(Illustration credit: Helen Jane Hearn)
This is an updated version of a piece Lauren wrote at a previous employer, several work husbands ago.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’ve been cheating on my fiancé with someone from the office.
Well, it’s not exactly cheating. And it’s not exactly a secret, either.
I currently have not one but two leading men in my life at work. Alas, you may be a bit disappointed to know that my relationships with both of these men are strictly platonic.
First and foremost, there is Frank, who sits next to me day in and day out at the office. Frank will HATE that I am writing this. He despises attention. But let me tell you, Frank is pretty much the most excellent person I know. I always say that if the building is burning, I’ll take Frank out with me because he is a Jack-of-all-trades who can solve any problem in the office — and often in life.
Frank has helped me buy a computer, set up a new iPhone, hack web pages (all above-board, I promise), buy clothes online and raise a Mets fan. He has many other valuable skills I like to exploit on a daily basis. I take quarters from his drawer for the vending machine without asking. Have I mentioned that Frank is an armchair meteorologist? And he can lift heavy things. I never need a date for the company’s annual flu shot extravaganza; Frank always stands in line with me.
We crack jokes, share cider doughnuts and commiserate about bureaucratic procedures – together.
Frank is a humble curmudgeon. Thus, I spend much of my time at the office singing his praises because that is what a good work spouse does. And while I treasure his utilitarian skills, we also share some deep personal connections, too. He is my confidant, my Italian Stallion and my…office guy.
The combo of a home wife and a work wife is potent, especially when we both want to make sure the men we care about stick to a diet, angle for a promotion or eliminate stress.
The other main man in my office life is David, who sits on the opposite side of the floor, unfortunately, so our interactions are not as frequent. David seems genuinely thrilled when he sees me, which makes him more like a work boyfriend than a work husband. David is solid, kind, sweet and a total mensch. (He is very proprietary about my allegiances to other men, by the way, even though he is two-timing with another woman at the office.)
No one ever said office polygamy was easy.
In the real, non-office world, I’m currently engaged to my second husband. Meanwhile, Frank and David are the latest in a long line of work husbands. I have always been a “guy’s girl,” which may explain why I embrace the notion of a work spouse. In fact, after one day at a new job more than a decade ago, my real hubby at the time didn’t want to know if my new boss was nice or whether I had a good workspace.
His main concern: Did I find myself a new work husband? Of course! I was already hitched to a lovely man named Fred. I found Fred within the first 15 minutes on the job, and our office marriage was cemented during a fire drill.
While the job of work husband isn’t too taxing, it requires chemistry, a sense of humor and commitment (just like a real marriage.) Fred’s main job was to provide snacks when I was hungry as well as chocolate when I was not dieting. He listened to me vent about anything and everything work and family-related. Fred kept an extensive supply of aspirin, ibuprofen and antacids, which I raided on a regular basis. Frank, by contrast, offers lots of practical help and support. And David…well, he makes my heart skip a bit.
All of my work husbands, past and present, have been straight. And they all have real wives, who are well-aware of my presence and seem to enjoy the fact that I’m looking out for their real-life spouse. At times, we conspire. The combo of a home wife and a work wife is potent, especially when we both want to make sure the men we care about stick to a diet, angle for a promotion or eliminate stress.
The best thing about work husbands is that when you change jobs, you don’t have to break up. My very first work husband was Tom, and we have “dated” for more than 20 years. We are both fans of the Grateful Dead. (Tom was the first person to call when Jerry Garcia died.) Over the years, we have traveled together and attended many concerts, often partying well past our bedtimes while our significant others stayed at home with our kids. These days, there isn’t as much time for gallivanting around. Instead, we meet for lunch at my favorite diner.
So why, exactly, do I need a work husband? I think it’s mainly for the companionship and the camaraderie. I like knowing that someone has my back. Work is a parallel universe where we recreate many of the same relationships we have outside of the office. (I’ve heard colleagues slip up and call each other “Honey” or “Dear” through the years.) We spend so much time with each other, trapped in adjacent cubicles, often logging in more waking hours at our desks than we do with our real spouses.
Why not add a little more affection to the 9-to-5 daily grind?