Who Dates a Co-Worker Anyway?
Friday, April 7, 2006
The first time Steven Ginsberg asked for my phone number, I was sitting in the middle of the newsroom on a weekend, answering phones for the national news desk.
I stammered. I wrote it down. I handed it to him. And then when he called to ask me out, I lied to get out of the date. (The other copy aide who sat next to me teased me for months.)
I was still in college and working part-time as a copy aide at The Washington Post. I had a boyfriend. And anyway, I thought, who dates a co-worker?
But a friendship between me and Steven grew. And after I graduated and began to work at The Post full-time, we started to hang out. A lot.
As happens in many workplace situations, particularly when workers are young and just out of college, we connected on a level at work like we might not have had we met elsewhere. We were both going through similar situations: a new job at a big newspaper. We had similar career goals and many of the same interests. And we were both part of a group that would meet up for happy hours and parties. So pretty soon, Steven and I were always together.
A year or so after the phone incident, my roommates in our group house near Georgetown were familiar enough with him to ask when he was coming over to make dinner for us again. I realized I had fallen hard for this guy -- this co-worker -- who had become my best friend. Fine. We were finally, officially, dating.
But there's this taboo about dating a co-worker. And in the back of my mind, I knew that. I wanted to keep our relationship private. As a young woman in an intense newsroom, and as a young woman who wanted to be taken seriously, I felt I had to put "us" aside at work. I didn't want people to think I was a flighty recent grad whose interests mostly focused on the guys at work.
And so Steven and I met up after work for dinner, drinks. A game of pool here and there. Frisbee on the Mall. We sometimes ate lunch together, usually in a group. I would stop by his desk as I passed out faxes around the newsroom. (Yes, it was a sexy job.)
Once, the person who sat next to Steven whispered conspiratorially, "I think Amy might have a crush on you."
That's when I knew I was handling our relationship at work pretty well. Sure, our work friends knew we were dating. But our relationship wasn't the first thing people thought of when they thought of me. And that was my goal. I wanted to be a reporter at this paper.
Our careers at The Post sort of paralleled each other. First, Steven became an editorial aide on the business desk, when I was the news aide on the national desk. Then, he wrote a column called Workplace. He became an intern on the business desk when someone else had to drop out at the last minute. I got Steven's job. And eventually, I took his column.
And then it happened for me. I was hired as a reporter in the business section. My editor, Jill Dutt, pulled me into her office to tell me my first job would be in The Post's Woodbridge bureau. It just so happened that of all the paper's suburban bureaus, Steven worked for the metro section in that shoebox of an office in Woodbridge.
I remember Jill asking if that bureau sounded good to me. "That's great," I replied, wondering if I should mention to her that Steven was one of just three reporters in that office. If she found out later, would she think I should have 'fessed up right away? Would she wrongly think I jumped at the chance to work in Woodbridge just so I could be near my boyfriend?
I didn't say anything. One work friend told me I should say something to Jill. But I convinced myself that it really didn't matter. I would work just as hard as I would have if we weren't dating. (Then again, maybe I was just a wimp. I really, really wanted that job.)
Looking back, I think it's a bit of a miracle. Just think of what could have happened if we'd had a nasty breakup. Not too easy to work with someone you dated, let alone share a desk, as we essentially did in Woodbridge.
Once Steven and I were in the tiny bureau together, I felt as if I had to say something to the two other reporters and the office manager. It would get just a little too weird if they started gossiping about one of us to the other and later found out we had been dating.
So word got out. I relaxed a bit. At that point, we were both reporters, and I felt I had made enough of a reputation for myself that I wouldn't get a, well, reputation.
Though my byline hasn't changed, my life has. Steven and I got engaged four years ago, married almost three years ago. To celebrate our marriage, my editors had a cake for us the week before the wedding. And at our wedding reception, our work friends presented the guests with a fake Washington Post front page, announcing our marriage. "Dude Guy Marries Glamour Girl," the headline read.
Now we sit about 30 feet from each other in the downtown newsroom. Not so long ago, he brought me lunch because I was on deadline and didn't have time to eat. A new co-worker turned to me and asked if everyone here was that nice. "No, not really," I explained. "He's my husband."
See? Some news stories have happy endings.
Staff writer and love of my life Steven Ginsberg contributed to this report. (Staff writer Amy Joyce never remembers anything.)