India Choquette is a writer, a trainer, a teacher, a breakfast sandwich eater, a person in love with a person, and a FOrmer Vermonter living in New York City.

Workplace Romance

“Is there a reason you didn’t ask me to cover?” she asked.

At first, I was a little confused. I had just finished my full shift at work. I clearly didn’t need coverage.

Then, I realized, she was asking me why S. didn’t ask her to cover. S. and I usually work together on Sundays, and since she had to leave an hour early today, she had asked another coworker to come in early to finish the tail end of her shift. And the coworker confronting me was angry because she had made it known that she was looking for hours. She felt snubbed.

It’s a little more complicated than that, of course. We are all trainers, and I don’t want to get into the minutiae of workplace shift trading. I personally haven’t changed my schedule in years, and I love my job. I try to leave it at that.

S. and I met at work. We both still work there. I know you aren’t supposed to meet people that way, but that’s how we met. We didn’t actively pursue each other in any kind of way. We were actually both being pursued by other people at work, but that’s another whole story.

I remember the first time we had a conversation. We were in the locker room, and I asked her what her deal was. She told me she was a dancer, and I told her that I thought dance was the most heightened form of human movement. We were both exhausted at that time in our lives. I had just quit a job working for a trainer who was sexually harassing clients. I had given my notice quickly, and I didn’t have another job in place. I was worried about my finances, and I was killing myself trying to find a way to make ends meet. She’s told me since that she was afraid of me because I was so to the point. When I talk, I don’t pretend my statements are questions, like many women do. I’ve never learned to soften my speech in that way, and I come off as aggressive to many women. S. was always cold. In temperature, not in personality. She would wear several sweatshirts and sweaters. I thought she was interesting. I made time to talk to her.

Months and months later, at the beginning of our relationship, S. offered to quit because she knew that I wasn’t thrilled about being with a coworker. I knew it was an awkward road, but I didn’t want her to quit. I didn’t want her to have a leave a place we both liked and wade through job applications in search of some professional standard that is probably arbitrary in the first place.

Because we are a couple at work, it has led to some interesting interactions. And that’s putting it mildly. One of the male members had a twenty plus minute discussion with us. He decided we were faking being together. His argument was that women often pretend to be lesbians to get attention. He didn’t believe us, in fact, until he checked my Instagram on his phone. I remember sitting at the counter with my back to him as he scrolled through my feed. Because lady couples are “usually” jokes. The hard part about this was I had to shut my mouth because he was a paying customer. He also still follows me.

There are other not fun parts. I could a write a dissertation on the weirdness-es, small and large, we have experienced at work. But, personally, I find that the joy of being able to spend more time together far outweighs the negatives. We like seeing each other at work. And we like our jobs.

It wasn’t until I after I left work today that I got upset. I was headed uptown and eating a breakfast sandwich from Starbucks. My coworker was clearly furious with me, but I thought she was just being ridiculous. I just assured her that S. had asked for coverage, and that she hadn’t run it by me. But I wish I hadn’t blamed it on S. I should have blamed her sour attitude on her own assumption. She was equating S. and I. She was saying, S. asked for coverage, therefore I asked for coverage.

S. has her own life. I am lucky enough to share it with her, but we don’t always think the same way and make the same choices. I don’t feel the need to dictate who she should ask for coverage any more than she dictates what I write in this blog.

I wish I had been thoughtful enough to tell my coworker that, mind-blowingly, S. and I are completely different people.

Instead, I’m left drinking a coffee in a café and stewing because I can’t decide if she melded us together because we are two women or because we are a couple who happen to have the same job. The former is her fault, but maybe the latter is ours.

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