Before #MeToo: I Was a Teacher, and My Principal Invited Me to a Romantic Weekend.

Joel Eisenberg

We handed the matter like adults, which may not always be possible in today’s judgmental environment.

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I’ll state at the outset I believe in shades of gray, and regarding this particular scenario I hold no lingering resentment.

My principal had taken a shot based on honest emotion; I cannot blame her for that.

I first noticed a personal interest on her part during a school Christmas party at a local restaurant. As an introvert back then, I had a tendency to be uncomfortable at parties unless I brought a date. At the time of this one, nearly 30 years ago, I was single and six months off a long-term relationship.

I attended alone.

My principal, a single mother whose husband had passed in an accident a decade prior, made the rounds and visited each table making sure the teachers were enjoying themselves.

Most were; after all, there was food, dancing, and an open bar. I thought the school went out of its way to show its appreciation to the teachers, but I found out later the party was at the principal’s sole discretion and expense.

The bill was paid by her in its entirety.

***

She arrived at my table, which I shared with teachers and spouses. I was the lone single person in our group and most of the couples were dancing at the moment.

The principal had also attended without a date, and she asked to speak to me privately.

We walked to the bar.

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you but it’s kind of awkward,“ she said. I well remember the brief conversation. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know what’s appropriate and what’s not so I picked my moment.”

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“No. I think I need a drink being honest.” She ordered a glass of white wine while I waited for what she wanted to tell me. She took a sip, and turned to me. “I want to talk to you about going away with me on a weekend.” I didn’t know how to respond. “Don’t say anything now. Let’s talk Monday.”

It was only Friday. We both had a weekend to stew.

***

Monday.

I entered her office on my accord after class. She was apologetic.

I told her it was okay, and that I appreciated how she asked me. She went on to discuss her husband’s accident, and the difficulties of being a single mom. She said she appreciated my efforts as a teacher, and hoped her actions toward me would not hurt our professional relationship.

I said it wouldn’t. I also said, before it came up again, “I’m just honestly not interested in mixing my professional and personal lives.”

She thanked me, and asked if she could level with me. It was quite a turn of events at the time as I was used to taking instruction from her and following her lead. I told her I wouldn’t say anything to anyone and asked what’s up.

“I want you to know I asked you for a romantic weekend because I was sincerely interested and still am. We’re not kids anymore … but you’ll never hear another word from me about any of it if you stay.”

”I wasn’t planning on leaving,” I said, which seemed to comfort her.

And that was that. We never again discussed the idea.

***

Shades of gray. She took an honest shot. I said “no.”

I was never harassed by my principal. She did not step over any lines as far as I was concerned. Others may disagree. To my mind we were two lonely and unattached people. The moments were awkward but I asked myself if I wasn’t working there, would my response have been different?

Honestly, no.

The larger question, though, becomes this: Under and any all circumstances, is it ever okay for an employer or work supervisor, regardless of sex, to made advances to an employee? Or, should such action be written into a single, formal law in an effort to further lessen the degree of alleged incidents permeating the news of late?

The #MeToo movement has done a world of good for so many, but should that movement lead to a specific standard?

Though the events elucidated in this piece took place three decades earlier, I elected to tell my story, which I believe is fairly innocuous, as so many public stories of others also are said to have happened years prior to the #MeToo movement.

I left the teaching field in 2003. I have not spoken to my former principal since.

I often wonder what has happened to her.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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