Alcohol and I don't mix
July 3, 2017 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I work in a large organization where I sometimes socialize with my colleagues. One Friday we went out for drinks after work and I clearly had too much. Stupid decisions after the jump.

I've always had a complicated relationship with alcohol. I'm very shy, very introverted, beset by intense social anxiety, and alcohol is sometimes the only way I'd be able to talk with people. But I have a history of poor decisions while intoxicated, so I've scaled back as much as I could. A colleague was celebrating a promotion that particular evening, and I had too much. And I flirted with a colleague. Nothing much happened by way of physical stuff, but we definitely did cross the coworkers only line (my organization does not frown upon workplace relationships).
I've been trying to sound out my coworker delicately so as to close the chapter instead of letting the awkwardness resurface. But when we did talk about it, he said I came onto him and was 'all over him' and 'kept trying to escalate things'. This is simply not true. I remember the evening with fair clarity and nothing was one-sided. Not to mention I'm too timid and too insecure to force myself on someone. I'm furious at his wilful misinterpretation. I'm not worried about gossip, but I need to find a way to get past this and continue to be professional towards him. I've already decided to skip alcohol at all work shindigs and avoid any social occasions with said colleague. But my cringe-meter is through the roof, and I'm really angry. Help me forget my bout of stupidity but not the lessons it brought.
posted by Nieshka to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What you have is evidence that this kind of thing happens to everybody (namely, him too) but that you're being more honest with yourself about the problems it's causing you, whereas he's obviously in denial about it. And/or he needs to treasure that one time when a woman came on to him because he feels it won't happen again, and he's slightly hurt that you didn't mean it so he's lashing out over it. Just let his issues be separate from your issues. You focus on remembering that you won't be allowing situations like that to develop (i.e. no more drinking with coworkers) and it sounds like he's got plenty of his own issues to simmer in, that are very much not your problem, you can consider this whole thing a bullet dodged, you now know this guy better and you know he's not self-aware enough to handle his own actions.
posted by aimedwander at 10:05 AM on July 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Are you close with a third party coworker who could corroborate your suspicion that this guy is "willfully misinterpreting" what happened? Who could confirm that the flirtation was not one-sided?

If not, I would try to dial back your fury at him. Surely there is a chance that, since you were drunk, you came across as more intense than you thought you did? Even if not, isn't it possible that he was a little tipsy too, and as a result thought you were being pushier than you really were? Alcohol makes people confused and when you're drunk it's really had to judiciously interpret your behavior and others' behavior.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:06 AM on July 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

I agree it is hard to know the objective "real" truth here unless there was a 100% sober coworker present who can back up one or the other story. It's also possible that the coworker felt uncomfortable but wasn't communicating that in a way you were able to interpret/understand, because of some combination of you being intoxicated, him being intoxicated, his own poor social skills, etc. etc. You're never going to be able to read his mind and know how he truly felt in the moment, so it seems useless to get upset about.

Going forward, honestly I would apologize, along the lines of "I'm really sorry that our interaction at the happy hour left you feeling uncomfortable. I want you to know that I won't be drinking at future work events and I hope we can move forward with a good professional relationship." Because whether the interaction was one- or two-sided, it sounds like you DO acknowledge it was unprofessional, you don't ever want any of your coworkers to feel uncomfortable around you, and you won't be drinking at future events -- so it's all true.

On your end, I would work on acknowledging that even in the best of times, two people can have pretty different understandings of social interactions without that making either of them bad people, and that's extra true when alcohol is involved on both sides. Whether that's the case here or this guy really is intentionally lying about the interaction, you can't go back and change it so it seems wise to choose the more charitable interpretation in the service of a good working environment going forward -- perhaps with an extra dose of cautiousness around this person in the future.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:30 AM on July 3, 2017 [11 favorites]

Apologies for threadsitting, but I had physical evidence of non-one-sidedness the day after. There's no way to share without TMI and sounding juvenile, but I have skin that marks easily. I'd leave it at that. I cannot ask the others with us because that'll just focus more attention on this, which is the opposite of what I want.
It is entirely possible that I came on stronger than I realized, and I'll definitely keep that in mind in the future.
posted by Nieshka at 10:35 AM on July 3, 2017

What I remember as tipsily leading the campfire songs while keeping time with a marshmallow stick, my family remembers as me drunkenly bellowing off-key songs while waving around a flaming marshmallow.
There are many truths.

The advice above is pretty good.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:38 AM on July 3, 2017 [43 favorites]

All of these things can be true at the same time - you might have been uncharacteristically forward, and he might have been into it. If people generally know you as pretty reserved, even pretty low-key flirting will look like a full-court press in contrast.

Also, we're all adults here, you can just say you wound up with a hickey at the end of the night. We all have, one night or another. And a hickey is decent evidence of things not being so one-sided, so there you go. He doesn't get to slut-shame you over that.
posted by blerghamot at 11:14 AM on July 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

The guy is either worried that you're going to accuse him of taking advantage of your drunkenness, or annoyed because he was into it and is offended that you're saying you weren't all that into it. Big deal, you made out with someone at a happy hour. Just let it drop; don't confront him about it again. (And yes, people definitely do perceive others' intoxication differently than their own, all the time.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:28 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're both misremembering what happened, and you can't go back in time and be sober (even as an observer) so it's really not worth thinking about who's 'right' (you can't have it both ways and say that you were too drunk to control your actions, but not your perception, so the other party is 'willfully misinterpreting' - that is not how being drunk works) - you can only do as you plan to do and not get drunk at work parties. This'll reinforce that it was a 'one-off' event and people will forget about it.

There's a whole lot more I could say about finding balance with regards to social inhibitions and all of that, but since this is strictly about work social gatherings I think it's fine advice to not do any drinking.
posted by destructive cactus at 12:06 PM on July 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Last round of threadsitting, I promise.
I agree that I can neither go back in time, and that it sounds incongruous to have a clear recollection of the evening and yet be admittedly tipsy enough to be a much more forward version of myself. And it doesn't matter what he thinks or does, the only person whose behaviour I can modify is my own.
I've apologized to the coworker, said no untoward incidents shall happen again, and definitely decided to refrain from alcohol at work stuff at the very least, if not in general. Onwards and upwards, away from the cringe.
Grateful for the input!
posted by Nieshka at 12:15 PM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Honestly it sounds like he is trying to avoid a sexual assault accusation by telling you that you were the instigator first. He's just nervous, like you are, but for a different reason. I'd just maintain a professional distance and time will deal with the awkwardness.
posted by Jubey at 5:50 PM on July 3, 2017

I think a light and breezy apology from you will likely garner a return from him. If your objective is to put it behind you and avoid future awkwardness, then summon up a tone of confidence using humor and honesty. Because, to me, that's where confidence comes from. Since you've already spoken to him, I would follow up with a carefully worded email.

"Well, I sure learned that lesson to not mix alcohol with work the hard way, haha! Sorry for any residual awkwardness. Don't worry about it happening again, promise it won't. Let's just move forward with our professional relationship!"

And hen just forget it. It will fade after a while.
posted by raisingsand at 1:02 PM on July 4, 2017

« Older Help us find new anime to mindlessly stream at...   |   How does one become one of those movie trailer... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.