It must be like having an affair with a married man. There is the feeling that he has singled you out - that for you he is risking something very important. The responsibility this places on you makes the relationship seem all the more special, a romance above all others.
At 16, I found myself actively pursuing a teacher from my school. I had fancied him for a couple of years, and we had engaged in some harmless flirting, which by and by took on a more serious, pointed aspect. As the end of the school year approached, I decided to see just how far it could go. I asked him to come with me to a concert. He said yes. I could then lend him tapes of the band on the pretext of doing him a favour.
The excitement was wonderful, the agonising surprisingly normal. "Does he like me?" "Will he want to see me again?" If I'm honest, when I look back on that time, most of the thrill came from knowing that, yes, he liked me too.
But the concert was still two months away, and the summer loomed, barren as a desert. I simply could not wait that long, and asked him if he'd like to see a show.
Our first date. When he touched my hand or smiled at me, the knot inside me was drawn tighter. How would he react if I made explicit the real reason we were both there? That thing which had the two of us, teacher and pupil, sitting on a park bench in the middle of a summer's night, finally confessing a mutual attraction forbidden in everyday life.
The pat explanation for such a relationship is that the student develops a "crush". The teacher is flattered, and his judgement is so clouded that he reciprocates. But that's too simple. It goes no way to explain how two people can be so driven by their feelings that they will put themselves in an impossible situation.
Human behaviour is not determined by the "suitability" of a liaison. In everyday life, people meet and are attracted, and, in pupil-teacher affairs, it is not always a case of the teacher exploiting his position.
"I knew people would accuse me of taking advantage," said one teacher who became involved in a similar situation with a female student, "but there are times when you have to make your own moral judgements."
In the beginning, it seemed to work. Like normal couples, we shared common interests and beliefs. He made me feel alive, vibrant, clever and articulate, a vital part of his life. I stood up to him, made fun of his weaknesses, and loved and admired his strengths. The intensity of our feelings eclipsed the difficulties. To keep our secret was relatively easy. What proved trickier was explaining what had changed me from an inexperienced 16-year- old to someone with so much more savvy: lessons in life, like your school education, leave their mark on you.
I invented a mythical summer of love to convince people that I had gained my new experience more conventionally. I lied to my friends, when I should have been sharing with them these significant events.
I felt we were living two separate lives: one in school, one outside of it. He was petrified of losing his job: teaching, for him, is a vocation. I was excluded from many things. He thought he was being so brave, snogging with me in the stockroom. At the Christmas party, he drunkenly told a fellow teacher that he "really loved" me, but he never introduced me to his rugby friends, or his family, and I visited his home no more than five times.
Most of our dates were spent in pubs or on the back seat of his car. Sex was, paradoxically, a way of feeling "normal"; sex was what normal couples did. After a two-month trial period, we finally consummated our affair. The last words I head as a virgin were: "Well, there's no going back now."
We went to extraordinary lengths not to be found out. We would drive to a small town about 20 miles from school, I with my head on his lap to avoid being spotted.
Eventually his paranoia, and some horrendously close calls, soured the romance. He embarked on a relationship with a female teacher to draw attention away from us. He didn't tell me he was seeing her. He started avoiding me in school. We spent our last night together celebrating my 18th birthday.
I will never regret what happened. The experience has helped me to shape the person I now am. But while it was wonderful, if a girlfriend were to ask me if she should do the same, I would counsel against it. Otherwise, she might never afterwards be satisfied with the mundanities of ordinary life.
Bridget Jones is feeling fragile.Reuse content