Way back when, my since dear departed brother and I worked together in the classified advertising department of one of the UK’s leading quality newspapers. No big deal – except that we were the only two men in a team of twenty. Were we tempted? Read on.
You would think perhaps that faced with such odds it would be hard to resist or avoid some kind of romantic liaison with one of our female colleagues. Indeed the guys from next door in production used to envy us saying that we must feel like we had died and gone to heaven every day. Er actually, no!
If anything we felt like the two David’s - Attenborough and Bellamy - trapped in a human zoo full of females, observing the species at close quarters. During our years there we experienced everything. From the skirt inadvertently tucked into the tights when coming back from the toilets (one of our colleagues, not me or my brother I hasten to add. I would look rubbish in a ra-ra skirt), through to one of the ladies going through the menopause through to more collective PMT than you could shake a stick at (Please note though that shaking sticks at pre-menstrual women, whilst I haven’t tried it myself, could be harmful to your health and result in said stick being inserted somewhere where the sun don’t shine).
Don’t get me wrong, I love women. But when you witness their habits whilst in a group at close quarters over a period of time, it’s an insight, let me tell you. Here’s a random example – one of them came back to the office after lunch having had her hair done. To a woman they cried “oh doesn’t it look lovely”, “oh, wow, that so suits you”, “that looks so much better, “it takes years off you” etc. etc. Then, as soon as that girl disappeared out of the door there was a collective cry of “what the f*** has she done to her hair?” Bitchiness isn’t a strong enough word!
I mean with men, at least we know we're going to get a “you look like a retard”, “what the f***” or “who cut your hair, the gardener?” comments from your fellow males. That’s how we roll ladies. Up front, yes. Slightly creative with the truth, uh-huh. But never bitchy! It's simply par for that particular course.
I digress. There is a point to this ramble. We will eventually get to it once I’ve downloaded a few years of angst!
Fast forward maybe 5 years and I was working at an advertising agency in London and had just split up from a shortlived first marriage. When the settlement came through I felt like the runner up in a sort of game show kind of way i.e. she won the house and all that was in it, I got a suitcase full of clothes and my golf clubs. Sorry, I’m digressing again.
So there I am at this new workplace, more or less an equal male female ratio of staff, not long out of a failed marriage and armed with my observations of the species from my previous employ. There was absolutely no way was I going to get involved with a work colleague.
I only went and started a relationship with the Director’s PA! Had I not learned anything during my Attenborough years? Had a failed marriage not suggested to me once bitten twice shy? Nope. Not at all. Years of experience totally ignored.
I make it sound disastrous. It wasn’t. Well not for the first two years. Most people will tell you that working together and seeing each other outside of the workplace isn’t a great idea. For us it went swimmingly. So swimmingly, that we got engaged. So swimmingly, that we found a house and were in the process of buying it when, two days from exchanging contracts and just a day after her birthday, her mother of all people told me, out of the blue, that her daughter was seeing someone else.
Bombshell time or what?
It came to pass that she, and it makes me laugh all these years later, had run off with the biker that delivered artwork to our office. I’d been dumped for Easy f***ing Rider!
Not only did I have to deal with that rather shocking fact. I also had to sit opposite her at work every day for a further three months, listening to her small talk with this axe throwing, bandana wearing guy. (Don't take my description too seriously. He was doubtless a charming chap underneath it all))
'So how did it all end' I hear you cry? Well, hit a man when he’s down – I was made redundant! Those of you who follow my blog may recall me referring to an ex who ran up to me after that particular axe (can we banish the word 'axe' please. it has too many painful memories) had fallen, crying and apologising about how badly she had treated me. Yup, that’s the very same lady. Still at least I was out of there. Out of the hell that my workplace had become.
There’s kind of a happy ending though, because, a few months later I met somebody new. She worked in the same business, but not in the same building. Or Street, Or Postal zone. What do you think I am, crazy? And, over twenty years later we are still together. Did I say 20 years? Why, you don’t get that for murder, but, having been in that office romance that ended so badly, I feel that I’d already served time during those awful few months sitting just a few yards from the woman who changed the course of my life.
Oh and there’s one final nice twist. Being in the same business, one evening my new lady and I were at a media function that my ex was also at.. She sidled up to me and said quietly “God, she’s a bit young for you isn’t she”, to which I was able to reply truthfully “actually she’s older than you darling. She just looks younger”.
Did I really say that men aren’t bitchy? I clearly picked something useful up from my time in that lady biased advertising department, and, after all, Mrs Hell’s Angel did deserve it at the time.
A true story by the way, perhaps slightly embellished. Moral of which is – office romance? Think very carefully about what you might be getting yourself into!