I once had a crush on a middle-aged professor with a receding hairline and a “dad bod”. Seriously.

My husband read yesterday’s post about the stranger in my dreams and our subsequent conversation turned to celebrity crushes and people of interest from our respective pasts. His (previously secret) fascination with Fergie’s beautifully toned tummy had this Black Eyed Peas fan in fits of laughter, while my confession had him raising his eyebrows in astonishment.

So here it is: I had a huge crush on my Political Science lecturer during my first year of tertiary education. I was 19, a determined student from a small dorpie in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, alone but excited to be in the big city. The big city was Durban. It doesn’t seem that big to me now, but back then, it was an urban jungle full of bright lights and colourful people, the likes of whom I’d never seen on the dusty roads of my country home.

He was in his mid-forties. He wasn’t particularly tall or particularly well-built. His hair was beginning to thin out and he had the beginnings of a spare tyre around the middle. And right about now, all you ladies are thinking: “Oh my word, was she nuts?!” But it wasn’t about his physical appearance. I didn’t want to shag him senseless on top of his wooden desk. No – it was his mind. God, he was clever, with the kind of intellect that comes from much observation of the world and its inner workings. He was a man who read everything and could quote William Shakespeare and Immanuel Kant with passion and precision.

His lectures were agony for me… I’d sit there, mesmerised by his slow, enunciated speech and his brilliant eyes, wondering about his past, while knowing (somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain) that I should snap out of it and pay attention or risk an “F” for the class. But I didn’t fail. My friends and I were library regulars, and when we weren’t scraping our 5c coins together to make 95c for McDonald’s ice-creams (like I said, I was 19 – and when I was 19, McDonald’s cones were cheaper and tastier), we were hitting the books in the back corner. John Locke, Thomas Paine and Isaiah Berlin were my teachers, my adversaries, my partners in discourse. And The Professor (he will, of course, remain nameless!) was the one who inspired my thirst for knowledge in this field. He was a gentleman as well as a scholar, as the best ones usually are.

The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of Evil by Interpol.


Janine Papendorf likes coffee, chocolate and wine. Not necessarily in that order. She’s married to a nerdy biker and they’re raising Cape Town’s cleverest child. When she’s not building Lego castles or watching old movies, Janine likes to send words into cyberspace. She’s a freelance writer and content strategist based in South Africa’s beautiful Mother City. Witness her obsession with pink flowers on Instagram, or contact her to collaborate on a project.

Categories: Personal

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