What’s Going On: The death of workplace romance

This is the story of two men and two romances in two very different times.

The first man was instantly attracted to the woman when she walked into his place of employment. He had worked there for nearly 10 years and been promoted to a position of responsibility and authority. It was her first day on the job.

While her physical appearance prompted the initial attraction, he would learn she had brains and artistic skills to match. Plus, she was a kind and gentle soul.

She was the kind of person he wanted to get to know better. Who knows, maybe she was the kind of person he would want to marry.

The second man worked as a janitor at a school. She was a teacher a few years his elder but despite this difference in age and socio-economic status, he was undeterred. He described her as an “incredible” person, someone he too wanted to get to know better, so he left her a note wishing her a happy holidays. She responded, thanking him for the note and wishing him a happy holidays.

But he was nervous, unsure what to do next. In his words “I’d hate to pass up this opportunity to know her better.”

So, he turned to a familiar source that has provided words of wisdom for generations: Dear Abby.

Her response to “HER FUTURE FRIEND? IN SAN FRANCISCO” was anything but encouraging.

“Because you both work at the same school, there could be rules against fraternization or even sexual harassment that could put your job in jeopardy … that’s why I don’t recommend it,” she responded. “Appreciate the opportunity to work with pleasant, wonderful, ‘incredible’ people, but leave it at that.”

That’s very sound and responsible advice. It’s also very sad … heartbreaking, dare I say.

Unfortunately though, in the 21st century, workplace romance has in fact become taboo. It is love’s forbidden fruit.

Fortunately for the first man, his workplace romance occurred in a very different time, even though it was the same century. It was a time before Harvey Weintstein and Bill Cosby, Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh, and of course, the #MeToo movement.

As such, his workplace didn’t have a policy prohibiting “fraternization” between co-workers, so he mustered up the courage to ask the woman of his affection on a date.

She laughed at him. Literally. Ironically though, she said it was a “nervous giggle” stemming from the fact she had just started this job and was leery of a workplace romance going bad and her having to find a new place of employment.

His pride wounded the man sought advice as well regarding what to do next. However, he turned to a friend and co-worker instead of Dear Abby. And unlike Dear Abby, she encouraged him to try again.

So he did and this time she said yes.

Nearly a year later, he would ask her a much more serious question. She said yes again.

Eight months later, that beautiful, smart, gifted, gentle soul became my wife.

I’ve always thought it was God’s will that our paths would cross as they did and if I truly believed that, I’d also believe we still would have come together despite man made obstacles.

But when I read that Dear Abby article a few days ago, my heart sank a little. When love presents itself, the romantic in me says you have to chase it with all your existence as it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not doing so could be the greatest unknown tragedy in your life.

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Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.

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