It’s now officially autumn: the season of football, leaf-crunching, tailgating, campfires … and holiday office parties. And that brings a scourge of epic proportions: +1 anxiety disorder. People everywhere tie themselves up in knots trying to decide whether or not they should invite a date to their holiday party. How do you know whether bringing a date will make the evening bearable or turn it into an unmitigated disaster? Here are some things to think about:
Are you sure guests are invited?
Some companies try to keep costs down by limiting the invitee list to “employees only.” Don’t just assume guests are invited; if the invitation doesn’t make it clear, ask.
How well do you know your potential “date”?
Does your date know how to put on a professional face and “play the game”? Do you have a niggling worry that she may show up in something completely inappropriate? Or that he’ll jab his finger in your boss’s chest and tell him he’s been working you too hard? Carry on polite conversation while nibbling on hors’ d’veours or plow through the buffet line like he hasn’t eaten in a month?
If you have any – any! – worries about your date embarrassing you, go alone. It’s much better to have a solitary evening than it is to creep into work the next morning while the cleaning staff is still trying to clean your date’s vomit out of the carpet in the lobby.
Have you talked a little too much?
What have you told your co-workers about your date? Is anyone likely to tell him how cute it is that he sleeps with your underwear on his head? Or ask him if he’s found a job yet? Tell him how wrong he was in the argument you had last week? An office party can be a minefield if you’ve run your mouth a little too much at work, and free-flowing alcohol only makes it worse.
Will your date talk too much?
Pillow talk has a way of coming back to haunt you. Is your date likely to make reference to something the two of you talked about in private? Like your co-worker’s divorce? Or a deal you’re working on that’s supposed to be confidential? Or might she try to catch your eye during a conversation and whisper, “Is he the one?” Or – and this may be even worse – will he tell “cute” stories about you, like the time you got so drunk you patted a cop on the rear and told him he had a cute tushy? If you have any doubts about your date’s discretion, leave him at home.
Will your date be comfortable on the periphery?
Even if your date works in the same field, she’s not going to get all of the work talk. Will she be comfortable standing there while you’re talking shop? Will she understand that you have some networking to do? Or will she expect your full attention and resent any time you spend talking about something that doesn’t directly involve her?
Have you been honest about your role at work?
Everybody exaggerates sometimes. Have you made your role out to be more than it is? Given the impression that you’re BFFs with the boss, even though you’re really not sure she even knows your name? If your date is likely to be unpleasantly surprised by anything, don’t take him.
Do you have any secrets?
There should be a special category of the Darwin Awards for people who take a long-term significant other or a spouse to a work party when they’re having an affair with the person the next cube over. Just Don’t Do it!
Will PDA be a problem?
We know you’re smoking hot, but if your date can’t keep his hands to himself for a couple of hours, leave him home. Public Displays of Affection – especially those more appropriate behind closed doors – have no place at office parties.
In general, it’s not a good idea to take someone you just met to a work party. If you have to spend time thinking about whom you should invite, it’s probably better to go alone. If you do decide to take a date, just make sure it’s someone you know well enough to be confident they won’t show up in a gold bikini with a martini in each hand. Fair or not, people will judge you on your date, so either go stag or choose a date who will increase your status at work.