Q: There’s a great woman at work. We both are recently separated from our spouses and have been going to after-work happy hours for the last few months. When I tried to step it up a notch and go out for dinner she declined, so I backed off.
We both went to a co-worker’s housewarming party. Later it turned to “dirty dancing” and I found myself out on the deck with her, making out. We had too much to drink to drive, so we ended up asleep on the same couch snuggling all night. In the morning I gave her a kiss and told her I’d call that evening. When I did, she didn’t answer, so I left a message.
Monday, I stopped by her desk. She was embarrassed and said, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have drunk so much.” I told her I wasn’t sorry and had a great time. She kept trying to change the subject, so I left, but told her it was OK, it was a fun party. Later she stopped by my desk and referred to “the walk of shame.” I said, “Don’t feel that way, we had a good time.” She replied with “You’re so laid back, that’s cool.”
What is going on in her head? I am a believer that an intoxicated person rarely says (or does) something that wasn’t thought out before.
A: While inebriation often prompts us to act on impulses that would normally stay quelled, it doesn’t necessarily bring our deepest buried feelings to the surface. Sure, your co-worker has thought about sleeping with you, but that’s because she sees you every day, and she happens to like you. We all do it. It doesn’t mean she daydreams for hours about frolicking naked together along a beach, pausing only to make raucous, passionate love. (Gross, I’m sorry I typed that.) An opportunity to satisfy her curiosity presented itself, a sprinkling of booze loosened up her inhibitions and you two had a fun night that one of you seems to regret.
Even if she had more than a casual curiosity, the drunken smooching might have killed off any desire. Sometimes kissing your crush is the worst thing that can happen — suddenly, the smeared-lens vision of Superman shoulders and twinkling eyes becomes the up-close reality of chapped lips and greasy hair. The mystery is gone, and you’re left with the disappointing truth that your fantasy object uses gas coupons and wears the same pants to work three days a week. Not so sexy anymore. I’m not saying you’re crusty or ugly, but once the pinot noir haze cleared, you might not have been the prince who twirled her around the dance floor all night, you know?
Not surprisingly, a 2011 Business Insider survey revealed that 54 percent of us have had romantic encounters with co-workers. While those encounters often don’t go anywhere (less than 30 percent of people have actually dated a co-worker), it’s safe to say that they’re so commonplace they can usually be forgotten. You get a little tipsy at Friday happy hour, you get a little gropey in the parking lot afterward, and Monday morning becomes the moment of truth. Most of the time, it becomes immediately apparent that you’ll never make out again, and the golden rule — We Shall Never Speak of This Again — is respectfully obeyed.
It sounds like that’s what’s going on in her head. She’s likely more embarrassed in this case because there were witnesses whom you both see every day. Just obey the golden rule and leave it alone. If she wants to bring it up, she will. Don’t hold out hope for that complicated office romance and just be happy you had a great time to remember. Or not remember.