I went to happy hour with a group of coworkers today and had a rather odd exchange.
Our group was planning an office party for the end of the month and one woman mentioned that her friend in the company would be bringing her boyfriend. In response I said, “Yeah, that’s going to be a problem for me,” to which she replied, “Aren’t you married?”
Understand that I was (mostly) kidding and trying to ‘stir the pot’ a bit…it’s what I do. I wasn’t kidding in that I hate it when a significant other shows up to a work party because it’s awkward for everyone else. And while I’m not ‘in the market’ anymore there is still a competitive streak in me that gets riled up whenever ‘boyfriends’ are around…so like I said, I was mostly kidding.
But what really struck me was this woman’s question: “Aren’t you married?”
The obvious implication of her question is that my comment was inappropriate; she was publicly judging me. Why in the world would she think it appropriate to ask something like that? If the shoe was on the other foot and she made a similar comment, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. Even if someone came out and said something outrageous like, “I’d sure love to have an affair with him/her,” I still don’t think I would say anything like, “Aren’t you married?” I’d probably say nothing at all. If such a person asked for my advice I guess I’d give it, but is it really any of my business what anyone else is doing?
I suspect that hidden behind the question, “Aren’t you married?” is a person riddled with tremendous doubt and fear. Perhaps her parents had ‘issues’ when she was growing up; maybe she’s been badly hurt by men in the past. I simply cannot fathom what would drive one coworker to assume such a position of moral authority over a coworker.
Do you often find yourself playing the role of the Morality Police with friends and acquaintances?
What do think drives a person to play this role?