I first met Mr. C when I was a student teacher in the spring of 2009. At the time I was working on my Master’s degree in education. After my first week, I noticed that there was a cute young-ish social studies teacher down the hall. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak a word to me for the entire 12 weeks I was there.
Mr. C often tells me of the pains he went through to start a conversation, but he never did in fear of making a fool of himself (so he says). I would have to pass his classroom anytime I went to the bathroom, the copy room, or the work room. Sometimes he’d be standing in the hallway. We’d make brief eye contact but then I’d quickly shift my gaze to the floor. As someone who hated being called on in class, I know that making eye contact is guaranteed way to initiate conversation. This is especially true in bars and during demonstrations when people are looking for “volunteers.” As a teacher I do it all the time. I scan the room and eventually some hapless student will make direct eye contact with me. Bingo. So for someone as awkward as myself, I try not to initiate too many small talk-type conversations, and therefore I try not to make eye contact with strangers.
Admittedly, I also never said hello because I was never formally introduced to him. I really wanted to have a conversation with him, but the more time that passed without us talking, the more awkward and impossible the thought of initiating a conversation became. It was the inertia of non-conversation. It also didn’t help that he never ate lunch with the other teachers in the work room, which is how I got to know a lot of the other teachers in our department. Overall, Mr. C seemed very busy and somewhat aloof to my existence. We never spoke a word to each other, so he was forgotten soon after I finished student teaching. That doesn’t sound very romantic, but it’s the truth!
I love teasing him about those 12 weeks of failed communication, even though they were as much my fault as his. At the time, he was living with his sister and brother-in-law and to this day they tell me stories of him pining for the cute student teacher with the European boyfriend who was working at his school. You see, one night he had spotted me at the grocery store with my long-distance boyfriend who happened to be in town at the time. At that point he gave up any hope of having contact with me.
Dressed as ninjas on twin day for our school’s spirit week, 2010. We were still just friends at this point! ( personal photo)
Thankfully, we were given a second chance a year and a half later when I was officially hired to teach social studies at the same school. I would finally have my chance to talk to that cute teacher down the hall because we would be teaching the same subject. This time we were forced to interact with each other, otherwise the perpetual awkwardness of not speaking probably would have continued for another 12 weeks. We had the same planning period each day to encourage us to collaborate on our lesson plans. During the first few weeks of school we got to know each other very well. We were coming up with really great ideas for our lessons and ended up totally reworking the curriculum that had been used at our school in the past. The end result was higher test scores for our students, so we knew we made a great team—professionally at least.
But something else was happening at the same time. If I was having a bad morning or something at work had me in a bad mood, he would always find a way to cheer me up. I would stalk into the workroom all ready to unload, but instead Mr. C would make me laugh, and in a matter of minutes all the frustration I was feeling would be gone. I had him laughing, too. One time he laughed so hard he was pretty much drooling on himself. He was silly, kind, and most importantly, my freakishly inappropriate sense of humor did not frighten him away. I also saw that he was a great teacher who really cared about our students, which isn’t always easy where we work. I started to enjoy our mornings together more and more as the weeks passed and then one day I suddenly realized that I was forming a big junior high school crush on him. Thankfully (unbeknownst to me at the time), he was forming a big crush on me too.
But there were a few problems. First of all (and most importantly), I was still in that unhappy long-distance relationship. Secondly, we were coworkers, and let’s be honest about workplace dating—it cant get weird. I have very vivid memories of my brother warning me not to date someone from work. Finally, I had no idea how he felt about me, and no one likes being met with rejection. For a long time I pushed all those feelings back and tried to stay focused on work. But that was so much easier said than done!
To be continued . . .
Do you meet your significant other at work? Do you think it is okay for coworkers to date each other?