12 May 2008

Testing the "Coming Out" Waters at Work

So my female coworker was talking today about how her old boyfriend is getting married. Her first boyfriend, in fact. She paused with this inquisitively introspective expression and said, "My first boyfriend is getting married. And...I'm still unmarried." Her comparisons and reasons for finding this mildly galling and/or obfuscating are irrelevant. We're talking about me, here.

I saw this as an opportunity for a little fun. I quickly looked at her, shrugged and replied, "My first boyfriend's still unmarried." I nodded as I said so, being sure to appear candid and frank.

This frank proclamation, not secretly whispered, was quite audible to other coworkers busily clacking away at their keyboards. Not one flinched. They made every effort to be "minding their own business". Straight-faced (no pun intended), I grinned inside as I perceived their right-wing brains shifting gears wildly to process this bit of information into their slightly jolted conservative paradigms. I also found amusement in the imagined exchange of wagers upon my departure from the room.

She didn't miss a beat. She just nodded and said, "Right, but there's that whole geographical issue of having to move to another state for that. But for me..." I smiled wryly and said, "OK, so I've never had a boyfriend." She laughed (with that perfectly balanced expression that safely expressed both "I knew you were just joking" and "it's OK if you weren't joking") and went on with her story, and our other coworkers showed no sign of relief or skepticism. They were still minding their own business.

So I'm guessing she'd take the news in stride. Sometimes, it's just fun to test the waters to see how people might react. And sometimes, the funnest is when they hardly react at all.

Additional note: during a quarterly evaluation interview with my supervisor, she told me my teammates really seem to like me, and one of the girls thought I was just adorable. Then she said, "I know it's a personal question, but why aren't you married?" Scenarios blazed through my mind about how this could go. "What the @#$%, just tell her." "No, wait, you're in a cubicle, not an office. At least 3 other people will overhear, two of whom may not react well." "Oh, who cares? Just say it quietly." "And get into a conversation here and now? No, this is not the time or place. Besides, even though I'm not 'afraid' to tell her, it's really not her business." "Oh, but you could tell her now, and since she asked you in an interview, and you came out, they would certainly be hesitant to fire you over anything for fear of accusations of discrimination. Talk about job security!" "No, no, like I'd ever actually manipulate people that way. Besides, I don't need to." "OK, maybe a little bit." "No."

I didn't tell her. But I thought about sending her a link to North Star's web site afterwards. Just for kicks. Maybe one of these days.


Cyd said...

"Why aren't you married?" is a question that holds me in abject fear... and I hadn't ever considered a situation like yours! Other than something including the words "parole officer", and "first three wives", and "prison therapist said"** is there ANY good way to answer that question?

** I have never personally answered that question with any of those words. Or dated anyone who has.

The Impossible K said...

Haha! I loved that oh-so-rare peek into your oh-so-mysterious thoughts! And bravo for that witty little remark :) My supervisor is constantly asking follow-up questions about my dating life (or lack thereof)- I just wish I had the nerve/wit to come back with something as clever as that!
So... uh... how did you respond to your supervisor's question? A modest shrug?