Clint Edwards knew he had changed with time, but it took one of his students to help him realize how.
I’m an academic counselor at a university. A few months ago, just after my 30th birthday, I was meeting with a student. Let’s call her, Sam. She was in her early twenties, and short with curly brown hair. She wore thick glasses and a brightly-colored raincoat. We talked about her classes, her roommates, her boyfriend… the usual. I genuinely enjoy talking to this student. She has a corky charm and an honesty that is refreshing.
On my desk was a coffee cup that some students made me. It’s tall and slender. It’s personalized with two of my more embarrassing Facebook photos. One is of me with a disturbing mustache that lasted just long enough for a quick photo. The other is of me in my late teens lifting weights in my boxer shorts. I was really lean at the time (six pack lean) and I had shoulder length two-tone hair (half dark brown and half bleach).
It was from a time when I thought I was cool and rebellious, and didn’t think twice about throwing a punch.
Now, I can’t recall the last time I was in fight.
Sam had seen the mug before, and had commented on the photos, but for some reason she brought it up again.
“I still don’t believe this is you,” She said, pointing to the photo of me with long hair.
“Well, it is. It’s from back when I was young and cool. Do I really seem that much different now?”
“Yes,” She said.
And then, like a dumb ass, I asked her this question, “How do you see me now?”
Sam sat there for some time, thinking. I could see her trying to sugar coat her answer. The silence was a little awkward, so I decided to make it easy on her. I said, “You probably see me as a nerdy, fatherly, academic type.”
This is how I assume most students see me, but I’ve never confirmed it. Nor had I ever wanted too. There was something about getting older, going through graduate school, having kids, and then getting a professional job at a university, that made me feel less attractive. Less fashionable. I suppose I was hoping for this student to say something like, Oh no! You’re still young and cool. All the kids have crushes on you.
But she didn’t. Instead she said, “Yup. That’s about it.”
And in that moment, I realized what little rebellious sex appeal I had in my 20’s was gone. It had drifted out of sight behind me like an island.
Sam and I talked a little more about her classes. We joked for a bit about how nerdy I was. How graduate school had ruined me.
The same thing is going to happen to you,” I said.
And she scoffed, and smiled, her smirk seemed to say, that’ll never happen.
Later that night I was at home chatting with my wife. We were in the living room. The kids were in bed. Both of us were on the sofa. I mentioned to Mel that one of my students described me as a nerdy, fatherly, academic type.
Well…” I said, “I came up with the description. She just confirmed it. Long story short, I’m not young and attractive anymore, but actually a person with responsibility and a closet full of slacks. You can leave me if you’d like. There must be someone out there who is rebellious and a little more badass that will have you. Someone more like the person you married. The one who threatened to beat up your ex-boyfriend. I’ll understand…”
I rambled on for a while, until Mel told me to stop talking.
The reason I still find you sexy is because you’ve grown into a nerdy, fatherly, academic type. We have kids. I don’t have time for another child. In fact, I think you’re sexier now.”
Then she winked at me, and gave me a kiss.
Mel has changed too, mind you. She’s become more self-assured, responsible, and maternal. She isn’t the shy girl I married, and I find her more attractive now than I did ten years ago. And in that moment, I realized that perhaps this was how marriage worked. Perhaps this is what is meant when people say, “we grew together.”
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