"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Saturday, April 17, 2010


This is not a nice girl post.  I am nice, but this is not, and whether you feel the same toward me after reading this or you don’t, it is what it is.  It was what it was.  It happened.  I was in college, English 101, and I fell head-over-heels for a married professor who swooned over my writing, making copies of it to read aloud and pass around as examples to the class – talk about feeding Narcissus.  His sense of humor mirrored mine, his literary leanings enraptured me and within the first few weeks I was teacher’s pet…not for the first time, but for the first time of a dashing, erudite male with mischief in his eyes.  I’ll call him Mr. Smith just to keep some semblance of privacy where it belongs.

I switched majors from Fine Arts to General Curriculum so I could load up on more of the courses he was teaching.  This entailed picking a new advisor.  Yes, he said, that would be fine, I’ll do it.  And he was a good teacher, make no mistake.  He was gentle in his criticisms, helpful to the stragglers and enthusiastic about the subject matter.  And I, well, I aimed to please.  I could’ve met with him in his office after class, and did, once, when I was truly discombobulated by iambic pentameter, but I figured let the serfs do that.  It wasn’t necessary for me…for us.  Everything we had to say to each other, every question we had to ask one another, well, it was pretty moot since we had this connection between us.

I did not know where this connection would take us, but I had an idea.  With good grades, I was invited to join the national honor society, Phi Theta Kappa.  I did, of course, and then when our sponsor...dropped out? Died? Dematerialized?  I don’t remember, I suggested we ask Mr. Smith to be the replacement.  I suggested it adamantly and he agreed.  And then I worked my way into an officer’s position (Corresponding Secretary) so I could go to the National Convention in Minneapolis along with the other officers and, of course, our sponsor.  I was out to take no prisoners, and believe it or not this was a new experience for me. 

It was peculiar being around him away from the college setting, even though this was, of course, college sanctioned.  I daydreamed that we’d meet in secret in his room at the hotel.  This didn’t happen, of course.  What would I have done if we had, somehow, managed to arrange it?  Would I have slept with him?  I think not.  I like to think that even if he were not an honorable man, I would bow out.  I think I would, in fact, have been petrified.  Obligated in some way.  I still like to think that but I have my bothersome doubts.  It didn’t help that The Police had a big hit that year with a song about a female student enamored with an older male teacher -- a very popular song in those infant days of MTV.

But months later we met twice for drinks, and what charms I offered him!  Having just learned how to pronounce it, I ordered cognac, then forgot how to pronounce"Courvoisier."I tried to distract him from my bad attempt at sophistication by leaning toward him in my slightly low-cut black dress.  Sitting in my car outside the tavern, we hugged each other madly though he would not kiss me, stating he still had “scruples.”  Drunk, I suggested he put his scruples away in my glove compartment for the night.  We told each other sweet things, what I still even now believe were honest things, things we’d known all along but had never acknowledged.  “When you are not with me,” I said, meaning after graduation (which I dreaded), “You are still always with me.”  “I…know,” he said, nodding, and then wrapping me in his arms again.
Nothing more ever came of it.  It’s not like I became a stalker.  I did, however, send him a gift in the mail from the store I was working at after graduation.  It was a floral shop, and we made Victorian “kissing balls.”  They were lovely – foam balls covered in dried and silk flowers, tied with a silken bow.  At Christmas, I mailed him one, and he sent me back a note of thanks, saying “there isn’t much kissing going on at this house anymore.”  I knew it!  It validated all I had thought, felt, and done.  I was no home wrecker.  Things were already teetering.

But they didn’t fall in my direction.  In fact, decades went by until I saw him again, when I accompanied one of my nephews to the college to register and take placement tests.  Yep, there was Mr. Smith in his office, busily engrossed in some important thing that I heedlessly disturbed, barging in and bragging all about my so-called life.  He was polite.  And the years had been kind to him.  Then I saw him once more when I went to a photography exhibition at the college, his photography, though I never knew this was an interest of his previously.  I signed the guest book and put down my address as “bicoastal.”  (Yes, by now I’d made around five or six trips out to southern California for extended periods, but that’s because my sister-in-law’s brother had a one room straw bale and adobe house out there and we could tolerate each other as long as I didn’t snore and he didn’t drink Amaretto, which made him surly.)

Anyway, when I walked up to him to say hello, looking in his eyes for some secret recognition of having shared or endured or just gone through this sexy and magical history, a woman probably younger than me whirled around, marched forward and reached out to shake my hand.  “I’m his wife,” she said, and even though she was not that wife – the one he’d been married to back then – it’s still almost like she knew something.  She was almost protective, assertive, defensive.  I swear.  But here again, they were both polite, and there was nothing in his eyes.  Nothing whatsoever that I could detect. 

So he’d gotten divorced and then gotten remarried and even had another child, a son.  I expected to feel something, maybe dismay that it could have been me, it could have all gone differently.  I didn’t feel dismay or anything of the sort, however.  I just felt wistful.  And a little special.  That it had all taken place, fallen into place for that matter.  That we’d had this history, and that nothing had ever happened to either validate or destroy this schoolgirl’s dream.  
 "Don't Stand So Close To Me" 
(I couldn't resist)

Young teacher, the subject
Of schoolgirl fantasy
She wants him so badly
Knows what she wants to be
Inside her there's longing
This girl's an open page
Book marking - she's so close now
This girl is half his age

Don't stand, don't stand so
Don't stand so close to me

Her friends are so jealous
You know how bad girls get
Sometimes it's not so easy
To be the teacher's pet
Temptation, frustration
So bad it makes him cry
Wet bus stop, she's waiting
His car is warm and dry

Don't stand, don't stand so
Don't stand so close to me

Loose talk in the classroom
To hurt they try and try
Strong words in the staffroom
The accusations fly
It's no use, he sees her
He starts to shake and cough
Just like the old man in
That book by Nabokov

Don't stand, don't stand so
Don't stand so close to me

Don't stand, don't stand so
Don't stand so close to me


  1. Wow, Doreen's been there, and I had an English professor I had a crush on and even got to the hugging stage. Now I'm starting to wonder if English profs have all the fun. There certainly is nothing hotter than a sexy man of letters... :-) Awesome post, Laurie!

  2. Great post!! I was glued to my seat thinking that you guys where going to get together. I was a little disappointed that you didn't. I had a crush on a high school teacher but never one in college. But then again, most of my teachers in the physical therapy program were women or men that weren't too cute.