My restaurant romance could get us both fired

I secretly fell for a higher-up at work, and not even my best friend knows.


Cary Tennis
December 24, 2008 4:05PM (UTC)

Dear Reader,

I hope you get some time off over the holidays to enjoy life. I really do. And keep in touch. My next column will run Jan. 5, 2009.

Dear Cary,

I recently began a new job at a successful restaurant. Prior to starting work there, I had been looking for something outside of the service industry (I've been working in service for years and felt burnt out), but this particular position offered excellent pay from the outset, and being strapped for cash at the time, I took it.

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I'm having trouble deciding how to say this, so I guess I'll be blunt: I am sleeping with one of the managers at the restaurant. He is not directly my manager, but a higher-up nonetheless. I was attracted to him from the outset, but I never in a million years thought something would or could happen between us. After an extremely accidental, exciting night out on the town, we began hanging out in secret, and discovered that we have quite a lot in common. Frankly, he's incredible. I haven't been this fascinated by another person in a long time, and according to him, the feeling is mutual. Neither of us have ever done anything along these lines before; needless to say, fraternizing with management is super-against-the-rules for both parties involved, and if this is ever discovered, one or both of us will certainly get fired. Because of that fact, I haven't breathed a word about this to a single soul, not even to my best friend (and we're inseparable).

Cary, what am I doing? It's extremely hard for me to bury this primal, powerful thing when I'm as selective as I am about the people I date. And, to be clear, this isn't all about sex; we've actually only done the deed once, after many days of just hanging out and talking, getting to know one another.

What do I do? I don't want to stop, although I'm sure most people would tell me I should. Help.

Confused

Dear Confused,

This isn't the job of a lifetime. But it may be the relationship of a lifetime. So I would say, value the relationship over the job. You were hoping to get out of the service industry anyway. If the relationship of a lifetime gets you fired, or means you have to leave your job voluntarily, so be it. Choose the more valuable of the two. That's just good spiritual economics.

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You say you both might be fired if your relationship were discovered. That complicates things. We cannot protect other people from the consequences of their own choices, and it's certainly his choice to become involved with you. But we can choose not to become involved with people when we know their involvement with us may cause them harm. If we regard them highly, we do not want harm to come to them. So, for instance, one will often avoid becoming involved with a married person, not only for our own sake but for theirs and their families' sake. Likewise, if becoming involved with a person might get him fired, we think twice.

Not only personal harm but harm to the relationship itself may come of such an event. It is hard to feel happy and close when your union has caused one or both of you to lose your jobs. Such adversity might bring you together. But it might also tear you apart.

So the ideal solution would be for you to find a new job. I say you should be the one because his job is more valuable than yours, he has more invested in it and more to lose, and you want to be in a different field anyway. It may sound unfair or sexist to say that you, the woman, should be the one to sacrifice your job. But it's a matter of whose job is more valuable. If you were the one in management, then it might be he who should look for other work. So talk it over. I think if you want to continue the relationship that you should find a way not to work together. It might turn out that he would like to leave the job.

Also, I have a suggestion for a story you might like: "Suck It," by Merritt Tierce, in "New Stories from the South, 2008," edited by ZZ Packer. It captures the erotic atmosphere of restaurant culture, and has something to say about addiction, class and money, too. In her afterword to the story the author notes, "A friend of mine once told me he'd been advised caution when dating a woman who worked at a restaurant, because 'in restaurants everyone sleeps with everyone and everyone's addicted.'"

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That's what I thought. I thought everyone slept with everyone in restaurants. Maybe  your restaurant's policy is an attempt to change that. To which one can only say, "Good luck!"



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Cary Tennis

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