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Awkward situation -- how to handle it (long post)

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I am a PhD candidate at a university. This situation is about an awkwardness between me and a faculty member. And I am seeking advice as to how I should handle it.


Several years ago, when we first met we both admired each others intelligence and often challenged each other with questions, ideas etc. At the time I was taking an introductory class he was offering but it was clear from day 1 that our research interests were different and once the class was over there would be no supervisor-student relationship. Soon after the academic admiration and playfulness turned into romantic admiration and playful banter. Admittedly mostly initiated by me, he would receive the gestures, notes, emails with a smile and always respond but very vaguely most of the time. When I got even slightly more realistic and to the point (example: lets meet outside the department) he would back off and not respond. But soon after he would start the game all over again with a gesture or an email. It was all purely platonic and nothing real ever happened past a smile and an innocent email passed here and there but it went on and on for a long long time. But not that nothing was ever said or done that was explicitly flirting. It was all very vague. Flirting and smiles were somewhat involved but ever so carefully and vaguely stated.


Until I finally got tired of the game and stopped it all together. One day when he tried to play the game again as usual, I was curt and to the point of being rude stopped him. Every attempt he made that day I replied bitterly and I couldn't help it. Since that day the emails stopped. The exchanged smiles and lingers stopped. I never again approached him. Only when he approached me and said hello I offered only a hello back. But most of the time I avoided even eye contact. It was just awkward and I didn't want to start it all over again. Briefly I was angry at him too but mostly any good/bad feelings have passed. I feel nothing now, except awkwardness.


The problem is for some (unexpected) reason, soon I will briefly be his teaching assistant. (I doubt he made the request for this even though it is possible, I believe it is because of lack of choice of the department at the moment). There will still be no research or collaboration of any kind or anything significant. It is just me assisting to a class he is teaching. He will not be in a position to evaluate me or supervise me of any sort. It is a routine task mostly, however it will require a weekly perhaps even daily communication, mostly in person. And I am sure it will be awkward.


My question is how to handle it. Since I have decided to stop the game, I have been very distant, and mostly never even exchanging a hello unless absolutely necessary. I DEFINITELY don't want to start the game again. How do I answer such an attempt of his if it arises? How do I differentiate between his normal friendliness and the game attempts? Do I have a talk with him before the semester starts? What is the best way to stay calm and focused?


Thanks for reading if you got up to here! And thanks for any suggestions.

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If he has no power over you, I say be cordial and do your job as the TA. I am very against flirtation with professors for this reason. It causes so many problems for all involved. But, in your case, do not be distant. As I said, be cordial and professional.

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While it lasted the feelings on my part were very intense. He was well aware of it. So even if neither of us aims to act on it, I am sure it will be on both our minds and knowing him I half expect him to do what he has always done...flirt, smile, try small talk.


How do I respond without being rude - which is always my first instinct with him now because I am tired of being dragged into it then getting hurt.

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