The other day at work, I was orienting a new colleague to where things are around the office and was introducing him to staff and explaining what each of them do.
During our day, my colleague explained that his wife did such-and-such job like someone I had introduced him to. Then he turned to me and asked, “are you married?”
Him: What does your wife do?
I expected to be asked this question some time or another. I had a plan on how to respond without forcing the same-sex marriage issue in the other guy’s face — especially since I really didn’t know the guy and he wasn’t likely going to be my next best friend.
My reply: My spouse is retired.
Him: So what did she do before she retired?
Me: My spouse used to … [described position at agency.]
Him: Seems like she had a pretty high-level position. Were you okay with that?
Me: [deep sigh]: Of course. I have always believed in supporting your best half to be the best at what they can do and achieve high levels of success.
Him: So what’s your wife doing now that she is retired?
Me: [another sigh]: Look, my spouse is a man. Maryland permits same-sex marriage, so I married the man of my life for the past 20 years. He is enjoying retirement by painting our house inside and out, puttering in the greenhouse that I built for his retirement gift, reading a lot, and otherwise enjoying some well-deserved downtime.
Him: Oh. Where’s the copier?
Me: … just down this hallway…
Moral of the story: interesting to watch what happens when assumptions are upset. There wasn’t any backlash or negativity, but the rather “instant” change of subject indicated to me that my new colleague needed time to process what I just said and thought a change of topic just might be the right thing to do.
Life is short: A personal life is a personal life, and should be left at home and not asked about at the office.