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Sunday, February 06, 2005

Forcing my hand?

I like a woman I work with. She's about my age, we have a similar outlook on life and of late we have been getting on really well. When I have some downtime in the lab, such as waiting for something to incubate for 5 minutes or spinning a sample in the centrifuge for 10 minutes, I often wander over to her bench and have a chinwag. For the past couple of months I have been considering asking her out to the cinema or something.

Tonight, at a houseparty, another workmate whom I have also been getting to know well, told me that he is thinking of asking her out this week.


First of all, whilst I do like this woman, its a fairly vague "wouldn't it be fun..." sort of liking. I'm certainly not going to get in a pissing contest with a good mate over her charms. I'm not going to beat my chest, throw my dung at him and mark my territory by pissing on her lab coat. Indeed if they get together, then all power to both of them and I wish them well - plenty more fish in the sea, blah blah blah. Genuinely.

But it has got me thinking about how procrastination lets things slip through your fingers. It also has me wondering if I should see any rebuff of him as a potential second chance for me? And can I capitalise on that chance without causing a ruckuss? And do I want to? I think that He and I need a chat before I chat to her.

Dating her does raise a few problems. Some are minor - is a relationship witha workmate a good idea? Some labs in the US actually prohibit such things because of the problems it can cause. In our case that isn't such a huge problem. We are on separate projects, and the group is quite big. Assuming we are mature about it I'm not too stressed about that. The effect on work colleagues is slightly more worrying. One or two of my collegaues are rather cliquey and so any problems between us would have an adverse effect, with one of us (most likely me) falling out of favour. I'd rather that didn't happen, since I am fond of all of our mutual friends.

The major problem is a little more serious. To be specific the problem is a cute-as-a-button, metre high, blonde 3-yearold problem - her daughter. The fact is that I live a fundamentally selfish existence. With no girlfriend or even flatmates to consider I work the hours I choose (or rather my insomnia chooses for me). I come and go as I please. I don't plan my life in any way shape or form. Indeed, I dislike structure in my life so much that I almost resent my friends and family visiting me as I have to plan ahead. Naturally, I don't let that stop friends visiting me and miss them when they are gone - but the selfish part of me resents that. It probably accounts for some of my antipathy toward SWMNBN also, if I am honest with myself.

This woman's life revolves around her child. This is a tremendous thing. I have watched with awe and growing respect as single-handedly she has held down a demanding job and raised a charming little girl. The question is - how can I fit in? Quite rightly I will always be second place and will have to make compromises. Am I a big enough man to grow up and do so? My lifestyle at the moment is chaotic - hers is ordered with military precision. Just going for a drink of an evening requires the synchronising of her and Granny's schedule so the little one is baby-sat. Often it just can't happen. Spontaneously deciding that we should go to the cinema or for a drink is out of the question.

In many ways I am a very easy-going guy. I suspect that its not going to bother me too much if the evening has to be spent in front of a DVD or reading a bedtime story, rather than in the pub. But it worries me that she may feel bad.

And of course, since I've drunk enough tonight to be honest, as a biologist I have to confess to feeling the warm breath of Charles Darwin whispering in my ear "its not your kid". True enough. And of course how much of what I've just said is fancy excuses to dress up that simple underlying fact in more palatable terms? As much as I may wish I could, I cannot simply dismiss 500 million years of evolutionary programming. My selfishness may simply be a result of my selfish genes. Not a pleasant thought. Next week could be interesting.



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