I’m really attracted to a woman I work with. I know she’s not interested—I’ve definitely flirted with her and put myself out there, but she hasn’t taken the bait. The problem is, I’m not interested in anyone else right now—despite doing everything I can to meet people—so without someone else to focus my attention on, I just keep thinking about her. Do you guys think that me continuing to focus on this woman will prevent me from meeting someone else? My friends say yes, but I think if someone else interesting came along, I’d stop thinking so much about her.—MQ, Salem, Massachusetts
The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
Well, MQ, if you’ve read this column, you know that I’m against workplace romances. So you’ve gone against my previous words of wisdom by your attempts to pursue this woman. I have no idea if you’ll follow my advice this time, but I shall dole it out to you nonetheless because it’s my job and we all deserve second chances. (But go against me again and you’re out. Out. Got it?!)
Count yourself lucky that this coworker saved you from any potential workplace relationship. Now, save yourself and stop all this foolish fantasizing of what will never be between you two. A trusty old adage applies here, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” You know what you should focus your attention on at work? Work. Do your job, enjoy your time there as much as possible and get out! Then go live your life outside of work. Expand your hobbies. Take classes. Exercise. Go to the gym, parties, bars, parks, bookstores. This is how you’ll meet people—and women you don’t work with; there are a lot of them out there.
Discipline, my friend. You’re simply not allowed to obsess over your coworker anymore. The less you think about her … the less you’ll think about her. So practice. Your proposed remedy—you just need another woman to come along to distract you—is flawed. All that does is transfer your current obsession to this new poor victim. It’s your own mind’s lack of control we need to fix. It has nothing to do with some woman coming into your life, but instead is about you getting a life, and making it as interesting as possible. Use that active imagination to come up with ideas on what you can do with yourself. It will pay off once you take action, escape your fantasy world, and jump into reality.
The devil’s playground is no fun; the earth’s is.
The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
I like your friends. I’m guessing that you have such good friends because you’re an interesting and likable person. Let me know if I’m off base with this. So, Mr. Interesting-and-Likeable guy, shift your focus. Shift it away from her and toward you. Even if there’s no one else in the picture right now, there’s a whole world out there filled with interesting places, people, books, classes, music, sports … see where I’m going here?
Hanging around with her is like watching an ice cream sundae and not being able to have it—no fun. So what if there’s nothing quite as yummy in sight? Take this opportunity to bake a cake, memorize pi to its ninetieth place value, find a cure for the common cold, or just take in a ball game with your buddies. MQ, you don’t really know this woman. What you’re attracted to is how she makes you feel. She makes you feel alive. Go out and find other ways to create feelings of joy, aliveness, and interest in your life. Once you’re not so dependent on her for that “fix” of vitality, you’ll discover a whole cool world. Focusing your energy on her is a dead end. Recharge your system. Plug into something that can actually light up your life, not something that leaves you wanting in the dark.
The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
Why, MQ, do you have a work crush? You little office flirt, you! Work that Salem office!
I mean, you do spend most of your waking hours there bantering about useless office dribble, you might as well make it your personal time, too, I say. But if you’ve flirted with Little Miss Unresponsive for a while now and she’s not yet returned the favor, I think you’ll be doing yourself a favor to move on. (Insert Gloria Estefan’s “I can’t make you love me” here.) As the all-knowing Gloria says, “I can’t make you love me if you don’t, I can’t make your heart feel something it won’t.” Ah, Gloria, you are wise beyond your years, and stronger than any back-breaking bus crash I can name.
But I digress. Here’s what you tell your friends: fine, you find me someone interesting to flirt with and I’ll refocus my attention. Until that happens, I can silently stalk whomever I choose. In reality, if your affections are not returned, in time you will tear down the walls of the house complete with white picket fence that you’ve so lovingly built up in your mind for you and Little Miss Unresponsive and move on. (Or if some new hottie gets hired, you’ll just strike a match to that thought and start chasing some other skirt.) Bottom line is that it doesn’t hurt to have an office crush. Just don’t close yourself off to meeting others, just in case.
The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
Seriously, MQ, you need to get a life. You’re obsessed with some woman at work (have we taught you nothing?!) who isn’t even interested in you. That’s just sad. Why do you want to waste your precious crush time on someone who doesn’t want to be with you? Will it prevent you from meeting someone else? Maybe. But what I’m more worried about is that you liking people out of sheer boredom will prevent you from having a life, and ultimately, turn you into a boring, uninteresting person that no one will want to date.
What are your talents, MQ? Your hobbies? Your passions? Your obsessions that have nothing to do with people? Give it some thought, and then pick something creative and something physical to focus on for a while. These don’t have to be Herculean goals—you don’t need to paint a masterpiece or start training for an Iron Man (or Woman). You can draw faces on socks and become a mall speed walker for all I care, just put some structure into your days by giving yourself things to do and to create. Give your brain some different problems to solve other than how to make this woman fall in love with you while you’re warming up your Lean Cuisine in the office kitchen at lunch. You’ll be a more focused (on the right things) and interesting person because of it.