Long term reader, first time interacting.
I find myself in a series of new stages in my life. 3 years ago I finally was able to leave a 12 year (very toxic) relationship. I turned 40 last year and my only kid is moving out to Uni this summer. Lots of changes.
I’ve also started a new job and I’ve realized I have started to develop a pretty big crush on one of my colleagues. She sits in the cubicle across from mine and I see her every day. We work in a pretty strict office. Not a lot of work socializing happens and so, I don’t have a lot of chances to engage in casual chit chat. I assume she has a partner but I haven’t been able to confirm it. We did have a chance to chat at a luncheon and we found out that we live 7 mins away from each other.
I’ve never had a crush before and I don’t have any idea how to deal with it. I would love to ask her out but I’m terrified that it may backfire. I can’t gauge if she’s interested in any way because I also don’t feel like I look queer enough or at all and because my previous relationship was with a guy, the office assumes I’m straight. I’m sure she has no clue and it frustrates me to not be able to just walk up and say how much I’d like to get to know her.
Please unstraighten me
Dear Please Unstraighten Me,
Congratulations on getting out of a toxic relationship and on making (what sounds like) other positive changes in your life!
Know that YOU have the power to unstraighten yourself. According to Pew Research, just 28 percent of bisexuals are out about their identity. Bi folks are also less likely to experience the 6 common plagues of homophobia, from homophobic slurs to overt workplace discrimination. There’s a correlation here: By staying in the closet, bisexuals get to avoid all the negative outcomes of being out at work—but then they’re hurt when people read them as how they’ve presented themselves–straight.
COME OUT, COME OUT WHEREVER YOU ARE, bi and queer folks. Seriously! Those of us who can’t pass as straight (*hello) need you. There’s strength in numbers and workplaces are only gonna get less crappy if all of y’all come out of the closet already.
I don’t know if you identified as bi or queer, etc when you shacked up with toxic dude or if that’s a newer thing for you, but (see above rant) you’re gonna have to out yourself if you want to be perceived as unstraight. The best way to do that here is to work it into a casual, topical conversation with your hot coworker.
So next time you’re out getting drinks after work, you’ve got a decent opening. Talk about how you’re interested in getting back on the dating market because of some timely reason—it could be as simple as your kid getting out of the house.
Then when you coworker takes the bait and asks you about dating, you slip in the I-date-women card with something like, “Yeah…I’ve been getting so many creepy messages from guys since I put my bisexuality/queerness on my dating profile. It’s super frustrating!”
Assuming your coworker is a sensitive person, she won’t say “OH MY GOD YOU’RE A GAY TOO WHOA MINDBLOWN.” She’ll simply recalibrate how she thinks of you, from Jane the single Mom to Jane the single Mom/secret queer who might be Delia’s type.
If you need something subtler, start dropping lesbian pop culture references left and right until she thinks you’re either a super ally or secretly bi/gay.
Your coworker may be the kind of lesbian who loves adopting newbies into the fold, which means coming out could bring invites to lesbian movies, potlucks at her place, etc. Which you should definitely say yes to, so you can expand your social circle and find some new crushes.
Because dating your coworker is a major no. It’s so not worth it. I promise you! If one of you takes another job, you have my blessing but for now, just pretend like you’ve confirmed she has a partner at home and she is off limits.
If you’re all, “well, yeah, but see first crush ever since dumping toxic dude,” let me remind you…..
If she has any power over you at work and things go south, she could make work pretty fucking unpleasant for you — if she doesn’t retaliatory fire you or transfer you to some backwater office, that is. And sure you could try bringing a lawsuit, but that’s a lot of time, money, and energy you may not have when you’re unemployed with a kid in college.
In the #metoo era, workplaces are starting to bar colleague relationships, so dating could be against company policy and get your ass canned.
If you’re her superior, an office relationship could blow back on you, especially if there are accusations of favoritism. Or if things end and she goes to HR on you with a phony harassment claim.
No matter where you are in the office hierarchy, if the relationship doesn’t succeed, seeing her every day can be a torment for you—especially if you know she’s moved on. You might need to leave the job to find mental peace.
If you want to get to know her, do it because she seems cool and you value her time and company on the friendship level. You’ve got to nip those feelings in the bud, though, or you’ll be playing a dangerous game.