Hi Captain Awkward-
Long-time reader, first-time writer, etc. I have a question that does not appear to be covered by your existing advice about asking guys out. I am currently a student (grad, not college, if that makes any difference) and I have a crush on my TA. I’d really like to ask him out, but I haven’t had any interactions with him outside of class, and am running out of reasons to go to his office hours. I’m also unlikely to see him again after I finish the class, because he’s graduating soon. I don’t want to make things uncomfortable while he’s still responsible for me, but I’m not sure if I’ll even see him again after classes end, and I know I want to know, one way or the other. What do I do?
Oh, and I’m also not certain he is gay. Though that’s much less of a concern than the timing, for me, I guess.
You guys, I’m buried in work right now, so keeping it to the short & sweet ones for a bit.
I’m normally a “seize the day!” advocate, but I think this is a two-step process.
Step 1: “I’ve really enjoyed class with you and our discussions this semester, is there a way we can stay in touch after the semester’s over?” Maybe give him your card or email or whatever so the ball is in his court about staying in touch.
I say this as a young instructor in a pretty low-key, informal program where I get to know students really well through reading and watching their work AND it’s the school I graduated from so my students and I are part of the same alumni/film crew network. I’m usually really happy to stay in touch on Facebook with two caveats:
- It must be AFTER they are done with the entire first-year curriculum, so there is no chance I’ll be their teacher again and we can interact as friends & artists working on stuff.
- I like them personally and actually want to stay in touch.
I really, really like that being something that’s up to me to decide. Even if I like people a lot and think they are talented, not everyone gets invited to play in my social sandbox. Also, let a little time go by before you get in touch. I love to hear from former students, but the week or so right after a semester ends I DON’T want to answer chatty emails or make plans to meet for coffee or, ahem, “meet for coffee.”*
Step 2: If you do stay in touch, somewhere in there you will probably figure out a) if he’s gay b) if you still like him That Way once you’ve interacted outside of school and c) if he is actively engaged in wanting to communicate with you (For example: He writes back promptly, it’s easy to make plans with him to do stuff). Then it’s just like asking anyone else out – use your words, don’t build it up too much, be cool with rejection, etc. You can even use the delay when you do ask him out. “Okay, I didn’t want to say this while you will still my teacher, but I think you are great and I’d love to go on a date sometime.”
I know that doesn’t give you your answer before graduation, and I know that I’m talking about friendly staying in touch vs. romantic agenda staying in touch in my own example, and the fact that you are both grad students and of an age makes a more encouraging difference. I (fortunately!) don’t have any personal experience of students declaring their love for me before graduation tragically separates us. I suspect that if you ask him now whatever he says will be a variation of “That sounds like a conversation for after the semester’s over.” If you’re very, very lucky he’ll say it with a smile that means “Ask me again!” If you’re unlucky, you’re putting him in a position of being uncomfortable out while he’s grading you, to the benefit of no one. Even if he is really interested in you as well, he has more to lose than you do. I advocate being respectful of that, not least because it will score you points for thoughtfulness and consideration.
*Where “meet for coffee” is a euphemism for “read my feature screenplay and give me notes just like when you were my teacher, except for free now.” What did YOU think it meant, pervert?