By Mackenzie Louise*
Teacher crushes are such a cliché, they’re pretty uninteresting and passé. You wouldn’t think the English department of my small, Christian liberal arts college would nurture such clichés, but I guess Christians are known to relish in the taboo. Something about forbidden fruit.
I was disenchanted as a young grad with my otherwise honorable department. Four months out of college and back in town for a conference, I found myself talking to my (male) mentor and another (male) student about the department’s most recent hire: a young woman, intelligent, insightful, and personable. We were all excited about her arrival to campus, even I who would never take a class with her. I met her during her campus interview the semester before, and I had enjoyed talking to her; I could tell that she would challenge students and engage them personally. I was, frankly, jealous that I’d never be under her tutelage.
She’s also attractive. And if you’ve ever heard a conversation about RateMyProfessors.com, let alone used it or browsed it, you know the significance of the chili pepper and the value of a professor’s sex appeal. But that’s for the base thoughts of young, lustful undergraduates. Academics—they know better.
The day had been long, and it was about an hour drive back to campus from the conference, so inhibitions were low and, in the quiet of a car with only three people (not playing music in the car should have been a clue: Don’t trust people who don’t listen to music in the car), the conversation was intimate.
But then my professor remarked, “We’re really hoping she’ll bring in male students to the department.”
“Eugh.” My reaction was immediate, gutted.
“I’m sorry,” he was quick. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
But it wasn’t really the fact that he had said it, although I was appalled that someone I look up to had become the mouthpiece of such vileness. Rather, my real revulsion lay in the fact that an entire department of scholars and professionals of higher education—whom I trusted and respected—thought, nay, hoped a woman’s sex appeal would help grow their male numbers.
“She’ll be good for the women, too,” he amended. But too late, bud; damage done.
I don’t remember saying much else on the topic, each of us probably hoping to let it die without further incident, but two years out from that conversation and I’m still aghast. She’s settled in the department now, in her second year, and I think her classes are still woman-heavy. Good. Because the female students do need her, far more than lusty-eyed twenty-year old men do. I had often wished for a female mentor, and this professor could have been her. She would probably never think, “We’re really hoping he’ll bring in female students.”
*Mackenzie Louise is our latest guest blogger and also a grad student of English literature. She dreams of retiring some day by a river and owning a whitewater rafting company. In the interim, she plans to pursue her PhD and become an English professor and medievalist. You find her on Twitter @MackenzieLouise, but it's mostly academic retweets and thoughts only she finds funny. If you are interested in guest posting, email us at AsToldOverBrunch@gmail.com.