Dear Em & Lo,
I slept with a co-worker after our holiday office party. We were both very drunk, and while I don’t regret it, I don’t want anything further with him. Unfortunately, he’s giving me all the signals that he’d like for us to continue what was, for me, just a one-night thing. To be honest, I’d probably be up for the occasional booty call, but I think he’s looking for more. We’re both at the same level in the company, so it’s not like there’s a power issue, but it’s definitely getting more awkward every day. Any ideas on how to extricate myself without making things worse?
–Hiding Behind the Office Plant
We know this isn’t particularly helpful, but we’ve gotta say it: We told you so. What were you thinking?!
Okay, clearly you weren’t thinking; the eggnog was in charge. So your New Year’s Resolution for 2011 is this: follow our advice to the letter. When we tell you to avoid the mistletoe at your holiday office party, we mean it. (What, you thought we were just jealous because we work from home and didn’t have a holiday office party?!)
In the meantime, you need to extricate yourself from this sticky situation (was it literally sticky? Please don’t tell us you got kinky with the eggnog). Given that the oversized office plant isn’t always going to be there for you, it’s time for a little old-fashioned communication. Invite your colleague to coffee and break out the old “I don’t shit where I eat” chestnut–though we recommend using a more delicate turn of phrase. (Not the pen and inkwell one either, lest he mistake you for a 55-year-old executive who just slept with his secretary.)
But don’t go overboard and imply that you’re head over heels in love with him and that you two are star-crossed lovers divided by a cubicle wall, because he might just quit his job in order to be with you (even more awkward!). Just keep things as vague as possible. Tell him, “I’m feeling a little bit uncomfortable about what happened at the party and I hope we can still be friends.” Or make light of things and say, “I hope we don’t make it into the next company newsletter… in the meantime, do you think we can just chalk it up to the eggnog and be friends?” For his ego’s sake, don’t let on that you know he’s really into you…just act like you both got drunk and did something stupid, and let him play along. (If we know guys’ egos, he will.)
By the way, don’t consider this a permission slip, but if you don’t have the labes for a coffee date, then emailing him some or all of the above is better than saying nothing at all. It’s still wussy as all hell, mind you, but the sooner you break the news to him, the better.
And next time? Don’t make us say we told you so. It may seem as if we like saying it, but we don’t.
Still telling you so,
Em & Lo