"I have a serious crush on a co-worker. I'm not sure if he has a girlfriend. Any advice on how I can begin to drop hints so that it's not overwhelming but I can get an idea if he's interested and available?" --G.B.
My usual approach to dating is "no risk, no reward," and I encourage women to be proactive about making it known that they are friendly, interested and available to date. One of the ways to do so would be to chat up the guy you're checking for, and if the conversation goes well, casually suggest a hangout session -- maybe lunch some day? If he's remotely interested, he will follow up. During the meal, to get the information you want, you can ask him, "Are you in a relationship?"
If he's tied up in a situation, keep things strictly professional and about business going forward. (Being the other woman in general is bad enough. At the office, it's career suicide.) If he's single, you'll know by the way he follows up after lunch whether he's interested. If he calls and/or asks to hang out again: He is. If he gives you the silent treatment or just the bare minimum of conversation: He's not.
Can't read him? Err on the side of caution and drop it. If he is interested at the level you want, he'll make it obvious, at least after hours.
I've given you what you want, but now I also have to be a responsible killjoy and tell you to be careful what you ask for. Despite the prevalence of office hookups -- 47 percent of people said they had observed a workplace romance, according to a study by employee-benefits provider Workplace Options -- I'm no fan of them, and I'd actually discourage you from pursuing one.
That's not a popular opinion these days, since the same study found that 84 percent of employees ages 18 to 29 had no qualms about dating a co-worker. And many supporters of office hookups point to the fruitful marriage of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, one of the most idolized relationships in the nation, which started in the workplace.
Still, I have to caution you. I haven't forgotten an interaction between my dad and his co-worker. They were discussing some ongoing drama between two dating colleagues and the friend crassly responded, "You don't [crap] where you eat." What he meant in his less than pleasant way is that you don't make a mess in a place that is essential to your well-being, like at the job, where the check pays for your food, shelter and other essentials.
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