DEAR ABBY: I am a 38-year-old woman enrolled in night school. A favorite professor of mine is a 46-year-old woman for whom I had a great deal of respect. We had some mutual interests and became casual friends. We'd grab a cup of coffee now and then, and she'd call me at work occasionally to say "hi."
Over time, we double-dated with our husbands (who hit it off), going out to eat or see a movie.
It has now reached the point where my professor expects to have lunch with me two and three times a week. She singles me out in class as an obvious "favorite," and calls me daily at work. She gets mad if I skip a class and says she doesn't want to teach then. She has become rude and disrespectful to her husband, and spends more time and effort trying to be with me than with him.
Abby, I feel suffocated. My husband and I are the kind of people who respect the need for space. I can't handle a clingy friend. I sometimes wish I had never signed up for night school. -- SUFFOCATED STUDENT IN MADISON
DEAR SUFFOCATED: It appears your teacher has formed a crush on you. The woman may also have some unresolved emotional problems. Begin to extricate yourself by being less and less available for phone calls and lunch dates. Not everyone can accept personal calls during working hours, or make the time to indulge in involved conversations. You also have a right to lunch with others, or to have other plans. That is not a "rejection" of this new-found friend; it is creating boundaries, which you should begin doing immediately.
If your professor becomes punitive, discuss this with the head of the department or the dean of the school and ask if you can switch classes. This woman's behavior is not only unprofessional, but possibly unethical.