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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cute crushes

La liberté guidant le peuple, par Eugène Delacroix

Mother (that's M in the comments) has teased me about my love for classical music from the romantic era, so this post is a reply to her. ;-)

Yes, just for you, mom, here is an ancient tale of a cute teenage crush (that you might remember... do you?)

Back in the time I was a freshman in college, I became profoundly infatuated with my philosophy professor. Not my fault: not only was he cute, he was also knowledgeable and witty. What's an 18 year old girl to do?

One minor detail: he was 24 years older than me (precisely; I checked), and since he was so well-preserved, I had a little bit of a shock when I found out. But he was still younger than my own father (barely!), and his kids were much younger than me, so I figured it was still OK to fall for him.

As Nancy Huston explains it in her book "Âmes et corps : textes choisis", student crushes on a teacher are not necessarily pathetic; in fact, they can be a very powerful intellectual motivator. Especially when half of the attraction is of intellectual nature (and this was indeed the case with my philosophy professor). I was so motivated to do good in his class (probably from a remote and partly unconscious desire to impress him) that I studied and worked like I had never done before. And sure enough, it showed in my grades (I still remember that 98% term paper!) (and the smile on his face when he handed it to me!)

Before you go on to imagine things, let me be clear: nothing ever happened between us (other than fascinating discussions about philosophy). He never did or said anything that would have even bordered on inappropriateness. I remained silent on my attraction as well. The only thing I did was to insert subliminal messages in my essays. For an example of irrational decisions, I wrote "If a middle-aged man was to fall in love with a younger woman and decide to leave everything behind for her..."

(OMG. Makes me laugh so much now that I think about it!!!)

That teacher was also a recreational swimmer, and he often came for a little workout in the pool I was supervising. I never tired of admiring his body glide in the water (I swear I was watching every other swimmer with as much attention... albeit with much less pleasure, understandably). The first time he saw me in the lifeguard chair, he said hi, and then added "I'm glad you're the one watching the pool today. I know I'm in good hands". Which, on an enamoured 18-year old, had the effect you can imagine. I simply smiled, but I spent the next hour repeating in my mind "Please drown, oh, please drown, so that I can save you!"

I will never know if he knew. I will never know if he even noticed that the music I played at the pool was all the favourites he'd told us about in class. But I had a wonderful semester, a wonderful report card, and a renewed love for philosophy.

School of Athens, by Raphael

(For those of you fascinated, like me, by music and neuroscience, here is an astonishing video of Bobby McFerrin demonstrating the power of the pentatonic scale at the event Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus)


  1. That film would indeed be boring, even with wonderful music ;-))


  2. Hmmm... Movies in which "nothing" happens are not necessarily the most boring...

    A lot can be said between the lines and in the looks you give each other...

    But I guess you're right, it would have been much more exciting if he had actually done something inappropriate... hehehe... ;-)

  3. The best grade I ever got in Spanish was the semester I had this very cute Puerto Rican teacher!

    I was a truly motivated estudante!