Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Drunken Christmas party kiss

Dear Virginia, I feel so ashamed - I went to our office Christmas party and got drunk, and a bit out of control. Worst of all, I ended up snogging my boss - a married man I don't fancy at all. If I were a secretary, it wouldn't be so bad, but I'm an executive. I haven't seen him since, as he was on a business trip and then there was the Christmas break, but how can I face him when we go back to work? Yours sincerely, Zara

Virginia writes:

Oh, God, if I had a pound for every ... and so on. My past is littered with ghastly encounters. The worst was recently, when I went into a club, and the most enormously drunken man came weaving over to me and put his hand lasciviously on my knee. Shoving his red, boozy face into mine, he said, in a voice dripping with lust: "I remember your body!" The ghastly thing was that he did, too. I'd had one of those frightful encounters, like yours - only it had happened so long ago that I could hardly remember it. When I got home the shame and humiliation poured over me as if it had happened yesterday.

There is only one answer, however, to this situation and that is something that you, as an executive, should know more about than me. Don't, whatever you do, faff around trying to avoid this man and blushing when he comes into the room. Take control. Seize back your power.

Of course if he were a boss worth his salt he should have sent you a large bunch of flowers with a note reading something like "Happy Christmas - all best wishes, yours with a guilty and roaring hangover, Ron" or whatever his name is. Or perhaps simply "Oh, dear, oh dear, oh dear! - but Happy Christmas, anyway, Ron."

But this wretch hasn't let you off the hook like this. So it's your chance to show you that even if he doesn't know how to handle a tricky situation, you, at least, do.

How do you think he's feeling? There are two options. Either his eyes are bulging with delight at the prospect of a burgeoning affair with you - but then by now wouldn't he have taken steps to woo you with intimate texts, to show you he's thinking of you? Or, more likely, he's feeling just as frightful as you, and panicking that you might be hoping for more when you all get back to the office.

I suggest you write him a New Year card which says something on the lines of "Whoops! I'm sticking to water next year! All best to you and your family for a great 2008." You make it quite clear, in a friendly note, that you made a mistake, and that you have no wish to disrupt his home life one jot.

If that's not your style, you could always go up to him in the corridor with a laugh and say: "What got into us? I'm trying to draw a veil over the whole party! I gather I behaved appallingly! Thank God my boyfriend wasn't there!"

Raise the volume, but lower the timbre of your voice slightly when you say it, keeping the tone totally asexual - or, if you have to, erring on the side of masculinity, so you let him feel as if it was all a silly incident that two boozy blokes got up to on a night out.

Prepare, too, a follow-up sentence so you're not both left dangling after this pronouncement. Launch into business right away. "Now, I'm glad I bumped into you, because I want to discuss that board meeting in February ..."

Show him you're not only not interested, but that you're far more capable of taking control of the situation and making things alright, than him.

Readers say

Clear the air

As a "senior" member of staff, Zara should have realised that the place you do not let your hair down is the office party. This is the kind of situation where one really needs to be on best behaviour - especially if you have a mixture of different levels of staff present. However, there are tensions in a work place that tend to get released on such occasions and perhaps this was what happened. It takes two people to snog and I suspect he is as embarrassed as she is.

She should speak to him about it to clear the air and get the incident behind them both. If there is any evidence, such as photos, Zara should ask for them to be destroyed. I am not a secretary - but if I was her third sentence would offend me greatly. Hopefully a "secretary" will do this comment of hers justice.

Suzy Singh


Have a good think

Wow, you really don't care about the little people do you? It would be equally embarrassing if you were a secretary and it is offensive that you think your predicament is worse because you are an "executive". The issue is that you have acted irresponsibly and put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.

Instead of thinking about yourself (and your career, by the tone of your email) you should think about the families you've hurt and secretaries you have offended. You should also consider your own personal safety - if you don't fancy someone you should not get so drunk that you'll go to bed with them.

I recommended you eat some humble pie this Christmas and have a good think about your attitude, and for goodness sake stay off the sherry.

Anna Jones

by email

Act nonchalant about it

Surely 'tis is the season for snogging your boss/secretary. Everyone knows that boozy office parties are the perfect time for that kind of thing. I'm surprised you haven't been to his wife, told her he's marrying you and moved in! He's probably wetting himself thinking that he's going to come back to find he has a sexual harassment lawsuit on his hands. Just act normally - if you start being awkward then he will too, and it will become a big deal - be nonchalant about it and professional in your work and then there is nothing more to say about it. Just remember this, though, next time you're drinking and working: there's a good reason why a lot of office parties now don't have alcohol - because it makes some of us act like idiots!

Shirley Field

Tiverton, Devon

Don't worry

Don't spend a second worrying about how you'll face your boss. He'll be so busy avoiding you, all you'll see for some time is the back of his head!

Elizabeth Graham


Don't apologise

First of all I would not mention it or show any sign of having remembered what happened. He is probably as embarrassed as you and if he's a bloke he won't want to talk about it. I would certainly not apologise as then he might wonder what was wrong with him. If he, or a colleague brings it up, I would say in a mock-threatening manner that I know I was very drunk, I don't wish to know what I did, and if anyone tells me any more about what I did that night I may have to kill myself - or them. I would ask if I had made myself clear and move on to work related matters.

name and address supplied

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

My son, his wife and two sons came to stay last autumn when they were waiting to move into their new house. The deal fell through and though they're frantically looking, it's getting too much for me. The kids wear me out, I can't cope with the cooking and ironing - they work, she part-time - but we can't kick them out because we love them. What can we do?

Yours sincerely, Ailsa

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