Em's a 20-something who's reluctantly navigating dating apps while simultaneously pursuing her studies in social science.
So, You've Got a Big, Fat Crush on Your College Professor
Let's cut to the chase. Butterflies. Fireworks. Heart-thumping and blood pumping. Your college professor is so crazy sexy cool that you simultaneously dread every single class and yet count down the minutes until they start—you're just that obsessed.
Why, though? Seriously.
What is it about them that gives you every weird and fluttery feeling? Once upon a time, for me, it was that my young and rugged English professor (it's almost always those English professors. . .) singled me out as his favorite student. He did this by keeping a small notebook on his desk to jot down every time I said something that made him and the rest of the room burst into laughter (I should have been a stand up comedian, for real), by openly disparaging my boyfriend, and by consistently giving me awesome grades despite being a notably difficult-to-please professor (this was all me, I'm a good writer, what can I say?).
It was no secret to me or anyone else in the class that, for whatever reason, he tolerated me more than any of the other students who shuffled in and out of his classes. In fact, it was so obvious that pretty soon rumors started to spread around my little community college that there was something steamy happening between us after class.
There never was.
But man, at the time, I really wished that rumor was true.
Years later though, I'm so darn glad I never crossed that line from clear-favorite-student to legit girlfriend.
Look, let's be clear: Crushes are almost always harmless. In fact, they can be good for you. But you're not here because you just have a little crush that you laugh about with your friends over group chat. There's this part of you that's playing with the idea of pushing the boundaries further, which is something I've seen friends and acquaintances do with their own professors. If you're here, this situation is likely distracting you from your studies.
So, what should you do about your big fat crush on your professor?
1. Consider the Power Imbalance
What It Is
It's simple—they have authority and power over you as a teacher. They grade your work, tutor you on topics they know more about and ultimately make a huge contribution when it comes to your academic fate.
Why It Matters
When you crush on a peer or even a coworker who's on the same level as you, the playing field is even. When I dated a classmate and things ended no one got a bad grade or dropped from the class because of it. I didn't have to turn in papers to a dude who'd seen me without my signature red cardigan and cats eye glasses, or wonder what he said about me to other profs at our school.
How to Handle It
Consider this: At most schools, student/teacher relationships are against policy. They're forbidden. Hot because they're forbidden but still, forbidden. Even when they're not, those legit relationships can have serious consequences when they end. Who's to say how(ever unfairly) other faculty around the school will treat you knowing you're in a relationship with one of their coworkers? Anecdotally, my algebra prof was dating a student, and years later, I realized how badly he'd treated her. Not because any new secrets had come out, but because when I was younger I didn't see how toxic that imbalance of power between him and her had become until I was old enough to see it for what it was.
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2. Figure Out if They're Married or Committed
What It Is
"My wife thinks this song is the best..."
"My husband gets tired of hearing me say..."
"My partner and I went to Costa Rica last spring..."
A ring on their finger is also a dead giveaway.
Why It Matters
Commitment matters! While you can daydream from a distance, attempting to get involved with an already involved person is shady and selfish. In my case, my English professor crush was, indeed, married. Newlywed, in fact! That was enough to keep my crush in check and recognize that while I enjoyed the positive attention from my professor I could probably enjoy any amount of neutral-to-positive attention from just about anyone including a potato with a face drawn on, since I have daddy issues.
How to Handle It
How would you feel if someone was trying to make a move on your significant other? Meditate on that before you go making a move.
3. Ask Yourself if Your Crush Has More to Do With Boredom and Convenience Than Actual Feelings
What It Is
You don't have a lot going on outside of school and let's face it, your classmates are all kind of immature and irritating.
Why It Matters
Having a crush is certainly a cure for boredom, especially when class isn't exactly (somehow) the most stimulating place to be. But if you find that you're obsessing about someone who's unavailable to you (and trust me, your professor is almost certainly unavailable) even outside the confines of a stuffy classroom then you're taking up space for time and connection with someone who is actually available.
How to Handle It
Indulge in all of the hot daydreaming you'd like during class, but once it's over, focus on your homework and get out of your dorm or mom's basement long enough to hang out with your peers.
4. Imagine Your Professor Doing the Most Unattractive Sh*t Possible
Wait, why would I want to tarnish this beautiful fantasy?
Because, if you really want to put this crush in perspective (or maybe you don't) you have to pull yourself out of the fantasy person you've built up in your head and deal with the reality of what it means to crush on a living, breathing, disgusting human being.
How to Do It
Imagine that hottie in the most gnarly situations. I'll give you a few ideas to get started:
- Taking a dump when they're super constipated.
- Hightailing it to their car to let out all of their farts in their car as soon as they've wrapped their last class of the day.
- Checking out people who aren't you.
5. List How Many Professor/Student Relationships You Can Think of That Didn't Go Down in Absolute Flames
I'll go first:
- None. Every single person I've ever known to hook up with a professor has seen the whole thing blow up in their face in some capacity. What always starts as a cute flirtation becomes an emotionally tangled affair that can't get past age-barriers and jealousy (because you're not the only cute student in class).
6. List All of the Reasons a Hook Up or Relationship With Your Professor Would Be Epically Awful
In the end, most relationships just don't last and that's the way the world turns. But when it comes to a student/teacher relationship, there's a lot more at stake and more boundaries that have to be crossed than in a typical peer-to-peer fling like:
- What other people think. I know we're always told that we shouldn't care what other people think, but social standards also help us stay within an acceptable realm. They're why we don't run errands naked or tell the cashier at the grocery store to please stop talking about their dead dog. They do, in some ways, make the world a better place. Or at least a more tolerable one. People who are willing to cross these social norms may not always be the healthiest to invite into our lives.
- Your academic status. Again, back to that unequal power struggle - your professor has power over you. They can determine your grade and your standing at the school and that can tip one way or the other depending on how they feel about your personally.
- Your emotional health. I get it, we're in an era where no one has a right to tell consenting adults who they can spend time with behind closed doors. However, getting involved with anyone can lead to negative emotional ramifications. A crush sits in a safe spot in the corner of your mind. It's the muse to every good pop song. But a heartbreak takes a lot more out of us in the long run. There's a good chance your college instructor has some years ahead of you and will see you as nothing more than a form of entertainment for the semester while you're still learning the ropes of how love and relationships in the adult world work.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Em Clark