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TLDR: I have feelings for my TA, think she winked at me, and would like to ask her out after the end of the semester.

So my eyes do this weird thing sometimes when I'm sleep-deprived or stressed where it can look to an observer as if I might be winking. This can sometimes lead to problems for me for obvious reasons. However, a few weeks ago in class on a day when my eyes were particularly acting up I believe I might have received a first-- an unexpected return wink. My TA, turning around from the chalkboard momentarily, smiled and gave a very clear wink towards the direction of the room where I was sitting. I had been looking her way over the course of the class since she's the instructor, so it seems quite possible to me that she thought I was winking at her.

However, this was the final day of class before we transitioned to Zoom lectures due to coronavirus, and it's been really difficult to explore my suspicion that she's interested in me through online communication alone. I feel like the odds are low that she was winking at someone else. There were only about 15-20 students in the room, around 40-50% of whom are men. The seating arrangement meant that only about 5-7 people were seated in the direction of the room I was seated in. I wasn't really sure what to make of this when it first happened, but in recent weeks I've noticed myself developing feelings. When I contacted her with a question about an assignment, she responded by inviting me to toss some ideas around over zoom "for fun." I did a few days later, and she also made a point of asking me how I'd been doing with all that's going on and whether I'd be staying in town over the summer. I notice her tone of voice changing a bit when she talks to me, as well.

I really do enjoy talking to her and feel like I would genuinely like to get to know more about her academic passions and interests. As a 24-year-old re-entry student, I feel that the age gap isn't all that intense. In fact, I think I would probably have more in common with her than I would with most undergraduates. The area her work is focused in is also one of my intended majors.

With only two more weeks of instruction, I feel pressured to act before she loses interest. I was having trouble falling asleep most of the night last night due to my mind being so preoccupied with this, so I don't think I could feel alright with doing nothing and letting this pass. My plan was to continue to ask the occasional question during and after class and maybe schedule an office hours appointment for an assignment I genuinely have questions about, wait until the semester is over, and email her 1-2 weeks into the summer asking if she might be interested in getting coffee once social distancing restrictions begin to lift. Does this sound like a reasonable idea, or could it be that all the quarantine and social isolation is just getting to my head?

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    There's a lot going on here but...regardless of any other advice you get, please, for the good of anyone involved, do not under any circumstances say anything until the semester is over and grades are in. And after that, also just, given what I've read here...probably best to walk away. – Bryan Krause Apr 18 '20 at 3:40
  • #1 question: does she have influence on your mark? Will she be a TA of yours in the future? If any of these answer with "yes" - be very careful. You can utterly damage her (and possibly your) career. If she still has to grade you, she is strictly taboo, possibly even formally so in some unis. – Captain Emacs Apr 18 '20 at 3:45
  • She definitely won't be responsible for grading me after the end of this semester, as this is my last lower-division major requirement. – raglobetrotter Apr 18 '20 at 4:02
  • @BryanKrause Do you say that because of the department she works in? – raglobetrotter Apr 18 '20 at 4:15
  • This has been asked, and answered on here before - worth you having a search. – Solar Mike Apr 18 '20 at 5:48
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As long as you wait until after the semester is over and final grades have been assigned before asking her out, you are on clear grounds ethically. Personally I find the idea no less reasonable than the idea of asking anyone else out. You are both adults. She will either be interested or not. You will never know unless you ask her.

A good friend of mine started dating his former student back when he was a TA. They waited until the semester was over. They are now happily married with two kids.

Good luck! And don’t pay attention to the downvotes. Your question may not be the most pressing one the world of academia has right now, but it’s a valid question and is important to you.

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