Wednesday, June 22, 2005



Yesterday, as I was walking back to my office, minding my own business, I was coming closer to an English professor talking to a student in the hallway. The professor is a lesbian in her 40’s, and the student was young and male. As I approached, unnoticed by either, he lifted his shirt up to his neck to show her an impressive sunburn.

What, exactly, is the etiquette in this situation?

“You’re barking up the wrong tree, son.”

“That’s appropriate.”

“Tummy rubs are against college policy.”

Or perhaps a simple slap upside the head?

Since I didn’t really have time to think about it, I just walked up beside her, said “I didn’t see that,” and walked on. She burst out laughing, and the student lowered his shirt, so I think it was in the ballpark. Still, they don’t teach you this in dean school.

Corrolary: if she had been straight, would such a light treatment have been appropriate?

Summer school brings its own set of joys…

I had a student once insist on pulling up his shirt to prove to me he had indeed been getting his appendix out when he missed my class.

It was more information than I needed.

Sounds more like a kid with "mommy transference" than someone who's been watching "The Graduate."

Your response was great, I think. Would have probably been fine, in my opinion, if the prof had been straight, and/or in her 20's.

A bit more complex, perhaps, if it had been a braless female student.

Now if you'd seen the prof smoothing an aloe salve on the burn blisters....
I'm in my thirties, and was the only younger male at my last department. I learned very quickly that certain precautions had to be taken...with female tutees, the door is never, ever closed. Had one student just back from Ibiza show me her tan lines...on her hip. I said something like, 'I wish you wouldn't do that.'

At the same time, I do wonder where these women were when I was an undergraduate and single. Probably sleeping with the English faculty.
A gay male student--who eventually failed my course on account of his sustained (and ultimately successful) efforts not to be in HH128 on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays--wanted to prove that he slashed his leg surfing and needed stitches. He had on shorts, so I decided to humor him, thinking he'd show me a shin or a calf. As he stood up and turned around I could see him start for his which point my office-mate, female, to whom he now faced, mock-screamed (like a house frau in some fifties dramedy who's seen a mouse). I bought her lunched and apologized, profusely, for my paralysis.

As I watched him I just kept thinking to myself, "There's no way he's about to do what he's about to do. There's no way he's about to do what he's about to do." Were it not for her, I'd have been stuck in that rut &c. ad infinitum.

All of which is only to say, I think you were right to help the prof. Sometimes students send us into fugue states...
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