I Dated a Coworker and Lived to Tell the Tale

Don't shit where you eat.

It’d be nice to follow that rule, but I rarely get the pleasure of spending time in the fabulous sanctuary of an apartment that I've created for myself. I work a full-time job in education — that’s your typical 40/week, except I work 60+ hours. (Insert side eye here.) When I should be attending social events and catching up with my friends, I’m checking items off a to-do list, feet propped up on my desk as the sun descends into the sky. Thus, I’m forced to both shit and eat where I work, and so it would naturally follow that I'd date at the office as well. Don’t judge me. (Or judge me.)

It started out innocently: Office flirtations, Starbucks coffee pickups, water cooler conversations. There was a Facebook friend request and an exchange of personal phone numbers and suddenly we were sitting across the table from each other at a restaurant.

He was handsome, conversational, and interested in my field. It was all I really knew about him, so far, but I was eager to learn more. As the night went on, I noticed that some of the things he said were on the wrong side of my fence.

Oh you’re the superwoman type huh?

You’ve got a lot of things going on, do you really have time for a relationship?

So…you’re the man of your household?

Girl…you can’t outdo your man now. You wouldn’t want that now, would you?

I responded to these comments with well-deserved rebuttals and annoyed facial expressions. I didn’t need a man who’d belittle my career or ask me to conform to traditional gender roles. I’d also just finished reading Betty Friedan again, so I felt extra empowered to tell him to get lost. But he still didn’t get it. By the end of the night he kissed my hand, saw me to my train, and said, “I can’t wait for the next date.”

I couldn’t wait to never see him again.

Alas, that’s not how it works when you’re obligated to see the jerk that you went out with last night every. Single. Day. The aftermath might go a little something like this:

  • You send him a text, letting him know that you aren’t that interested, without hurting his feelings: “So, last night was cool. However, I thought about it and I don’t think I’m ready to pursue anything. But I really look forward to this kick ass meeting we have tomorrow!”
  • He responds: “I understand. Maybe in the future.”
  • You send a smiley face. Decoded: Nope. Never. In Your Dreams. Hells naw.
  • You see him at work and smile awkwardly the first time.
  • Now, you wait for him not to get a clue. He doesn't.
  • Did he just walk up to the cooler and wink? Is he starting up flirtation again?
  • Did he just text you in the middle of a work meeting? “Looking sexy in that dress, miss.”
  • You adopt a curt demeanor and reply with “thanks.” You wonder if you can file this under harassment, since you were initially complicit in the flirtation.
  • You start to ignore him.
  • You watch things go horribly wrong.

It’s been a while since our fiasco of a date and I’ve learned quite a few ways to deal with his cluelessness, many of which were actually quite hilarious.

1. The Innuendo

I figured out that just as much as I don’t want my coworkers knowing about our date, neither does he. LIGHTBULB. I could use that to my advantage. I started to make use of work terms that could also be interpreted as innuendos, as in "We tried that curriculum and it didn't stick. Perhaps it wasn't hard enough for the student who prefers a challenge. I mean...difficult." Everyone else in the meeting remains oblivious, but he definitely gets the message — as evidenced by the fact that the unnecessary texts he's been sending all hour immediately come to a stop.

2. The Eavesdrop

This guy is still infatuated with me, so I know that when he's nearby, he's listening to what I say. I’ll unnecessarily talk about another guy I’m seeing who I’m so in love with (truth is, he doesn’t exist) or I’ll speak vaguely about a situation that seems incredibly similar to ours. He’ll get up and excuse himself halfway through the story and pretty much avoid me for the rest of the day.

3. Take the Power Back

The more I tried to stay away from this dude, the more obnoxious he got. He signed up for group projects that he knew I’d be interested in and laugh when I didn’t sign up for them. He hung out in the spaces where I went to avoid work when I was stressed. He pretended as if he didn’t know this bothered me and smirked as I walked by. After a while, I decided I wanted my power back. I started signing up for projects I liked, even if he was in the group, sitting in my spaces and putting my headphones on. I even told him to find somewhere else once. He didn’t expect this behavior from me and, after a few times, he gave up on his foolish endeavors.

But, the ultimate way to get a coworker you got involved with to leave you alone is to not start anything at all. (Lord, help me with all this fine, educated sexy around that is difficult to find in the real world.) Unless it’s absolutely true love and not an attempt to rectify the coffee-table-for-one, Netflix, and Chinese food nights…just don’t do it. It isn’t worth the trouble or the awkward hellos.

Hi.