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The Fun Of A Work Crush When You're Already Committed

He told me I looked amazing. I told him the same. He told me he was engaged and I told him I was still married.

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Illustration of a woman running into her former work crush while buying tampons.
Agata Nowicka
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It happened one night at CVS. I was purchasing tampons for myself — perhaps for the last time, as the signs of pre-menopause have been hot-flashing their neon lights at me for a few months now — when I saw him. That work crush from five years ago. That gorgeous, 30-something, funny guy who flirted with me and called me Mrs. Robinson before leaving for a better career opportunity and probably getting married.

So I did what anyone would do. I held up my box of tampons as a signal to Mr. 30-something that I was still young and hot and not in any way approaching menopause.

Realizing my stupidity, I quickly shoved the box behind a revolving display rack of batteries and said, “Hey!”

He turned to me with those same dark, sexy eyes. And just like five years ago, one glance and I was pudding. Or Jell-O. Or to quote my favorite children’s book author, I went boneless. (Any moms out there catch my reference?)

He told me I looked amazing. I told him the same. He told me he was engaged and I told him I was still married to the guy he met at the office holiday party, where my husband dresses up as Santa every year. I felt like a teen with high-school butterflies in her stomach, and I remembered how nice it used to be to have someone at work who thought I was special and attractive and managed to be gentleman enough to flirt without being inappropriate or crossing any lines.

And yes, my husband knew all about him.

Because there’s something safe about having a crush at work, if done correctly and if you’re smart about it.

Let me break it down: When you’re in a committed relationship, it’s only natural to find fulfillment in receiving attention from someone other than your spouse. It even helps you appreciate your partner and reminds you that you’re alive when you can spend a few minutes exploring that long-lost feeling of flirtation and discovery of a new attraction. But there’s a line between harmless flirting and something quite hurtful and ultimately destructive to your committed relationship. And by having your flirtation at work, and following basic, commonsense guidelines for how we behave in the workplace, that line becomes even clearer. A hand on someone’s arm while you laugh too hard at their joke may seem natural at a party, but in the office it’s unprofessional. A compliment in the workplace is fine, but we always have to remember that anything we say at the office can be repeated, be misconstrued and reflect on us professionally.

Behaving appropriately at work doesn’t cancel out the possibility of harmless flirting, but it does put some boundaries around our behavior, reminding us to stay in line between 9 and 5.

I left the pharmacy and went home (I think that box of tampons is still shoved behind the batteries) and told my husband about my encounter with Mr. 30-something. “He said I look amazing,” I teased. My husband had a good chuckle over it and agreed. I do look amazing.

I walked away from the experience feeling attractive but still in love with my husband. Because this Mrs. Claus knows how to be naughty and nice.