Hello, world. My name’s Stephen LaConte, I’m a writer here at BuzzFeed, and according to my friends and family, I’m pretty darn good at giving advice.
Today, we’ve got this young woman, who was just asked out by her old high school teacher:
I’ll tell you the exact noise I made out loud, alone in my apartment, after reading your message: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
Look. I’m not gonna tell you that you can’t meet up with this man. You’re an adult, and you can date whoever you damn well please. BUT. Let me explain why this situation seems a little dicey to me, so you can at least consider the other side of this before you take him up on that date invitation.
First of all, there’s the obvious fact that he used to be your teacher. It helps that it was a decade ago. that you haven’t had any contact over the years, and that you’re both consenting adults now. And yet, I can’t help but think there’s something a little bit off about a man who, after taking on the responsibility of educating young, impressionable teens in their most formative years, can turn around later and pursue a romantic relationship with one of them. That, to me, is a red flag.
Is he committing any crime? No, you’re of legal age. But is he crossing a certain boundary between teachers and students, one that exists to protect young people from being exploited by folks much older than them? Maybe.
I suppose it would be one thing if you were 10, 20, or 30 years out of high school, and reconnected with this man when your teenage life was long forgotten. But that’s not the case here. You’re only 23 — still very young! — and just five years out of the school where you were, y’know, doing homework for this man and stuff.
My other concern has less to do with the teacher aspect, and more to do with the age gap. An 11-year difference isn’t obscene or unheard of, but it’s still a sizable gap, and worth examining carefully.
Here’s my general philosophy about age gaps like this. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a 23-year-old wanting to date a 34-year-old — but there might be something wrong with a 34-year-old who wants to date a 23-year-old. Why? Because the two of you are in vastly different phases of life. For you, dating an older man might seem aspirational, exciting, a sign that you’ve grown up and joined the “real world.” But for him, dating younger women might mean that he’s immature, childish, or unwilling (or unable) to date women his own age.
This, of course, is a sweeping generalization that does not apply to every older man dating a younger woman. But it applies to many, so it’s worth asking yourself some questions before you move forward: Does this guy struggle with dating women his age? Is he afraid to grow up? Are there weird things about him that a woman in her 30s would notice, but someone your age might not? Is he looking for a partner over whom he can exert power or control?
And hey, maybe I’m totally off-base here. Maybe this former teacher of yours is actually an amazing guy, and you two are destined to be together despite the unusual circumstances under which you first met. It’s possible.
But before you say “yes” to that date, I think you should take a good, hard look at this man, and ask yourself if the situation is sitting 100% right with you. It raised a few alarm bells for me, personally — and based on the fact that you chose to DM me about this, I wonder if it’s raising any alarm bells for you, too. Think it over carefully, and good luck.
TL;DR: I’m not giving you the red light, but I’m not giving you the green light either. This one’s a big ol’ yellow light! Proceed with caution.
That’s all the advice I’m giving today, folks, but if you’ve got any words of wisdom for our DMer, please share them in the comments. I’ll be reading…
Want more advice and updates on previous DMers? Follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places). And if you want to submit a question to be featured on the column, my inbox is always open!
P.S. Here’s a neat thing! On Thursday, I was a guest on BuzzFeed’s daily news podcast, News O’Clock, where I got the chance to answer a few more of your DMs from my inbox. It was really fun!!! You can find all the links to listen to the episode here.