A reader writes:
In the context of talking about sex positivity in some of the advising we do, it came out that my coworker and I go to the same sex club. She has not been since pre-Covid but is planning to return soon with her partner. I meanwhile go almost every weekend. We are definitely going to run into each other at some point.
Our work is very close. We share an office and are a two-person department.
We agreed that we will probably see very different sides of each other than our work selves and we will practice selective amnesia when it happens. (Obviously we won’t interact with each other there outside of a nodding acknowledgement.)
I don’t really have a question I guess. I just thought, I wonder if this is one Alison has dealt with before.
Yes, thanks to an invitation from Dan Savage to weigh in on a similar question (warning: not safe for work), although in that case the question-asker managed the employee he had encountered at a local sex club — and that distinction really matters. As a manager, you really, really can’t put yourself into a sexual situation with an employee … which in that person’s case meant he needed to stop attending.
In your case, you don’t have those power dynamics so you don’t have the same strict imperative to stop attending if you’re both comfortable continuing.
However, things I’d think about:
• Do you completely trust your coworker not to share anything she learns about you at these events with others at work, even accidentally? If she slips up and does reveal something, how will you feel about that? Will there be any professional repercussions for you? (I know you might feel there’s a sort of mutually-assured destruction dynamic in effect — in that she can’t gossip about you without revealing things about herself — but it doesn’t always play out that way.)
• If you answered “yes, I completely trust her,” you still need to think about what could change down the road. What if you have a falling-out at work and the relationship changes? How about after you’re no longer working together?
• While you are peers currently, is there any chance one of you could end up in a position of power over the other in the future? If that happens, would you wish you had made a different choice now? (Obligatory reminder that at that point, one of you would indeed need to stop attending.)
• Is it possible you’ll see something at these events that will make it harder for you to interact with her professionally at work? (I’m avoiding listing out specific possibilities here, and it’ll depend on how out-there these events get, but there are certainly things one can’t unsee that one might later wish to unsee.) How about vice versa?
To be clear, these are all genuine questions, not ones I think you need to answer a certain way. You might consider all of this and decide you’re fine with the risk, in which case go forth and enjoy your mutual selective amnesia. Just make sure you’ve thoroughly thought through all the potential downsides first.