I Let a Partner Touch My Boobs. Now What?
February 12, 2010 by Sweet Hot Counsel
Q: Before I relay my question, I would just please like to reiterate that I do not believe that I’ve been sexually harassed in any way and I’m not looking to file any sort of claim. However, I did let a partner, well, feel up my boobs in a momentary lapse of judgment and now I’m completely freaking out. I’m a third-year associate and he’s a junior partner and it happened at a welcome reception for the new first-year associates. I actually worked with him on a major white-collar case a few years ago back when he was a senior associate and I always thought there was a little sexual tension but I was a first-year at the time and he was gunning for partner and nothing ever happened. But after the reception the other night, a few of us all went out and after a while, it was just me and him and a few drinks led to a few more and before I knew it, his hands were heading under my shirt and I fully let it happen (in public, no less) – but did stop right after that and we took separate cabs home.
He’s not married, but I’m pretty sure he’s seeing someone and, well, he’s a partner in my department. I don’t want to have some sort of an “affair” but I had fun and actually really like this guy and wouldn’t be adverse to a relationship, but I can barely look him in the eye. Now what?
A: Oh, “affairs” with “partners.” They’re so “fun” and often lead to “things” like “getting fired.” Child, have you learned NOTHING from this site—specifically, the parade of horribles appearing over here?
OK, look, here’s what I’ve learned from my years as a person who…lives on the Earth: When you let a guy you barely know tap out Stairway to Heaven on your boobs in the middle of a bar before he goes home to his girlfriend, your chances for a “relationship” are pretty well shot. And when this person is also your boss, you might as well just call a headhunter now. See, the morning after your little liaison, you woke up and felt kind of tingly and embarrassed and a little hopeful, and texted four girlfriends and at least one gay about it and made sure to put on lip gloss and wear a cute outfit in case you saw him—and he woke up and made a mental note to avoid you for the next sixteen years. And maybe called a lawyer.
Sorry, but he likely doesn’t think you’re girlfriend material—and his girlfriend probably doesn’t, either. Even if this gropefest did inspire him to pursue a “relationship,” what’s he going to do? Start dating someone he supervises—someone who could, despite her intense reiterations to the contrary, fire off a harassment suit in three seconds if the relationship soured or she got laid off? And what about you? Why would you put yourself in a position where someone who has the power to fire you—or at the very least make your life miserable—be the same guy who sees you naked in your downtime? Everybody loses. There is a reason, after all, why associates date other associates—and why partners just stick to hookers. Or secretaries.
So, calm down—you’re actually not in much of a dilemma. Since a relationship’s totally off the table, the most you can hope for with this guy is a grope in a file room now and then—which, hey, has its place, but will do just as much for your ego as it will for your career. So, just put this little episode behind you, make sure to hold your head high around this partner, and just move on to more eligible bachelors. And maybe wear a turtleneck from now on around the office.
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