Ah, the proverbial company Christmas party—where one must suffer the indignity of white elephant gifts, off-brand booze and mistletoe hanging over one’s head like the sword of Damocles. Spending an obligatory evening with the water cooler crowd feigning holiday cheer is trying enough, so why up the ante by waking up next to one of them in a cheap motel? A recent survey found that the embarrassment of having had sex with a co-worker ranked only below hangovers and the flu as causes of holiday absenteeism. To avoid an inter-office hookup this holiday season, I offer three simple rules to help keep your Secret Santa in your pants…
Rule One: Don’t Go
The best way to sidestep breakfast with a colleague is not to go to the company party in the first place. Sure, your colleagues will call you “Scrooge” or speculate that you’re involved with some anti-holiday religious cult, but your dignity will suffer less in the “meditation dome” they’ve fantasized for you than it will being caught in your cubicle with that nice man/woman from accounting. Forgoing the party will also lend you an air of mystery. This is what communication experts refer to as “high-power distance.” By being inaccessible, you become empowered. Ever notice how the most important people are the hardest to find? It works in reverse too—by being hard to find, you can seem more important (keep this in mind the next time a plumbing emergency sends you combing the halls for the janitor. Who’s really in charge in that moment? The executive with a wad of sopping wet paper towels or the guy playing pinochle atop a milk crate who can’t hear your cries?). Also, turn off your cell phone. Your ring tone is the call of the sirens; if you answer you’re doomed. Later, when you check the dozen or so voicemails you’re likely to incur, note how the mock threats and saucy overtures grow progressively weary and desperate. When a colleague whines “Where arrre you?” what they’re really asking is “You wanna swap DNA?” Delete immediately.
Rule Two: No Rides
Do not, under any circumstances accept or offer a ride to a colleague while attending a holiday party. First off, you’re probably more intoxicated than you realize. Listen for such signs of tell-tale hubris such as the line “I drive better when I’m [choose one: drunk, stoned, on Ecstasy, on Zoloft, on top].” If you believe that, you will also believe that those flashing red lights on the roadside are Christmas decorations. They’re not—you’ve just become a holiday DUI statistic. Another reason one shouldn’t climb into a car with a colleague after bingeing on the company tab, is that anyone who was ever a teenager knows that a car is a love shack on wheels waiting to happen. It may be crammed, but here, size actually doesn’t matter—the biological imperative cares little for comfort; its mandate is to propagate the species and sex is its weapon. As often as we thwart its intentions, it can also thwart our judgment, especially when fogging the windows at the nearby Park & Ride. Removing the car factor also removes the friendly “kiss goodnight,” which is the Pandora’s Box of office-borne imbroglios, prone to morphing into a make-out session. At a certain stage, however, making out is no longer an end in itself. It’s foreplay.
Rule Three: Bring a date.
Be they your life partner, your best friend or that guy who lives in the bus shelter, bringing someone—anyone—to your holiday party will help prevent a holiday hookup. Husbands and wives, long-term partners, all serve a prophylactic purpose when vigilantly attached to one’s side. Consider them human shields. Though the more ardent among the home-wreckers might find the presence of your significant other a “challenge,” the real challenge will be explaining to your partner why your pursuer is so interested in you in the first place. This is very likely because you ignored either or both of the previous rules at the last holiday party and have spent the entire year up to this point piously reminding this person that you’re “just friends.” This, of course, is like insisting that Santa Claus is a real person. No one who was ever relegated to the “just friends” category of one’s social schema is really just a friend. That person is someone that gets strung along until you’ve drunk too much at the next holiday party. This sort of ritualized psychosexual behavior is referred to as a shame cycle, not “tradition,” as cute as you think that sounds. Another hazard of bringing one’s partner is that somebody becomes attracted to him or her and decides to test the mettle of your relationship with overt flattery, seduction and outright assassination of your character. This is particularly difficult if the person in question is your boss; however, it doesn’t mean their spouse is fair game. Though studies have proven that sleeping with the boss has helped some careers, sleeping with the boss’ spouse has the exact opposite effect. Don’t do it. Unless you want to be the “ex” in X-mas.