reading. We discussed things we were thinking about. We rarely discussed our personal problems. I rarely discuss those with most people. One day, I invited him back to my apartment to borrow I book.
Or maybe I did. Maybe nothing is unplanned. We sat down on my sofa. He kissed me back. It took a while. Just the way it does in most relationships. When we did, it was good. Relationships between students and professors were discouraged, but not verboten.
Was there a power dynamic at work? Have I ever had a relationship where no power dynamic exists? In good relationships, that power pendulum swings back and forth. In bad ones it does not. I think in ours it swung in a healthy manner. Did I benefit in any way by the fact that he was a professor at a college when I was a student? I was no longer in his class. Did he help me on any papers I was working on? That would have been insulting. There never seemed like a very large gulf between what we were doing.
We were both, essentially, occupying our time reading, and writing, and thinking all day. There might have been a greater gulf had I met him at this point in my life, as I work in a less theoretical, more applied-learning profession. Did it end horribly? Actually, it ended far easier than most relationships. I always knew that. Though, sentimentally, as all couples do, we talked about the possibility of continuing things long distance.
But we were both adults. We knew that would be problematic. And it can be easier to end things for outside factors than it is just to get bored with each other. Now and again, I still talk to him. Just the way you would with any ex you were on good terms with. When I think of him, it is always fondly. Unless a relationship ends in marriage, that is the most you can hope for.
What is most odd to me is how incredibly normal it was. At least, I enjoyed it. Life is not Les Liaisons dangereuses. These relationships happen because relationships happen. That is a part of life. Trying to forbid them entirely will only make them seem more appealing, because, again, the forbidden always has its erotic appeal.
It will however lead to campuses full of young women in plaid miniskirts. Show Comments Hide Comments.