Friends with (work) benefits

About ten years ago, I heard a quote from the very last episode of my favourite show, The Office.

The original one.

The UK one.

The one where David Brent finally tells Chris Finch to eff off at the work Christmas Party.

The Office, to me, wasn’t ever about David ‘Free Love on the Free Love Freeway’ Brent. It was always about Tim and Dawn.

And it was Tim who said something that still leaves me wretchedly gutted with Yazoo’s ‘Only You’ on repeat in my head.

The people you work with are people you were just thrown together with. You know, you don’t know them, it wasn’t your choice, and yet you spend more time with them then you do your friends or your family. But probably all you’ve got in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for 8 hours a day. And so, obviously, when someone comes in who you… you have a connection with… yeah.

You know who that person is. They get you. Like Meredith and Christina, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman and Han and Chewy –  they have that intuitive understanding of what is going on with the other.

But let’s get this straight. While work BFFs are usually  same-sex, suspicion clouds have always loomed over the concept of work husbands and wives.

Many still can’t wrap their When Harry Met Sally heads around it. Something has to be going on, right? There has to be a smouldering slow burn in the background that stokes this fire, right? RIGHT?

I have a work husband and, I assure you, it’s more Condoleezza and George than Joey and Dawson.

I will admit though, the similarities between he and my actual husband are pretty striking:

  • We can have an entire conversation with split-second nuances.
  • It’s unusual if we haven’t made each other almost pass out with laughter over daily rapid-fire quotes from Family Guy
  • You absolutely know they have your back and they know you have theirs
  • If you wrong, you never feel like you’ve just shot their dog – you fight fair
  • Your mum asks how they are

Sounds like I’m in luuurve, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly society’s hang up: How can they possibly be friends and not fancy each other?

It is actually possible. Because not only am I living it, so is The Mister, my actual husband – who, as it happens, has a work wife.

If these points are reasonably familiar to you, you may have a work significant other…

  • If your colleague roll their eyes saying ‘oh you two!’ when you start verbally nudging each other with your inside jokes
  • If they’re the person to make a beeline for (and them to you) to debrief with when you get the intel on the real office news
  • If you preface said debrief with ‘cup of tea?’ which is code for ‘Kitchen. Now. Vent’
  • You both know when the other is seriously under the pump and instinctively know how to help without getting in their way
  • Your office Gchat is always set to ‘off the record’ and you both know how to act perfectly measured while sending a ’72-point LOL’ message
  • If you can be brutally honest with each other but also know exactly when to stop and agree to disagree and you can carry on as normal
  • If you know you can take a Yorkshire Gold teabag from their stash whenever you like – they can stand the thought of you drinking that Twinings hack stuff
  • If they aren’t that bothered if you say something gross like ‘Oh no, I’m getting dandruff again’
  • If you think that their going to every Bruce Springsteen concert in Australia and New Zealand is ridiculous
  • If you naturally always gravitate towards them meetings (you also have to sit on the same side of the boardroom table to them – sitting opposite can trigger irresistible silent ‘try not to laugh at this’ challenges)
  • If you start to make a point in said meeting… then you get on this unrelated tangent about this funny thing your cat did while watching Game of Thrones… they are able to pick up and finish what you were trying to say

Anyway, I always thought I knew exactly where The Office‘s Tim was coming from with his golden nugget of a quote… until now, recently, it’s never dripped with so much truth.

The fact is, my work husband is leaving me.

I am literally sitting here at my computer with big fat tears welling up, not quite knowing what to type next.

He would be mortified at my writing this.

He has never been comfortable with ‘work spouse’ but I say too fricken bad, it’s easier than saying ‘inexplicable connectedness’. He’s also so painfully English, he could easily replace Ms Shrager on Ladette to Lady.

And, when faced with the obligatory office card, what are you supposed to jot down?

It’s different with the women I’ve worked with. They’re far more acceptable to get a bit more emotional with, that you ‘love em heaps’ and will miss them ‘soooooo much’.

Most of the ladies I’ve worked with have inspired me to write miniature epics about the ‘holes that are [their name]-shaped that will now be left in the office’. Which is why I’m forever thankful for giant novelty cards.

There’s no room for him-shaped holes or other gushy melancholic quips that are scrawled on office farewell cards.

So why does this relationship even work?

Who can explain why some connect and some don’t. I guess we both met a need, and while it didn’t happen instantaneously, this connection was inevitable rather than intentional.

It work because there  is absolutely zero sexual expectation – that’s a need that’s met elsewhere – we can just bypass all that, relax and get on with it without that kind of Scully and Mulder (before season 7) distraction . For us, that kind of tension simply doesn’t exist.

In fact, my ‘work marriage’ is probably more defined than any romantic relationship I’ve ever had. We know where we stand, no one ever walks on unsteady ground, there is truckloads of respect and we have each others’ back.

However, if my actual husband had met me inside work boundaries, he may have felt very differently about me. While I’m wearing my work head, I’m a version of myself that isn’t the same one when trying to tune someone.

At work, I couldn’t give two hoots if someone liked me or not (I mean, deep down I would totally care and have this internal Nina Proudman- style commentary going on), but I’m usually too busy getting actual work done than adding to my top 10 bestie list. And to be perfectly frank, it’s too exhausting to try and tap dance and dazzle for 8 hours a day.

Which is exactly why I’m going to miss my work husband.

He’s seen me with my work head on, which like I said, isn’t the same head you rock up to a romantic dinner or a day at the zoo with.

And yet he still rates me.

This week, when the office elevators swallow him up for good and I’m left sitting next to an empty desk, that’s when I’ll really, truly appreciate having more in common with him than walking around on the same bit of carpet for 8 hours a day.

…’til 5pm we do part.