Tectonic Plates Rattle
In the instance of a #metoo moment or when a sexual dynamic is introduced to an academic, professional or intellectual context, the lens focuses tightly on the two primary people. The focus of that lens follows the tradition that sex occurs behind closed doors. Once we remove that constraint, the damage can be seen from the fault lines – not just the earthquake.
In this story, in all these stories, there are so many unseen characters. In my story there is the other student – queer, presenting female with facial hair – who came along and was categorically ignored by myself and the professor because they were not part of the growing tension. There were 18 other students who were not invited to participate on special projects, who were not brought along to the house of the famous poet, their classroom participation did not always get direct eye contact, and maybe the comments on their writing were more generic – I never thought to ask. When I proposed making a book using the archival photographs of the time period – I bragged about it in class and invited no collaborators. The professors declaration, years later, “I thought you always knew that I was attracted to you;” means that during all those classes he was looking at me, more than he was looking at the other students.
Some could call it the “pretty girl dilemma”, I always lived it as the “big boob dilemma”. But as the person with the bullseye, I never saw the other concentric circles – a very standard young person schema. I want to write about it now not to focus on the bullseye, but to illuminate the effects beyond my own body. I am trying to get there, rewriting the story to expand and embrace everything that was shaking at that time.
He gets back in the silver sedan, carrying away my whole sense of self. I think about going home, and instead have another beer at the cafe before closing time. I turn to go home, stop at the bodega for another beer, and walk past my house to sit by the river. I am still but quake within as the adrenaline turns to anger. I start to shake. I circle the peninsula of my neighborhood, another beer for every lap, until the sense of his leeching lips recedes; leeches having sucked out my strength. I imagine how his heart must have leapt and his wrinkled dick tingled reading my invitation for a date.
This is how I ended up on a date with my professor. This is how I end up the cliché impressed on too many collegiate women.
These stories are often met with casual responses about how both people are adults thus nothing bad transpired. Our social narrative that professors and students often end up in romantic entanglement is dangerous. The danger emerges because one of the people is an expert, that person has professional gravitas and can assess the intelligence of the student.
In my story it was in that moment that my view of myself as an intelligent person with valuable ideas was jeopardized by the notion that maybe it was just my perky breasts and big smile that had garnered the professor’s attention. I was left feeling dumb, naïve, and unprepared for the world, the opposite of what a teacher ought to inspire in his students.
(here is the conclusion, I will share the whole when/if it gets published)