Office holiday parties are treacherous social minefields. The conventional wisdom goes something like this: Don’t get too drunk, don’t stay too late, don’t say weird things to your boss. (Maybe just don’t talk to your boss at all.) Don’t get too ambitious with your karaoke choices. Don’t dirty-dance with a co-worker. Definitely don’t make out with your dirty-dancing co-worker. And absolutely don’t take him home for a sloppy-drunk hookup. Think of the professional repercussions. Think of the awkward run-ins at the coffee machine. Only tragedy can come from an office-party hookup, right?
I am here to tell you that everything you think you know about holiday-party hookups is wrong. Screw “cuffing season.” The best time to be single is the holidays, and the reason is holiday parties — including, yes, the party that takes place in the lobby of your office building. Though the social-entanglement factor on a holiday-party hookup is high, there’s also a built-in buffer — the holiday itself. “After the party, everyone goes out of town, and then by the time 2015 rolls around nobody cares anymore,” notes a girlfriend who estimates her career make-out record to include 30 percent of all her male co-workers. (No repercussions beyond occasional mild awkwardness, she reports.)
Yes, in the pantheon of hookups available to modern man, workplace hookups are relatively risky. But if you are going to tap workplace ass, the holiday party is the time to do it. Everyone is drunk at the holiday party! Everyone has their own faux pas to worry about. Besides, an intern barfed on the floor of a corner office, and some klutz spilled mulled wine down the boss’s winter-white dress — the rumor mill can’t keep up with this stuff. Nothing will be confirmed before everyone goes out of town, and by the time they return, they’ll be obsessed with their new diets and fitness routines. Your secret is safe.
But more important, when workplace hookups go well, the romantic potential is great. Several studies have found that workplace romances result in marriage more frequently than relationships that begin elsewhere. Partners are used to spending time together; understand each other’s quirks and goals; and have had time to build propinquity. "I almost didn’t go to the Christmas party," 29-year-old Miriam Datskovsky recalls. “I was at a friend’s birthday but Bryan kept texting me to come, so finally I went.”
Miriam was in her early 20s and an editor at the Daily Beast when Bryan Keefer, the company’s director of product, fell for her. (Admittedly, this makes me a biased reporter: Miriam was my first boss, and her workplace romance was the first I ever witnessed. I cherish it like a fairy tale. For the purposes of this article, consider it a case study.) “I was five or six drinks in at this point,” the now 36-year-old Bryan recalls of his texts to Miriam. At the time, Miriam had been too consumed with another office crush to notice Bryan’s advances. Still, she arrived in a “skanky holiday dress that I still can’t rid of,” and with Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold” blasting on the speakers in their office’s lobby, Bryan made his intentions clear. When he finally leaned in for a kiss, Miriam, ever the practical careerist, replied, “I was expecting that. I need to think about this.” As a baffled Bryan confessed this was not the reaction he was hoping for, Miriam announced, “Let’s get another drink.”
Both parties were young up-and-comers at the newly launched Daily Beast. Could they risk workplace drama, when their careers were just taking off? After getting “wasted enough to not worry about the fact that we worked together,” Miriam went to Bryan’s apartment that night.
“The holiday party was a Thursday, so the next day was the most hung-over workday. Upstairs in the lounge, all of the water and orange juice was just gone,” Bryan recalls. Miriam went home for a fresh change of clothes, and then, as Bryan recalls it, “I’m super, way hung-over, and at some point in the day it’s snowing and Miriam calls. ‘You know what kind of weather this is? Sex weather.’” Twenty-four hours later, at Saturday brunch, “we both just knew,” Miriam says.
Today is the six-year anniversary of Miriam and Bryan’s “Hot N Cold” workplace seduction. Two years after that first hookup, they moved cross-country to Los Angeles. Two years after that, they got married. Today they work together again, as a screenwriting duo.
Yes, the couple admits, their situation was complicated at first. There was a period of unnecessary secretiveness. (Since both parties used company phones as their primary cell phones, they got burner phones just for sexting.) A stickler for rules — and also several years Miriam’s senior — Bryan worried that the romance might get them in trouble. “We would do things like not walk into the office at the same time,” he says, but the secrecy became part of the romance, too. “Whenever we were in the elevator alone we would kiss,” Miriam says. “We still do that to this day.”
Of course, their secrecy was wholly unnecessary. The conventional wisdom, on this matter, is right: “Everyone knows” who is sleeping with whom in the workplace, as at a high-school reunion, or in a tight-knit group of friends. But is that so bad? The entire institution of marriage rests on the premise that “everyone knows” is a condition that encourages romantic longevity. To take the plunge with a romance bound for public scrutiny, you have to really want it.
So consider the holiday-party hookup a test of mettle: If he’s worth the risk, then he’s worth considering seriously for love. (And if he’s not, avoid him until January, and then resume normal behavior.) “Just go with your gut,” Miriam says when I ask if she had any workplace-romance wisdom. “When people say to me, 'Sleeping with a guy on the first night is a bad idea'? It’s not. We did that. It’s six years later and we’re married and we have a dog. If it’s a bad work situation, you’ll know that right off the bat.”
“When you’re in New York and you’re dating, you end up being like, ‘That was terrible, I’ll never date someone like that again,’” Bryan adds. “So you end up with all these rules. I thought I’d never date someone who was under 25, a journalist, someone I work with. Miriam basically broke all my rules.”
“I didn’t know you had those rules!” Miriam interrupts.
“Clearly, they didn’t stick,” Bryan laughs. “Sometimes breaking the rules works out.”
Most Viewed Stories
Ask Polly: I Overshared My Way Out of a Boyfriend!
What, Exactly, Are Melania and Ivanka Trump Trying to Sell?
The Supreme-Branded Metrocard Is Here
Malia Obama Went to the Club
The Single Guy Who’s Pretty Sure He Split the Bill
Roxane Gay Calls Out Simon & Schuster After They Drop Milo Yiannopoulos
Even Gwen Stefani’s Kids Think It’s Weird If She Doesn’t Wear Makeup
Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey Are Having the Time of Their Lives in New Zealand
Melania Trump Removes Language About Making Millions While First Lady From Lawsuit
Alt-Right Troll Milo Yiannopoulos Uses Campus Visit to Openly Mock a Transgender Student
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesA Holiday Season Weekend Through London
A good guide for avid The Crown fans.It’s About Time You Learned Tove Lo’s Name
The singer has crafted pop hits you’ve heard a thousand times by now.Marina Abramovic Has Outlasted Her Lovers and, She Hopes, Her Critics
The world's most famous performance artist at 70.The Wing: Do Women Still Need a Space of Their Own?
This exclusive social club for women, is part sorority, part start-up.In Virtual Reality, Women Run the World
A new generation of female artists is making VR the most diverse corner of the male-dominated tech space.The Novelist Disguised As a Housewife
Shirley Jackson wrote 17 books while raising four children — and she couldn't have had a successful career without them.Ava DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.Don’t Mess This Up, Mischa Barton
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.