Last month, I went on a date with the summer intern, Jane. We had been casually flirting for a few weeks, and on her last day in the office I asked her out to drinks. Two weeks and a series of suggestive text messages later, I took Jane out to an Italian restaurant in New York. We ate, we drank, we talked, we flirted, and after dinner we sat in Central Park and made out.
When I told my female friends about the date, I was shocked by the amount of verbal eye rolling. Real tough to pull that off, I’m sure. What is she, 20? I’m sure the recriminations would have only increased if Jane had still been working at my company when we went out. You know, you have to be careful with that kind of thing. Do you want to get fired? The stigma against dating the doe-eyed, naïve intern has been well represented in pop culture (watch pretty much any episode of Mad Men), but somewhere along the line, the stigma was extended to unattached men asking out unattached interns or young female coworkers. And that I have a problem with.
To be fair, the backlash against married men chasing after hot young women at work – much less college coed interns – is understandable and completely warranted. A friend of mine, Amy, recently completed an internship at a major investment bank and said that the casual – and sometimes overt – harassment from her male superiors was virtually nonstop.
They’re always on me – asking me out and flirting and making innuendos. And they’re all married. And they all seem to think that it’s OK.
Another 24-year old employee at the same investment bank, Samantha, said she rarely wears makeup to work and generally dresses in conservative clothing to avoid being labeled the office’s “hot girl.” And while no one directly hit on our other summer intern, Blake, a bubbly blond girl who didn’t quite understand how to restrain her cleavage in work clothes (or maybe she did), several married men in our office made no effort to hide their leering.
Men are always going to be attracted to and interested in women younger than they are – particularly at work, where the girls have ostensibly similar interests and knowledge bases, like a Deadspin intern who can talk your ear off about sports or a girl who can cogently describe a credit default swap. And unlike a girl you randomly met last Saturday night whom you’ve never seen outside of a club before but are now taking out to dinner, the summer intern is on your floor, maybe even in the cubicle or office next to you, every weekday for 2-3 months.
And of course there’s the sexual side of it all. A cute college-aged girl in the office who’s having a summer in the city and will disappear from the office come September as quickly as she appeared? Simply put, it’s alluring. The fact that fraternization with interns is frowned upon only makes it more desirable. There’s something deliciously taboo about it, and the added thrill of being caught in the middle of a quickie in the closet or sneaking up to the office after hours and going at it on your desk puts a charge into every flirty conversation and lingering glance.
But the most important reason? We like interns because they like us. Everything I just described cuts both ways. Jane, the intern I took out (who is in fact 21), told me that she would daydream about me at her desk and get a thrill of anticipation every time I came over to her cubicle because she was attracted to me and it was “against the rules” to date a coworker. And in an industry where girls often go for men in their 30s or older, an intern is much more likely to give a mid-20s coworker a second look.
So save your indignation for the married guys who are actually sketching out their coworkers. And if you’re an intern and you’re locking eyes with someone across the office, don’t let the stigma hold you back.
Photo: AMC’s Mad Men