I’m attracted to my boss, VIP references, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. I had a dream about my boss … and now realize I’m attracted to him

I am a teacher in a large school district. From my first interview with my superintendent, we got along. I didn’t realize then that he had a reputation for not being friendly. Every interaction I had with him after was positive, professional, and the opposite of what his reputation was. Since he became the head superintendent, he has had many obstacles, both in the district and personally, and I’ve reached out to acknowledge this a few times. He has alway made an effort to seek me out when he is in our building or he sees me at a district event. And I’ve always thought this is because I understand him more than others.

Recently an incident happened that was innocent enough, but a family member of mine asked if he ever flirted with me. This was the first time I had ever thought of him in this context but I answered no, of course not. That night I had a very vivid but inappropriate dream about him and while I realize it was subconscious, I really struggled with it. He is married and so am I. I have never seen him as anything other than my boss. A week later, I saw him at a restaurant and he came over to talk with me (I was with another teacher). After the interaction, she commented about how he was looking at me. Thankfully I do not see him often, but I have sent him emails since then. In hindsight, I think I was trying to normalize things (and he has no clue). The problem is, now I think he realizes something is off. I’ve come to realize that I am attracted to him but will never act on this. I just don’t know how to handle things going forward or how to stop feeling this way.

Those dreams can mess you up! It’s not uncommon to have a sexual dream about someone who you’d never thought of that way before and then see them differently afterwards — especially if the dream was vivid, because now your brain has had those feelings toward them! It’s weird. (It can happen with other things too. You can have a dream that you were fighting with your spouse and feel off toward him the next day even though you know the fight didn’t really happen.)

If you don’t dwell on the feelings, they’ll go away in time. Carolyn Hax, I believe, has suggested picturing the person doing as many unappealing things as possible — being rude to your family, having a disgusting bathroom, hating your cooking, leaving you with all the cleaning, etc. Sometimes, too, it can help to take whatever spark you’re feeling toward the crush and trying to channel that into your marriage instead. But most importantly, don’t panic — crushes are natural, even married people get crushes, and it will go away in time as long as you don’t feed it.

I don’t want to ignore that two separate people have now raised the prospect of some kind of chemistry between you (or at least from him) … but I also do kind of want to ignore it. It sounds like you have a much better relationship with him than most people do, and sometimes other people can misinterpret that kind of rapport between a man and a woman as “oooooh, he likes you!” Of course, it’s also possible that your family member and the teacher who commented were picking up on something real. But assuming that he continues being professional with you and doesn’t cross any lines, it doesn’t really change the advice. (You might choose to pull back slightly on the warmth, while still being polite, but I don’t think you have to — unless that makes it easier for you or you do start sensing something inappropriate from him).

2. One-sided recognition

There is a trend in my office where staff are asked to sign cards for supervisors who have completed training or reached professional milestones. For instance, a newly promoted supervisor who finishes the introduction to supervision course administered by our agency can expect another supervisor to coordinate a card signed by the staff in his or her area.

When staff is made aware of the existence of another card, it is always with notice that they may sign if they wish. Signing these things is not a big deal and in some instances staff may actually have a relationship where the meaning is heartfelt. However, we are a small enough office that not signing will be noticed and the atmosphere is such that petty animosity from the top is a concern (trust is low and the agency ranks near the bottom of the yearly federal Employee Viewpoint Survey).

The only acknowledge staff receive for professional milestones is recognition of employment anniversaries in the form of a pin … or a rebuke that they are late in completing a required training. Is this normal? I used to think it small of me to be tired of the self-congratulatory supervisory ranks soliciting cards for one another, but now the semi-compulsory and one-sided nature of the ritual has me thinking that the promotion and relocation to better quarters is congratulations enough.

No, that’s obnoxious, and I’m not surprised to hear it’s a troubled atmosphere. Treating management’s accomplishments as important and worth celebrating and staff’s accomplishments as only worthy of a nudge to get them completed is a recipe for division and resentment. It’s not small of you to see this as one-sided and weird.

3. How important is it for my references to be VIPs?

I’m currently in a junior position on a team of about 15 people at a mid-sized company. I’m moving to another state soon (great timing, right?) but knew of my move very early and was able to give several months notice to my employer — meaning I don’t have to hide that I’m job-hunting or worry they’ll push me out if they hear I’m interviewing elsewhere.

When updating application materials for a few jobs, I asked my manager, “Maria,” if she’d be willing to be a reference for me. She enthusiastically said yes, but also said my work has been great and “Kim,” her manager, would surely be more than happy to be a reference for me if I wanted to ask her instead, since Kim has a higher title than Maria. This gave me pause — I’d always figured I should be using my manager as a reference. While Kim is a lovely person and a fantastic boss, I do not interact with her one-on-one very often, and while she likely has a rough idea of my day-to-day work, she does not assign me tasks or have check-ins with me, so I don’t expect she knows the ins and outs of what I do or don’t contribute. I’ve concluded that I’m likely overthinking this and that I should list Maria, as she can more directly speak to my work quality and my contributions to her team. Plus, while Kim’s title (Director of Federal Vegetable Policy) is higher than Maria’s (Associate Director of Zucchini Research), Maria’s nevertheless conveys that she is also relatively senior.

While this is a minor question, it’s gotten me thinking more about reference lists than anyone really should. Should I be making more of an effort to list people on my reference lists who are higher-ranking, even if they’re not my immediate manager? Maybe I’m being naive, but if I were a hiring manager I’d want to talk to someone who can speak best to a candidate’s work and their specific abilities, and I would be annoyed if an applicant had given me the name of someone a few levels above them in an attempt to impress me.

Nope, you’re exactly right. Your references should be people who can speak to your work with nuance. A manager several levels up who doesn’t know your work well won’t be able to answer questions with the kind of detail and nuance that make for a really great and useful reference. (Not everyone understands this though! That’s why you get people offering to be references for people they barely know.)

4. Changing my name after my parents’ divorce

My parents divorced after 30 years of marriage (I’m in my late 20’s) and it has not Gone Well. Turns out my dad is not who I thought he was, and he has completely cut contact with my mom. She wants to change her last name, from the one she took when she married him to something completely new. I’m a lot closer to my mom, and depending on how my dad acts in the near future, I might change my name too. It feels like changing your name after a divorce is normal and understandable, but changing your last name when your parents get divorced … it’s like standing in the town square with a big neon sign that says “MY DAD AND I DON’T GET ALONG.”

If I were to change names, how would I phrase this? I’m in an industry that relies heavily on social media, like my portfolio, which is akin to “www.buffysummers.com.” I can’t simply change and expect people not to notice or say anything. I could make a post on LinkedIn that simply says “I’ve changed names, and now go by Buffy Harris” but are people going to assume I’ve gotten married? I’m not even dating anyone, and it feels like it could become really awkward, really fast. Even a straightforward “I decided to change my name after my parents’ divorce” sounds like a surefire way to make others uncomfortable.

You don’t even necessarily need to make a big announcement (although if you do it, do it by email, since using LinkedIn means a ton of people will miss it). You can just start signing communications with your new name. It’s often helpful to include the old name too for a while so people know who you are — something like “Buffy Summers Harris” or “Buffy Harris (formerly Summers).”

And yeah, people are probably going to assume you got married. But you can simply correct them when that happens — and you can be vague when you do! You don’t need to explain it’s tied to your parents’ divorce; you can just say, “Just some family stuff!” Say it cheerfully and then move the conversation along, and most people won’t pry.

{ 302 comments… read them below }

  1. ezrijadzia*

    #4 – My mom changed her last name back to her maiden name after my parents’ divorce and my dad was also a bad person. I made the decision to change my name to match hers. Now, this is a bit different than what your mom is talking about doing (a totally new name) but I found that first, yes, people definitely assume you’ve gotten married (at least if you’re a woman, as I am), and if they ask and you say, oh no, I didn’t get married, some people just leave it at that and move on, but some people look at you quizzically, and for them I said “I changed it to match my mom’s last name.” They don’t need any details beyond that and they draw their own conclusions. Your mom might have had a different last name for any number of reasons. I handled it in email by having my signature be FirstName (OldLastName) NewLastName for a few months and then removing it when it seemed like everyone basically knew.

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      And it doesn’t necessarily have to signify that anything’s happened recently. For all anyone knows, your parents divorced 20 years ago and it’s just now as an adult you’ve decided it makes sense for your identity to change to your mum’s name.

      1. The Original K.*

        An ex changed his name to his mother’s maiden name when he was in his late 20s (before I knew him) and his parents split up when he was very young. (His father wasn’t a nice man, from what I heard, and died when Ex was in his mid- 20s, though he and Ex were estranged by then.) He just started using that name and when pressed, said “it’s my mother’s maiden name,” and people left it at that.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Yes, I know someone who did exactly that — his mother changed her last name after divorce (and not to her maiden name, either!), and years later, he changed his name to match hers.

    2. Anon4This*

      I did the same thing in my early 20s when my folks divorce was finalized. I hadn’t spoken to my father, who was an awful person and an even worse parent, since I was 18. I was incredibly close to my maternal grandparents, and my mom’s siblings stepped in to parent when I needed one. Changing it was a no-brainer – on of my aunts paid the filing fee for the court petition.

      People did assume I got married, but I usually just gave the briefest of corrections – I was quite close to my mom’s side of the family and decided to use their name. I don’t recall anyone sticking their foot in their mouth when I told them, and, twenty years in, I have almost forgotten some days that my last name was ever something else. (When I did get married several years later, I kept my family name – the paperwork was a bit of a bitch the first time.)

      I can’t speak to the social media aspect because I don’t use it, but most people with a professional reputation under a particular name typically go through a transition period where they use both or list a “formerly”. You can also try to pick up the new name on social media and point old accounts to the new one as well as grab the new name’s web address and use a redirect on the web from buffysummers.com to buffyharris.com. People will find you.

      1. The*

        A friend of mine who is a therapist changed her last name on social media in part to protect her privacy. She used her mother’s maiden name for her avatar, though she’s not changed her name legally or anything like that. A few people sent her messages of congratulations thinking she had been married, but it was pretty easy for her to send a note back saying, “Nope! Still single! Just trying to make it harder for clients to find me on Facebook!”

        I’ll admit I have a hard time remembering her actual last name since I only know her in a social aspect and not professionally…and her avatar is the name I see most…but it’s not THAT difficult to distinguish. So, agreeing with you, people will adapt!

    3. Aphrodite*

      Moat people aren’t going to be curious beyond maybe a single comment. I changed my full name (first, middle and last) a long time ago just because I never liked my birth names and while I am happy to answer anyone’s questions who asks people almost never do. They just aren’t that interested for the most part.

      1. pancakes*

        Same, though I didn’t take a new middle name. If particular people are so silly as to imagine a narrative about my family situation in an effort to explain it to themselves, shrug.

      2. Captain Raymond Holt*

        They’re really not. I changed my first name earlier this year and nobody really cared to comment. I got zero invasive questions. People said “okay” and moved on both in my personal and professional life.

          1. Persephone Mongoose*

            I’m 29 and plan to start going by my middle name and my boyfriend’s last name when we get married. The only reason I’m waiting to change first names is so I’m not having to go through the rigamarole twice when I can just do it once (and I’m not in any particular hurry to abandon my first name).

            If you want to change your name, do it and do it whenever it feels right to you. It’s only too late when you’re dead.

          2. new name*

            I am 69 and was divorced 35 years ago. I changed my name to my mother’s maiden name this year. It is not too late.

          3. Aphrodite*

            It’s never too late. I was 39-40 when I got it changed legally. Do it and love it!

            Nolo Press, which publishes self-help legal books, has a book you can use to do it yourself either with the usage method or the court petition method. I used the latter.

      3. Ohlaurdy*

        Yes – a friend of mine changed her last name back to her maiden name when her father was ill and she decided it would be easier for caretaking purposes if they shared a last name. Another friend changed his last name to his middle name because he never had a relationship with his father. This is all to say that there are a lot of reasons someone might change their name! Some people might ask a few questions, but in the grand scheme of things, most won’t care.

    4. Anonymous Poster*

      I had a male coworker that changed his last name. It wasn’t due to a divorce, but because he felt closer to his step-father, who did the day-to-day work of raising him, than his biological father who was mostly out of the picture.

      He didn’t have the assumption he got married there, but he did get a lot of questions when suddenly his email address was changed and his old one sent an auto-forward. He was very matter-of-fact about it, and after about a month everyone forgot about it and moved on.

      It’s a very different industry where social media doesn’t matter, but people generally move on very quickly. You don’t even have to get into the details if you don’t want to, but if I had a female colleague whose last name changed like that I’d assume they got married. I’d imagine correcting it might get tiring, but I’m not sure there’s a clear way around it. Honestly though, most people, once they see the new last name, might wonder why but aren’t really going to ask. It’s the awkward folks and the people you’re close to that will ask about it. The awkward folks, definitely come up with a super vague-sauce explanation, and the people you’re closer to you’d probably tell the story to anyway so it’s no big deal.

      Best of luck!

      1. CaseyCakes*

        Thank you for this comment. I don’t know why the standard response here is that people are not going to be here is about something as big as a name change. They will be EXTREMELY curious and the more people try to blow it off, the more they will dig you into it behind the scenes.

        OP5, please don’t fool yourself. You can either be direct about your reasons for changing your name, or expect unending questions either to your face or behind your back.

        1. Libervermis*

          The plural of anecdote isn’t data, but I don’t know that you can confidently state everyone will be “EXTREMELY curious”. I’ve had colleagues with name changes of various sorts over the years, and other than the occasional email confusion (if that hasn’t caught up yet), it’s just a piece of information akin to “nut allergy” or “really likes frogs”. Sometimes I know the reason for the name change, sometimes I don’t. I like my colleagues, we’re very friendly, but speculating over someone’s name change is both none of my business and a waste of time when I’m busy.

        2. Anon4This*

          Well, my “standard response” to this one is based on actually changing my name based on personal preference and not dealing with any major curiosity or gossip. I got a few pretty neutral questions that were easily dealt with. One of my financial institutions and the SSA were more of an issue than people. Maybe I just live/work with people who have better things to do with their time than speculate about what other people choose to call themselves?

        3. pancakes*

          In addition to what others have said, I want to point out that some of us hold petty busybodies in particularly low esteem. People who get hung up on this sort of thing are down near the bottom of my unofficial list of people I hope to be respected or liked by. There’s nothing for them to dig into, either. If they manage to track down the local newspaper my late 1990s name change was published in to comply with legal requirements, that’s of no consequence. It’s identical in form to dozens of other such boilerplate notices published alongside it.

        4. Sparrow*

          Maybe you work in a very gossipy office or industry, but I don’t think that would be true most places I’ve worked. There might be one or two people who are overly obsessed with other people’s business, but the vast majority would drop it at, “It’s a family name,” or “It’s my mom’s name,” without expectation of further explanation. (And if someone was asking further questions even out of innocent curiosity, I know I’m not the only one who’d be reminding them it isn’t their business.) OP probably best knows what the culture in her office is like.

      2. Lurker*

        I had a male friend who did the same thing in his twenties for the same reason. If I’m not mistaken, I think he also went through the process to have his step-father officially adopt him, even though he was already an adult.

    5. Greyscale*

      I also shed my original last name due to an estranged relationship with my father. The only difference is that I changed it to my partner’s last name (we were not married at the time, though we are now) and if people asked I said we were combining households under one common name. People may have thought I was weird but they didn’t ask beyond that.

    6. Lady Meyneth*

      OP, in addition to the excellent suggestions on how to keep things vague, be sure you’re up to date on your workplace bureocracy. My father is not a great person, so I dropped his name in my mid 20s. At my then-job, unfortunately, they only acknowledged my new name after the legal paperwork was finalized, so my email (for example) still had my father’s name long after I was telling people I’d changed it, and it made for some extra confusion.

      If you go through with this, I suggest you check with your HR if they can update your info as soon as you begin the process, and how much time you’ll have to send in your updated documents (especially any diplomas you may have, since those can take a longish time).

      1. Kaiko*

        Ugh, I feel like the HR emphasis on “legal name” or “real name” is so troubling on so many levels! It makes me think of trans folks and those who can’t legally marry, folks who are estranged from their parents or spouses, folks who adopt westernized names, or even just nicknames that they prefer! None of those should require hoop-jumping. It makes me wonder why the legal name is such a standard when it is so arbitrary.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Legal name is the standard in the US because that’s what all the tax and health insurance paperwork uses. Those offices require that the names on the forms match the name on the Social Security card, to reduce fraud. When you change your name legally, I think you get a new SS card.

            1. PJS*

              I have no idea if this is true or not because it sounds like BS, but according to the head of our IT department, we have to use people’s legal names for their email address because of something to do with Homeland Security. We do have some sort of security service for our systems that is somehow related to DHS, but that still sounds weird.

              1. Elenna*

                …yeah, I’m not a lawyer (or a security person), but that sounds like BS. All else aside, what if you hire two people with the same legal name?

                1. Quill*

                  Yeah, it sounds weird but also like the kind of rumor that gets sent down as justification for something that ultimately has no reason other than “it originally got set up that way.”

                2. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I can’t speak to Homeland Security, but a number of the federal agencies with whom we file require that the email address bear some resemblance to the legal/licensed last name of the professional on file with the agency. (One rejected a submission for someone who got married recently and had not updated their professional license on file yet but had her email changed.)

                  Two people with the same name is a non-issue because the email addresses still indicate a legal name. We use middle initials as a variant when required, and, in the singular case where their middle initials are the same, one is robert.jones@company and the other is robert.a.jones@company. This is not at all the same thing as Robert Jones having an email address of dilbert.smith@company.

                  It’s also a pain in the ass to track mismatches on last name. Our HRIS has a slot for preferred name, so my coworker who goes by “Sparkle” can be sparkle.jones@company even though Sparkle is not part of her legal name, but she can’t be sparkle.smith@company unless her last name changes legally. One of our former system administrators set herself up as “Nickname (no resemblance to legal first name) Birthname” and there is a line item on her in certain corporate documentation so people can map her account to her personnel file and other systems when required because few people know that Jane Smith and Mary Jones are the same person. It’s one of those things that sounds easy but any decent-sized organizations has layers of places that have to be synched and maintained. The name change checklist for our HR department is over a page long, and we’re under 1000 employees and pretty well organized.

                3. I don't think it's a thing*

                  Yeah, that’s ridiculous. We have an employee who was introduced as Maggie Jones and then one day, when I was handed special payroll checks to distribute and was like who the heck is Margaret Smith it turned out to be her. She uses her nickname and husband’s name in everyday life but hasn’t legally changed the last name and has the more formal actual first name. Clearly, our HR was not concerned nor our IT – her email is mjones@wherever.org.

              2. kt*

                Sounds like BS to me. There are many ways to associate the metadata of the legal name to the email address, and surely you have a workaround for John Does 1-4, right, that probably relies on when they joined the org, which is not part of their legal name.

                Someone might have a standard operating procedure engraved in stone, but be clear, they engraved it in stone because of their preference.

            2. Totally Minnie*


              I use a shortened version of my first name, and for my first year or so with my current company, my email was “legalfirstname.lastname@company” mostly because all of my previous jobs insisted that this was a legal requirement. But at one point I went to the IT person responsible for maintaining the email system to ask him a question, and out of the blue he asked me if I wanted him to change my email address to match my preferred name. I immediately said yes and that I didn’t know that was even possible. He said that a lot of companies set up the system to pull the employee’s info from their HR paperwork because it’s easier than manually creating all the email addresses, but there’s almost always a way to make manual changes for individual workers if it needs to be done.

              I’d wager that a lot of companies who insist they can’t change your name in the system because it is just unpossible are really just not interested in finding out whether or not it’s actually possible because the way they do it now is the way they’ve always done it and that seems easier.

              1. Clisby*

                At the company I retired from, people could have multiple email addresses. So I might have had ClisbyLastname@whatever, CLastname@whatever, ClisbyPreviousLastName@whatever, etc. The system linked all of these, so people who had emailed me for years didn’t necessarily have to remember something new.

          1. PJS*

            Exactly. The IRS gets very unhappy when names and socials don’t match. The first couple years that we had to do those 1095 forms for health insurance coverage, we were self-insured and had to include dependents and spouses on the forms and we had several names flagged because the name on the form did not match the name the IRS/SSA had on record. It was a huge pain.

          2. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

            Can confirm that I did receive an new SS card when I changed my name after marriage.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              Me, too. It was kind of a pain to get it changed, because I went in with the stuff the website said I’d need, and the guy who helped me kept asking for still more stuff (some of which I had, some I didn’t). But I did get it changed and they sent me a new card.

          3. Lady Meyneth*

            I get that, and expected my old name would still be used legally during the transition. But it was frustrating and disappointing to be told I couldn’t update my email or my official signature or other non-official paperwork (even silly things such as the monthly birtday list), and honestly their general attitude around this contributed to my leaving the company later that year. Plus, I agree with Kaiko that it must be very hurtful for gay and trans folk who can’t always change to their preferred name.

            1. Totally Minnie*

              I don’t blame you for leaving. The fact that they put so much emphasis on using your old name, even on minor unofficial things, gives me major pause about how the higher ups at that company set their priorities.

            2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

              I work for a government agency. (state level) We are doomed to have the same sign on for all systems forever. The sign ons are a combination of our initals plus other letters. When I legally change my name my sign on will be the same. If I quiet/retire/get laid off and come back later, still the same sign on. I have plans to change my middle and last name to distance myself from a bad branch of the family tree and to honor those who I was close to and impacted my life as a child. But I’ll forever be typing the old initials. I’ve seen lots of name changes due to marriage and it can be hard to figure out who left notes in a system when no one remembers the name they started out under years ago.

              1. pancakes*

                This isn’t universal. I just looked at my state (NY) and there’s an online services portal and phone number for state employees to call for help with changing their name in the system. The federal gov’t appears to have one too, under OPM (Office of Personnel Management).

            3. Cascadia*

              That’s so stupid of your old company. I go by a shortened not-so-common nickname of my legal first name and have my whole life. Nobody at my work even knows what my legal name is because all of my correspondence and everything is in my preferred name. All of my HR paperwork is in my legal name. It’s just common sense to allow people to use their preferred names. In our database we have a section for “first name” and then a section called “preferred name” and we just use the preferred name for all front-facing communications. It’s SUPER common to want to go by a different name. Think of all the people named Matt, Will, Mike, Jim, Liz, Meg, Ted, Charlie, just to name a few.

              1. Sleepy*

                Yeah, plus a lot of immigrants / children of immigrants I work with have a name they go by in their language community and then a different one they use with English speakers. Now, in an ideal world English speakers would rise to the challenge of saying each person’s name correctly in their native language, or at least trying to, but I also totally get that people want to avoid the hassle of constant mispronunciation.

          4. Chinook*

            In Canada, I believe legal name has the same importance because it is one of the ways to prevent fraud. It is why it is required on anything associated to the government, though what your legal name is depends on the province. For example, Quebec is the only province that doesn’t allow a marriage certificate as proof of name change – it must be done through the courts. I lived for 5 years with two legal names – one for anything Canadian (like passport, taxes, credit cards) and one for anything provincial (like driver’s license and health card) and couldn’t change either as I had no proof that I had changed away from my maiden name for Quebec and no proof I had changed back from my married name for anything else. I had to learn to live with it but it is doable, if very inconvenient (this was a time period before credit cards pins, there were places asking for driver’s licenses to verify your credit card identity, so I technically looked suspicious. Plus I had to use my passport as id to fly domestically, which always got side eyed by flight staff.)

            But I understood why this was important. Since a legal name change goes through a legal process (a marriage certificate in some cases, a court order in other), it means it is traceable by authorities who need to figure out where the bad guys are. We had a brief time here where a notorious child abusing coach as well as a woman who was associated with some horrendous murders, changed their names unofficially and were allowed to participate in the community in ways that endangered future victims (which means now that, if your gender and date of birth match a sex offender, you get fingerprinted to prove you aren’t them when they do vulnerable persons background checks).

            As well, an easy way to hide from court ordered support payments would be to not give your legal name to your employer and *poof* no one is able to garnish your wages. Or give someone else’s SIN/SSN and when it comes up with a different name, say that you changed it and are waiting for the paperwork to catch up.

            Basically, the system is set up this way because bad people are really good and finding loopholes and, as a result, good people don’t get the leeway they sometimes need to live life.

    7. facepalm*

      My male coworker changed his surname in his early 30s (I mention his gender bc it’s usually women who change their surnames bc of marriage). My supervisor was letting people know so they’d know his new email and not to call him the old last name anymore. Since we were close, I asked the supervisor what was going on and they shrugged and said something general to the effect of he wanted his mom’s last name/didn’t like his dad/wasn’t close with his dad. I don’t remember the exact reason, just that it was intended to disassociate himself with his father and align himself more with his mom. And. . . . that was it. Everyone knew Coworker didn’t have a good relationship with his dad, and no one brought up his dad or his name change after that. No one cared. But I worked with a good group of people.

      1. pancakes*

        Men and women in the arts change their names quite frequently. Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz; Cary Grant was Archibald Leach. I realize this is less common in some parts of the world but I used to edit demo reels for a living, so it’s something I’ve encountered a lot, and probably helped inspire my own name change. When I went about changing mine, the first person at my bank I talked to said “sure, can I have your SAG card to make a copy?” (I didn’t have one but they changed my name on my accounts for me anyhow).

        1. Artemesia*

          Some of those people also use their original name on their legal paper work, their kids’ names etc. David Bowie comes to mind as does Chris Clark, a talking head on a news show in Nashville. Bowie’s name was ‘Jones’ and Clark’s was ‘Botsaris’.

    8. Bagpuss*

      I agree that you can keep things pretty vague – you don’t need to mention your parents or their divorce at all if you don’t want to – you can say something like “it’s a family name” or even “I changed it as I wanted the same name as other members of my family” (which could also cover the situation if you changed your name to be the same as a partner or sibling, rather than a parent). And even if you get questions, you don’t owe anyone an explanation, so you don’t need to say anything art all about the divorce if you prefer not to. You can just repeat your original explanation or give a bit more detail (it’s my mum’s name) without going into anything further.

      Mostly, people just need to know what to call you, so a brief transition period so they know it is the same person is the most important thing.

      1. UKDancer*

        I had a colleague in my last company change his name. He just sent around a short announcement saying “I am now going by the name Joe Black instead of Joe Parker. IT services are changing my email address which should be updated within 48 hours.”

        I’ve no idea why he changed his name. He was already married when he changed it. He never said I certainly never asked. All we cared about was knowing that Joe Black was the same person as Joe Parker so we included him in the correct emails and meetings.

    9. Mel_05*

      This is a nice way of handling it. It also works equally well, regardless of gender, which is a plus.

    10. Ama*

      I always mention this when name changes come up here but my after my aunt’s divorce she opted to pick an entirely new surname, because she didn’t want to keep her married name but also felt like she’d grown too much in 25 years of marriage to go back to her maiden name. (She picked my great-grandmother’s surname, who was an awesome woman who was widowed early and thus single most of her adult life.)

      My aunt was working full time when she changed her name and lived in a small town where people were aware of her divorce and also that her new last name wasn’t her maiden name (as her sister that never married also lives there). As far as I know no one said anything more than “oh what a cool idea.”

    11. Maika*

      OP # 4 – I am a man and I changed my last name a few years back to get rid of my estranged father’s last name. I picked a totally new last name and just changed all my social media, important documents, etc. I explained to my close friends why and then switched jobs with my new name and no one has ever asked. I know it’s a different situation for women as assumptions are made, but I would just go with what the above poster and Alison said.

    12. tiasp*

      On the flip side, I DIDN’T change my name when I got married, and twenty some years on I STILL frequently find myself explaining why I didn’t change it or why my last name doesn’t match my children’s (mostly to children but also occasionally to adults). So I think curiousity about names and how you fit into the social order is just part of the human condition.

    13. Blackcat*

      I worked with someone who changed her name twice. I have no idea about the first name change. She just started using the new name and sent an email to that effect.
      She later got married and changed her name.

      I was always a bit curious about the first name change, but I always decided it was none of my business. If she wanted to share why, she would have. I think most reasonable people will keep their curiosity to themselves.

    14. Mynona*

      “I took my mother’s maiden name.” I know it’s not 100% the situation here, but it gives the curious an explanation and implies a personal motivation of a potentially sensitive nature without having to get too personal. Most people won’t push further. Definitely make sure all the new e-mail addresses and social media accounts are changed first, or else it does become awkward.

      Back in the 1990s, I took my mother’s maiden name because I had never met my father and it was odd to have a stranger’s last name. An absentee father wasn’t particularly odd in my working-class youth, but I quickly learned that my white-collar coworkers found the idea strange and distressing and so I stopped sharing the full explanation. It was one of many class markers that made networking difficult. I think name changes are more common now than they used to be, as are different family structures.

    15. Veryanon*

      I got divorced about 10 years ago and went back to my family name after the divorce. I’ll never forget the time I received a phone call from a vendor whom I hadn’t been in contact with for a while, and when he heard the new name, he was like “Oh congratulations on getting married!” AWWWWKWARD. I very nicely set him straight, and he was very apologetic, but I often hope that he learned a lesson from that about assuming things.

    16. LW #4*

      Thank you for some great insight! When I wrote the letter, I was convinced it was super obvious why I would change my name, but reading everyone’s comments made me realize that 1) my situation is not unique and 2) there are loads of reasons to change your name. It is still a big deal to me, but aside from the occasional busybody I don’t think a lot of people are going to care.

  2. Gaia*

    I changed my name to my mother’s maiden name after learning some upsetting information about my ex-stepfather. They divorced 15 years before but she’d kept her married name and I’d gone by that last name most of my life. To this day she still uses that last name. Sometimes people assume I’m married, but I just give a simple “it’s my mom’s maiden name” and no one questions further.

  3. NQ*

    1) I’m very happy to be slapped down for this and hear arguments against, but I don’t think being a little bit attracted to your boss is necessarily a bad thing – so long as there’s never even the slightest hint of making anything happen, including flirting. It’s easy to be nice to people we’re slightly attracted to, and we automatically consider their feelings (hopefully). As long as your brain isn’t making it weird and you’re not dwelling on/enhancing these thoughts, I’d put this in the “no big deal” category.

    1. Artemesia*

      Crushes are a part of life and the most important thing is to put some fences in your life where you don’t allow any closeness or behavior that might take it further. BUT when two different people have commented on the apparent flirtation between the boss and the LW, I would be doing some soul searching about cooling my jets. This isn’t something people just say — if TWO people SAY they have noticed, 20 have. Doesn’t mean not continuing to have a good relationship but take care to make sure it is entirely professional and you don’t allow yourself to be in situations that might get out of hand e.g. alone with him, traveling with him or finding excuses to meet with him.

      1. Boof*

        So awkward LW1, but methinks there’s nothing to worry about provided you don’t act on it/let it die down. I’d say if you and he are professional there’s no need to change behavior either even if other people think “omg man and a woman are getting along too well must be sexual!” – as long as YOU don’t get sexual vibes (or give them) just leave it that that.

        deep dark true story – had a similar dream/vague feels about a coworker I really like/get along with (on a professional and distantly friendly level – and yes we are both married too ) and it just died back after a while, no cold shoulder needed, just a bit of rolling my eyes at myself. Like really, just no subconscious, sthap.

        1. Boof*

          erf, nesting fail, though I suppose it’s not too far afield here – not meant to be a direct reply to art!

        2. UKDancer*

          I think having a sexual dream about a co-worker doesn’t have to mean you fancy them. I have had weird dreams of that type about some of my colleagues and associates, some of which are disturbingly vivid. I don’t think they have any deep meaning. They’re just my mind processing things. I also find that I am dreaming a lot more odd things in lockdown including the one I had on Monday where my boss turned into Freddie Kruger and was chasing me around Stonehenge. I am hoping that one was not signifying anything.

        3. Richard Hershberger*

          But if people are noticing, then they *are* acting on it. Sure, they aren’t renting a room for a nooner, but “acting on it” encompasses a wider range of behaviors than the beast with two backs.

        4. Not A Girl Boss*

          Exactly. Trust me LW1, I’ve been there, and it does die down. I was super awkward around him for a little bit because I was trying to prove to both of us I didn’t have a crush, which probably made things worse because of course he never suspected I had a crush on him so it just seemed like I was being unusually cold… But within a few months we were back to normal. I hadn’t even thought about the dream or the crush in a long time, until I saw this letter.

          I hate how ingrained it is in our culture that a man and woman who “click” extra well must necessarily have romantic desires. I mean, so ingrained even my subconscious bought in. But then, subconsciousness can be jerks.
          One thing that helped me was when I realized how many women I’ve connected with more than usual in my career – women I’d happily gush “OMG I LOVEEEE HER” and get warm fuzzies around… but who I most definitely don’t have a crush on. Its just the laws of nature that sometimes two people connect on another level that others don’t understand.

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        I definitely agree with: “if two people say they’ve noticed, 20 have”.

        On the other hand, absent any real info about WHAT the boss is doing specifically to set off these bells — Alison is right that sometimes if a man and woman have a strong rapport, people will scan for signs of romance.** It’s this odd line of thinking like: ‘you could be attracted to each other, so therefore you must be attracted to each other!’ At one of my past jobs, there was a male higher-up who had a friendly relationship with a less senior female worker in a different department (no overlap in job function or chain of command). There was speculation about their relationship (no superiority here, I wondered myself)……And in a sitcomy turn of events, we later learaned he was gay.

        And personally: over the years I’ve had several people speculate on two friendships that I was confident were largely platonic**. In one of those relationships, I pulled back a little. In the other, I decided against pulling back. Both of those friendships have now lasted years (and turned into more friendships, since these guys later married excellent women).

        So it’s real that people wonder and that people talk. That should be taken into account. But also sometimes what you lose by kowtowing to other people’s thought is worth more than whatever peace you would gain. It’s worth considering.

        OP sounds fairly reasonable and willing to self-reflect. I don’t know enough about educational hierarchy, but if this is a relationship that she enjoys and that could benefit her career, she should weight that against the knowledge that people are gossiping a bit.

        **I’d be curious to hear from LGBT readers if straight acquaintances also do this with close friendships between two gay men, for example.

        **I say largely platonic becauase I think it’s not at all uncommon for two people to meet, form a platonic relationship, and then over the years feel a flutter of attraction once or twice….but ultimately those moments aren’t enough to actually build a romance on. I think most people can compartmentalize the odd attracted feeling without drama.

        1. a sound engineer*

          I agree that strong rapport gets confused and scanned for romance a lot (ugh do I know), but I think that the big gap in the hierarchy between head superintendent of school districts and being a teacher in what OP described as a really large district is probably also feeding that, no? I don’t work in education, but wouldn’t it be especially strange/notable for a teacher to have that kind of a relationship with the superintendent (hard to work with or no) barring some kind of pre-existing relationship?

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            That is a really good point, I also don’t know enough about educational hierarchy to do anything more than speculate.

            And I hope it’s not disrespectful to OP….but I think there could be a juicy Showtime drama somewhere in here: maybe the history teacher in love with the brusque superintentant, intrusive PTA moms, local controversy over the history curriculum incorporating salicious details about possibly murderous tendencies of the town founder. I’d watch it.

            1. LifeBeforeCorona*

              Add a small town, a woman relocating from Big City because of a broken heart and a lost dog and it could be a Hallmark movie.

              1. Not A Girl Boss*

                And of course, set it at Christmas time. Even if Christmas isn’t remotely germane to the storyline.

            2. OP #1*

              Ha! If you only knew what my title was this would be kind of funny. This is the first time I’ve responded to any posts as I am reflecting on all of them. The advice has been truly comforting and helpful. I am in a district the is small for a large district of that makes sense. The superintendent is 3 levels above me. I’ve been in management positions prior to teaching so perhaps feels more comfortable than I should engaging with upper management. I’ve also worked it much smaller districts where I had a close professional relationships with superintendents and helped interview for new ones. I would email or speak in person with anyone who was going through a hard time personally or professionally whom I have a connection with whether they are the school janitor or the superintendent so my motives for my previous emails to him are not red flags to me. My biggest concern is that I now feel awkward (and the first time I saw him after the dream was very awkward especially since it was not in a professional setting). We do not have any kind of relationship beyond professional. We don’t discuss our personal lives. In fact, he is very private. The interaction at the restaurant was actually with a new teacher who noticed. He was so intently looking at me. I want to believe that this was something that was in my head as it has never happened before but then the teacher acknowledged it too after he walked away. That really doesn’t matter like Allison pointed out. Thankfully he hasn’t been around since then and that makes it easier to just let it go away. When I say “I understand him more,” I didn’t mean in a personal way. Perhaps I should say I connected with him initially?” He’s literally came up to me in a crowd of teachers and only addressed me and when he walks away people say he’s never spoken to them that much ever. I also would like to point out that I have channeled that desire into my relationship with my husband and that has worked out to both of our advantages. I do believe that the dream was in some way connected to the fact that I admire how he leads our district.

          2. WellRed*

            Yes, the emails sound like they need to stop. I also cringed a bit at the line where “because I understand him more than others” that, to me is the kind of thing I hear more in a personal relationship contact.
            Crushes are normal, but time to pull back.

          3. Guacamole Bob*

            Yeah, I may just be coming from the fact that our local school district is unusually large, but it has thousands of teachers across dozens of schools. It seems weird that a teacher would have this much ongoing direct contact with the superintendent even if the district only has a couple hundred teachers (and if I were the OP’s principal I’d be miffed about it, to be honest, since I’d want to be in the loop and aware of whatever OP is talking to higher ups about).

            If there were other circumstances like the superintendent was promoted from principal and she had an existing relationship with him, then maybe this would make sense, but I assume OP would have mentioned something like that.

            1. Hydrangea McDuff*

              She did say “when he was promoted to head superintendent” so my inference was she had a preexisting relationship when he had a lower title.

              Career educator here—highly recommend you do not pursue this attraction anywhere unless you have secured a job in a different district. It will absolutely tank your and his reputation and credibility if rumors fly that you two are an item (even if untrue). Education is one of the few careers where people still regularly work in the same place for 30+ years, and you have to think of your professional reputation for the long term.

              1. Artemesia*

                It is extremely common for there to be affairs in the workplace and in teaching workplaces; I know many people who have had marriages broken up over them and one principal who had his reputation trashed because of such a relationship. School districts are hotbeds of gossip and people are more judgmental because of the nature of the job

          4. Disco Janet*

            Teacher here, and yes, I would say it is very unusual and people would certainly notice this teacher and the superintendent having such regular contact. A superintendent is responsible for the entire school district – even in smaller school districts, their attention should be spread thin enough among the teaching staff that the kind of rapport OP described having with him should be very hard to achieve. I think OP needs to be careful here and ease off on the e-mailing.

          5. OP #1*

            There was no pre existing relationship. I just naturally try to connect with people when I first meet them and that happened in our case. I’m also an active parent in the district and I have other responsibilities that have professional connected us in certain situations. His behaviors have never been alarming or sent up any kind of flags until recently. And really I don’t think they are flags in his part but in MINE. My attraction is the issue here. And one of the people questioning things was not a coworker but a family member. The coworker was just involved in a very awkward conversation where I was trying to hide embarrassment and his eye contact was unusually intense-to the point where the coworker commented afterwards. Again, he has done nothing inappropriate and probably would be embarrassed or upset to know that I even felt this way. Nothing will come of it-I just needed to here exactly what Alison said. I should also mention that I am a well known teacher in the district and so I think that also heightens his awareness of me.

        2. Anonorama*

          I did have a very intense/romantic friendship with a colleague once, when both of us were women who were in relationships with other women. It was a fairly LGBT heavy team — I think about a 5/20 staff were out as queer? I never knew whether we flew under the radar or not. I think most of the straight people in the office would just have thought, “oh, good friends,” but we weren’t exactly subtle in our flirting and there are some colleagues who I think MUST have been aware but who were politely letting us have some plausible deniability.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          My experience is that every friendship between a man and a woman gets scanned for romance / sex by everyone around them, if they are reasonably attractive and the woman is under 40. Once women hit 40, the speculation goes down some, but I have had people recently assume my male housemate is my boyfriend, despite knowing that my husband is also here in the house and that the housemate has his own suite. I’m 50.

          I suspect there’s a strong element of ‘desire to be the audience for drama!’ and some projection. RHOx syndrome.

          My experience is that there is less scanning from random people with gay men, but that their friend group will still do it in inverse proportion to their age / attractiveness. I can’t remember it with any of my lesbian friends and family, but I know / hang with more gay men, so that may just be lesser exposure.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            My best friend is female. She was my best, um…, person in my wedding. We had instant chemistry when we first met, and were soon dating. We were a terrible couple–as in screaming at each other in parking lots terrible. So we agreed to be just friends. Normally this means never see each other again, but we turned out to be a great friend couple. So much so that people who knew us both were squicked out to hear that we had dated. It seemed to them like dating a sibling. And indeed when she married, her husband understood me to be a de facto idiot brother-in-law. This is far from typical, I will grant you.

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I also have resident husband and male housemate (who might as well be brother to both of us) and weirdly, the only one I know of who’s ever assumed anything hinky going on was housemate’s mom, who is still not entirely convinced after five years that we aren’t some weird threesome. But she also panics on my husband’s behalf any time housemate and I travel together, never mind that we’re alone in the house pretty much daily when husband goes to work. :P

          3. ThatGirl*

            My husband’s best friend is a woman, and I don’t think anyone has ever clocked them as dating, at least not that either of them have told me (she is also a good friend of mine). But they have a very sibling-like relationship so who knows.

          4. Jack Russell Terrier*

            Yup – I’m female and great friend is a guy. Never been any sparks – sibling feeling. Before he met his long term girlfriend, people would often assume we were dating.

        4. facepalm*

          As a lesbian, I have never experienced this scanning or people suspecting a close female friend is anything other than a female friend. Usually people have the opposite reaction. There’s a long tradition of assuming two women are best friends or “gal pals” or even a roommate when living together. For example, once my wife and I checked into a hotel and the clerk tried to offer us two beds instead of the king bed we’d booked. We told him we wanted one bed and he squinted and asked if we were sisters. We are visibly different ethnicities and look nothing alike. It’s a bit different now that homosexuality is legal and mainstream. But most people are straight, and they tend to only look for things in their own realm of experience.

          1. Forrest*

            The “are you sisters?” thing is hilarious. We’ve had it too. Is it *really* that common for adult sisters to share a bed?! More common than the existence of lesbians?

            1. Elenna*

              My (adult) sister and I are super close, really good friends, and even then I don’t like to share a bed with her! I want my own blankets, dang it.
              Although we do share beds fairly often on family vacations (when you have two parents and two sisters, it’s easiest/cheapest to get hotel rooms with two queen beds) so I guess that would speak to your question of whether it’s common? But if we got the choice between one bed and two beds we’d pick the latter every time.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Well yeah, but my wife and I have our own blankets on our bed. The idea of just one shared covering is insane.

              2. Kat*

                I find this entire conversation hilarious. My best friend and I are both in our 30s but have been having sleepovers in the same bed since we were 5. We would 100% rent a hotel room with 1 bed and were actually planning an international trip together where we were going to do that the entire time (darn pandemic ruining plans).

            2. Kelly L.*

              When I was with my ex-girlfriend, we got the sisters thing all the time. We’re both fat blondes, so there’s a slight superficial resemblance, but we really don’t look much alike beyond that.

          2. Mel_05*

            People are so stupid. I’ve had the opposite happen. My sister offered to pay for my ice cream one day and the young clerk suggested that perhaps I was going to repay her with sexual favors later!

            Wildly inappropriate no matter who I had happened to be with, of course.

          3. Joielle*

            Yuuuuup, as a queer woman, this has been my experience too. No amount of what I consider obvious flirting (arm touching! back rubs!) will make a straight person think you’re more than just friends. It’s like it does not even begin to possibly occur to them. The gal pals thing is wild!

            1. Not playing your game anymore*

              Yeah. I’ve lived with my partner since 1982. We get the “you are sisters, right?” all the time. I can count on less than 1 hand the number of times anyone suggested we might be a couple. (We started out as home owner and renter and just continued to live together) We’ve aged into being each others “person who can make medical decisions, etc.) but yeah, I don’t think anyone really assumes that there is a more intimate relationship… weird actually.

          4. But There is a Me in Team*

            When my friend and I were studying for the GRE we’d go do things after. We both had short hair and don’t really wear makeup. We had one funny afternoon where we went for lunch and the host put our menus on the same side of the table. Then my friend needed a new phone and straight away the guy assumed we needed a family plan. Now that I’ve grown my hair out, it doesn’t happen.
            Anyway, OP1- my friends and I call a work crush a lamp, as in “I have a new lamp in my office” because they light up your day a bit. Happens to most of us, doesn’t mean you don’t love your spouse, and your light bulb will burn out, so to speak. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

        5. MochaJane*

          As a queer woman, I’d say it’s exactly the opposite lol. I can’t get people to believe my girlfriend is really my girlfriend. We’ve been introduced as “friends” and guys have come onto me even though I’ve repeatedly told them she’s my girlfriend. I’ve never had someone speculate that my close female friends are something more. But maybe this is something specific to the queer women experience (see “gal pals”)

          1. Caliente*

            So interesting. I’m not gay but have great close girlfriends. Whenever we’d go out and a guy would ask either of us out, the instant they got a no it’s apparently because we’re gay. Got that alone, too actually. Oh you don’t want to go out with ME?! Clearly you’re gay lol

        6. c_g2*

          As a lesbian that is a thing. Either the two gay people in the office are assumed to want each other, or the gay person wants every person of their same gender — or bi people want everyone, etc — which is why I’m careful to talk about my girlfriend/be more formal/etc.

      3. Mella*

        The contrast of a difficult/gruff colleague getting along with one specific person can make it seem like there’s more going on, than if that colleague was the average amount of personable. I shared an obscure hobby with a quiet, standoffish colleague and several people commented that it “seems like there’s something between you”. No, it doesn’t, you just aren’t used to him doing even a bare minimum of socializing.

    2. Julia*

      I guess what bothers me about this one is that the boss is apparently unpleasant to a lot of people, at least according to his reputation, but pleasant to OP, presumably because he finds her attractive? That doesn’t sit well with me. Not only should you be reasonably pleasant to everyone at work, especially your subordinates, but what is OP going to do if he gets angry at her for something?

      1. MK*

        I know of plenty of cases where a supervisor had the reputation for being difficult but there was one or two people who got along great with them. In this case, it could be him being nice to a woman he finds attractive, but it could just as easily be him being a blunt person and the OP not being bothered about it.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I worked for a chap who was renowned for being grumpy and difficult. He and I had a great working relationship because his bluntness didn’t bother me. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t attracted to me and I certainly didn’t fancy him. Our styles just clicked.

        2. Mockingjay*

          Yeah, I had an extraordinarily brusque, grumpy, standoffish boss that most people were wary of. I figured out his working style and we established a great relationship.

          No romantic interest at all on either side. We functioned as a very smooth team and he trusted me to handle a lot of things that someone in my position wouldn’t normally do. Still, people started joking we were “work spouses.” Annoying as hell. I kept thinking, if only people put in as much time on their work as they did on the speculation and jokes, they too would have a better relationship and receive stretch assignments.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Same. I had people see that I worked with this guy and they were like “Isn’t he…mean? I heard he was mean.” He’s brusque, and he’s an artist who sometimes has unrealistic expectations of whether his artistic vision is compatible with the laws of Earth physics, but he’s actually pretty cool. No sexual chemistry at all.

        3. Lacey*

          Yes – I had a reputation for not socializing at a previous job, so when I became friends with a coworker people made such a big deal about how she’d “broken through my shell”

          Well, she just was nice and we had common interests. But because I had nothing in common with my other coworkers people thought I just wasn’t friendly at all.

        4. tiasp*

          Yep – there’s a guy a volunteer with that a lot of people don’t like but he reminds my of my grouchy grandfather and underneath his bluster he’s a decent guy so I get along fine with him.

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        1) I think you’re right: OP should reflect on this. What do people mean by “unfriendly”, and what does she mean by she ‘understands him more’? Some definite flags there.

        2) But we can’t be sure ‘unfriendly’ = ‘unplesant’. It’s possible he’s very introverted or dry/facts-based in professional settings — appropriate tendencies that some people will perceive as unfriendly.

        3) If it IS #2, I’m not confident we can be sure he’s attracted. I tend to think an attraction is the most likely possiblity, but OP should be open to the idea that people are projecting. Maybe he’s got a unique vision for the district and feels bolstered by the fact that OP sees it too? Maybe she reminds him of his favorite sister? Maybe he struggles with social norms/cues, isn’t at all interested in OP, but feels obliged to be extra-friendly towards her since she is extra-friendly towards him?

        I think I would take some time and cut back on those emails. I admit, I raise a single, curious eyebrow at the email exchanges, assuming they’re not strictly work. Then reflect on what exactly people are seeing, and how exactly boss has behaved. If there’s a particular trusted colleague (who won’t add to the drama), might be worth asking them to help check any blind spots…..it’s perilously easy to form blind spots for people we like.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        But that’s the kind of presumption that leads to this sort of issue, IMO – the idea that a man can only ever be nice to a woman if he’s sexually attracted to her, because women don’t… have personalities worthy of interest beyond their sexual availability, I guess is the logic? It could simply be that for whatever reason, he likes her as a person – he thinks she’s funny or interesting or their personalities click or whatever. Even people who are generally unfriendly usually have a few people that they do like. And then because it’s unusual for him and the OP is female everyone is interpreting that as “ooh, he liiiiiikes her” instead of “oh, he likes her”.

        It’s not that it’s impossible that he’s attracted to her but the only things OP mentions are him being pleasant and professional when interacting with her and seeking her out to talk to at work events, and talking to her one time in a restaurant. Those things on their own aren’t exactly highly sexually charged behaviour. Without anything further than that – anything more solid than “Ooooooh he LOOKED at you, OP and boss sitting in a tree” – then it just seems more likely to me that he just likes her as a person.

        1. Julia*

          You make a good point, and I agree that of course women can be liked for their personalities. Heck, I’m a woman and I get along with people at work because of my personality, definitely not because I’m attractive.

          I may be completely off here, or OP may be an unreliable narrator, but male mentor being nice only to a female subordinate to the point they have more contact than necessary and others pointing it out… doesn’t paint a great picture of him.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Yeah, I do completely get where you’re coming from and it is certainly possible that that’s what is happening – I don’t mean to say that scenario is impossible. I just don’t think it should be the automatic presumption, as it so often is, especially when encouraging OP to believe that he’s interested seems like it might cause her more problems than it solves!

        2. Non non*

          Unfortunately, there are a sizable number of heterosexual men (many more so than women) who will ignore or treat less kindly a member of the opposite sex who they are not attracted to. Those are the men who hit on young women in service positions (barista, cashier, etc.) Because he wouldn’t dream of being pleasant to a woman who’s not “hot”, he assumes a polite or friendly young service worker must think he’s hot.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Unfortunately, there are a sizable number of heterosexual men (many more so than women) who will ignore or treat less kindly a member of the opposite sex who they are not attracted to.

            Sadly, I’ve seen this to be true (and have myself been on the receiving end of some very rude behavior from “men” who didn’t find me attractive enough to show basic human decency).

        3. OP #1*

          I absolutely never considered that he was attracted to me before-only that his interactions with me were different than he had with others I spoke with. I was surprised to hear about his reputation as he didn’t seem this way to me at all. His “approval rating” if you will, has gone up since he has been superintendent. He was not for being arrogant and having a temper. He has never acted inappropriately to me. I never considered anything sexual about our interaction until the dream! It is nice to know that others have us dreams like this too and it is normal. It may be important to note that I am not someone that men would generally find attractive. I’m told I’m pretty by my girl friends only (and my husband) so I really would find it odd for him to be attracted to me. I do NOT want to pursue anything with him. It would ruin both of our reputations, marriages, and careers. Nothing is worth that risk.

    3. MK*

      No. There is no reason for the OP to beat herself about getting a crush, but neither is it a good idea to feed the crush or try to “use” it. That’s how you end up with nasty rumors or having an affair.

      1. HS teacher*

        I have worked in education 10+ years in 4 different districts, both small and large. Even in the smallest, most rural district, I had zero sense the super knew me personally. Superintendents work in a different building, always. Having a relationship with the super feels really weird to me, and sending unsolicited emails more than two or three times a year feels really weird to me. If it’s not perceived as flirting, it’s hard for people to imagine what exactly it is unless the LW wants a mentor/to become an administrator (which there’s no mention of). The optics are awkward. It’s not fair that teachers are put under microscopes for just being human, but LW should remember ppl are petty and strange and 20 people have definitely noticed if 2 have commented. LW should think about what they get by feeling “allied with” or “understanding” the superior and focus on addressing that unmet need of wanting to be seen/appreciated some other way.

        1. WellRed*

          THat’s what got me. I had to go back and reread to make sure it was a superintendent/teacher thing and thought, yeah, that’s surprising. How often do teachers email the superintendent directly and more than once?

        2. PhysicsTeacher*

          Yes. I work in a reasonably big district (15-20 individual schools) and had the superintendent’s kid in my class previously. There’s still no way the superintendent would come up to talk to me if we saw each other in public. There are like 5 levels between me and him. It just wouldn’t happen. Since at least one of the people commenting on this was another teacher, I bet this is part of what they’re reacting to.

        3. Unfettered scientist*

          I think this depends a lot on size though… at least at the high school I went to, all the teachers knew the superintendent personally (really small, but all the schools in the area were like that).

          1. OP #1*

            It may also depend on the district. I feel like our district is a lot like family. The community is close and most people are approachable. I find it odd that people don’t communicate with their higher ups more. It really isn’t uncommon in our district.

      2. doreen*

        I don’t work in education – but I do work in a large state agency. When there are apparently close relationships between people at very different levels, there is sometimes an obvious reason – perhaps they were in the same hiring class/were formerly peers /the higher-up may have directly supervised the other person at some point and so on. But when those reasons don’t exist , at a minimum there are nasty rumors.

      3. KayDeeAye*

        I agree with all of this, but I also get the idea that the OP is looking – pretty hard! – for signs that her supervisor is romantically interested in her.

        It’s perfectly natural – who doesn’t enjoy feeling attractive? – but she needs to cut it out. All that stuff in which she’s evaluating every interaction and every look – all that will do is make their interactions more fraught and self-conscious, and it might very well help feed any rumor mill that’s going.

        So enjoy these little flutters of attraction when/if they happen, but step back, don’t flirt, don’t act on these feelings, don’t discuss them with others, and don’t encourage them in yourself.

        It’ll be OK! Really.

        1. OP #1*

          Not really looking hard. Just concerned about the awkwardness and nervous I’m putting off a vibe now. I’ve been given some great advice here and am planning on taking it. I will be polite and friendly and just not dwell on it anymore. It’s helpful to know it’s normal to dream and crush like that. Hopefully my awkwardness hasn’t effected the professional relationship going forward (my biggest concern).

    4. Completely Anon for This*

      LW 1: I am not in the least attracted to my boss. He’s a nice enough person, speaks to everyone, decent boss, but he can be a little short with people. I have a very vivid sexual dream about him and I was so mortified that I could barely look at or speak to him for weeks. I “confessed” to a friend and they said “Totally normal. Let it go.”

      So I think crushes and/or sexual dreams about coworkers or bosses is normal, as long as it doesn’t go any further. Our brains are weird sometimes.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yeah, I’ve had that dream about a coworker who I was not in the LEAST BIT ATTRACTED TO. AT ALL.

        (And as Alison said, I’ve also woken up mad as hell at Mr. S. because of a dream, and been quietly annoyed with him for hours afterward.)

      2. OP #1*

        Thank you. I was mortified and very embarrassed when he walked up to talk to me. But composed myself and talked with him as normally as I could.

  4. Midnight Movie Minx*

    LW1, rest assured your problem is normal and resolvable! Having just gone through this last year and worked through it, I’m now on the other side where this dream crush is not even a thought anymore.
    First, I researched the lifespan of crushes, which take 4-6 months max to go away (longer than that is an obsession, which requires another approach).
    I met with a counselor b/c these thoughts were unwanted and intrusive, but because I was already journaling and making my negatives attribution list etc. I was already doing the right things.
    Had to ensure I would avoid this person as much a possible and be coldly professional, as, same with you, people noticed the extra attention paid, and made comments that actually hit their mark.
    Secondly, I realized that I simply admired this person for their qualities and ambition, which my subconscious perverted into a different type of affection.
    At the end of the story, I felt foolish for letting my dream hijack my waking thoughts, but was eternally grateful I never breathed a word about my juicy secret crush to anyone who knew this person.

    1. NQ*

      Wait. >6 months’ unenacted crush is an obsession? Oh jeez I’m in trouble (and so is just about every other lesbian I know… we’re not always so good at getting the words out)

      1. Asco*

        Hmm…yes, I’ve had a crush that lingered longer than six months before it dissolved. I would think obsession would involve escalation but maybe they just had to draw the line somewhere.

        1. c_g2*

          I guess it would be an obsession if it significantly hampered your ability to function. Plus, were you hanging out/working/etc with that person often? I imagine it might linger longer if you were.

        1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

          Yes. Indifferent professional, perhaps? I overcorrected a work crush once, and poor dude had no idea why our relationship went from friendly and playful to ice planet levels of cold.

      2. Tau*

        yeah, uh, I’ve had crushes that went on for years. This being obsession is news to me??

        (you can also count me as lesbian for statistical purposes here.)

      3. Mystery Bookworm*

        The words “crush” and “obsession” will mean different things to different people, so Minx’s research sources were probably defining ‘crush’ in a very specific way.

        I’ve had some mild, unobtrusive crushes that have lasted longer than six months, but I feel 100% confident in saying they weren’t obsessive by any normal standards. (Full disclosure, I still get a little swoony if I run into my high school crush while I’m home for the holidays.)

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          And I’ll add that apart of duration, obsession implies a serious depth of feeling is hard to put aside.

          To me during a crush you’d certainly think about that person when near/interacting with them and sometimes when not. In obsession, you’d think about that person a lot of the time even when not interacting with them.

          So there is probably a qualitative difference between the two, even if they overlap and different people’s understand varies somewhat.

          Oh – I see tamarack and fireweed has said something similar.

      4. tamarack and fireweed*

        I kinda think that the measure must be applied to something like duration times intensity. I’ve certainly entertained low-grade crushes for years (also lesbian here, and married) without thinking of them as obsessions – or being in any way negatively impacted. But of the intensity of the OP, where you have dreams and are worried that day-to-day interactions might be affected, it could possibly be called an obsession earlier.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I think obsession is more about how often you think about them.

          For example I work with someone from a different company sometimes on joint projects. I find him quite attractive and you might call it a crush. We’ve worked together for a few years now off and on depending on the projects we both have on. When I meet up with him and we are collaborating / catching up over lunch I am reminded of why I think he’s hot.

          I wouldn’t call it an obsession because when we’re not working together I don’t much think about him.
          I think for me “obsession” implies unpleasantly intrusive which this definitely isn’t. It’s an amusing diversion from work but that’s about it.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I’m here thinking the same thing. I’m in trouble too! I’ve had two in my career. One went away, hmmm I don’t even know when, but it took years of moving in the same circles (after we stopped working together) for me to finally get to the point of “what the heck did I see in this guy?” The other went away after my divorce was finalized and I started seeing other people. Also took years. I promise I was not obsessed with those people, they were just… right there in my face… and I was trapped in a bad marriage, which tends to mess with one’s head.

      6. Quill*

        Also does it have to be consecutive? Because, like… I have a hard time telling if any of my previous squishes might have been crushes (Squish = strong platonic attraction, sometimes a compulsion to befriend someone) but they tend to cause feelings spike for a bit and then occasionally come back or not, depending. (Depends on if my brain has decided friendship is accomplished, to abort the mission, or there’s bonus friendship levels to unlock I suppose.)

    2. allathian*

      Ouch! Where did you get the 6+ months is an obsession thing? I doubt it’s an obsession as long as you don’t act on it…
      When a new coworker started a few years ago I had the biggest crush I’ve had on anyone as an attached adult. I got a bit of a kick out of it, and while the thought of a weekend was anything but depressing, I always enjoyed going to the office, and I admit to being disappointed on the days he worked from home, because we share an office.

      I guess a few coworkers noticed that I liked him and I got some mild ribbing from them. I admit that while I’m not normally a hugger, he is, and while the crush lasted, I enjoyed his hugs more than I probably should have (he hugged me on my birthday and I hugged him on his, and before either of us went on a longer vacation, so about 4 times a year).

      I did eventually get over my crush, mainly because both of us are married and I wasn’t going to do anything that would endanger my marriage. I don’t think the crush was reciprocated, but if he noticed, at least it didn’t make him uncomfortable or make him avoid me or try to change the subject to work stuff, unless he really was busy and needed to get back to work. He’s always treated me like a pleasant coworker or work friend, we’ve talked about a lot of non-work stuff, and the non-work talk is just as often initiated by him as by me. At some point I realized that I was glad not to be married to him, that fundamentally our values and habits are too different for us to get along as anything other than work friends and then I knew that my crush was over.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      You’re getting some push-back here. My sense from this comment is that you were unhappy with this crush, and distressed by the intrusive thoughts regarding it. Particularly as you describe the attraction as a perversion of professional admiration, being hijacked by the dream and you had to set clear boundaries, so these weren’t feelings of attraction you could easily compartmentalise. I want to express sympathy: that sounds exhausting, and I’m glad you’re feeling more like yourself. I struggle with intrusive thoughts myself, and I know how frustrating they can be, especially when they lead to guilt and self-recrimination.

      Personally, what you’re describing sounds more like what I would call limerence, rather than a crush. I can definitely maintain a compartmentalized crush without any of the difficulties you describe….I think this is why you’re getting disagreement from other commentors.

  5. Asco*

    Tangentially related, I’ve worked for two companies in my professional career and both give company pins as a reward for years of service and …. I don’t get it. Do others here have company pins and what do you do with them? I haven’t ever seen anyone wearing one. Am I missing something about professional norms?

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I thought that was only a government thing. My spouse recently completed 10 years of service, and I think he did get a pin (no clue where it is now). I can’t see him ever wearing it, but I’ve seen them on presenters at some of the award ceremonies I attended with him. It’s not a thing in my (private sector) industry.

      1. Jaid*

        I wouldn’t have minded a pin, but my agency gives out plaques. They did give out decent pins at one point…

        I’d rather have nice artwork on the wall than a mass produced wood tochke. A pin, I could put on my lunch bag strap and it’d be unobtrusive.

        1. Minocho*

          I could choose from a plaque, a metal number paperweight, or a logoed clear acrylic 18 wheeler. I worked on a project strongly associated with our trucking department, so I chose the truck. I think I’ll do metal number paperweights going forward, though, if the opportunity arises!

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            Before I got to “trucking department,” I was bewildered by, but completely here for, the absolute left-field option of an 18-wheeler. I wonder if I could talk my IT consulting company into giving out acrylic trucks.

        2. JustaTech*

          In about 3 months I’m up for a big (10 inches tall?) glass teardrop shaped thingy. Honestly, I’m looking forward to it, as big and silly as it is, because it will clearly say “no, I am not new”.
          Though pins to put on your badge lanyard would be fun too. And probably cheaper.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        We give out pins on certain anniversaries. I do wear mine (it’s actually really nice and rather pretty) at things like our annual convention – you know, back when we could do those in person. :-) I can’t say I get it out of the jewelry box very often, though. Plus, they used to give more than one, e.g., at your 15-year anniversary and your 25-year anniversary, and I can’t imagine what I’d do with two pins. Fortunately, they’ve stopped doing that. As I said, the one I have is rather pretty, but one is plenty!

      3. Chinook*

        At one point it was something that was done culturally because people dressed more formally and had lapels to put them on, at least when dressed for special occasions, like company dinners. My 100 year old service group does this for 5 year increments and I currently am holding ones for everything from newbies (who get “pinned” in an official ceremony) all the way up to those with 75 years of service/membership. I a positive the national office has a large cabinet full of these so we can order them in small numbers for like $5 each. Some women wear them all on special pin ribbons while most of us just wear our highest “rank” (I have two – years and past-president). It is a quick way to see who has been around a while and may know how things are done because many women join after their children are grown while others are signed up at 18, so age does not equal experience.

        It is a big deal if a group makes it a big deal. We do an annual tea, which includes a memorial service for members who have passed, when we present them and there was much sadness that this year’s tea had to be postponed and that we will have to combine multiple years of presentations when we next meet. It is quite possible that, by that time, everyone will be getting some type of pin!

    2. Aphrodite*

      At the community college, we get a quick board comment for special years (10. 15, and so on) plus a cheap black framed certificate of some sort. I trashed mine without a second glance.

      1. Artemesia*

        At the university we got an actual chair at 25 years on faculty — you could choose between a wooden arm chair thing and a rocking chair with the university seal and your name on it.

        1. anonymous1*

          I actually love that, but it’s random enough that I’d wonder if there’s some kind of signature woodworking program at your university that makes it relevant or if someone along the way was like “You know what…chairs are a good gift.”

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I think chairs are actually pretty common? Maybe not in this setting specifically but both of my uncles have chairs commemorating their time in the Navy.

            1. Stephanie*

              My grandmother (who has since passed away) received a chair from the university where she was a janitor for her 25-year anniversary. It’s actually a really nice wooden rocking chair that my aunt still has.

          2. JustaTech*

            For the longest time I thought that when people in academia talked about gifting a chair they were talking about a literal chair and not the “Wargable Family Chair in Llama Grooming Studies”.

            My mom worked in development (donation-getting) for higher ed and talked about these chairs that were thousands or millions of dollars and I finally said “what are they made of, gold?” Which was when she explained that an endowed chair was not a physical object but a paid job.


    3. Moeg*

      I’ve never heard of pins being given, only things like “thank you” cards and maybe a small giftcard. Though my dad got a clock about 15 years ago for some number of years with a company; it’s still on the mantelpiece at my parents’ house.

      Where I work some people will bring in a cake for their own “landmark” anniversaries (e.g. 5 years, 10 years, etc.) which then gets everyone else calculating their tenure, but that’s the sum total of recognition.

    4. Tamer of Dragonflies*

      I worked for a company years ago that gave tie tacks/clips for working there in 5 year increments. It seemed strange to me though because ties weren’t allowed and all jewelry was frowned upon due to safety concerns. The only time they could be used were when someone wasn’t at work.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      I think it’s an historical holdover. Years ago men wore suits or jackets to work everyday and probably did put it on their lapel. The award hadn’t changed since, it’s been included in procedure and law (buying the cheap lapel pins in bulk with taxpayer money) and there’s nothing that to replace it that would be worn by most employees.

      Heck so many people work from home now, it doesn’t matter what they wear.

      1. NotsorecentAAMfan*

        Hmm. I recently got such a pin, and am now determined to affix it to my sweatshirt every morning!

      2. Joielle*

        I got a lapel pin for my 5-year work anniversary with the state government, which would have been nice (I wear a lot of blazers!) except it was TINY and had this silver-on-silver relief picture on it. So if you wanted to see what it was, you’d have to get right up to my lapel. From a normal, professional distance, it just looks like a miniscule silver oval. So weird, but I assume you’re right that they were bought in mega bulk at one point.

    6. Cat Tree*

      I have received company branded things, but never anything as pointless as a pin. Mugs, backpacks, and sweatshirts are things I have kept and used for a long time, even after switching companies.

      1. JustaTech*

        In a unfortunate case of “not fully explaining the way this group does White Elephant gift exchange” our brand-new CMO gifted a used laptop backpack from his previous company. Our competitor.
        All of that was awkward, but also this White Elephant was all new or like-new gifts, and this backpack was clearly worn. It took a long time for all that to get smoothed over.

        1. TassieTiger*

          Oof, stuff like this is why I sometimes feel I’m not cut out for white collar work. It took a while to smooth over? I would have just laughed and gotten over it in 5 minutes…

    7. MPH*

      My company gives pins for 5 year milestones with the number of years on the pin. One coworker hit her 15 year work anniversary, and they were out of 15 year pins so they just gave her a 5 yr pin and a 10 year pin. So, that shows how much these pins mean…

    8. Insert Clever Name Here*

      A previous company I worked at did pins for service awards (once you got to 10 years, you’d get the pin + choose something of $X value from a catalog) and people wore them on their lanyards.

    9. Mella*

      My company gives pins/tie tacks for years of service. They’re the company logo with a line of gemstones. They make a big deal about which gems mean which thing (5 years gets sapphires, 10 years gets rubies, 20 years gets diamonds, etc.).

      Our EVP of sales is known to walk around and “spot check” for pins. If you aren’t wearing your pin, he will unleash holy he11 on you. He gave a presentation at one department’s Christmas dinner meeting, and flipped out that almost nobody was wearing one…most of the department had less than one year with the company. This is not in the handbook or anything, just this one guy gets away with terrorizing people with his weird personal preference.

    10. Jessica*

      Public higher ed here. At 10 years, I got a cool travel blanket that I actually like. By the time I hit 15, they’d shifted to letting employees choose their own gift, offering different ranges of things from the campus bookstore for different lengths of service. I picked a glass (like the size-shape that’s called an old-fashioned glass, meaning the drink) with the university logo etched on it.
      I like the glass, but one day at my brother’s house I’m drinking from a similar glass from the college town we grew up in, mention the one I just got for the university I work at, and learn that he has a bunch of glasses from our home-state university because someplace was giving them away free with tanks of gas. So of course I’m like, “I worked for 15 years and all you had to do was buy gas?!?”

    11. Totally Minnie*

      I have a company pin for years of service, but I don’t wear it. I pressed it into the cork board where I post notes to myself, so it’s on display and I don’t have to worry about accidentally losing it.

    12. acmx*

      We receive them for years of service and attendance, also one if we are a veteran (this is not automatic, you’d let the company know in order to get one).

      We must be badged at all locations so people would wear them on their lanyards or uniform pieces or maybe a backpack. (I don’t wear a lanyard, just a clip so mine are on my desk).

      But I’ve worked at companies with strong cultures and lifetime employees so these type of things aren’t uncommon.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I also work at a long-standing company that does pins for 5 yr service increments as well as company milestones and a few work-related honors. Mine are all in a jewelry box, but I have seen a few on badge holders or suit jacket/blazer lapels (casual dress code, typically only 2nd level managers and above wear blazers ever). Service anniversaries also come with a “choose your gift” at varying levels, which is far more practical as I still use my 5 yr crock pot.

  6. ElleKay*

    WAIT A MINUTE! “Buffy Summer Harris“!?
    Is Alison out here supporting Buffy & Xander?! How long has this been going on without my notice?!
    No, no, I simply cannot bear this!
    Spike was clearly the best choice of aaaaaalll the candidates (sorry not sorry)

    1. Going Full Boyle*

      Right, that got me too. NO THANK YOU. Xander is the last person on that show Buffy should be romantically involved with.

      1. Zen*

        Long-time reader, first-time commenter — as this is apparently the hill I will die on.

        Once a Summers woman, always a Summers woman.

  7. Budgie Buddy*

    There is something in #1 of “Only OP can understand the complexity that is Boss” that seems like it could develop into an unhealthy dynamic. If everyone else has found him difficult that could be because he is behaving differently around OP, and OP should take his usual behavior into account when evaluating him. This whole dynamic is making me think OP’s friends have picked up on some legit weird vibes.

    Overall having a horny dream about someone you’d never want to be with in real life is totally normal, as is having a boss or teacher crush. It’s analyzing those feelings at length that can be a cause for concern.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Budgie, you’ve picked up on something I was also curious about: the emails OP has sent him, and those communications in which they acknowledge the obstacles he’s faced? What are the nature of said emails? Professional/friendly? It might be worth slowing that pattern down. Sometimes, in an effort to be an ally, you can trick your brain into thinking, “Well, no one else is going out of their way to support him, and he’s not responding warmly to anyone else, maybe our situation is unique”. If that makes any sense.

      1. a sound engineer*

        I picked up on that as well.

        In my experience it’s better to trust established reputation (as in, it’s consensus that the boss is difficult to work with, and not just one or two peoples’ experiences) over any individual experiences I have with a person… and if it seems that I am being singled out for good treatment, it’s time to take a step back and question why.

        1. MK*

          Eh, maybe? Sometimes people get undeserved reputations and it can be very difficult to shake them off. I would give a lot more attention to what the rep is about, e.g. specific issues vs. unfriendliness.

    2. Tyche*

      I was thinking along the same lines.
      OP1, it is quite normal to lose a crush, it happens! From personal experience, I would say that a lot of my crushes are about misplaced admiration and a kind of closeness to people I feel very connected with.

      That said, something similar happened to a dear friend a few years ago. In the beginning it was a harmless crush, nothing more, but she let it fester: they understood each other better than the others (even partners and friends), she was his confident, he looked for her at every opportunity, they went out to lunch togheter without other coworkers, they could tell each other anything, etc. It lasted years, and it sort of degenerated in a “we against others” (collegues, frinds etc) and it ended very badly.

      I’m not saying it’ll happen to you! But, maybe, it might help to assess your boundaries a bit, and use some of the tricks in Alison’s answer.

      1. Maggie*

        Just seconding that a lot of crushes are about misplaced admiration. The crush is doing something or acting in a way maybe we wish we could. If the superintendent is perceived as cold/unfriendly and LW relates, LW might do well to explore how they feel when they feel misunderstood or perceived as unfriendly, too.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yah, it’s just a hop, skip, and jump to “my wife doesn’t understand me like you do” (which, as we all know, is the oldest line in the book). I would extinguish every thought of this, as it may end badly. Besides, odds are, you understand him far less than you think you do. You just developed rapport with him where others find him difficult and abrasive, and are willing to give him breaks where others don’t, that’s not necessarily the same as understanding a person.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Oh, I for sure think other people have picked up on the vibe!
      But, then again, people having… INTEREST (I say interest as it’s not always sexual but sometimes intellectual or admiration based) with each other is also totally normal. Sometimes, it’s just friendship or being comrades-in-arms type of thing, but sometimes there is also a attraction or crush vibe.

      So, yeah, you just need to quell that and continue to remain completely professional around him. I’d also suggest maybe emailing him a little less often unless it is about a work matter. At least for a few months until this “interest” fades.

  8. Tabihabibi*

    I had a former coworker who changed his surname and made an email announcement to the wider department that communicated: 1. The reason is personal. 2. It’s not marriage. 3. It was very exciting and meaningful for him, with big emphasis on #3. The framing as “YAY!” seemed to smooth over a lot of awkward questions or reactions.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I’ve known several people who changed last names not-because-of-marital-status. At least two were because they were on bad terms with their fathers/parents, one was because it was a name that was hard to spell and pronounce, so they as a family created a pared-down derivative of the original name. One, I don’t know why they changed it but “it’s personal” seems like an obvious and reasonable motivator that shouldn’t need further explanation.

    2. Hillary*

      I really like #3. Pretty much the only reason I’m curious about name changes is to know if I should say congratulations. Weddings – always yes. Divorces – occasionally yes but usually no. Personal identity decisions – depends on underlying reasons.

      (I’m lucky that my IT keeps all our email addresses ever and lets us use chosen names. If we start typing in an old name it will autocorrect to the current name for all my coworkers. I even have an alias with the way people keep spelling my name wrong.)

    3. No Sleep Till Hippo*

      Having changed my first, middle, and last name for not-exactly-divorce-related reasons – I have gotten a lot of mileage out of “Because I wanted to” paired with a sly grin. I suppose it helps that I chose myself an outlandish middle name (think something like Victoria Dinosaur Warbleworth) – I absolutely love it and half a decade later I still can’t believe the government let me get away with it. I think the air of “Can you believe they let me name myself that??” totally distracts from the Why of it all.

      YMMV, of course, but I cannot recommend a delightfully outrageous middle name highly enough. I also agree with Tabihabibi that the framing of “YAY!” is extremely helpful.

  9. Catherine*

    OP #4, I think this won’t be as big a deal as you’re nervous about it being. I changed my surname from my mother’s to my father’s and brother’s in my early 20s. Whenever anyone asked about it, I just said that I changed so I could match the rest of my family. I got surprisingly few follow-up questions. (Although perhaps it helped my own attitude that I had Taken Sides, and was prepared to remind people that it was none of their business if I had to.)

    1. LW #4*

      This is my takeaway from all the great comments as well! I was really worried about the aforementioned symbolical neon sign, but seeing everyone share their experiences has made it 100 % less scary.

  10. Double A*

    I do think it’s a little weird for a teacher to be regularly emailing the superintendent if you didn’t have some kind of preexisting relationship, especially of a large district (I say this as a teacher). That’s like…at least 4 levels in the hierarchy above you. They’re essentially the CEO of the district and can have hundreds of people downstream from them.

    A workplace crush is fine. But it’s just surprising to me you cross paths so often with the superintendent, and strikes me as a little odd that you would have such frequent contact that he would notice you pulling back. If multiple people have commented on it… I’d proceed with caution. From my experience in similar hierarchies, there are a couple of yellow flags here. Maybe nothing, but enough to pause.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      That seems wise. I’d be interested to hear more from teachers on this dynamic, since I think education is kind of unique in its structure — and I imagine even varies a lot from district to district, maybe state regulations, population size/density also impact these dynamics.

      1. HS teacher*

        +1 to Double A. I commented up higher before seeing this comment, but yeah, even in the smallest of districts, they work in a different building at least 2 levels above LW.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I don’t know – we have a few districts in my state that are smallish (anywhere from 1200-2500 students) but the superintendent’s office is in the high school. I used to meet with them fairly regularly when I was in higher ed.

        2. a username*

          My high school in my hometown is a one building district. k-12 in the same building. The superintendent’s office was right next to the high school counselor, so they were a common fixture to everyone, students and staff, and had a good finger on the pulse of the social structure of the school.

          Of course, that’s a single anecdote, but I wouldn’t say “even in the smallest of districts” – there’s always exceptions.

      2. Double A*

        It definitely varies district to district! Districts can be as small as one school with a few hundred students, or have tens of thousands of students. In the area where I live, most of our districts are two or three schools: the elementary and middle schools for an area. In that case, it wouldn’t be surprising that the superintendent is around, and the principal of one school might even be the superintendent.

        When I think “large district,” I think of something like at least four 1000-2000 student high schools, 10+ middle schools, and dozens of elementary schools. Districts that are that large are quite hierarchical.

        1. PhysicsTeacher*

          When I think “large district” I basically think of my district or bigger (we’re between 5000 and 10,000 students). Even my district is pretty hierarchical — the superintendent is ~ 5 levels above me (associate principal, principal, director of secondary ed, deputy superintendent, superintendent).

          What people think of as a large district is certainly going to vary by region, but I would guess that in states more populous than mine (which is most states!!!) anyone saying a “large school district” would be talking about a district our size or bigger.

    2. Flower necklace*

      Same. I know my situation is different because I work in an especially large district (it’s one of the top 20 largest districts in the entire country), but I was surprised that she’s emailing the superintendent and that she interviewed with him. The superintendent is at least 4 levels above me. My principal doesn’t even report to him.

    3. Ginger*

      +1 when OP emailed him to console(?) him about some conflicts, my red flag went up.

      OP – you’re putting in emotional effort to “fix” or “help” someone that doesn’t need it. You’re not his savior or the only one that “gets” him.

      I think you’re ok right now but don’t set yourself up to make this into a bigger deal that it is.

    4. The New Normal*

      I think it depends on the district. I work K-12 and our current superintendent joined our district as a student teacher a bazillion years ago. She worked at the same school as a teacher for ten years, then moved into administration and up the chain. She most certainly has other teachers who still email her and text her from previous school sites. But our district is very known for being insular – the majority of teachers here attended these schools as children and came back to work here. In fact, it’s very difficult to be hired here if you didn’t previously attend our schools. The only time they ever hired an external candidate for one of the executive positions, it did not go well for that hire. They were gone within 18 months.

      1. Disco Janet*

        Well that’s concerning for a whole different set of reasons that have nothing to do with OP’s situation.

  11. Lady Heather*

    4- keep http://www.buffysummers.com as well, but have it redirect to http://www.buffyharris.com. Same for email addresses (have it forwarded or whatever works). That way people can find you with the same contact details.

    One thing I want to mention: you don’t have your dad’s last name right now. You have your last name. If it’s professionally inconvenient to change your name, consider not making the decision until your anger is no longer as acute. You may find that “I won’t have any association with that man!” mellows into “Fuck that, it’s my name too.” Or maybe it won’t, in which case you can still change it.

    1. Maggie*

      +1 to this. Many divorced women are happy divorced but keep the name bc of a feeling that “It’s my name, too!”

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        also to have the same name as their children. It helps. When taking my daughter to the UK, we were stopped by the police. Apparently my daughter had a similar funky hairstyle to a girl who had gone missing, and my daughter and I do not resemble each other physically in the least. I have never married her father and she has his name. There was literally nothing in any of our documents to prove the relationship. Luckily they realised that they were on to the wrong girl and let us go after checking her name extensively.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, my nephew has both my sister and brother-in-law’s surnames because they’re from different countries and it makes it easier if one or the other of them ever needs to travel with him on their own.

        2. Nope, not today*

          I changed my last name back to my maiden name, but was paranoid about not matching my kids last names (my youngest also looks nothing like me, which adds to the paranoia)…… so now when we travel internationally I have copies of all our birth certificates, the divorce decree, the custody agreement and my legal name change (as I initially decided to keep my married name, and changed my mind a year later….). Plus passports of course. I’ve never been questioned but just in case I will be prepared

    2. allathian*

      This is a very good point. One that I’ve heard several divorced women make when they decided to keep their married name after their divorce. These were all women of my parents’ generation (born in the 40s and 50s) who married young, in some cases before graduating from college, and who spent most of their working lives with that name. They said that their birth name was their childhood name and they had had their married name for pretty much as long as they had been adults, and they were sticking with it. This happened to my MIL, and then when she got married again, she kept her old married name and hyphenated it with her current husband’s name. She wanted to keep her former married name, because she shared it with her children, who were still living at home when she got divorced.

    3. Natalie*

      Co-sign. I was given my mother’s last name and kept it when I got married even though we had a very strained relationship (and are now estranged.) It wasn’t a referendum on her or my husband, it’s my name and I was more comfortable keeping it. LW, whatever you decide to do is fine as long as you are comfortable with the name you choose.

      1. cmmj*

        I kept my name too. I’ve been estranged from my father for over a decade, and mom changed hers back to maiden pretty much immediately, but I just never felt comfortable with any other name no matter how much I soul-searched. Having a different last name from my mom didn’t really phase me, but everyone is different; she didn’t have any relationship with her family so it was just the two of us anyway. I’m married to a great person now and I still have my original name–it’s MINE, I built it into something I am proud of, it has a great flow, and I have yet to find something I like better. Names are deeply personal, and changing them (or even the consideration) can bring up a lot of unexpected emotions, but it also doesn’t have to be a huge deal socially, if that make sense. Your name should feel like home, but it’s no one’s business how you got there

    4. Anon4This*

      While I think not making a rash decision while the wounds are still fresh is great advice, I can say that sometimes it’s less about not having the same name as THAT person that you dislike and more about having the same name as THIS person that you love dearly. At least that’s what drove my decision – I was loved and supported in so many ways by my mother’s family, and I decided I’d rather have the same name as the people who raised me. My father’s family made it very clear that any children whose mother divorced their sibling/child were no longer part of their family; my mom’s made it very clear that their love was unconditional. I chose the latter.

      I changed my name in my early 20s, and my former name hardly seems like it was ever “my” name now. I have to make a note to remind myself to put it on hiring forms and degree verification paperwork.

    5. JustaTech*

      I have two friends (a Gen X and a millennial, if that matters) who kept their married names after they got divorced. One because, combined with her first name was the same as a super cool celebrity, and the second because her childhood name had been the source of endless teasing and she was just utterly over it.

  12. JM in England*

    Re #3

    I have always believed that the your references should be people who interacted with you and saw your work on a daily basis. Maria fits the bill in this respect and should therefore always be the OP’s first choice.

    1. a sound engineer*

      #3 – Maria should be your first choice, always, since she can speak to your work in detail. I work in an environment where I am usually the only person with my job whenever I am at work. Whoever is my supervisor on paper probably hasn’t seen me work, let alone worked with me. I use the peers who I actually work with and sort of oversee me (technically they are above me, but tend to be hands off since each department is expected to be pretty self-sufficient) for references, since they have worked with me extensively and can give really detailed notes. And that’s what you really want from a reference! The prestige of having someone higher-up doesn’t really help you if they can only speak about you in general terms.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      100% agree.

      That said, this is an indicator Kim could be a valuable member of OP’s network. Definitely list Maria as your reference…..but connect with Kim on LinkedIn! As you wrap up, maybe send her an email, just quick and earnest, saying you enjoyed working with her/her team, that Maria passed on her positive feedback and you really appreciated it.

      One of the benefits of connection to a people at higher-levels is that they typically have more contacts/sway in the industry, so even if you’re job-searching in a different town, you may find connections. And while Kim isn’t as valuable as Maria as a reference, since she has worked with you (and in a position to know if you’re a solid employee) she could be VERY useful if she intro’ed you to connections, and it sounds like she’d be willing to offer an endorsement. That’s great.

      If Kim is connected with Hurbert on LinkedIn, while Maria is only a 2nd level connection — it’s more strategic to have Kim intro you to Hurbert directly, then you can still list Maria as the main reference.

      And OP, apologies if I’m stating the obvious – mentioning it only because when I was junior I struggled to actualize networking, which is a vague concept.

  13. Erika22*

    #4 – How do you feel about your middle name (if you have one)? Could you soften the the transition by starting to go by First Middle OldLast to First Middle? So Buffy Summers to Buffy Anne Summers then Buffy Anne, so by the time you’re legally Buffy Anne Harris people will still associate you with Buffy Anne?

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I know someone who did that – she was already going by Buffy Anne when I first knew her but from what I understand she had had several failed marriages and eventually gone by her middle name, so Buffy Anne Summers had become Buffy Finn, Buffy Pratt and finally Buffy Anne (OT but can anyone remember Angel’s last name? My mind is blank otherwise I would have used it)

      1. Jean Marie Downing*

        I don’t think they ever give one either as Liam or Angel. He’s a one name guy, like pop stars and popes.

        I think if you just explain your changing it for a family connection without getting into details that will work for the most part.

      2. Coffee Cup*

        I don’t think Angel was given a last name. Just “Liam” when he was human. (Who is Pratt?) haha I am loving the names today.

        1. Wordnerd*

          Apparently William Pratt is William the Bloody’s full name! I’m not 100% if that’s in the show or maybe a comics canon thing? Yes, enjoying this conversation fully :-)

          1. Mella*

            Originally came from a non-canon comic, then adopted in canon comic BtVS Season 11 #7. Also the birth name of Boris Karloff.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Depends. Apparently legally changing your name is full of annoying paperwork. Dont recommend two legal name changes.

      And even socially those two changes could noticed and commented on.

      1. Anon4This*

        The paperwork can be a bit much, particularly if you have certain types of financial accounts – my tiny retirement account practically wanted a DNA sample to process the change. It also took the state in which I was born two tries to issue my amended birth certificate correctly.

        Some jurisdictions also will not allow two name changes Except for marriage, divorce, or adoption. When I filed mine, I had to swear both that the change was not with the intent to evade/defraud and that I had never changed my name before.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I think there’s also a limit to the number of times you can change your name on your SSN as well.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Nope. You can only get ten replacement SS cards in a lifetime, but that’s for losing them – name changes don’t count against the limit.

            I’ve changed various parts of my name six times in total via marriage, divorce, and just-because. (And while I’m not really gunning to do any more, I never found it all that onerous.)

      2. Erika22*

        Oh yeah I imagine that would be a pain, but in this case I meant just going by Buffy Anne rather than Buffy Summers, so the only legal change would be from Summers to Harris. So many people use names that aren’t what’s officially on paperwork anyway!

  14. Erika22*

    #1 – I am the queen of the boss crush (and when I was in school, the professor crush) – really the “position of power” crush. To make sure I’m still acting professionally, before I do something like send an email or chat, I ask myself “would I need to send this to *other boss at similar level* or *coworker*, would I write it the same way, and if I looked back at this in a year how will I feel about it?” etc just to check myself. In your case, it seems like more often than not the emails aren’t work related – would you email your principal or other district officials in this way? In instances where you’re tempted to email him about a recent obstacle he’s overcome, why not save it until you see him next in person? A casual “I was glad to hear you resolved x” in person seems less intimate than writing an email telling him this, and time may make it seem less important to mention at all. Plus from your letter I can’t tell how he responds to your emails, or if he ever initiates them. If not or rarely, use that as a guideline. Let the intimacy that’s built up with these emails fade and I’m sure your crush will too.

    1. Buni*

      ugh, I apply to be co-regent of the “position of power” crush. But I am also absolutely clueless as to my own ‘flirting’ (95% of the time I am not, 5% of the time I am very bad at it); my go-to check is ‘Would I have said/done that to/with one of my brothers?’. The answer is nearly always ‘yes’, and it annoys me hugely when other people start with the stirring.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Hm, I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of intimacy with my brothers that would not be appropriate with random men. It’s not romantic of course, but I do love them dearly and that changes things. Besides the physical stuff (greeting them with a big hug, squeezing onto the couch together), there is just a lot of social closeness that I don’t really know how to describe. We really like hanging out together, and it shows.

        At any rate, I don’t know that ‘treats them just like a brother’ is a good benchmark for social interaction.

        1. Buni*

          Ha! True. I was referring specifically to things that have been interpreted as ‘This is an invitation to shmexy times”, when in fact it was just… I am a woman talking to a man in a friendly fashion.

          Seriously, I’ve had people say to me “The way you smiled at that man and really thanked him! You must really like him!” and it’s….no, that’s what we call friendly or even just pleasant manners ’round my way.

  15. inksmith*

    #4 – I changed my name by deed pool earlier this year (in the UK) because I didn’t want my dad’s name any more (my parents are still together). I literally sent a two line email that said “As you can see, my last name has changed from Summers to Harris – I changed it by deed poll, not anything exciting,” and then a line about what would happen to my work emails. Saying that I’d done it by deed poll meant people didn’t ask questions or try to congratulate me on my non-existent marriage, and it also implied “there’s a reason but I don’t want to tell you what it is” so that people didn’t ask why I’d done it.

    1. Elenna*

      So I initially read your first line as “I changed my name to deadpool” (as in the Marvel character) and was thinking, huh, that’s an interesting choice. Then I re-read… and misread it again, as “I changed my name by deadpool” and I was just super confused for a minute (how can a Marvel character help you change your name??) before figuring out what you actually said. :D

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I also read it this way and needed to reread a couple times before my brain stopped putting in deadpool for deed pool.

          1. londonedit*

            It’s the method by which you legally change your name in the UK. A deed poll is a legal document that proves a change of name – it’s the document you use to officially change your name with your bank/driving licence/passport etc if you haven’t changed it by marriage or adoption.

  16. Angela*

    OP 5: when someone on my team changed his last name for a reason other than marriage/divorce, he sent a note around to us just saying “hey, I’m changing my name to this. Nothing exciting (no Vegas wedding!) but you’ll be seeing emails from [new name].” He also offered to share the story with anyone interested, though I was never close enough to him to feel justified in asking. He also had John [oldname] Newlastname as his signature for awhile.

    1. cmmj*

      Oh I love that. It anticipates and answers the most obvious question with some light humor to signal it’s not something they have to lightly step around, while reasserting the primary message of “if you see an email form Newlastname, that’s me.”! I wonder how many people actually took him up on the explanation offer

  17. I'm just here for the cats.*

    I’m going to play a bit of devil’s advocate for #2. If for the employees the required training that you talk about is like something that everyone has to do, like annual security training or sexual harassment training it is really stupid to expect a card for that. And if the supervisor training is something for the advancement of their position I can see a card. Like congrats on your promotion. However if employees don’t get recognition for things like extra professional development classes or of they have finished classes for college but a supervisor does then I can understand the feelings. Either way, looking down at someone who doesn’t sign the card is ridiculous.

    1. Massmatt*

      Well we don’t know enough about what kinds of milestones the ee’s are completing (unacknowledged) vs: the managers. Maybe it’s a mixture of required training and professional development for both.

      It does seem very one-sided, and in addition if managers do something noteworthy the recognition should come from THEIR managers, not their reports. I think the general rule of this sort of recognition is it should flow downward, not upward, like with gifts at the office, only more so.

      Otherwise we have the slippery slope where the assistant minister of flouridation gets peeved that his underling in sector 7G did not recognize his accomplishment in the field of TPS report maintenance.

      Managers should not be seeking validation from their reports, and reports should not be asked to provide validation and recognition of their managers. That way lies sycophancy.

  18. Helvetica*

    LW#1 says they’ve acknowledged a crush, which is fine but I also have to say that friendliness=flirting is the bane of my existence. I don’t read social cues the same way as many other people do, and for me, when I have been accused of being flirtatious with someone, I have never done it consciously and even subconsciously, there hasn’t been a desire to flirt. Some people just naturally smile more, express themselves enthusiastically, make jokes, etc. Alison said as much and I’d also really like to counteract the idea that if two people have thought you were flirting, it must be true. People tend to read flirtation into genuine everyday conversations just because two people are getting along. This is also how men accuse women of “leading them on”, which often just means that the woman has been friendly and nice.

    1. Xavier Desmond*

      I agree with this. Unfortunately, there are always some people who think men and women can’t be friendly in a platonic way. As a straight man who has lots of female friends that attitude drives me up the wall.

    2. Quill*

      Yeah, being ace, a woman, and not the world’s foremost expert on actually having a herd instinct, and also an extrovert with a fear of people, I cosign this.

      Chances are much higher that you’ve been flirting visibly if you have a crush, but also people read a LOT into any form of closeness between a man and a woman.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        Yes, I definitely agree with this. I have been accused of flirting with random male co-workers (married or not) when asking things like “Hey, are you going to meeting X?” or “I haven’t noticed if you put the coffee on yet, if not I will” when really, all I’m doing is asking a question. Sometimes its work related, sometimes not, but its usually no different than anything I’d ask any co-worker. But no one cares when it’s a female co-worker.

  19. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP4: I remember a client at the agency sending out an email to everyone that her surname was changing. Next time my boss had her on the phone, he enthusiastically said “so you got married huh!” and she answered with a stony “no” then changed the subject.
    This same guy went to help his wife out at a kid’s baking class when her employee failed to show up, and kept saying things like “your Mummy and Daddy will love this cake”. Then one kid said “can I tell you a secret? My mummy is dead”. And he told the story like it was funny, which I couldn’t get my head around. The guy never learned to stop assuming!
    But the client did it right. It’d be nice to say “no” without being stony but people do also need to learn to mind their own business.

    1. snoopythedog*

      Whoa, that guy is just rolling around in his hetero, cis, male privilege.

      Perhaps your client was used to your bosses assumptions, in which case I think a stony ‘no’ was the right way to go with him!

  20. Ali G*

    #1 my sub-conscience has a bad habit of taking normal professional respect and rapport to sex dream. I now understand this is some sort of rite of passage with me (that no one else knows about of course), meaning that once I am comfortable with someone, trust them as a professional colleague, etc. -BAM – sex dream.
    This has led to some awkward interactions for me at work, but now that I understand the why, I can deal with it better. Try not to think of sex = now you are in love with him, but that you have a level set of trust of professional interaction that works for you.

  21. Lyssa*

    On the name change issue, I didn’t change my last name until several years after I got married. I had a number of casual acquaintances who would see the name change, immediately start to congratulate me on what they assumed was a recent marriage, then remember that they’d known I’d been married before and trail off awkwardly thinking that I must have gotten divorced. (But all it took was a cheerful correction, so not a huge deal.)

  22. Long time Fed*

    #2 – your agency’s management is ridiculous! I’ve worked for the government in different agencies for almost 25 years. Never have I heard of an office where supervisors or managers received cards for completing training. In my current agency, we make an effort to staff accomplishments publicly at every agency wide meeting. There are better Federal agencies out there that will value and recognize your work.

    It is normal though to remind people to complete mandatory training. I think in this instance it is annoying because your agency is so horrible about recognizing good work.

    A few commenters discussed the service pins in the comments above. I can’t speak for all Feds, but many I know mark their annual service anniversary and like to receive their pins. My 20 year pin is on a bulletin board in my workspace.

    1. Not playing your game anymore*

      “For instance, a newly promoted supervisor who finishes the introduction to supervision course administered by our agency can expect another supervisor to coordinate a card signed by the staff in his or her area.”

      This seems to be recognition by peers, not something the firm is doing. What’s to stop staff from doing the same thing for their peers?

      1. Massmatt*

        The issue is that employees are being corralled into signing cards for people above them that they report to. This is a slippery slope of coercive and sycophantic behavior.

        Such recognition should flow down, not up. Managers should not be seeking validation from people that report to them.

  23. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – You’re right that Maria should be your primary reference, since she can best speak about your work and experience. However, since she suggested that Kim would be a good reference, I would approach Kim and ask if she would be willing to be a reference as well. After all, you usually provide about 3 references for a background check, and if Kim is impressed with your work, then you have 2 work solid work references to list. You mentioned you’re early in your career, so it would be really good to have not only your direct boss but also your grand boss from your first “real” (ie. career) job as references.

    That said, if you’re asked to provide references before you have a job offer – a) push back and request a job offer (it really doesn’t sit well with me that companies expect references before they have put any skin in the game), and b) don’t offer Kim as a reference unless a solid, written offer is on the table.

  24. Shandy*

    LW1: People at work just love to gossip, it’s as simple as that. When they see a man and woman getting along, their minds jump to conclusions. I was friendly with a married male coworker — all we did was chat and joke around, and we never even saw each other outside of work and work events. Yet after we came back from a business trip together, the rumors were flying. It was awkward and annoying. So maybe you two are giving off flirty vibes — but maybe you’re not at all! It doesn’t take much to get the rumor mill going. It’s best to ignore it.

  25. Oldskool*

    #3 In my work environment (state government in Australia) it is also useful to have a reference from my grand boss or a higher level employee who can speak to your skills. I always also have a current or previous line manager referee who has day-to-day exposure to my work ethic, ability to interact well with other employees etc.

  26. Littorally*

    4: I changed my last name to my stepdad’s in my mid-20s. There was really very little confusion about it. (Well, aside from an international team I worked with, but that was because name changes at all were not a practice in their country.) I had a short list of pre-prepared, non-revealing answers to questions that I picked and chose among based on how comfortable I was with the person.

    – “Oh, well, some weird family backstory. It’s really too boring to get into.”
    – “Well, no one could spell/pronounce OldName!”
    – “It’s my stepdad’s name and he’s raised me since I was a toddler. I wanted to do this forever but man, name changes cost!”

    It was really not all that dramatic. Go for it!

  27. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I’m here with a tale of caution. I had two work crushes during my career, and, while I think I handled the second one professionally (and am still on good terms with the person), I really screwed up the first one. I was young and inexperienced and new to the US corporate world. He found out, I confessed to his friend, my crush had a reputation of being a difficult person and came down on me with all the abrasiveness he was capable of… all kinds of chaos ensued. And then I changed jobs wanting to get away from him, and a year later, he was hired at my new place and became my new boss, and the nightmare started all over again and I ended up changing jobs again. Somehow in the middle of all that, Crush and I started moving in the same circles, met each other’s families, had been to each other’s homes for group parties etc. Finally I disconnected myself from that group of friends, he married someone who lives 2 hours away and moved to their town, I haven’t seen this person in 15 years and was happily assuming that I’d never see or hear of him again. Well… A year ago, I had new neighbors, a newly married couple, move into the house next to mine. The husband is Crush’s brother. I haven’t yet had the situation where I walked outside to water my plants and found myself face to face with Crush visiting next door, but I believe I am sitting on a ticking bomb in that regard. I’m actually making plans to move away (not only because of this, but it’s a factor). To be fair, Crush’s brother and SIL turned out to be great neighbors. But my point is… it’s a small world. OP might want to dial their interactions with Superintendent way, WAY down, so they don’t spiral into something that will come to bite OP in the rear 15 years later.

  28. cmmj*

    I’m sorry you and your mom are going through this. It sounds like this divorce has really shaken you and is making you question a lot about your relationship you your father, which is very healthy and to be expected. If you haven’t already, you might want to talk it over with friends or even a counselor to get a better handle on how the divorce is affecting you and to get support from someone who is not quite as close to the situation while you continue to help your mother. You say you haven’t absolutely settled on changing yet, and if you decide to go through with it that’s great, but it is a huge undertaking emotionally.

    FWIW I’ve been estranged from my father for well over a decade, and even though mom changed her last name pretty much immediately I ultimately chose to keep it. But it took a lot of counseling to get to that decision. You know your relationship to your name best, but since you said you aren’t sure yet, try and give yourself some space and plenty of time to really sort out your relationship to your whole name. Regardless of what you end up choosing, the process can help get you out the other end with an even stronger sense of self.
    ANYWAY actual comment on your actual question:
    I will say, the way people handle anything with even a whiff of family discomfort can vary wildly, especially in professional relationships. That’s not to say it will always be rude! But usually if a big personal change happens and you respond with “it’s a family issue” they will feel awkward about offering any response, because socially one would usually follow up, but in a professional context it’s hard to strike a balance of sensitive and distant. So you might want to leave out the family explanation if you go ahead, again not because people will definitely be rude or interrogate you, but just because it’s not something that needs to be explained to clients/other professionals you have no personal connection to! Even in the arts you owe no one your life story. The e-mail with a neutral announcement of is a good idea, and if people want to follow up you can answer with “I’m going my Buffy Harris now, oh while I have you I’ll have that draft to you by 3” to get the subject back into neutral territory. It signals that it’s not something you’re interested in elaborating on, which most people will pick up on, and they won’t have to worry about if they’re supposed to congratulate you on a wedding or other celebratory milestone. If anyone pushes it *then* the family explanation is a good way to shut it down, or simply “It’s really not a big deal. I’ll get back to you on that call time [insert relevant conversation ending statement]” depending on how well you know them/how pushy they tend to be. Over a few months they’ll probably forget what you ever even went by.
    Also, consider doing a bit of a revamp on the site upon name change. Not only to give it a bit of refresh for you emotionally, but also to give something else to talk about. “Oh I noticed you site is now buffyharris.com, are congratulations in order?” “oh nothing like that, just going by Harris now. I’m pretty excited about this new site feature, did you get a chance to check it out?” In general people follow the flow of conversation, simply reassert in a neutral/light tone and move the conversation on until they forget what your old site ever was.
    Wishing you all the best in this painful process.

    1. LW #4*

      Thank you for the kind words. It’s really lovely to hear from others who have experienced something familiar.

  29. Valkyrie*

    #4: I had a colleague do exactly this. One day her last name in her signature was different, I asked her if she changed her name she said yes and I congratulated her on getting it done (because, name changing can be daunting!).

    She also had a bad relationship with her dad and didn’t want to keep his name any more. We were all excited for her for taking control and doing a tough thing.

  30. Lizy*

    #1 – I once had a dream about Dwayne Johnson. You know – The Rock? I NEVER thought he was attractive. Like, at all. Not even remotely. Ever since the dream (which was pretty tame – just he was my boyfriend and John Cena was my sister’s boyfriend and we went and did a hay maze), I think Dwayne Johnson is hot. So yeah – dreams can be weird.

  31. Anecdata*

    #3 – as with many things, this can be different if you’re in academia & especially if letters of reference are a thing. Like if you were applying to grad school and had the option of a letter from a big shot professor, definitely take it (and balance it out with choosing people who worked with you closely for you other letters).

  32. Stephanie*

    #1: I had a vivid PG-13 sex dream about one of my grad school advisors. And he was definitely not my type and we never had more than an advisor-advisee relationship (which for anyone who’s been in academia knows that that is professional albeit often dysfunctional relationship). Could just be your subconscious telling you how you really admire this person? In my case, I think that that’s what it was — I really admired my PI’s work and since brains are funny, that weird dream happened.

    1. Anon this time*

      Exactly what I came here to say. I had a period where I was hanging around a lot with two particular friends, and had sex several dreams about each of them, even though I was married and had no romantic or sexual interest either of them in my waking life. It bugged me because, even though I never told them, in my mind it introduced a sexual overtone to our relationship where there was none before. I eventually put together that the common factor was that I deeply admired and respected both of them. Once I realized that it was about thinking they were good guys, not literally wanting to sleep with them, I felt a lot less awkward, and the dreams stopped pretty quickly. I think I subconsciously wanted to “possess” some of their positive qualities, and my brain decided that equaled sex. *shrug*

      1. Anon this time*

        That was supposed to be “several sex dreams” in the second line. I usually let typos go if they mostly make sense, but wanted to correct that one in the interest of clarity. I did not ever have sex with the subjects of my dreams IRL.

  33. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    I think name changes that aren’t for marriage are becoming more and more common and accepted. I had a male math teacher in high school back in the 80s who announced his family was changing their name because they had done family genealogy and discovered their family name had been changed at one point and they wanted to change it back. Typos and intentional changes were pretty common in the past — hand-written census/immigration/birth records by people who may or may not be 100% literate (or the family wasn’t so they didn’t know how to spell their own name), trying to “start fresh” with new name, etc. My family name was changed because when my ancestors immigrated to the US, they settled in an area with a lot of other immigrants from the same place and had a very common surname. So instead of being 1 of 12 different Smythe* families, my great great grandfather decided to make it Smith* and that’s just what the descendants went with from then on — no court process, just we’re Smith now.

  34. Blarg*

    #3: Use the people who know you best, but if you know the higher ups well and they can speak to your work — do that. I was in a specialist, non-supervisory role for a while at a state agency. So I had a boss who knew little about what I did but signed my time sheet and largely left me to run my area, and a grand boss with the same certification as me who is respected in the field.

    For my last job search, I used both as references. I was hired by a national group that focuses on a similar field. A colleague recently told me that when they saw where I’d come from, she immediately asked “did she use [grand boss] as a reference?” It is a small specialized subset of a larger field, so this may not be common. But in this case, listing my grand boss — and getting a great reference — helped seal the deal.

    1. introverted af*

      This. Your grandboss may have more connections thank you are aware of, or their reference may carry more weight for some other reason. Definitely do keep your immediate manager on the list since they know your day to day work better, but as others have said, where it’s early in your career having two good references from this place is a solid idea.

  35. In my shell*

    Changed my last name from my father’s last name to my grandmother’s maiden name twenty years ago and have never regretted it!

    My go-to anytime I’m asked a question I don’t want to answer I’ll give a vague reply and if they persist with a follow up question (not just related to this) is “why do you ask?” It stumps the nosey-nelly every single time.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I wish it would but usually the completely unabashed response is “just curious” or “just making conversation” People who ask nosey questions have no shame about being nosey.

  36. Secretary*

    Hi OP 4, I’m in my late 20s too and my parents just got divorced after 30 years of marriage with my Mom being awful through the whole thing. It really, really sucks.

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this, I just wanted to comment that you’re not alone. Also to remind you that it’s ok to be upset about how it’s changed your life even if you’re an adult, and don’t let anyone tell you how you should react to this. Everyone has opinions and what matters is that you’re taking care of you.

  37. drpuma*

    OP4, however you choose to answer it sounds like the kind of situation where you can nudge people into a particular response. I’m thinking “Yeah, it’s a family thing. I’m excited about it!” or “It’s a positive change for me” before redirecting by asking the other person a question. If you feel up to it, you can feed the other person a reaction which will hopefully simplify the responses you have to deal with.

  38. Quickbeam*

    #4 at 21 I legally changed my name to my mother’s family name…by the way the process is kind of a PIA, no one would do it cavalierly. There were family reasons, people had assumed I was the daughter of a stepmother who sued me….But I’ve always explained it away as an honor to my mother. People have always accepted that and let it be.

    I would advise you to use the new name consistently. If you do so, the old name will fall away fairly quickly.

    1. In my shell*

      I’ve said the same! Instead of getting into family / father drama topics, I sometimes said “to honor my grandmother” and that didn’t lead to any follow up questions.

  39. Wren*

    I changed my surname from one of the most common Anglo surnames (think Jones or Smith) to something more unusual mostly because I was studying teaching at the time and I thought being Ms (boring name) for the rest of my life was just not for me.

    I got “congratulations” a few times at first but it dies off pretty quickly

  40. Wren*

    Edit to say replying to #4 and adding: I was maybe 21 at the time and I’ve matured a lot in the last 6 years, as well as changing out of teaching. But I have no regrets about changing my name. My dad even thought it was cool because apparently the Welsh used to have patronymic surnames prior to increasing Anglicisation so he wasn’t attached to his surname anyway.

  41. Mariana*

    I feel your pain! HAHAHA Don’t molest your boss in real life!! LOL
    I had a crush on my former boss and it was so incredibly awkward! I couldn’t help but stare at his eyes; and would giggle like a schoolgirl whenever we were in meetings (and we were rarely in meetings with other people). I think it was super obvious (but also understood that neither of us would ever go there). Reason I think he knew is he had developed a habit of “punching” me on the arm whenever he ran into me in the office; he still does (until we were sent to WFH).

    On a side note, I also have a coworker about whom I have had some graphic X-rated dreams. His wife was in one of them; in the other room while I did *dirty things* with him (AWKARD). He also knows I have a crush on him, and I have for over 20 years. We just go with it because we know neither of us would ever cross that line.

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