My walk of shame was quiet and shamefully romantic. Shining sun, empty streets, Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder and I was still drunk. I let myself in, showered, made myself up and the pulled on an identical dress to the one I wore last night. Why? This was my work uniform, and my Saturday night lover, my work colleague.
Our relationship at work had matured from a slight coldness (he was five years older and worked there full-time, I was a student who needed some cash) into transparent flirtation rapidly. One afternoon he wrote me out his number on a slip of till roll. I didn’t call for a couple of weeks, not out of coyness or playing the 1950s teenager, but out of forgetfulness, apathy, disinterest. But then I did; we went for drinks in the cheapest bar in our part of town, then in a more expensive bar, then another, until we were drunk and broke and horny and we had sex in my new bed.
This form of seedy rendezvous continued for a month. Of course, these nights were punctuated the morning after by the first glimpse of eachother at work: initially intense, ‘let’s carry this on in the stockroom’ glances, later on, awkward and apologetic. We became the hot topic once after I gave him a pretty severe lovebite whilst we each turned up to work hungover but refusing to say where we had gone the night before. In any case, it became apparent that whilst I was falling for him, he was losing interest. Finally on one staff night out it transpired that I was one of four girls he’d fucked from work and he was now seeing one of them seriously…that night I walked home in the rain, dramatically alone, listening to Love Is a Losing Game by Amy Winehouse.
This has been my first work/sex encounter and in all honesty, it scares me. High school dating was remarkably easier! Those that were fucking were always in a relationship, there was never any ambiguity. And if you liked someone, you weren’t inflicted with the task of telling them, God no! Your friends or the power of gossip did it. But, sadly, Western civilians are expected to work for a substantial period of their lives and workplace romances are as inevitable as hating your first boss or getting over-taxed. So just what is the etiquette of workplace sex?
Firstly, it is important to keep it a secret until you are very sure it will go from fucking-to-relieve-the-strain-of-a-ten-hour-shift to seeing eachother on days off or, holy shit, an actual relationship. Personally, if I was found crying in the staffroom by a co-worker I’d prefer to lie about the reason rather than giving the entire staff something to gossip about. There is this, and a general instinct to save face in front of someone you’re dating. Secondly, and slightly contradictory to my first rule, never have sex with a co-worker who A. You would only sleep with drunk, B. You would be ashamed to admit you’ve slept with and C. Is known as the office player. Points A and B are all about avoiding the other end of the scale: being the receiver of some kind of unrequited love when all you wanted was a quick fuck or company. I’m not quite sure what would be worse; being the office bitch/bastard or the young wallflower who got screwed over.
Point C is harder to follow. This is because the office player is often hard to distinguish but vitally, because it is hard to resist their charms. In a world full of mundane filing/serving/writing/whatever you do, the slightest whiff of romance in the air can skew your sensibilities. Before you know it, asking to borrow a pen from said love interest becomes a scene from Brief Encounter and a shared lunch break is a potential lifetime of looking into one and other’s eyes. Stop. Drink a coffee. Get back to work.
The real point, point D if you will, is that sex, love and relationships are all about risk. Have sex in the staff toilets if you can risk losing your job. Get into a relationship with a co-worker if you can risk becoming the workplaces’ celebrity couple. Fall in love with the guy if you can risk him not feeling the same way. But if you’re young, I’d recommend sticking to those you meet in bars or the supermarket. A workplace relationship is pressurised; by the time you’ve reached the second date you’ve probably spent over 100 hours together. If that idea scares you, delete his number and get another job. I did.