Q. I have developed a passion for a man I work with. I've known him for about two years, and I think about him all the time. Every week, he chairs our departmental meetings and I've seen the way he looks at me and the special smiles he gives me. Sometimes I'm certain he feels the same way and I long for him – but then I wonder if it's all in my head and agonise at the thought that we might never be together.
My detective work tells me he's a few years younger than me, about 27, and he doesn't have a girlfriend (though I do wonder why). My problem is how to move things on between us. There's not much socialising at work and I get awkward whenever I talk to him. My friends say I should just ask him for a drink, but if anything went wrong, how would I face him at work? And what if it's all just wishful thinking?
A. How exciting. There's nothing like the thrill of the chase. However, I think you've already figured out that two years of chasing (or however long it is that you've actually been smitten) seems less like a chase, and more like a long-drawn-out surveillance operation – the sort where the cops sit around in parked cars, throwing burger wrappers out of the window.
Talking of which – about this "detective work". The basic data your sleuthing has uncovered could have been elicited quite easily over the months in the course of normal conversation. So I take it that you don't go in for casual chats with him, of the kind where you discuss birthdays or what you're doing this weekend and with whom – surely the kind of thing that makes working life tick along.
It sounds as though you've turned this into a bit of a project, and the project itself now looms so large that it's dwarfed the thing that started all this, which is a man and a woman and a little bit of chemistry (though I don't mean to belittle that – I'm sure many decent marriages have been built on less).
All the mystery and the sexy looks breed excitement, but not intimacy. Intimacy is bred by conversation, by asking him about his life and confiding in him.
To be honest, it's really hard to tell whether it's all in your head or not. He might be shy, he might be weird, he might just be extremely private about his love life and he might be gay. He might, if you're in luck, be the sort who just doesn't put much effort into starting relationships but smoulders away until someone's keen enough to nab him and then goes with the flow. Or he might just not be very interested.
So you know precious little about this man, really. Perhaps you should ask yourself what motivates you to put your love life on hold (presumably) while you daydream about a future with him. You're hyped up and tongue-tied, and asking him for a drink before you've got to know him a bit would be super-awkward, in my view. First, you need to learn to talk to him just as you would if you didn't fancy him. Otherwise, dream on.
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