Dear Male Professors
I know what you’re thinking when I walk into the classroom in my red beret and my red lipstick wearing a skirt with knee high socks, or when I wear short-shorts that always annoyingly appear much shorter on me because of my long legs. I know what you’re all thinking when you quickly realize that I’m the “quirky” girl, the “artsy” girl — the girl you fantasize about that might be a freak in the bedroom, and potentially picks up older men at bars when she’s bored during the weekends she’s not out with friends.
When I maintain eye contact and smile at you and laugh at your jokes when you give your lectures, don’t think I’m flirting with you; when you find out I went through a tumultuous relationship in the past, don’t think it now means I’m emotionally vulnerable and now available to be pursued over the summer.
As soon as the semester is over and all the grades are turned in and you professors email me not even two months after the class has ended, yes, I’m going to find this odd and think to myself, “Okay, what does he want?” Except now that I’m in my late twenties, is it really considered so strange or so taboo? Even when I clearly never told you my real age and people almost always assume I’m five to six years younger than I really am? Meaning, what if you’re really emailing me because you still find me youthful and naive?
Dear male professors, I know you want me and I see it in your eyes each and every time.
Like the time I was only seventeen going on eighteen and you started pulling me out of class during the high school news segments. It felt like five or six times during that chaotic, final senior semester of mine. Maybe it was more, maybe it was less. Either way, it wan’t normal and it felt like too many times than was necessary. Even the students started to give me strange looks after a while every time we’d come back inside the classroom when you were done talking to me. I always wondered what must have went through their minds.
You had a timid, and soft-spoken voice and would always look at me strangely. You started to ask me personal questions about my life and claimed you wanted to know if I was alright; I was completely fine and just a typical teenager. To you, I was the outcast — that girl that dressed a little goth and a little punk and stood out from the rest. You said you were concerned, but then why did I always get the impression that you found me just a little bit appealing?
When you asked me sheepishly if it was a boyfriend issue, I gave you a quizzical look. No male professor had ever dared ask me that before, and once I told you I didn’t have a boyfriend, you continued to single me out for almost the rest of that semester, as if we were in some weird, secretive relationship that was all in your head.
You were impressed with my ability to quickly learn Mandarin, and said I wrote the characters really well. You said I was the top in your class. Along with other students, I even attended the after school Chinese club you taught. Is that why you suddenly thought you were close to me? Is that why you suddenly felt there was some type of connection between us? What about that one time I also mentioned I wanted to learn Japanese some day, and you eventually proposed to teach me after school, but it would just be you and I? Or was there one other girl that also started showing up not too long afterwards, when I questioned that you weren’t technically allowed to be alone with a student? I think most of my memory has blocked out the finer details, because that’s when I finally realized I needed to keep away from you.
You started to notice, and one day you kept me after class. Things got weird and I finally broke down because I was tired of you always acting like something was wrong with me, and I was tired of you always acting like you constantly had to watch over me. Why were you always asking me questions? Why was I always being treated differently than the rest of your students?
You preyed off my naivety and my innocence, and I was finally starting to realize this wasn’t normal and this wasn’t right, especially when friends saw me crying one day and asked what was wrong.
I walked out of your classroom in tears that day, suddenly despising you. In defense, I started giving you attitude during the classes after that. I just wanted you to leave me alone. I think you felt that you were starting to lose control over me and knew your weird charm was wearing off, so you reported my behavior to my counselor and said I was acting out in class. I couldn’t believe it. In all my academic years, I had never been sent to the counseling office for “bad behavior,” and my counselor knew this.
That’s when I finally broke down and confessed all that I had been experiencing and all the special attention you had been giving me. To make matters worse, you showed up at the meeting when you weren’t supposed to be there. Even my counselor looked perplexed and said she specifically told you that you weren’t supposed to be there. You just couldn’t leave me alone, could you?
I was horrified and didn’t want you near me. My counselor told you that I felt singled out, and it wasn’t right to pay so much particular attention to me. And this is why I was acting out, because I was growing defensive; it was my way of protecting myself. She understood me, but I don’t think she ever really knew or wanted to believe the extent of it.
You tried to make amends after I graduated high school and started emailing me over the summer. You tried to trick me and reassure me that it was okay if we started exchanging emails back and forth. You said you had emailed some of the other students as well to check up on everyone and said it was okay because we were all eighteen now. At first I replied to be polite, but then you intrusively started asking me about my preferences in men, noticing how at the time I seemed to love pretty boys in JRock bands (yes, it was a phase), even going so far as to tell me about your divorce, and then asking if I wanted to meet up and help tutor this other girl with you for the summer. I remember another student had seen your wife before at an event and said she was beautiful. I almost agreed, but knew it wouldn’t be right. Although somewhat naive, I was always a smart and cautious teen.
I think you sensed my uneasiness in those emails, when you finally told me that if I no longer wanted to respond to your emails anymore, you would understand and finally stop talking to me and leave me alone. The way you worded everything was so strange, that I knew it was best not to respond at all. You didn’t deserve any goodbyes. We had absolutely nothing. We never did and we never would. Still, it was as if a spell was being lifted and I was finally free from your predatory grasps. I finally had permission to ignore you. That was the last time I would ever speak to you again. You kept your word.
Dear male professors, I know what is most likely on all of your minds.
I remember the time another high school professor asked me to take photos of him and his family.
You too, would look at me strangely at times during my last semester of high school, and I remember you always being surrounded by female students. I had just recently turned eighteen, which meant it was May and school was ending soon, and it was around the same time I was dealing with my strange ordeal with my other professor. I remember when you greeted me you kissed me twice on each cheek in front of your wife. It was a gesture very uncommon for American people, so I was quite taken aback. When I would bring it up to friends over the years, everyone told me it was wrong, and they gave me shocked and disturbing looks, as if I had been violated. I felt like an idiot, and was reminded once again how my innocence had been preyed on.
Years have passed and I’m back in college now. Maybe on the first few weeks of the lectures I might have sized up one or two of you, and thought to myself, Hmm…he’s somewhat cute, has a nice smile, and I don’t mind the way he looks at me. While other times, I may have simply thought, He’s old, grumpy to mostly everyone but me, and I think it’s weird that he constantly singles me out and makes a point to compliment the hats that I’m wearing, or asks me questions like, “What happened to your red beret?”
But in the end, you’re all just my professors and always will be, no matter what age I am. I never once stay after classes to talk to any one of you. I never once visit any of your office hours either. I’ve learned over the years that it’s best for me to avoid intimate and private moments with professors, particularly male.
But as soon as one of my male professor’s emails me not even two months after classes have ended, I’m reminded of the time my high school professor emailed me over the summer, many years before. I’m reminded of all the ways male professors have looked at me, whether they have been so bold enough to email me or not, or kiss me twice on each cheek. I know this college professor must also want something and I know it’s not just a friendly hello. Except, this time I can’t quite pin as to why he’d be emailing me in the first place when we hardly ever spoke in class, because the class was mostly online, save for only a few in-class meetings a month. Had I finally missed all the signs?
Curiosity gets the best of me. I respond to your email to be polite and because I must know if I’m right. It turns out I am. During several email exchanges, you eventually say you hope this doesn’t sound too “forward,” but go on to explain how I “struck” you as an “interesting” person, and you proceed to ask if I’d like to grab coffee “or something.” I smirk to myself.
Our class dwindled down to less than fifteen by the end of the semester, so I wonder if you have emailed any other female students or if I’m the only one. I also wonder if you’ve done this before or not. You always seemed so professional and so nice to all your students. I always felt you treated us all equally. I’m a bit puzzled by your emails, but not surprised.
I suddenly remember the way you’d smile at me, and the way your eyes just had the slightest glimmer when you looked up at me from your desk when you would give out grades and constructive criticism to everyone. I remember when I mentioned to the class on the first day how I loved hats, that you coincidentally started wearing hats to in-class meetings right after that. I also remember you being impressed with my performance in your class, and when you’d lecture and address the class, your eyes always somehow found mine.
I must confess that a part of me oddly feels flattered. I enjoyed your class and thought you were a great teacher, and I note that you must also must be no more than ten to twelve years my senior. When you reach the end of your twenties, it no longer really feels like such a big gap anymore, I suppose. But I’m in a committed relationship, and even if I wasn’t, would I still say yes to you?
I don’t think I really would.
For the second time in my life, I turn down another professor via email.
My eyes are as dark as night and unknowingly bore into your souls; they hold an allure that somehow captures your essence. Do you see your reflections shining back at you? My red lips and dark eyes beckon you and draw you in; they help take away the stress of the day and add to a distraction from a job that might feel dull and tedious at times. They dance around in your head and seep into your dreams. I’m your distraction and I’m your fantasy. Except, I don’t mean to be.