It was 9.49am on a Monday – I walked into the office and slammed the door.
Jess looked up, “what’s wrong with you?”
“Ok, firstly, I didn’t mean to slam the door, it just slipped – secondly, what’s the deal setting me up with Charlotte? The angry bitch from hell.”
“Ok, firstly,” Jess made air-quotes, “she’s my friend and secondly, I’m sorry you didn’t have a good time.”
“A good time? I felt like I was on a date with some psycho-killer – like Charlize Theron in that film.”
“Yes, that one.”
“She won an oscar for that.”
“I don’t care.”
I sat and put my feet up on the desk.
“What a nightmare, Jess. She was really weird, I made my excuses after about an hour. It was so obvious. Anyway, what now? We all work in the same company – in the same building, for god’s sake.”
“You’ll just have to avoid her.”
I turned on my computer.
“Yes, brilliant, I see her at the managers’ meeting every Tuesday.”
“You’ll have to start bunking off.”
“You’re not helping, you know. Also, why the hell did you set me up with someone from accounts? The one department I cannot avoid. I mean, what if I need a purchase order, eh? Did you think of that before you set me up with the wicked witch?”
“Don’t worry,” she said, “I can get you one. In fact, I think we still have a load.”
She opened her bottom drawer.
And here we have it – friends are always encouraging one another to ‘go for it’. Female friends (forgive me, Jess) are the worst, perhaps it is the notion of love against the odds that compels them to push others towards humiliation. I had pursued a work colleague but I had been reckless, foregoing the usual safety measures in a valiant attempt to capture the queen.
Rather than a full-frontal assault, I should have stealth-bombed my way to victory – it was as if I had learned nothing from computer games.
My usual strategy is to allow the tension to slowly build, bringing it gently to the boil – like some gaudy old kettle – whistling when ready. I would then pour myself into a group social event and let the romance brew. Despite the ill-judged, and frankly creepy, metaphor, the method worked. Instead, rather than lurk on the periphery, I made my desire publicly known. I was the little boy in Love Actually, running through the airport at the end, diving through the legs of inept officials.
Only in this story, the sweet little girl turns out to be a raging gorgon.
The group drinks ploy is always the safest. The benefits of using the work-social is that it provides excellent cover. My preference is the ubiquitous ‘birthday drinks’, unlike ‘department drinks’, no one thinks it strange when you pitch up uninvited. The aspect I find most appealing is that, should it all go wrong, it’s always possible to melt back into the night and resume your collegial relationship in the morning. Albeit, with less gusto.
Ultimately, I don’t know if dating a colleague is worth it. Sure, there’s flirting by the photocopier, knowing looks across the office, and suggestive emails however the penalty for failure is severe. I know this, and yet I don’t really believe it. Work is just another place, admittedly, it’s an important place – but is it any less valid a meeting place than, say, the Internet? At least work affords us the opportunity to see potential partners at their worst – stressed, bedraggled, and unenthused. Online dating, on the other hand, is the endless summer – loaded with selfies and filtered-photos of people reposing on the beach; ‘bios’ espousing a, hitherto undisclosed, love of culture and country walks.
It is the honesty of the workplace I like – the unvarnished reality of Monday morning grumbles, and busy diaries.
It’s the monochrome crucible in which we toil, bitch, and send passive-aggressive emails. However, it’s also a place to enjoy acidic gossip and genuine friendships. A good company can be a second home, a place where everything makes sense. I’ve found that a work fling can only serve to enliven the experience. It’s tabloid-fun, mucky and straight-forward so, despite my latest debacle – long may it last. That’s what I say.