Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of the internet where BuzzFeed readers like you can DM me for advice.
Today, we've got this young woman who's got a huge crush on her high school teacher, and thinks they might even be flirting. What should she do? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:
Alright, let's start here: There's nothing "bad" about a high school student having a crush on their teacher. That's a perfectly normal teenage experience that, in my opinion, doesn't really violate the terms of your current relationship at all.
You aren't doing anything wrong, just by having feelings for an adult in your life. You would, however, be doing something wrong by acting on those feelings. And there are a couple things in your message that raised red flags for me in that department. So, let's break this down.
The first red flag: possible flirting. You write that you're picking up some potentially flirtatious vibes from this teacher, but you're not sure if it's just in your head. For the record, I hope it is in your head — students can have crushes on teachers, sure, but the reverse is obviously not true. Any adult who would pursue a relationship with a minor is a predator and abuser. Full stop.
Is it possible your teacher is flirting with you? Sure, maybe. Some adults are indeed predators. But if she is flirting, you should remove yourself from that situation immediately. That is not a person who has your best interests at heart. That is a person who could hurt you. If she's flirting, change classes, avoid any alone time with her, and please tell a trusted adult what's been going on.
But your DM also notes that this flirtation might be more of a fantasy — something you're "telling yourself," as you put it. That seems plausible, too. Sometimes when we have crushes, we see what we want to see, not what's actually there. Your teacher is a decade older than you, she's married, and most educators would never cross that line with their students. Unless you're leaving out more incriminating details, it seems possible that the "subtle flirting" you're noticing is actually just a teacher being kind to a student. At least, I hope that's what it is.
Which brings me to the second red flag: your need for "closure" with this teacher, which you say you could get via "rejection." And here's where I think your crush on Ms. Teacher reaches a hard limit: You're entitled to all your feelings, but you are not entitled to a response to them. This crush is something you can indulge privately all you want, but it would cross a line to bring it to her attention. This includes flirting with her, asking her out, dropping hints, making a move, etc. Please don't do any of that.
There's a hard boundary that must exist between educators and students, and it would likely make your teacher really uncomfortable if you ever attempted to cross it. And if it didn't make her uncomfortable, well, that'd be even worse, because it would mean you were dealing with a potentially dangerous abuser. No good can come from this, either way.
You write that you know you can't ask this teacher out, so maybe this whole spiel I'm giving is unnecessary. But I'm writing it anyway, because I think it's important to emphasize: Yes, your only way out of this is indeed to move on.
So, how do you do that, without the closure that rejection might bring? Well, first of all, I think you have to remember that this kind of student-teacher crush is always best left to fantasy. Sure, in theory, it's fun to imagine yourself in a relationship with this person you really admire. But I promise you that the reality of it would look and feel quite different. Imagine how disturbing it might be to see this role model in your life suddenly assume the role of, well, a predator in your life. If you and your teacher were ever to date, it would signal that something was profoundly, deeply, fundamentally wrong with her. What healthy, well-adjusted adult wants a relationship with a minor? Would you want to be with that person?
In my opinion, teacher crushes should be treated like celebrity crushes. They're perfectly harmless, so long as you understand that they're not meant to actually manifest in the real world. Privately, you can crush on this teacher the same way you might with, like, Kristen Stewart. But you're not going to end up with either of them, and you don't need closure to accept this reality.
So, instead of focusing on what this crush can't be, I think you should focus on what it can be: an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself. What are the qualities you most admire about this teacher? Does she change the way you view yourself and the world around you? How does this crush make you feel about your current girlfriend? Are you happy with her? Would someone else (not your teacher!) make you happier? Or are you better off single right now, as you navigate this period of self-discovery?
You're young, and you probably have many more crushes ahead of you. Not all of them are going to end in relationships, but ideally, even the unrequited ones will leave you with more clarity and perspective about who you are as a person, and what you want out of life. That's the best possible outcome you could get from this crush. Everything else is best left in the imagination. Good luck — I'm rooting for you.
THE FINE PRINT:
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