In an office with mostly marrieds – happily or unhappily so – it’s tough to be a solitary gal. Like it or not, something about a single in a group of couples stands out; it's like you’re a lost soul waiting to find your “place.” Now, we could argue whether or not the grass is greener on the single/married side of the fence, but at the end of the day, you’re still just eating grass, so I try not to even get into it.
Still, mingling with married coworkers in professional-social situations can be a tough line to walk. It’s important to be friendly but not too friendly; professional but not stuffy; and most importantly neither too self-depreciating about your ring-less ring finger nor too threatening with your wantonly single hedonism.
Between tables set for 10, the romantic and intimate atmosphere of Bill Miller’s Castle and a live band which would inevitably play a slow song now and then, I’m sure you understand how daunting the thought of showing up alone to the Christmas party was - I actually felt more pressure to find a date to this year’s office party than I did to my senior prom!
I inventoried my “appropriate office party date” options, which didn’t take me long at all since I had none. I was going to need to creatively network. Now, I know skipping the office party is not an option, at least according to both one of my favorite work-and-life advice bloggers Penelope Trunk and NPR, but that didn’t stop me from threatening my group of peers with my own dramatic rendition of, “If I don’t have a date to the Christmas party…I’m not going!”
The Boss Lady jokingly offered to put an ad in the paper for “Holidates.” I know people do that, but it just seemed too risky. I mean, this wasn’t Monday Night Football at Buffalo Wild Wings – this was a work-sponsored event, there are rules and etiquette and survival guides about it!
Luckily, my friend SJ came through for me – she knew a cool drink of water from Madison who was able to come. The Drink was ideal for this situation – tall, personable, dashing – the exact kind of guy I want all of my coworkers to think I date on a regular basis. I enthusiastically agreed, bought his ticket and made plans to meet up with him and a few friends at before the party.
Since nothing is ever that easy for me, the night started off with a double-decker stress sandwich. I worked late, inflicted dozens of nicks on my knees shaving, broke a nail, ruined two pairs of pantyhose, gave up on styling my hair and ended up late and stuck behind a Volvo driving 30 mph on Route 1.
Once I met up with everyone, the stress melted away quickly and I relaxed into the party. Every once in awhile, I looked around and didn’t see The Drink nearby. I’d find him on the other end of the room conversing with mutual friends or discretely texting his ex. I tried to give him space without abandoning him – yet, another tough line to walk.
When we sat down for dinner, the conversation was mostly pleasant and sometimes awkward. I learned the word of the day was “bough” and I need to move my game to Cabela’s on the weekend if I want to find the real handy men in Connecticut.
Next, came dancing. The Drink danced a few numbers with me, did an admirable job hiding his disgust in my tendency to lead and didn’t even laugh at me when I repeatedly busted out a few Zumba moves because, let’s face it, I am a terrible dancer. Then, he politely excused himself to the bar and left me to get jiggy with my friends.
Finally, there was the inevitable conversation in which he told me about his recent break-up and I awkwardly stumbled around my own thoughts on life and love and sex. There always comes a point in a conversation in which I realize, “BAM – that’s why I’m single.” It’s because I have a tendency to speak before I think – it’s an affliction that’s plagued me my whole life – seriously, ask my mother.
As The Drink poured us each another glass of ice water, he offered the thought, “Sounds like you just don’t know what you’re looking for. You won’t find it until you know what you want.”
We were interrupted before I could disagree.
Mid-night. The party was over and it was time to dash out into the parking lot for a farewell hug before driving home – alone.
On my way home, I thought about what The Drink said. Sure, I may not know exactly what I want, but I don’t think that’s the one factor determining my singlehood. Quite the contrary, I think I’m open to a lot of possibilities, especially the possibility of being surprised and swept off my feet. Until Stop & Shop starts carrying an inventory of eligible bachelors, I just don’t see making a list of what I’m looking for as an effective way of getting a guy. Besides, what’s the romance in that? If you get exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll never be surprised to find someone even better, right?