I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world! To be noticed and admired by the teacher I'd had a crush on ever since the very first day I sat in his class. It was one thing to flirt with a teacher who was twice your age. But to have him flirt BACK, well, that meant I must have been quite the prize.
I admit I was a flirt; a tease. A much bigger flirt, perhaps, than most girls my age. Looking back now; however, I see my boldness was only a cover-up for true underlying feelings of low self-esteem and vulnerability. The problem was he saw it too...
We didn't hook up romantically until I was in 12th grade (he was too smart for that); however, we maintained a strong level of familiarity and "friendship" for the entire 4 years I was in high school – socializing in and out of school - and confiding in each other whenever the opportunity presented itself. Recently, I have come to learn that this is a process known as "grooming." At the time, however, I thought it was just plain cool.
It was a private, religious school in Southern New Jersey and my parents paid good money to send me there. He was the high school band director and I was a student in the school who had to take a music class as part of the core curriculum requirements. I had no musical interest or talent whatsoever but, his class was not very difficult because he did not spend much time actually teaching it. Typically he would let the class hang out and play around, which he called a "free period."
My senior year I took an additional music class as an elective just so I could get an easy A. It was around spring that he announced to our class he had broken up with his girlfriend (who, I later found out, was a former student) and shortly thereafter we started dating. (I was probably the 4th or 5th student he had dated in his career by that point.)
It is very awkward and complicated to have your teacher as your boyfriend, for a host of reasons. First of all, what do you call him when other people are around? And there were a lot of secrets and lots of sneaking around but, slowly my peers and even some other teachers starting suspecting. There were problems right from the start. For one, the power differential was very imbalanced and the boundaries inconsistent. For example, once he sent me to the Dean of Discipline's office because he didn't like the way I talked to him during a minor quarrel. (It took a good bit of lying and squirming in the Dean's office in order to get out of that one.) Then there was a time he gave my friends and me beer to drink in the classroom during the school day. And the time he offered me an A for sex but I declined, so he let me settle for a B. He'd tell me how "sexy" he thought the school uniform was – especially the way it looked on me – all the way down to the pleated plaid skirt and knee socks... If he stood over my desk at the right angle, he could see down my shirt – he made sure to let me know. At this time I was 17 and he was 31.
At the time, I thought these things were funny, but now that I am an adult, a professional, a wife, and mother, I see that this is no joke.
The relationship dragged on and off for the next four years until I graduated from college. Our families and friends eventually found out because it was impossible to hide it for that amount of time. I don't think our families or friends liked it, but, I suppose there are some things you have to learn to accept if you can't change them.
The relationship was very off and on because there was always tumult. That was largely due to the power differential and the fact he was actively abusing drugs and alcohol – unbeknownst to me at the time. He could be very mean; however, I would always take him back because I felt some co-dependent need to help him out and be a part of his life no matter what.
Toward the end of the relationship there began to be date rape episodes – many of them – over and over again. I would cry because the sex had become so painful and beg him to stop but, somehow he could tune it out and would ultimately experience pleasure nonetheless. To this day, I blame myself for staying in that for as long as I did because of the long-term damage that it caused. Here it is, nearly a decade and a half later, and a day doesn't go by that I don't think about it, or have a flashback to it, or throw up thinking about it. It really began to bother me once I hit my thirties and realized I had reached the age that he was at the time. You see, I cannot fathom dating a teenager, I don't care what the circumstance! And that realization snuck up on me without warning.
This experience has impacted all areas of my life, including (and perhaps especially), my relationship with my husband. It left a long-term scar on my psyche that I am guessing I will have for the rest of my life.
I have to question the institution that fosters such a thing. Where were the other adults in my life? Where were the teachers and school administrators and where were my parents, my friends, their parents? Why do people choose to look away when such things happen under their noses, or pretend that they are normal when they're NOT. If people had stepped forward and prevented it from happening, boy would I have resented them at the time. But, you know what? I'd be thanking them now.