I have an office boyfriend.
We met about three months ago. I wrote an article for our internal work paper on my summer adventures in the Balkans. Minutes after the article appeared online, an email signed by a stranger – let’s call him Philip – popped in my Inbox. Philip loved my story. It was so well written and put his beautiful homeland in a favourable light in front of the entire bank. I appreciated the compliment and responded to Philip. That was the beginning of our month-long office relationship.
One should not confuse Philip with a real life boyfriend, though. An office boyfriend is a derivation from the concept of an office spouse, which arose in the US a few years ago. This phenomenon goes hand in hand with the increasingly long and stressful working hours in close proximity with co-workers, often those of the opposite sex. An office spouse is someone with whom you probably spend more day time than your official second half. Someone who knows your intimate secrets, your date of birth and your favourite tea flavour. Yet not someone you are married to in real life. The only statistics I have found on the subject are from Vault.com, a US-based media company for career information, which estimate the number of workers reportedly having an office spouse at 32 per cent. Chances are the number is growing as we speak.
Since the concept of a spouse still seems rather distant to me, I opted for an office boyfriend instead. Philip was a perfect one. When I came to the office, it was his email wishing me good morning out of my Inbox. When I was feeling down, it was Philip’s number I dialled for some friendly advice. When I felt like a coffee or tea, Philip was my default companion. When it came to the President’s speech, Philip was the only one honoured to hear my honest opinion. We wouldn’t leave the office without saying goodbye in the evening. Some things were much easier to be shared with Philip rather than my actual boyfriend. It was all a rather rosy experience.
Naturally, there were some hidden dangers. What if our office affair grew into something real, especially given that our everyday work mostly involved un-exciting things like number crunching and reviewing legal documents? I brushed that aside. A touch of careful flirtation we had in the office never crossed any imaginary limits, and there was NEVER any sexual tension. Besides, Philip’s real life girlfriend would put Gizelle to shame, and my actual boyfriend was a rather nice bloke, too. I even introduced Philip to him to avoid misunderstanding.
Some researchers advise us against meeting our office partners outside work, precisely for the danger of them growing into something real. However, going for drinks didn’t seem to affect Philip and me. It actually helped us to understand each other better and strengthen our office relationship. The same researchers suggest that talking about your office relationship at home may not be the best idea. I would disagree with that. Keeping your office affair in the open reduces the chances that it will ever grow into anything else. Besides, my real life boyfriend didn’t seem to care too much about my daily mentions of Philip. Or perhaps it was me he wasn’t all that fussed about.
Another problem with office relationships is that they may become a topic for colleagues’ gossip. Some witnesses even nicknamed Philip and me “regular lunch buddies” – and were probably thinking beyond that. Most people I work with tend to be married with children and lead rather ordinary, settled lives. Discussing a suspiciously behaving office couple is fun for them. I didn’t really mind it too much, though. I actually found it rather fun myself.
The biggest problem (and a hidden blessing) with office partners is that they only last as long as the employment itself. My office boyfriend’s 6-month contract is due to expire in mid-January. I could not be more devastated by the fact. Who will send me a “dobro jutro” message every morning and web links to Oliver Dragojević’s songs throughout the day? Who will listen to my gossip? Who will be my coffee buddy when everyone else is busy? Life in the office will indeed be pale without my Philip.
In this respect, I have decided to run an announcement across the bank. An announcement about a reasonably-looking 26-year-old female Analyst from the Power & Energy Utilities team looking for a new office boyfriend. My demands are anything but high. I don’t really care if he happens to be a smoker or not. I could not be fussed about his age – 20 or 60 would do equally well. I have no preferences whatsoever as far as appearance is concerned. And he doesn’t have to come from former Yugoslavia, either. I am truly expanding my generic search criteria!
The main characteristic I would however ask for is to understand my jokes – meaning laughing loudly verbally and sending me HUGE smiles in written form. He also has to respect my personal space and not feel jealous when I choose the swimming pool during the lunch break rather than his company. It would be great if he could compliment on my appearance every now and then. And if he could introduce me to some of his cute witty friends outside work, that would be perfect, too.