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Coveting a Coworker

Friends are great for giving advice, but when it comes to tough love, sometimes strangers are best. See the advice about a budding office romance from the 4-way panel.
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Dear 4-Way,
I’ve got a huge crush on a guy I work with. I think he’s interested in me too because whenever we talk, our conversations are very flirty and we email and IM about random funny stuff throughout the day. I’ve told a couple of friends about my crush and they’re split 50/50 on whether or not I should pursue something with him since we work together. My argument is that I spend so much time at work, where else am I going to meet people? Besides, if you go on a date with someone, you only get to see their “date” personality, not what he’s really like. This guy seems to be the full package: hot, smart, funny, nice, and of course, gainfully employed. What do you guys think?—EM, Cincinnati, Ohio

The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
My hair stylist was recently telling me about an inter-salon love affair that had gone wrong and she said something very wise, which you’ve probably heard before: never shit where you eat, EM.

I understand that it’s hard to meet people. I have no idea how old you are, but I can tell you that meeting people definitely becomes harder as you get older. People start pairing off like Noah’s Ark and all of a sudden, your number of potential mates is dramatically lower—and those hunky coworkers start to look good.  But allow me to get a little Miss Cleo on you and predict a couple of potential disastrous and uncomfortable futures.

1) You date. You break up. Then one day you see him in the kitchen spreading cream cheese on his bagel and you wonder why he never gave you (or your breasts) the same loving care and attention to detail. You talk incessantly about his shortcomings as a human being and lover to any coworker who will listen. You gain fifteen pounds and become known as Bitter Office Girl Who Dated the Guy in Engineering.

2) You date. You break up. He dates someone else and brings her to your holiday party. You get drunk and do a disastrous karaoke rendition of “I Hate Myself for Lovin’ You,” then inappropriately grope your assistant. HR puts you on probation.

3) You date. You break up. He becomes your boss. Or you become his. Awkward.

4) You date. But you don’t break up—oh no, you get married, EM. WTF??! This might be the worst possible case scenario because then you never get a break from him. Until you get divorced. And guess what? You still work together even then! What fun!

Work should be a place where you can focus on work and not have to deal with the insecurities that dating often brings. There are plenty of other “full packages” walking around out there; they just may be less readily apparent than your hot coworker’s package.

The straight  man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
Imagine me, if you will, wielding a sickle, because I will be playing the dating advice grim reaper this month. It’s not because I think I look good in black, or because I have a fondness for wearing hoods and showing up unexpectedly during your day … though that might be interesting. No, I’m playing that role this month because you April questioners have forced me to.

EM, I can’t imagine you haven’t heard the common warnings about dating co-workers. “Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.” “Office dating if Off limits.” And the more direct, “Don’t s#$% where you eat.”

I don’t see much of an upside to this for you. IM flirting is one thing; acting on it is a whole other thing. Here’s what I see if you act on this and go out with him. You IM him one day. “Wassup? R U up 4 drinks l8ter? (Smiley face, wink.) He replies, “U buyin’? JK. LOL. Sure.” You reply “K. TTYL.”  So, you two go out a few times, fool around, carry your little office secret around for a little while and it’s all exciting and sexy. Then word gets out and you’re in the office gossip fodder.  This continues for a few weeks until one of you—probably you because you’re the one writing to the 4-Way about taking this to the next level—will want more and the other won’t.

Your after work get-togethers will get less frequent, your IMs will all but disappear, and he’ll start to avoid you at work and outside of work. You’ll get hurt, he’ll date others; you’ll hear about it at work and will be trapped in a cubicle of hell.  Work will become a place you no longer want to go, and your performance at work—and perhaps even your career—will suffer. You’ll end up without a job and a man and you’ll have wasted a lot of energy and time. Does that sound worth it?  So RIP, IMs. Get your work done, log off, and go meet someone outside of your workplace ASAP, or you’ll be SOL.

The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
I think you hit the nail on the head, EM—you don’t even need our opinion on this one. As you said, you spend the majority of your waking hours at work right now so it only makes sense that you’d meet someone there with whom you have something in common. Chance are, you have more conversation there than you do anywhere else in your life and you’re surrounded by people that share the same interests. In your friends’ defense, an office romance is taboo if it doesn’t work out and if one of you has to leave to avoid an awkward situation. But hell, what if it does work out? Start a company together and stop working for The Man! Come on, you know you’ve thought about it already.  As I see it, you have a few options:

Plan A) Find out where he goes after work to play and figure out a situation where you can show up and not be perceived as a stalker. (Note: avoid the trench coat and dark glasses with floppy hat look.) You can always play it off as “Oh, I forgot you were going to be here, too” and see what he’s like outside of the office.

Plan B) Go grab coffee together while you’re on a break from work to get to know him a little more. No harm, no foul.

Plan C) Have sex with him in the supply room while no one is looking and get it out of your system.

Whichever plan you choose, you’ll do the right thing if you go with your gut.

The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
I have several suggestions, yet I wonder how ready you are to hear them.

If you want to continue your office flirtation, here are a few points to consider: Can you handle working in the same space with him if things go sour? Has he been involved in office romances before? Can you withstand all the office gossip and co-workers knowing the intimate details of your dates? If you’re serious about being a professional, you won’t go far in your company if the word in the office is you did “xyz” in bed with so-and-so last night.  It is a plus that you’ve gone beyond his “date personality”—but you only know his “office personality.” And I don’t know about you, but I’m quite different at home than I am at work. You really have no idea who this guy is outside the office. In fact, all you know for sure is that he’s a good flirter and is gainfully employed.

EM, you need to have a life outside of work. If you have nothing going on outside of the office, you’re not only limiting your dating pool, you’re limiting your life. If you want to meet interesting guys, you have to have passions and interests of your own. So join a belly dancing class, learn to knit, take an exercise class. It doesn’t really matter what you do; simply choose something that catches your interest. Once you are engaged in life, you will meet engaging men.

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