No, You’re Not Pathetic If You Reach Out to an Ex

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Ryan O’Connell is a New York-based writer. He likes shoegaze, the Olsen Twins, and figuring out why people do the things they do. Oh, and he tweetsCheck back each Thursday for his latest Call Your Boyfriend column. (You KNOW you have a question. Send it to Ryan.)

So there is this guy I work with who is absolutely gorgeous…naturally I am crushing. He is so funny and sarcastic, just like myself! We can hold an entire conversation entirely of sarcastic remarks. It is a beautiful friendship! That is the first problem…it is merely a friendship! Problem two he is 26 and I am only 20! I will be turning 21 in June so I guess that isn’t much an issue? But he does frequently joke about my age…things like “aren’t you like 16?” I’m afraid he thinks I’m too young for him….

But the other day this old lady that also works with us, her name is Kitty (I kid you not), came up to me and started asking me what I thought about him!! I didn’t know what to say ’cause I’m not one to tell everyone the names of people I have crushes on (mainly because this one time in elementary school I told this one bitch and she told everyone…bad times) so I played along. She started saying how she had known him for a long time and knew he was a good guy! She said that she could see us being together because I’m so bubbly and he could use someone like that! But I told her my woes about the age issue. She didn’t think it mattered that much.

So should I try and pursue it? I worry he won’t be into it and it’ll make things awkward at work! Should I just wait until I’m 21? And invite him out for my birthday? He is painfully good looking and I’m not sure if I can wait.

-Sweet 21

Babe, babe, BABE. Slow your roll. Do not make a move on this dude until you read everything I have to say in great detail, okay?

So, look, office romances are tricky dicks. On the one hand, I get why they happen. You work long hours with someone, you see them more than you see your actual friends: it’s like an instant bond. Plus, it feels forbidden, which makes hooking up 10,000% more appealing to both parties. Hell, I think the only reason why I haven’t had an office romance before is because I’ve only worked closely with straight men and girls. If things had been different, if there had been another gay boy parading around the office with me, perhaps I would’ve crossed some professional boundaries. I mean, there’s a reason why screwing your boss/co-worker rates so high on the porn fantasy list. It’s hot!

That being said, by hooking up with a co-worker, you’re essentially shitting where you eat. If anything bad were to happen, you could potentially lose two big slices of your life pie—love and work—all in one fell swoop. That kind of loss can be devastating. That’s why people are so wary of mixing business with pleasure. Because, in the end, you could end up with nothing.

Office relationships can work out and I’m a firm believer that if the connection really is that strong, then don’t deny yourself it. A love connection trumps most jobs, in my opinion.

In your case, I would say the age difference is a problem and here’s why. Dating a co-worker (and let’s for the sake of things assume he also has feelings for you) takes an incredible amount of maturity. Not only do you have to be vigilant about keeping your two worlds separate, you also have to remain professional even when things turn to shit. I’m not saying you can’t do that (I don’t know you, obvs) but, like, I wouldn’t be able to do that at age 20. I probably couldn’t even do it now! Keeping your shit together post-break-up is its OWN full-time job.

There are success stories though. One of my BFF’s from home has been in a relationship with her co-worker for two years now. She told me that in the beginning it was hard because they kept on trying to fight their attraction to each other. “Every time we would hook up, we’d say we couldn’t do it again because we worked together,” she told me. “But obviously that didn’t end up happening.” The two dated in secret for about a year until my friend finally got another job. “We knew we couldn’t keep carrying on the way that we did. Concealing the relationship put a lot of stress on us and eventually I just went and found another place to work so things could be chill,” she said. Today their relationship is public and they’re happier than ever. Still, it took a long time for things to find steady ground.

Office relationships can work out and I’m a firm believer that if the connection really is that strong, then don’t deny yourself it. A love connection trumps most jobs, in my opinion. I do advise though that you weigh your options before telling this dude you have a crush on him because if the feelings aren’t reciprocated, work is going to become totes awkward. And if he does like you back, work will still be totes awkward. However, if you don’t give a crap about your job and just want to try your luck, I guess go for it? What do you have to lose, besides your job?


Ryan –

Need some advice. My ex-boyfriend and I broke up in January after a relatively brief, but serious, relationship that started when we were both working on a campaign. In a matter of less than 2 weeks, we went from looking at apartments together to breaking up for no clear reason. (I was given the “I just don’t know what I feel anymore” excuse.) I made the decision to cut off any communication, including Facebook, immediately, because it would be too painful. The past 4 months have reassured me that he is likely the love of my life and I miss him like crazy. We now live in different cities and I have no clue what his relationship status is, let alone anything else in his life. I’d really like to let him know that I hope he’s well and that I miss him, but I don’t want to come across as too pathetic. It’d just be nice to hear from him. But let’s be honest, in a dream scenario I’d like to give our relationship a second chance. I’ve recently thought a lot about either leaving him a voice message or sending an email. Is this a terrible idea, or could it possibly be what mature adults do?

Hey babe,

I don’t blame you for wanting to reach out to your ex. It sounds like things ended on a “WTF?” note, which would have me feeling pretty out of sorts too. Coupled with the fact that the two of you no longer live in the same city and you have no idea what’s happening in his life? No wonder you’re feeling all the confused feelings right now!

You are allowed to reach out to your ex. Of course you are. And it doesn’t make you look pathetic. PLEASE. It makes you look human. The only thing you have to understand when extending an olive branch to an ex is the possibility that you might not get the answer you want. Or any answer at all. You’re taking a risk whenever you try to open the communication lines with an ex. While there is a chance you might be greeted with open arms, you must also prepare yourself for the cold shoulder.

Breakups suck no matter what, but they’re made worse by our silence. People delay moving on from their ex when they never properly grieve for the relationship in the first place.

From what it sounds like though, closure is something you really need since you didn’t seem to get any from the breakup. I do suggest you write an email (or set up a phone call) letting him know that you’re here, queer, and ready to deal with it. If it’s an email, I would encourage you to be as honest as you want to be. It’s SUPER scary to put yourself out there with ex, but sometimes it’s the only way you can really reach some kind of peace with the breakup. Go into it with the sole expectation of reaching some kind of closure. If your ex happens to also give you the response you want/need, that’s icing on the cake but you can’t expect that to happen. You could get ignored. You could get rejected. You need to accept that when starting this correspondence. If you’re fine with it, if the need to let him know your feelings outweighs any potential grief you could experience later on, then you should do it.

Breakups suck no matter what, but they’re made worse by our silence. People delay moving on from their ex when they never properly grieve for the relationship in the first place. I understand why you had to cut out all communication with him in the beginning, but now it seems like you’ve had time to process your emotions and can properly express them. Your ex might not be like “OMG, let’s get back together!” but you can at least take solace in knowing that you’ve said what you had to say, and now you can move on from it. The rest is out of your hands.

Check back each Thursday for Ryan’s latest Call Your Boyfriend column. And you KNOW you have questions — send them to Ryan.