My therapist insists on calling a certain character from my past “The Professor,” which I find grating and trite, but I can understand the appeal of such a succinct label. He was, not surprisingly, a professor of mine. He was my mentor during graduate school, and I was his… I don’t know. Technically, I was his teaching assistant. Actually, I was his forced labor, object of affection (harassment), pet, and emotional plaything.
It was an uneven relationship that got twisted and warped, and I had absolutely no escape. I wanted none of it; I encouraged nothing. I was dependent on his approval and affection for my academic success, and as he was the only faculty in my specialty area, there was no way for me to “switch” professors or even get help from any other authority figure. The program was fatally flawed in that it gave total, complete power to this one man. Years later, it shut down.
He dictated what I wore. He left Google searches of pornography open on his computer before I came in for my assistantship hours in his office. He demanded I take “field trips” with him to various local places, under the guise of teaching me something. He wrote me lengthy, personal, exploitative messages every day. He told me he wished he wasn’t married so he could fuck me.
There is so much more to this story, because it didn’t end after two years of graduate work. He furthered my career and gave me opportunities that ended up catapulting my professional life, but they came at a cost.
My mother knows none of this and adores the man. She asks why I don’t get in touch and clucks her tongue when I say I don’t know how he is when she asks.
I have estranged myself from him, going on 7 years. After one awful, soul-wrenching, nauseating experience at his hands, I cut all communication.