Considering the American
condition of working too hard for too little, it should
come as no real surprise that the workplace could
easily be classified as the new social gathering space.
Forget about bookstores and bars. Forget about museums
and marketplaces and definitely forget about parks
and other natural havens. These days, it all comes
down to the water cooler.
This is where problems begin. I have been thinking
lately about work and about dating and about the oft-repeated
and seldom-heeded saying about dipping one’s
pen in the company ink. Personally, I have a bad habit
of falling for men I work with, men my father recently
summed up with the all-encompassing term, “low
lifes.” For the past four years, I have been
in and out of restaurant work, waiting tables and
bartending my way to the top. During those four years,
I have fallen for precisely six men, all of whom were
In restaurants, hooking up is standard stuff, considering
the hours and the caliber of the staff. There are
late nights and lazy afternoons and schedules that
refuse to coincide with the rest of the worlds.’
But mostly, these things never work out. Restaurants
are inherently political, and working with people
in a close and physical environment means the potential
for union, sure, but it also means the potential for
the inevitable and disquieting breakup.
Okay. Shacking up with coworkers is one thing. But
what happens when the shack unshackles? If we are
to see the world in political terms, what is the most
diplomatic and intellectual way to get through a breakup?
I write this all with the recent burden of having
been dumped, again, by a coworker. It occurred to
me, at the moment that I was left crying on the corner
of 22nd and Park Avenue South, that my approach had
been wrong. Like the foundering Democrats of last
year’s election, what I needed was a new game
On Saturday, I had lunch at Otto with a friend and
her boyfriend. We were drinking Pinot Nero and discussing
my latest romantic disaster over Coach Farm goat cheese
when I was given some very good advice.
“Wait fifteen days,” my friend’s
boyfriend said. “Don’t call and dial down
the psycho just a bit. You’ll be fine.”
Had I messed up? I wondered. I had left the ex an
apologetic but, thankfully, sober message at 4 a.m.
the night before. Had that been the wrong approach?
“No more phone calls,” I was told. “Guaranteed
he didn’t listen to the whole thing anyway.”
“What should I do?” I asked.
“And he’ll come around?” I was
convinced that my boyfriend’s decision that
our relationship had ‘run its course’
(his words, not mine) signified a very definite decision
that things were over and that I would, once again,
be relegated to avoiding a fellow server by the kitchen
“Of course he will. Fifteen days, I’m
telling you. He didn’t stop liking you. He just
got freaked out.”
This seemed too simple a response. Was it possible
that the politics were that easy to understand? Stop
calling and he will come crawling back, tail between
his legs? Women like me expect a more calculated and
complicated reaction. Women like me believe that people
are complex and that emotional reactions cannot be
turned on or off.
Women like me often find ourselves battling the politics
of the dating world. (Should I call? Shouldn’t
I call? Why hasn’t he called? Why isn’t
he sitting around intellectualizing the past 24 hours
the way I am?) Women like me are relentless in our
attempts to understand what is going on and, worse,
women like me are too direct to play the game—“You
don’t play the game wrong,” my friend
Ashley once told me. “You refuse to recognize
that it even exists.” Women like me never understand
what makes these things run their course.
Whether or not my friend’s beau was right remains
to be seen, but there’s no harm in trying. My
approach, after all, has been less than successful.
So I’m switching parties. Say goodbye to the
touchy-feely Democratic approach to dating and hello
to the cold, hard Republican one. And if this works,
who knows? Maybe I’ll change my voter registration.
Hannah Selinger is a weekly contributor to Raw