Last week my daughter turned 12, an age which puts her somewhere between a child and a semi-adult. I say semi-adult because, she likes to think that she is old enough to make decisions for herself. We let her believe that, sometimes. All other times, we hover over her and see to it that she doesn’t do anything crazy.
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The other day, I walked into her room and saw that she was cleaning her cupboard. I offered to help but she refused and said she’d do it herself and I was okay giving her her privacy. Not that I don’t snoop on her, I do. All the time. But that’s only because I don’t want her to make the same mistakes I did when I was her age. Well, not technically her age but a few years older. She is not too far away from 16, and I am reminded of a terrible mistake I made when I was that age.
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I grew up in a dysfunctional family, my parents worked really hard to make ends meet and feed their three children. So, they were hardly ever home because they worked long hours doing double shifts to give us a better life and to get us to college. Besides, we never sat down and talked about anything. At least, we never did with our parents. My elder sister, who was half a decade older than me didn’t want to hang out with her geeky younger sister, and my youngest brother had his own bunch of friends. So in essence, despite having a large family, I was lonely. I remember my sister having ‘the talk’ with me about periods and sex, because my mom was too busy with trying to make ends meet.
So when I turned 16, I was a lonely, confused teenager who made poor choices. It wasn’t hard to guess that I also made some bad choices in men, and one such choice was when I had an affair with my teacher. However, I was a pretty good student owing to the struggles I saw my parents endure, and I knew that letting them down would devastate them. So the one thing I did right was paying attention to studies. But sadly, that one good thing led me to do the most stupidest thing ever.
Overall, I did well in most subjects except chemistry, the one thing I just couldn’t follow. I tried hard but it was beyond me. I knew that if I didn’t do well in it, it could affect my chances of getting a scholarship funded by the school for the next year. On the other hand, our regular chemistry teacher was diagnosed with cancer and had to leave in the middle of the school year. He had left us stranded until the school decided to appoint a substitute teacher, who joined almost immediately.
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This new teacher was way younger than the previous old guy, who always bragged about his 22 years of experience. The new guy seemed like he was in his early thirties and was new to the town as well. He wasn’t exactly handsome, he was geeky like a typical chemistry lab rat. Most of the students mocked him and troubled him. His voice was soft and his spirit was low due to the constant teasing he faced in class. We knew he would quit soon, probably in two weeks.
One day after class, as most of the students rushed to get out, I saw that this guy sat down in his chair watching everyone leave. He then took out a book and started reading it. As I was walking by, I saw that he seemed defeated and felt sorry for him. So, I casually walked up to him and told him that I liked his teaching. He looked up and smiled and asked my name. I left after that brief interaction of ours.
The next day, he came to class and there was something different about him; he seemed more confident and delivered a great class. Once again, when the class ended, I walked up to him and said that I had enjoyed listening to him teach. This time, we talked for about 15 minutes about all sorts of things. In those 15 minutes, I learnt that he was married and his wife was expecting their first baby. That he found it really difficult to adjust to this new town and was passionate about basketball.
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Soon, we started chatting every single day, and every day, we both learnt new things about each other. I knew very well that our little conversations meant nothing to him, but I felt differently about him with each passing day. I built a whole fantasyland in my mind and was falling real hard for him. I knew it was wrong and that it would never amount to anything at all. He had a pregnant wife to go back to, and I had my dysfunctional family. I had to score the scholarship to get into college, but he had become irresistible to me.
I often daydreamed about him and wondered what he’d look like without his shirt on, and his pants too, of course. As soon as my thoughts crossed the line of our ‘friendship,’ I put a stop to my fantasies. I knew he had no such feelings for me, and I didn’t have it in me to ask him how he felt or tell him how I did.
The finals were fast approaching, and he knew how important it was for me to do well in my exams. So he offered to help me with chemistry with extra classes. On most days, we sat down in our classroom or in the lab going over some of the lessons I had trouble with. One afternoon, as we did our study in an empty classroom, I told him that I had a crush on him. He smiled gingerly and dismissed the topic stating that it’s common for students to feel this way sometimes. He had also finely pointed out that for him, I was a just a student and that I would get over this phase. That day, I went back home and cried, upset that someone had turned me down.
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The next day, I was really embarrassed to face him, so I refused to stay back for extra classes. Just then, he held my hand and said that he knew I awkward I felt but I didn’t have to feel that way because he wasn’t judgmental about me.
I shoved aside my crush in favor of his help in chemistry.
One winter evening, we stayed back until it had turned dark outside and he offered to drop me home in his car. I agreed after a little hesitation. During the drive, neither of us spoke until I felt his hand on mine. He told me that he liked me too and hated to see me so upset. We kissed.
Things escalated quickly from there, and the following day, we had sex during our ‘study’ session. I was 16, and although I had had boyfriends, I hadn’t gone beyond second base! This was the first time, yet it felt like my body had always wanted it. We had sex a couple of more times during those last few weeks of school. Study sessions became synonymous with us doing it in various positions.
So, there I was, doing something I shouldn’t have been doing. I had an affair with my teacher, who was married. A few months later, when he became a father to an adorable little girl, he ended it with me.
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I was shattered, I felt violated and used. Maybe I was just a child and he had coerced me, if my school got to know about us, he would have faced charges and would have been suspended for getting involved with a minor. Yes, I had given him my consent when we had sex, he never forced me, but I was still a minor in the eyes of the law. Maybe I was indeed coerced, because he was my teacher, an authority figure, and my grades did depend upon him.
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I was in a state of utter disbelief. Firstly, I felt stupid for doing something like this. I couldn’t believe that someone could have taken advantage of me despite me being fully aware of what was happening. The feeling was unsettling and my self-esteem took a beating. I had an affair with my teacher when I should have been focusing on things that regular 16-year-olds do. I should have had beers and made out with cute boys my own age, rather than having an affair with my teacher. The outcome of this incident left a scar on my heart, that took a really long time to heal.
The next few months were so terrible that I couldn’t wait to change schools or move out of town. I didn’t want to face him anymore because he reminded me of how foolish I had been. In my defense, I wasn’t foolish, I was naïve, I was innocent, and was led to believe that this was right for me. I couldn’t distinguish between the real world and my fantasy. I was caught in the dilemma and I ended up being hurting myself. He was the adult, he should’ve stopped what happened. But as the days passed, I slowly came to terms with the situation and put it behind me.
After all these years, when I look at my daughter, I fear and hope that she won’t fall prey to something like this. I make sure I am fully aware of her whereabouts, her feelings and help her make an informed decision. I didn’t have anyone to do that for me, but I know I won’t let that happen to my daughter.
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