Who's found love at their annual work Christmas do? And by love I mean, you know, a wet snog or a bit of what you might be able to class as sex. Just some human contact to make you feel less alone at the end of a cruel, tiring year. Come on, hands up. Because while on paper it might be one of the least sexy events of the whole year (cheap booze, awkward company and regrettable conversation being the order of the evening), there's a fair few of us who have touched bits of our co-workers that we never thought – never hoped – we would.
But office parties aren't always about clumsy fumbles that will haunt you forever. According to one (completely reliable and absolutely scientific) survey that plopped into my inbox this week, one in seven women have entered into a long term relationship with a colleague following a furry-tongued snog at the office party. And, apparently, the same number have "their eye" on someone they work with, hoping that things might take an intimate turn over a warm beer and a couple of Twiglets.
In my experience, the only slightly "naughty" thing that's happened at a work Christmas outing was a female colleague flashed her bra. And I don't think it was even in my direction.
So can office parties really be the breeding ground for romance? We asked four women writers to share their experiences of The Office Christmas Do.
I MET MY GIRLFRIEND AND FELL IN LOVE
December 16th 2006. I was working as an usher at a West End theatre and our Christmas party was being held after hours at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
I'm sat on the sweeping staircase of the theatre, feeling pretty jazzed about the new Rip Curl hoodie I had on, with a plastic beaker of cava in my paw. A girl – let's call her Denise – meanders over and sits beside me. Denise is heart-skip beautiful, heterosexual and had once gotten off with the boy from the SunPat advert – so obviously I was out of my depth. I should also mention that I was wearing flared corduroy trousers and I hadn't figured out how to tint my blonde eyebrows yet, so I always looked like the shocked, wide-eyed and open-mouth emoji.
Anyway. We chatted, we vibed, and then came the question that I now know to be A FLASHING RED WARNING SIGN. Denise says, "So you're a lesbian? I just can't imagine, like, going down on a girl…".
Now that I've been out and lezzing around town for over a decade, I know that on the whole properly heterosexual girls don't ask this question. They don't spend much time thinking about performing oral sex on women because, I don't know, I guess they're just hungry for sausage. But the straight girls who are harbouring a secret desire to have it off with another girl? They love getting drunk and cornering lesbians and asking them this question. Twenty-year-old me didn't know that yet though, so I just answered honestly, "I dunno. It's just normal. I like it."
We stayed there on the stairs, talking, all night. In a matter of hours I went from not really knowing her name, to learning everything about her, to realising that even if I could download her brain into my own, I could NEVER learn enough about her. And then she kissed me.
I fell in love with Denise like I've never loved anyone or thing before. She came out as gay. We made it official. We grew up together. We made each other better people. And then after five years together she proposed… Jokes. She cheated on me and tore my heart in to bloodied ribbons of flesh.
But shock twist: we worked through it and years later she's one of my dearest friends. Classic lez behaviour.
And all that from a work Christmas party. By Kayleigh Llewellyn
OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTIES ARE THE WORST
I've never in my life been able to imagine an atmosphere less conducive to fairytale romance than a work Christmas party. For some people, these things are laced with romantic possibility. I have clearly never worked in the same places as them. In my office, our Christmas celebrating will begin on the rough carpet tiles around our desks pincering a corrugated plastic cup of warm M&S cava, while making agonising small talk with a woman from accounts you would really rather internally email.
If you work in the 'creative industries' the party may take on more ambitious delusions of glamour. Things will inevitably relocate to a cheap-to-hire cocktail joint where you will be released like pack of sequinned greyhounds on the bar. Wherever your party's held, the only person you have ever fancied in the office will leave sensibly at about 23.00 muttering something about getting up for Winter Wonderland with his girlfriend – a woman who you have never met but deeply resent. After this time you'll be left to work the room, gently sabotaging your career in a way that will only become clear over the next year. Despite the fact that absolutely nobody is having what is popularly known as a 'good time' the lure of the bar is certain to draw everyone back in like burnt moths slowly drowning in the wax of a church candle.
Outside the social smokers share rebellious menthols and swap titillating anecdotes you absolutely never wanted to hear. Your boss conducts her line management from the top of the a toilet cistern, a guy from accounts with Jagerbomb admits to you he's always hated his wife and you start doing weird flirting with the IT guy. This may or may not end in eggnog-fuelled half-sex at his place in Enfield. Through the window you may spot a man in his mid forties in that palpable experimenting-with-hats phase of a midlife crisis who is attempting to impress the office manager by showing her he can still do the worm. This heartbreaking display marks the beginning of a countdown clock to the 02.00 that will end with his vomiting into his corduroy trilby in the back of a company Addison Lee. By Lucy Hancock
I FELL IN LOVE WITH MY JOB
For me, romance has always been fairly low on the festive agenda – unless you count the time my old colleague and dear friend Ben pulled a single bollock out through his flies and tried to brush it against the back of my hand while Gok Wan played with his dog on the next table. But I did once fall in love at a Christmas party.
I was 25, had recently moved to London and was living in a flat lightly coated with black mould, overlooking Lidl. I had not been happy, but thanks to a non-hormone coil and a change of job, I was starting to remember what happy felt like. The party was held at Shunt – the now defunct club under a railway arch in London Bridge. I had been working at a charity for, at most, a month and took the precaution of eating no dinner and wearing shoes that didn't fit for our annual knees up. As I walked in, I spotted an entire tray of fizzing wine and my wealthy philanthropist boss in a pair of ludicrously colourful trainers chatting animatedly to a waitress. We drank, I used a number of christmas trees as ash trays, several slight men in waistcoats snogged up against the coats and I asked each of my colleagues in turn who they'd hollow out and use as a canoe in the case of an apocalypse.
Right then and there I fell in love. Not with a person, but with my job
For the first time in a long time, I was working with young people - people who made me laugh, who hated Christmas, who did the kind of dancing that can result in a neck brace and who were happy to get off with each other pressed up against a rail of puffa jackets. I was being paid to write, I wasn't having to sell Ribena any more and I could afford get trains instead of the Megabus.
Right then and there I fell in love. Not with a person, but with my job. And it would be months, if not years, before I started riding any of them. By Nell Frizzell
PEOPLE ARE FILTHY AND IT'S GREAT
Maybe it's the fumes from 20 canisters of Batiste going full pelt inside the ladies' loos. Maybe it's the fact that, you know, you hate your colleagues. Maybe it's the tinny Christmas music someone's been playing out of their PC since 09.50. But there's something about the office Christmas party that turns everyone into a raging hormonal maniac. Propelled by a free bar (until 9pm) and rage at your shitty Secret Santa present, your whole persona changes. Even if you've been in a long-term and loving relationship – like I have – the temperature changes and you start acting, frankly, like a slag.
Take one year that I was working at a newspaper. In a proper woman-from-the-Boots-advert bodycon dress, I decided to slut-drop on the dancefloor to Rihanna's 'Diamonds' in full knowledge that quite a senior editor was standing 1ft behind me, watching with bemusement. At the time, I felt sexy. Empowered by my own womanliness. But that's what 12 glasses of cava will do for you.
That same night I got the most romantic proposition of all time from someone else: "I'll go outside and wait in a cab. Come and find me in 10 minutes. Nobody ever needs to know."
But it's just part of the ritual of humiliation that we act out every time. Any and all semi-attractive colleagues are slid up to, beers accepted, appalling flirting engaged in. It's mechanical, barely enjoyable, done mainly out of boredom, and always painful the next day in the office.
No wonder so many of us find love at Christmas parties – we let our guards down and act in a way that we would never normally dream of. Yes, there's the very high risk you'll come off deluded, or a creep, or a problematic drinker, but it's when we take the chance that things can actually happen. So, go for it – let your slut flag fly and see what happens. Just don't try the cab line, it's shit. By Helen Nianias
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