This is easy. Loving and being loved in return is such an intrinsic and critical human need that we need not place restrictions on where it is found or in what manner it is found.
But should your workplace be on that list or should your work colleague(s) be off limits?
While in my early twenties and in a more mellow Eastern Nigeria landscape, dating came easy. There was a bevy of men who wanted to take you out for drinks, have a nice meal and all the other fancy stuff that people did when they were getting to know each other. When I moved to Lagos to start my first job right after the compulsory, and totally irrelevant Youth Service programme, this didn’t change as much. It just took on a new face and began to involve men that were well older than I was and had more means to do even fancier stuff. It didn’t help that they used the latter as a bargaining chip. Generally, the notion that women in Lagos were more concerned about how much spending power you had than anything else, was strongly being fostered by the myriad of dating stories that abound in this city.
So, two or three years ago, when a guy pulled up his Range Rover and asked if I wanted a lift or said they wanted to know me better, I scoffed and rolled my eyes in my head and politely declined, a small smile plastered on my face. I wasn’t always this civil in my teenage years. My elder sister reset my brain while we spent a year at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University where I was doing a pre-degree programme. That really hasn’t changed.
Just before the festivities of Christmas last year, Instagram Love Doctor, Joro Olumofin had published an article listing out places in Lagos where men, especially the IJGB tribers, could land themselves “wife material” (one of the sad fall outs of the gender tag ideologies). Ikoyi Link Bridge, Daystar Christian Centre (2nd and 3rd service), MM2(weekdays) House on the Rock(front and middle row), COZA (also front and middle row), popular eateries during lunch hour and a couple of other places made the list.
I found the list pretentious and still do because it fosters the imbibing of desirability on the basis of class or social/religious affiliations. In addition, it places a restriction on the wild, almost foolhardy nature with which love comes and blooms.
The dating culture in Lagos isn’t a very easy one. Something as simple as living on either of the two sides of the Third Mainland Bridge could wreck an otherwise potentially beautiful relationship. The hectic work lifestyle involving week-long lengthy work hours interspersed by bursts of hours spent in traffic traversing the city in an attempt to maintain some semblance of a work-life balance, the emotional and physical toll this takes, can all be overwhelming.
So when love comes bundled into one of your hardworking, kind-hearted and sweet colleague, would you easily turn away all things being equal? Why would you?
Last month, while celebrating a friend’s engagement, I had asked a group of friends if they would date a colleague or someone who worked in the same place as them. In Lagos, it is not unusual to see shared working spaces, where two or more companies share an office complex or building usually to ease the burden of rent and maintenance costs. A lot of them vehemently opposed the idea, mostly without cogent reasons beyond the awkwardness of it or just having to see your other every single day.
Agreeably, in a number of companies, there might be rules that do not encourage this for many important reasons. No manager wants to have to deal with a puppy-eyed team leader who has lost his voice around a female subordinate he’s eyeing but who is clearly messing up with work processes and needs chiding. And more often than not, these incidents abound. In some other corporate spheres, you can run through every thing in skirts or pants that inhabits the building and no one would care as long as you do not let it interfere with what you’re being paid to do each day. Yet in some other place, you can date or smash as you please, but be required to bear in mind that with an engagement or a wedding will come the end of one or the other’s journey at the firm in question. Some ground rules require that you do not date someone in the same department as you.
Will I consider dating someone whom I work with or share an office space with? Most certainly. Largely because it is the easiest and most convenient way to find love in this city and I want a love that comes easy, for the most part. And while I can’t speak for the everyone, I believe that not a lot of people are keen on taking the Romeo and Juliet path to finding real love – the rugged, grueling, uphill path.
Are the fears my friends raised, about the awkwardness of it and the possibility of an overdose of nearness, real? Quite. True life story. Let’s just say that as the poster child of the Inexpressive Nigerian Women’s Club, I was never distracted from my work. I wasn’t daydreaming about kisses during meetings or anything like that. But I looked forward to coming in to the office each day. Even when we didn’t see for days at a stretch (we worked in the same space but not for the same company), the thought that he was there took away the drudgery of work. There was no overdose of nearness but the awkwardness was there, on his part as I would later learn and heightened when the relationship suffered.
Despite all of this, it’s not an occurrence I would encourage you to write off. While we made a caricature of relationships in my first work place, where there was an abundance of testosterone and estrogen given the highly millennial workforce, people built relationships that blossomed into beautiful marriages.
Loving and being loved in return is such an intrinsic and critical human need that we need not place restrictions on where it is found or in what manner it is found, for all good intents and purposes. I think that what’s more important is that you find happiness in whom you choose to love and that in loving them, you aren’t only allowed to be and express your truest and more real self, but that in loving them, you always have the chance and push and resolve to grow into a better version of your self and your experience.
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