NEXT LETTER >
Posted September 21, 1998
Video Tape Day. I can't even talk about it.
Dear Breakup Girl,
Congratulations on your site. I have a small academic problem for you.
I am a graduate student who is perpetually falling for academics/professors
-- of both genders. I am quite comfortable with the gender part of it, but
the academic part causes potential ethical problems, and in my experience,
the need to constantly attempt to bridge unwieldy generational boundaries.
I am 24, and the objects of my admiration tend to be at least around 35
or over with Captivating Intellects/Teaching Styles. Oh yes, and most already
have partners...I am not attracted to people my own age at all, as we generally
do not have the same mindset or priorities. Am I Mad? Just Unusual? Destined
to spend the rest of my days a lonely young spinster prowling the corridors
of the academy? This situation has already caused some emotional strains
Thanking you in anticipation of a reply with footnotes,
-- Girl Gradstudent
You are neither as Mad nor as Unusual as you might
like to (1) think. For one thing, you seem to have good taste. Captivating
intellect? Charisma? Good call! You're off to a better start than the folks
who write, "Dear Breakup Girl, The objects of my admiration are all
dull as a box of rocks." For another, you are, um, hardly the first
young woman to fall for -- or at least be attracted to -- sharp, charismatic,
Older men (women) who are ultimately unattainable (2). That's why I think
my response to you will apply to everyone out there who has considered --
or entered into -- an
See, Breakup Belleruth (4) comments: "Seems
to me you sexualize clout. I wonder whether, if you worked in a corporation,
you'd "have the hots only for the senior managers." (5) Granted,
the "intellectual" thing is, in a way, an animal of its own: witness
the recent spate of tell-alls by women tortured by tortured geniuses. When
you shack up with an Academic / Intellectual, you can at least tell (kid)
yourself, "Well, clearly it's not for his money....".
But. Money, clout: same thing.Yes, indeedy, there's
something about power, isn't there? Granted, Chair of the Renaissance Cartography
Department is nothing compared to, I don't know, Leader of the Free World
-- but within its own context, it's the same. And while I'm on the subject,
that's why the power of the Powerful Person in the "couple" cannot
always be considered directly or one-way-streetly coercive. When someone
powerful invites us to the picture show, it is not always against our will
(nor for reasons of actual compatibility) that we say, "Well, okay,
just this once." Or "Oh, there's a sequel? Okay, just this twice."(6)
Power, whether that of a Committee Chair or Commander in Chief, or a superhero,
is intoxicating (7).
Anyway. The difference in your case (8) is that
you don't just "admire" them, which would amount to enjoying the
buzz, but having the presence of brain to look elsewhere for actual sustenance.
Instead, you -- as you said yourself -- actually fall for them. As we've
discussed above, at some level, it's easy to understand why. But I will
ask you what I always ask writers-in in similar predicaments: what doesn't
appeal to you about people who are actually appropriate/available?
What turns you off so much that "emotional strain" is better?
I do believe that maybe you haven't met anyone "your age" who
in particular exercises your brain and fires up your loins. I DO NOT believe
that you are otherwise somehow "above" your peers in terms of
"mindset" or "priorities." I know tons of brilliant
people who are involved with brilliant equals. So what is it? Generic "fear
of commitment?" A dearth of (forgive this flabby term) "self-esteem"
that drives you to search out of your league rather than have to compete
directly? You tell me. All sources properly cited, of course.
In the meantime, yeah, quit prowling the Ivory
Tower West Wing. If you're attracted to brains and charisma, fine; just
don't work your mack by offering to help out at the department's Family
Picnic. Go where the single ones are -- seek out the hot young prodigies,
the funky grad-student lounge social events, etc. Either that, or do the
opposite, just to jar your world. Get non-academic friends to bring you
along to their karaoke nights with lawyers and journalists and electricians
and artists. Trust that there's someone out there who'll be captivated by
your intellect. Let these affairs of the heart and mind remain as dangerous/delightful
footnotes to a brilliant life-in-progress.
(1) I say "like to," because going around wearing a "Mad"
or "Unusual" badge gets you access -- that is, a nice, laminated
excuse -- to go places you really shouldn't. Repeatedly. Ad infinitum. Or,
at least 37 times.
(2) You really don't need me to footnote this reference, but I hadn't
had one in a few sentences. Oh, also, there was another such woman ("Professor
Rebound!") in last week's column.
(3) originally, a technical term/legalese signifying "dumbass roll-in-the-Oval."
(4) Belleruth Naparstek, psychotherapist, author, BG.com civilian-with-credentials
(5) E-mail correspondence dated September 17, 1998
(6) It goes both ways, you realize. There are also men who are turned
into [thong-wearing] puppies by badass women. For a variation on this one,
(7) People intoxicatable by power are the opposite of all the Florence
Nightingales in Shining Armor -- those who go around rescuing/rescucitating
the ne'er-do/date-wells of the world -- who have been reprimanded in these
pages. Well, actually: two sides, same coin. You siphon power (identity)
from "above," or you derive it from its absence "below."
Hey, this is heady stuff!
(8) And in that of someone else whose love life has been addressed in
a heavily footnoted document. (If I may say so for the record, if said document
were a porn movie script, the Whitewater case -- its originally intended
focus -- would be ... the plot.)
NEXT LETTER >