is it unprofessional to have hickeys at work?

A reader writes:

What’s the workplace norm around hickeys? Obviously, I would never want to make my coworkers uncomfortable, involve them in my sex life, or lead anyone to think I’m being abused. I figure the general policy is that any obvious marks are unprofessional and should be hidden from view at work. But what counts as an obvious mark? Do I have to break out the turtlenecks for any sort of faint bruise in the neck area, or will people generally not assume anything scandalous is going on unless it’s highly visible or happening very frequently? Does this change depending on the workplace’s level of formality or dress code? What about a casual work barbecue with summer attire or a non-work social event with coworkers present?

Yeah, you shouldn’t have visible hickeys at work. If it’s noticeable enough to be recognized as a hickey, you should cover it with makeup, a scarf, a top with a high neck, or whatever works for you.

It’s not that no one can ever suspect you have a sex life, but your coworkers should not be made to come face-to-face with specific information about your sex life … and generally speaking, a lot of people consider hickeys tacky and immature, and that’s not the image you want in your work life. This is true regardless of your workplace’s level of formality or dress code.

Those considerations don’t change just because you’re at a casual work barbecue or other work event. If you have hickeys, cover them before going!

{ 358 comments… read them below }

  1. Turingtested*

    Years ago I worked in a restaurant and one of our young male employees came in absolutely covered in hickies. In one of the great burns of all time, a coworker commented “How did he manage to give himself all those hickies?”

    Not terribly constructive but if it doesn’t fly in a restaurant it’s certainly not ok for more formal environments.

    1. Chirpy*

      If you remember those “popping” toys from the ’90s (they’re a half sphere that you flipped inside out and then they’d jump), a friend’s brother managed to suction one onto his arm. The resulting bruise looked very much like a hickey.

      1. Bizhiki*

        It’s been a good 25 years, but I still remember the classmate who showed up one day with a perfectly round mark on the middle of his forehead from one of these. At least, that’s what the poor guy tried to tell us what caused it. I don’t know how much we were listening over the gales of laughter.

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          A lawyer at a closing came in with that same mark in the same place. His young child was playing with him and suction toy. He didn’t realize at the time that it would leave a mark. And it was quite a mark! It looked painful. He was pretty embarrassed.

        2. COHikerGirl*

          About 25 years ago, a classmate of mine did the same! He wore his sunglasses on his forehead for awhile. Started a trend at our school of people doing the same!

      2. Saddy Hour*

        Ha! There’s a practice in physical therapy (and sports med in general) of using basically-those-toys and intentionally suctioning them onto your body. “Cupping.” I had lots of coworkers come in covered in perfectly round “hickeys” back in the day. I gave them a hard time every time, but it was really socially acceptable in that one specific sphere of work.

        Highly do not recommend in literally any other profession.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          Just had this done a few weeks ago for my buggered shoulder; I hadn’t realized how visible it was until after my shower a few days later. Thankfully, right by the armpit isn’t exactly an erogenous zone, and more thankfully I tend to wear my sleeveless tops with a shell or cardigan.

      3. JSPA*

        IMO&E, suction marks are just something that can happen. To know that particular ones are sexual is to inject one’s own knowledge of sex into the situation.

        Our small friend group did a costume event that included suctioning on stuff to our faces. Between the level of suction, the trying of different spots, the falling off, thus sticking back on with more suction and trying better spots, and the hours of wear, we sported face-hickeys galore (without ever having any distinctive sensation). I’ve done it to my upper arm by switching on a dyson by accident, with the hose function activated, while lifting it. I belive cupping can likewise leave marks. Babies have been known to latch on to the wrong area and suck hard, too. And not only human babies; a friend got a massive hicky from a baby pygmy goat.

        My reaction to people feeling uncomfortable is, honi soit qui mal y pense. Anyone who knows what a hicky is, knows enough to not ask, and (hypocrisy aside) ought not to be all, “OMG, somebody had SUCTION on them sometime in the last 10 days, I must now think about sex!”

        1. Chutney Jitney*

          Stop. Just because you can come up with 5 different edge cases for “plausible” other reasons for hickey marks doesn’t mean they aren’t hickeys. The most likely scenario is the thing everyone will think about… because it’s the most likely. This mental dance you’re insisting everyone do is literally the work that people should not be forced to do.

          FYI, if your reaction to other people being uncomfortable is to tell them it’s their fault, you might want to think more deeply about that. It’s victim blaming 101. If someone is uncomfortable, you need to respect that.

          1. Parakeet*

            I get the horses-not-zebras argument you’re making here, but there’s no victim-blaming happening here because there’s no victim. People are not being victimized by seeing a hickey. In the case of a hickey, yeah, best to cover it like Alison said, but people get uncomfortable over all sorts of things that are their problem to deal with. Some people get uncomfortable over the fact that though I am female-presenting I generally wear men’s clothes. Some people get uncomfortable seeing tattoos, even innocuous ones (there was a letter about that in the past). I’m happy to blame those people for their own discomfort. Sometimes discomfort is because something bad is happening, sometimes it’s over something innocuous, sometimes it’s a gray area, but discomfort isn’t intrinsically an indicator that someone is is being victimized.

          2. JSPA*

            The idea that body positivity is only about size and shape, but not about using our bodies for totally normal stuff while on our personal time, is mighty small minded.

            Yes, I get that people have strong feelings about stuff they were shamed for in middle school. But we don’t perpetuate shaming over stuff like, “ooooh, she’s carrying tampons.” Or bra size. Or any of the many things that people get (inappropriately) shamed for, in junior high.

            We also don’t body shame over, say, a bruise from playing a team sport, or rock climing, or whatever.

            Besides… would you disagree that women / female presenting people get shamed a lot more than men / male presenting people, and judged differently, over hickeys? If so, then it’s got nothing to do with the hickey itself, but everything to do with gross double standards over “someone who at some point in the past week or two, has probably had sex,” and whether that means they are admirable or of questionable morals.

            Double standards are something we should call out, not buy into.

            1. Mensa CW*

              It isn’t shaming to expect employees to keep their sex lives private when they’re working.

                1. Mensa CW*

                  It’s both. I suppose that in an ideal world, nobody would judge – but realistically, a lot of people will judge an employee/colleague who comes to work with hickeys on them. They’re also going to ask about it and joke about it.
                  I think it’s unprofessional to bring that kind of attention to the workplace.

          3. delazeur*

            > FYI, if your reaction to other people being uncomfortable is to tell them it’s their fault, you might want to think more deeply about that. It’s victim blaming 101. If someone is uncomfortable, you need to respect that.

            If I have a same sex partner and that makes someone uncomfortable, I need to respect that?

            I will be charitable and assume you wouldn’t agree with that, but, at minimum, there is much more nuance here than you are allowing for.

          4. JSPA*

            If you have a condition or trauma or mindset that causes you to melt down in discomfort over someone else living in their body in your presence, you are the victim of your condition, trauma or mindset.

            You are not the victim of someone else having their body, in your presence.

            I am sympathetic to inexplicable discomfort; as with misophonia, having stuff that just sets you off is no picnic, and it can be hard, wrenching and expensive to get treatment. But you can’t conflate “discomfort” with “victimization.” They’re not automatically linked.

          5. OneAngryAvacado*

            Why is it justifiable that people feel that uncomfortable about something that’s on *your* body? If I go into work with a hickey I’m not forcing anyone to look at it – it might be better for me if I cover it up as best I can, but ultimately I’m not responsible for anyone’s feelings but my own. No-one has a hickey *at* someone else.

        2. RLB*

          the mental gymnastics that some folks here are using to justify the infantile practice of going to work coveted in hickey’s is pretty sad. If you want to be covered in them, more power to you. BUT…. if you go to work like that you’ll be taken less seriously and will be embarrassing no one but yourself.

  2. L-squared*

    I kind of disagree, at least for the 2nd part.

    I wouldn’t encourage going to work with a hickey. I feel like, at best, it will just get people whispering about you behind your back, and at worst making bad judgments.

    Outside of work at a social event, I think its a bit different. For me, if its a social thing, I think you have a lot more standing to just be open about who you are and not have to put on a professional front. I’m just going to have a different opinion of someone coming to work with something like that as opposed to seeing my coworker in a social situation with it. Mainly because its something that I think, for an office, you probably want to have a little more discretion on.

    1. Meliara*

      This is so interesting to me, because I would react the same in either setting- thinking that’s awkward and the fact that it’s visible makes me wonder about their judgement. As an adult, I would do anything possible to cover a hickey before leaving my house even to go to the grocery store or something!

      1. TootsNYC*

        I don’t actually wonder about their judgment–you can’t give yourself a hickey.
        I wonder about the judgment of their sex partner. (but then I may eventually wonder about their judgment in staying with a sex partner who gives them hickeys, particularly if it’s often)

        I really internalized all the anti-hickey comments I heard from grownups when I was in junior high.
        (and I had a classmate/friend whose older boyfriend was an asshole and who gave her huge hickeys over her objections.)

        1. badger*

          you can if you do something dumb with something that has suction. And a lot of violinists and violists who play halfway regularly have marks on their necks that look an awful lot like hickeys. It isn’t, it’s a chin rest mark, but if you don’t know the person is a musician, you might not guess that.

          I also left a PT appointment a couple of weeks ago with cupping marks between my neck and shoulder, and if you didn’t know…

          1. stradbaldwingirl*

            Yep, I was going to mention the infamous violin hickey. I played in orchestra through college, and I remember getting one after a summer chamber music program in which I spent many hours a day practicing. Fortunately I didn’t get much comment on it, but it would not have been great to have people jump to false conclusions about it!

          2. Anon 4 This*

            A few years ago I was playing with our then-roommates pug while lying down on the bed, and got an accidental scrape on my neck from his underbite that looked exactly like a hickey.

            Between having very pale skin, bruising extremely easily, and being singularly uncoordinated, I am constantly covered in odd bruises, marks, and little scratches, and having people make assumptions about how they got there (abuse, addiction, etc) has been a really crappy experience.

        2. Anonanoon*

          Idk, I’m a person who bruises really easily and pretty much any neck sucking might leave a mark. That’s not a judgment of my partner, and there’s no reason to assume another person was given hickeys against their will, or that it says anything particularly deep or distressing about either of them.

          Obviously giving them against someone’s wishes is a massive dick move though! There’s just no way to know that.

          1. Ultra Anon*

            I had a boyfriend who would do it on purpose and it was the worst…but then, so was he.

          1. Random Dice*

            But not show it at work, to be clear. I don’t want my coworkers thinking about my sex life.

          2. Anon for this*

            Agree. I feel like it is somewhat common to be into this in the kink community as well as plenty of vanilla folks. Personally, my friends generally know I’m inclined towards a specific type of fun and they’ve never said anything when I had marks that weren’t well hidden. But, I do make an effort to makeup + turtleneck at work if needed so there are multiple layers of coverage.

          3. JSPA*

            I’d hazard that most people who like sex, prefer to have sex that feels good in the moment, without worrying about the work implications.

            We’re mammals. Mammals, by definition, suckle; which is to say, latching on and sucking is part of our basic wiring, as is the possibility of deriving enjoyment from the sensation of being sucked on.

            Why on earth we’ve come to mock one of the simplest (and lowest risk) erotic behaviors is beyond me. I suppose it’s part of the general pattern of habitually treating “actual people having sex” as if it were something negative, while at the same time, putting an inordinate amount of time, energy and attention into the concept of sex, the persuit of sex, and the (nearly unrelated) persuit of “sexiness.”

            Most people in your life sometimes have sex. If you wouldn’t point at someone’s pregnant belly and say, “ooooh, looks like someone did the deed,” why would you be weird about seeing what might be a bite or suction mark?

            Especially when there’s enough plausible deniability as to cause that you can shift your mind elsewhere, if (for whatever reason) your self control, your ability to turn your head, and your ability to focus are all out of order at the same time.

          4. Anon 4 This*

            And some of us just really enjoy the feeling of the sucking, biting, or nibbling that tend to leave these kinds of marks without worrying about how it will look on us afterwards.

            I’m not down with the idea of changing how I do sex because someone might get the vapors at a visible reminder that I may have had it (like someone else said, pregnancy is too, but it would be beyond the pale to mention it) nor am I ok with slut shaming people for liking their sex a certain way.

      2. Ultra Anon*

        I had a boyfriend who would intentionally try and give me hickeys and I was in my 30’s. It used to make me so mad and looking back it was a big red flag about how he viewed me. I certainly would side-eye someone with a hickey at work, but I’d probably keep my opinion to myself unless I was close to the person

    2. JP*

      Why do you think your coworkers wouldn’t whisper about it behind your back if they saw it at a social event instead? I don’t see how the setting is going to change the end result on this.

      1. JSPA*

        Because I work with actual adults, who are comfortable with the idea that human beings, including average, “non-sexy” human beings, sometimes have sex?

      2. OneAngryAvacado*

        Yeah regardless of your opinion about hickeys, most grownup adults are going to take a mild marker that someone’s having sex with a shrug and maybe a private chuckle at best (much like I would expect the reaction to be if a condom fell out of your pocket…a little embarrassing but no biggie). If your coworkers are whispering behind your back about this then you’re probably working with a bunch of teenagers with nothing better to do then giggle about sex.

    3. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Sure, but you are still around your coworkers and still exposing them to information about your intimate life that they don’t need to know, and run a high risk of being seen as immature or worse. You personally may not think less of them but many people will, even if they don’t mention it because they’re at a work social event versus at the job site.

      So it doesn’t fall into the same category to me as dressing down on a Friday or sharing pictures of whatever you do in your personal time.

      1. ferrina*

        Even if it’s a causal work event, it’s still a work event. I don’t want information about a coworker’s sex life regardless of the setting. It definitely will impact reputation.

        That said, if you happen to go to the same gym as a coworker or are in the same neighborhood book club, the bar is a lower. That would be fuzzier and depends on the individual scenario

            1. allathian*

              Yes, thank you. I’d also say that it’s unprofessional to show any marks that look like hickeys at work. Presumably unless you’re a concert violinist and get marks that resemble hickeys on your chin or neck.

              I really internalized the hickey shaming in junior high, can you tell? I didn’t start dating until my junior year in high school, but there was a group of bullies at my junior high school who’d jump on girls, including me, and give them hickeys and laugh at them. This was passed off as “boys will be boys” 35 years ago. Now they’d be facing charges of sexual assault, and a good thing too.

              I suspect there may be some latent trauma, but I absolutely detest having my neck touched or kissed. To me, it just feels ticklish, and I hate being tickled, too.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, the bar is different for non-work events, like running into each other at a sex club.

      2. JSPA*

        There is nothing immature about having sex???

        Maybe this is coming from people who equate hickeys with frustration, or as an alternative to having “real” sex???

        Because real sex is only tab A in slot B, with no silly distractions???

        The idea that I can’t have good sex on friday night without thinking whether it might leave one of us with a visible spot on Monday morning, seems like a huge intrusion of work into one’s private life…NOT the other way around.

        1. Always a Corncob*

          It just looks like bad judgment to have a visible hickey at work. That’s not about anyone’s opinion on “real sex” (what?); it’s about knowing what’s appropriate for a professional environment. Alison has given similar advice for other sexual markers (ie, collars) at work. Don’t bring it to the workplace.

          1. Shan*

            Yeah, I don’t have any issues around sex (“real” or… otherwise?), but I would definitely have opinions about a coworker who came in all the time with visible hickeys on their neck, and I’m kind of amazed some people in these comments think there are professional workplaces where that would not be the case. The only people I’ve ever worked with in my adult life who did so were people who demonstrated questionable judgement in other areas.

    4. Looper*

      I think it’s one thing if the social event is a friend’s party where a coworker happens to be, and another if a coworker invites you to a party where you know a lot of other coworkers are going to be or it is a work-organized event. It also really depends on the coworkers and your relationships with them and how gossipy everyone is. Though for me, even socially if my friend showed up to brunch with a hickey I’d razz them, so that’s my bias!

      1. L-squared*

        To me, I think ti does depend.

        If its a work happy hour right after work ends on Friday, I find that different than a few workers got together for brunch on Sunday.

        Conecptually its not really different. But just like the way I may talk at a work organized event around people is different than I’d talk at a non work organized event with the same people.

    5. Rex Libris*

      Just because they’re at the company BBQ instead of the company HQ doesn’t mean that many coworkers won’t still see it as tacky and juvenile, and carry that impression into the office.

    6. KToo*

      There’s a difference between purely social events and work-sponsored social events, such as were being discussed in the response. If it’s sponsored by work in any way or is in a setting where you wouldn’t be with them if you didn’t work together – a work BBQ, happy hour, team bonding experience, etc… – then it’s not appropriate. Just like you don’t wear a bondage collar, which is also a visible sign of ya lifestyle associated with sexuality.

      Now if you run across a co-worker at the grocery store or while bowling, then of course you’re not prepared and don’t need to rush to cover up, but it still can become fodder for office gossip or judgement if it’s the wrong person who sees it.

      My son is 18 and had had hickeys and even he knows to cover them up for work in a restaurant and he’s a busboy.

    7. a clockwork lemon*

      I’m not a prude by any stretch but I’d absolutely make fun of a close friend for showing up to an event with visible hickeys. It’s the visual equivalent to me of announcing you got laid after a party; it’s not cute in college, but immaturity comes for us all. Once you’re a full-blown adult socializing in the workforce, it’s just not appropriate. I have friends of all shapes and sizes and proclivities, and the closest I get to knowing any details about their intimate lives is that I can infer that if a couple has children, they have probably Done It at least once.

      The bar is so much higher for coworkers, even coworkers who are friends with whom you socialize outside of work. If someone was regularly showing up to happy hour with visible hickeys on their neck, I’d start to wonder what point they were trying to prove.

      1. baby twack*

        “the closest I get to knowing any details about their intimate lives is that I can infer that if a couple has children, they have probably Done It at least once.”

        Even then, I yell at my brain to STFU with those intrusive thoughts.

        1. Anne Shirley*

          I often tell my brain that I can’t know for sure it was a result of having sex. There are other ways after all.

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            I always said that one of the main advantages of being a parent by adoption was that it allowed my father to preserve the idea that I’d never actually had sex.

          2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            A lesbian colleague was once asked, in public, by her daughter, “Mummy, I know how babies are made in a hospital but what about babies who aren’t from a hospital?”

        2. Random Dice*

          I’m pretty shocked that several of you feel the need to do this sex-negative gymnastics in your head about friends. Sex happens. It’s normal. It’s polite not to dwell on the sex lives of your friends – unless they invite you to and you want to – but to shriek away mentally screaming IIIIIICCCCKKKK about humans doing the most basic act is just not healthy.

          1. Phryne*

            Yeah. Some of y’all internalised that puritan spirit too enthusiastically and it shows.

          2. JSPA*

            Right? Google pulls up the stat that the average american adult has sex 50 to 70 times per year. Your coworkers mostly are having sex from time to time. Start on that presumption, and then go with the idea that you can… just not care. Just, literally, do not file sex information in your brain about them.

            You don’t need to care about their hickeys any more than you need to care about their zits or whether they look stiff or limber today. It’s just their body, being their body; let it be of no interest to your mind.

          3. BadCultureFit*

            It is bizarrely puritanical in here today.

            People have sex! Surprise! They’re not having sex AT their coworkers!

            I mean, sure, cover up hickeys if you have massive ones on your neck. But this narrative that we must portray ourselves as robots at work at all time is killing me. (Then again, it’s AAM, where people don’t even want to say hello to their colleagues, so what did I expect.)

            1. OneAngryAvacado*

              “People have sex! Surprise! They’re not having sex AT their coworkers!”

              That’s the thing that getting me the most about this comment thread. I’d probably tend to any obvious bruising with concealer before I go into work, much as I wouldn’t come back from the shops on my lunchbreak holding a pack of condoms for everyone to see. But if someone happens to notice condoms amongst my shopping or a lovebite on my neck, it shouldn’t be a big deal. I’m not doing it AT them.

              Sometimes you extrapolate bits and pieces about your colleagues at work that they didn’t mean to share, and what mature adults do is shrug that off and go about their day. The idea that these little snippets of humanity must always irreversibly change your coworkers opinions of you – or that you’re somehow forcing your coworkers to be party to something they didn’t consent to – is such a weird idea.

    8. CRM*

      I disagree, I would cover them even in the presence of friends. I am completely comfortable around all of my friends, and I would probably even tell them the story. I’m not ashamed, but I don’t personally feel comfortable displaying something so personal and intimate even among friends. And that goes doubly with co-workers!

      1. L-squared*

        I guess I just don’t see it as some super intimate thing. Yeah, you made out a bit and there was some neck sucking. That isn’t something all that crazy to me. But I get people have different opinions.

        1. Anonanoon*

          I agree. I feel like at least around my friends, it’s not communicating anything they didn’t already know, and it doesn’t feel all that intensely intimate.

        2. marvin*

          I think it probably varies a lot by social group. Maybe I’m just gay and slutty by nature but I wouldn’t really think anything of it if a friend or acquaintance had visible hickeys. I would kind of respect the courage of anyone who showed them at work but I think it’s highly likely to result in being judged in most workplaces, even really casual ones.

    9. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

      To me hickey’s read high school & very juvenile –
      “Look at me, I have a girlfriend/boyfriend!”

      1. Anonanoon*

        I think that’s reading more into it than there really is. It can happen accidentally, and not covering it isn’t the same as flaunting it. Neither the bearer of the hickey nor the observer should really make a big deal about it, imo

      2. JSPA*

        That has more to do with how juveniles see other people, and the world–which is to say, at age 13 or so, one tends to be really insecure, and self-involved, and status-aware, and thus ready to see the universe and all the people in it, as some sort of direct or coded message. If you don’t have a BF/GF/otherF, it feels like people are having theirs, “at” you. Only, they’re not.

        By the time you are in the workforce, it’s really time to get over all that.

  3. Your Social Work Friend*

    When I worked in food service it wasn’t unusual to see them, but it also wasn’t strange for people to get them on smoke breaks. A hickey isn’t like a bruise from an injury which you wouldn’t have to cover, it’s more the equivalent of wearing short sleeves when you’ve got some consensual rope burn on your arms.

    1. Lanlan*

      Even consensual rope burn is easier to explain away than a hickey. I could have been hauling something that was tied with rope and got rope burn — what else explains a bruise on my neck?

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Playing violin or viola, for one. But that’s about the only thing I can think of. As a violist I’m thankful for the chinrest padding I have that helps prevent a viola hickey, but I still have a faint one and now I’m calling into question everything I’ve ever (not) done to cover it up.

        1. Pipe Organ Guy*

          Way, way back in the Dark Ages, when I was in college, I discovered that quite a few violin and viola majors had violin or viola hickeys. The badge of honor of string players!

          1. musician*

            Not to get too off-topic, but it shouldn’t be a badge of honor- it’s often a sign of an ill-fitting setup. Optimally the chin rest and everything else shouldn’t be pressing in a way that would cause the hickeys.

            Signed, a violist ;)

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Yeah, but I can’t figure out how to get the right setup. I think part of my issue is that I have really narrow shoulders so I need my chin to do more of the heavy lifting that someone with broader shoulders can do without so much chin involvement. Hence the padded chinrest, which does soak up some sound, unfortunately, but it’s a compromise I’m willing to live with to be able to play without tons of neck pain.

        2. LR*

          Burning yourself w a curling iron as you attempt to style your hair on three hours of sleep will look a lot like a hickey for several weeks of heeling. Ask me how I know…

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I am talented enough that I once burned my ear using a curling iron. That was fun.

      2. Samwise*

        I have bruises on my breast bone and neck from my cat stepping on me at nite. (Yes, it wakes me up. No, they don’t hurt — I just bruise easily and have pale skin so they really show)

        1. anon24*

          When my two cats were kittens I ended up with two persistent bruises, one on my arm and one on my boob. They would not go away for weeks and I was absolutely baffled as to how they got there and why they weren’t healing. Then one night I happened to wake up in the middle of the night when they were having the zoomies and were chasing each other around. They zoomed right in, launched onto the bed, and used me as a trampoline/launchpad with one back foot perfectly placed over each bruise. Aha! I shifted how I was sleeping and the bruises were gone in days. Apparently I can sleep through living creatures jumping and fighting on top of me.

          1. Warrior Princess Xena*

            I’m stunned you didn’t wake up and notice but am totally howling because this is on point for cats. Mine have absolutely run straight over me when I’m in bed.

        2. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Yeah, fellow ghost here. Any time I do labor that involves lifting heavy objects, I’ll have bruises anywhere I bore the weight of a heavy object against my skin, no matter how gingerly I lowered it onto some part of my body to support/carry the weight. Like lifting a 75-lb window A/C unit and having part of the weight of it rest it on my forearms for no more than a minute as I take 2 steps towards the window and slide it through – it’s not like I’m hurling the A/C unit around at high speed, but 75 lbs of dead weight is enough to break the tiniest blood vessels near the surface, and when you have translucent skin, that shows.

        3. Spero*

          I have an insane number of bruises from my cats, including several thumb sized perfectly round pairs on my thighs from when they are sitting on my lap and their front paws sink in because they are CHONKY

          I also recently got a bruise on the underside of my forearm because I had my arm resting on the top of a pen that was on my desk while I was working. Literally just resting arm weight on top of a bic, and there’s a weird bruise.

      3. Texan In Exile*

        The first and last time I showed up with hickeys, a friend asked if someone had tried to strangle me.

        (In my defense, I was a Peace Corps volunteer at the time and didn’t have many wardrobe options. And I stopped seeing the guy. We were in our 30s. He didn’t need to be marking territory. It was embarrassing.)

      4. *kalypso*

        I used to get heavy bruising around my neck and collarbone from my necklace because the pendant was a bit heavy and I wore it during dance class and rounds, and it would flop up and down and around and it took me weeks to figure out what was causing it – different necklace, bruises cleared up, lightbulb moment.

      5. Can Man*

        Martial arts. Judo and BJJ will leave gi burns everywhere, especially if someone got you with a collar choke.

        1. Waiting on the bus*

          I was going to comment that for a year or two in my teens I’d get random hickey- like bruises around my neck that I have always chalked up to puberty weirdness. But that coincides with the time I did Judo – I know, because the irritation of the jacket rubbing against the bruises is one of the smaller annoyances that made me quit. How did I never realise that the bruises probably came from Judo in the first place?!

          1. Anon for semi-identifying hobby*

            I used to them, very painfully, from how I routed and secured my tech-diving long hose and short hoses.

        2. kt*

          Olympic lifting got me, always one on the one side of my collarbone that stuck out a bit more than the other

      6. Cyndi*

        I’ve occasionally had pimples on the side of my neck that I couldn’t resist the urge to mess with–that’s also not a great idea, obviously, but it can leave a bruise that looks very similar.

      7. OrigCassandra*

        I’ve known roller-derby folks to have bruises all over the (visible) parts of their bodies.

        I once very nearly committed a faux pas against one of my advisees who came to an advising appointment covered in bruises — I almost asked whether she was safe before remembering that she regularly skated roller derby.

      8. ariel*

        Hair tools can leave marks, too. I’m clumsy and don’t think I’ve ever gotten a random neck bruise but can’t put it past myself. Maybe I’m not nosy enough, but I really don’t notice my colleagues’ bodies (in part to avoid from commenting on them). Unless it was *airhorn* a huge hickey *airhorn* I don’t think I would notice a mark on a colleague’s neck, and I wouldn’t say anything unless it was happening repeatedly or bog forbid, that my coworker was bragging about it.

        1. MicroManagered*

          Ahhhhhhhhh the old “burnt myself with the curling iron” gambit. Didn’t work with my parents when I was a teenager. Hickeys are pretty distinctive!

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I think you meant to reply to LR, above a ways, on this — and as someone who’s had burns (not on my neck) heal with some bruising effects, not that distinctive. The initial burn is definitely nothing like, but there are often stages between fresh blister and healed.

        2. CatMintCat*

          I’m currently sporting a split eyebrow from tripping over the cat. Put my hand out to save myself, bumped my glasses and bang, split eyebrow from the frame of the glasses.

          The cat was offended but is fine.

      9. Drago Cucina*

        So many things. I recently tripped on a piece of exercise equipment and gave myself a black eye. Life happens and the marks it leaves may look like something else.

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          I’ve managed to give myself a fat lip changing clothes. I blame it on being born Sagittarian.

        2. zuzu*

          I gave myself a black eye the first week of my summer job at a legal aid office. They did a lot of DV referrals, and I was terrified someone was going to ask me about it. Especially because the truth sounded so much like a cover story: I’d rolled over a little too vigorously in bed and hit my face on the windowsill (narrow bed, pushed up under the window). Fortunately, no one seemed to notice.

          I also had a hickey once at a fairly new job, but nobody noticed because it was also the day I walked in with a radically new haircut, and that took all the attention away.

        3. allathian*

          I’m clumsy and I bruise easily, so I always have bruises on some part of me. Just bumping against furniture in a way that I barely notice at all leaves a bruise.

      10. Twix*

        I’m a trained and very experienced amateur masseuse. Aggressive therapeutic massage can leave bruises. If you’re doing deep tissue on someone’s neck and shoulders, they can definitely come away looking like they’re covered in hickeys. I’ve done that to my boyfriend more than once. (Fortunately he’s a freelance artist, so appropriateness for work isn’t an issue.)

      11. Your Social Work Friend*

        My favorite cover up story I heard (while in high school, granted) was that they had misadventure with a vacuum hose.

      12. Baal Like Bocce*

        I used to get hickey-like marks as a competitive swimmer if I wore certain suits. More like that rope burn than a bruise but unless you were in my personal space completely indistinguishable.

      13. Parakeet*

        I don’t bruise easily even if I’m really hurt, so it’s not usually an issue, but as someone who is both physically active and has a mild motor skills/coordination disability, I can think of some things. And possibly I’m naive in this way (it wouldn’t surprise me) but sports or disability clumsiness would be my first assumption with most bruises.

      14. Ace in the Hole*

        Playing a stringed instrument, clotheslining myself while chasing the dog, sports (martial arts, full contact team sports, things with small balls flying around), horseplay (especially if rambunctious children are involved), cupping, cat jumping on you in your sleep, baby trying to latch on the wrong spot, children’s suction toys, seatbelt bruises from a minor accident… plenty of possibilities.

        Admittedly, hickeys are probably the most common explanation, but I’ve seen everything on this list happen at least once.

  4. Hush42*

    I never thought this would be anything I’d have to deal with but last summer I hired a new team member. Within a month of her starting she started dating a member of another department. This was fine as their roles don’t really cross at all. But then she started coming to work with visible hickeys on her neck. She wore a scarf at first but one time the two of them were in the break room and he reach over and pulled off the scarf.
    I was at a complete loss as to how to address it and I was getting semi frequent comments from the rest of the team about it. I had a couple people point out that in general hickeys are weird to think about in terms of your coworkers but the fact that we also work with the person giving them to her made it a whole lot weirder. Then one day she came in and half her neck was hickeys and she had one on her face too. Thankfully I have a wonderful HR person and I went to her for advice and she had a conversation about it with said employee and its gotten a lot better.

    All that to say, if they’re really obvious people will notice and it will make them uncomfortable. If they aren’t too noticeable, in my workplace no one would really care.

    1. Observer*

      I hope HR also had a conversation with the guy. I mean he pulled the covering scarf off her! So out of line!

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, yikes! Hickeys aside, the most important thing to address there is “you cannot rip the clothes off of anyone in the office, whether or not you’re dating them!”

      2. Hush42*

        So unfortunately (or fortunately for the rest of us) only one person saw the scarf incident and it wasn’t me. I did tell HR but I have no idea if it was addressed with him because I was only told of the result of the conversation had with my employee. I do know that when they first started dating I was also getting a lot of complaints about PDA in the office. I addressed that myself with her directly (I took the hickey thing to HR because it felt a bit like I was telling her what to do outside of work and I was unsure how to handle). She took the feedback that PDA shouldn’t be happening in the office well. After that conversation I let HR know and I know she had the boyfriends manager have a similar conversation with him because she didn’t want my employee to feel singled out because she’s the woman. So I wouldn’t be surprised if some type of conversation happened with him as well regarding the hickeys.

        1. Galadriel's Garden*

          Man…I met my husband at work, and we did everything in our power to *not* broadcast our relationship at office when we were still working together. A large percentage of the office didn’t even realize we were an item until we showed up to the holiday party together, after six months of dating (and that was the only thing we ever did to make it even remotely known). Hell, we even moved in together and didn’t make it “a thing.” I literally can’t imagine my manager having to have a PDA conversation with me, oof.

          1. baby twack*

            Same. And it was a retail establishment, where gossip is made! People didn’t know we were dating until we got ENGAGED after I took a different job.

          2. Lily Rowan*

            I once knew that coworker X was getting married next month, and coworker Y was getting married next month, and still didn’t know they were marrying each other for a WHILE.

        2. JSPA*

          There’s a lot wrong here–like, them being all, “mess with each others’ clothes at work. But this is way past, “has a hickey” territory.

      3. TootsNYC*

        massive “I marked my territory, I want everyone to see it” vibes from that.
        very possessive.
        I personally react to all hickeys as if they’re a territory marking, controlling, possessive thing.

        And I massively judge the person who made them. And I worry about the person who ends up with the marks.

        1. Anon for this one*

          Not everyone shares your hangups. Most adults who engage in activities that would leave bruises just keep them in easily covered areas. “They like a certain activity, therefore they’re being abused” is not a good look.

        2. Kaiko*

          Oh really? I generally think they’re fairly hilarious, not a cause for concern. I personally love to see hickeys in the wild, and have sported more than a few in my day. At work? Nah. But in the world? Sure!

        3. Rowan*

          For most people, they’re really not anything deeper or darker than “necks have a lot of nerves, kissing is nice”.

        4. JSPA*

          People’s experiences absolutely do affect how they see the world.

          Compare: If your first experience of the mechanics of intercourse are non-consensual, it can be really hard to feel comfortable with the idea that those same motions (more or less) are something that a lot of people do not only voluntarily, but enthusiastically so.

          But almost anything can be done in a spirit of equality, or in a spirit of dominance. You can be ordered to bring someone coffee; that doesn’t make coffee intrinsically a dominance thing.

          People have a lot of erogenous zones; sucking is one way to engage with them; sometimes the result ends up being visible.

        5. BadCultureFit*

          I say this with respect: that feels like something you should unpack with a therapist. Wow.

    2. Relentlessly Socratic*

      ….A face hickey?
      I have dated many enthusiastic partners, but….A FACE HICKEY???

      1. Le Sigh*

        Yeah it’s gonna take a few minutes for me to digest that one. If someone is sucking on my cheek that hard…it just seems painful?

        You know what, nevermind, not gonna think about it anymore.

      2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        Yeah, I think I did an audible, disgusted YUUUCK like a five-year-old faced with a bowl of pickled beets.

      3. Double A*

        The only person who has ever given me a face hickey was my toddler when I didn’t realize quite how hard they had latched on.

        1. Random Dice*

          Toddler face sucking is so weird and gross but also weirdly cute? It’s like they get lost and only vaguely get kissing and it all just gets strange.

      4. WS*

        My friend was fostering kittens and one of them latched onto her cheek to suckle and she got a prominent face hickey! The kitten was very cute, though.

      5. Random Dice*

        Yeah I have to agree on a face hickey. Gah!!!

        A spot that can be fully covered by clothing, it can be nice.

        Once it’s visible, less so, though easy bruisers know it can happen accidentally.

    3. CommanderBanana*

      Was he also wearing a suit made of red flags that he bought at The Red Flag Suit Store?

  5. Yoyoyo*

    Honestly, the only time I’ve ever seen a hickey on someone at work it was someone I already thought was unprofessional, and it didn’t do anything to change that opinion. I don’t want to think about my colleagues’ sex lives.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      I would not think this was something I had to deal with after high school or summer camp, honestly.

    2. Chrisssss*

      A lots of years ago my then bf used to give me visible hickeys that where not so easy to cover. I told him to stop, but he did it more. I ended leaving him, because he turned being more and more abusive with time.

      What I want to say with my personal anecdote, sometime the person with the hickey is not the immature one, but their partner.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I personally always believe the immature person is the one who’s creating the hickeys. You can’t give yourself a hickey.

        I worry about the people who are getting them.

        1. Chrisssss*

          A then acquaintance of mine told me that my then bf was marking me as his property. Looking back on how he ended treating me, he was 100% right.

          If I saw an adult with those marks, I would also worry about the person :/

          1. Stick Witch*

            Um, a lot of people just get them because they bruise easily, and they like mouth-to-skin contact on that area of their bodies. It’s not that deep.

            1. Chrisssss*

              That is a nice reminder that you sometimes see what you see, and the rest is your interpretation.

              The reason why a visible hickeys would worry me is probably because of my personal experience. I guess that if you are close enough to the person with the hickey, you can carefully ask if everything is ok, without dramatizing.

    3. JSPA*

      Cool. Then…just don’t.

      Look, a hickey doesn’t MAKE a person think about someone else’s sex life, any more than someone’s lack of a hijab MAKES that person stare at their ass(ets) or wonder what they’d be like in bed.

      If the only way you can not think about coworkers sexually is to assume that they never have sex, then maybe figure out a less reductionist (and frankly nonsensical) way to focus on your coworkers as fellow workers?

      Many of our coworkers have sex, more or less regularly. It’s just none of our business. It’s on us to deal with that knowledge like the professional adults we are, not like Beavis and Butthead.

  6. Immortal for a limited time*

    I read the headline, “Is it unprofessional to have hickeys at work” and my brain automatically replaced those last two words with “after age 16” :/

    1. L. Bennett*

      Right! I mean, to each their own if you like that kind of kissing, but it feels like something teenagers do to each other to either embarrass their partners or mark their territory. Are there really that many adults walking around with hickeys?

      1. Cut short for time*

        Some of us bruise easily and have fair skin, so any kissing leaves a mark! Got a little better for me with iron supplements, but yeah, not about anything other thank I like getting kissed on the neck (which I think is pretty standard!)

      2. Tulipmania*

        That’s what I thought too, what percent of adults are encountering this? I thought that was high school only.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          I’d hazard a non-scientific guess that most adults don’t encounter this because we’re old enough to keep the marks to where they can be hidden? Because its not about marking territory anymore?

          1. JSPA*

            Or because we let our fears about professionalism into our bedrooms, where they dictate where we do or don’t kiss, and how deeply, and for how long? Which is a really sad statement about our priorities?

    2. Divergent*

      I’m honestly somewhat troubled at the implications that a really common type of sensual/sexual interaction (mouth on someplace that’s not the genitals, just because it feels nice) is juvenile. Lots of people have those nerves. It sounds like folks think it’s bad form to enjoy them?

  7. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I’m fascinated by this one because I agree it’s something that for professional reasons you should probably cover up, but I cannot imagine caring about it if my coworker had one visible, let alone gossiping with colleagues about it.

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I’m not even sure I would notice! I’m pale and bruise super easily, so I’m always covered in random little teeny marks and my eyes just kind of glaze over them at this point. Should I be caring more about this?

      1. anon for this*

        Same. The line that I’ve drawn for myself is just to worry about marks on my neck. For everything else, people seem to understand when I say I have cats. (Not that my cats haven’t gotten to my neck before- they seem to love using it as a launching pad. It’s just that people don’t believe me.)

        1. Indigo*

          I don’t know what it is about neck marks, but no one believes a mundane explanation. It’s so weird.

          1. Relentlessly Socratic*

            I think that there is a large plurality of people who 1. have a lot of vampire fan fic in their heads, 2. have a lot of BDSM fan fic in their heads, or 3. both.

            Nothing ever happens to a neck unless there’s something hinky involved.

          2. Totally Minnie*

            I feel like there are just a lot fewer mundane ways to get a bruise on your neck. Those ways absolutely do exist, but they’re not quite as common as “I was walking through a doorway and misjudged the distance so now I have a bruise on my arm.”

          3. Irish Teacher*

            I once had a student either think or pretend to think (not sure which, as we are talking about a 14 year old) I had a hickey. This was years ago, so I don’t remember the details but it was either a pimple that had popped or a scratch. I don’t think it was even a bruise, just a mark of some kind. And they were like “oooh, Miss has a hickey. I wonder who her boyfriend is!!”

            It was a little awkward because I wasn’t sure if it was just a 14 year old looking for the most dramatic explanation or if it really looked like one and other people just had the maturity not to refer to it, because well, as a teacher, it definitely isn’t something that would look professional. I suspect it was the former but it was still a bit…yikes!

    2. Lacey*

      I’m not sure if it would register for me. Even in high school, hickeys seemed more like a trope from teen sitcoms, not anything real people would do or find enjoyable.

      But, I do think a good rule of thumb is that if it indicates anything about your sex life, it doesn’t belong in the office.

    3. Dinwar*

      This is where I land. Not my thing, but I wouldn’t notice if someone had one. There’s plenty of reasons for similar-looking marks, and frankly I’ve got better things to do with my time. If I did notice and realized what it was I’d think “Good for them!” and then continue to ignore it.

      Well, I did it once. My wife (then fiance) and I hadn’t seen each other for three months. We got one weekend together. I was in grad school. Someone commented on it, and accepted “My fiance and I were saying goodbye” as a reasonable explanation. Once they knew it wasn’t something dangerous or contagious they stopped caring.

      To me, that’s the proper attitude. If we expect people to present themselves professionally, we have to act professional. Part of that is acknowledging that sometimes things happen–blemishes, acne, injuries, wardrobe malfunctions, bleed throughs, all sorts of things that make someone not look 100% perfectly made up for work. As long as the person isn’t otherwise egregiously violating norms, the occasional “oops” sort of thing should be considered just part of life, ignore it and move on. Or, to put it a different way: We are obliged to show others the courtesy we expect from them. We wouldn’t want people gossiping about a small occasional laps on our part, so we shouldn’t gossip about small occasional lapses on their part.

    4. metadata minion*

      Same here! If there were a *lot* of them I might give it more than a passing glance, but otherwise I wouldn’t really distinguish it from any other random bruise. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never really been into giving or receiving hickies, but while I recognize what they are, they don’t really stand out as A Sex Thing to me unless I actually stop and think about it.

  8. sundae funday*

    I had braces in middle school and I had to wear headgear at night, which had a fabric strap that went around the back of my neck and attached to wires that went into my mouth (yeah it was just as attractive as it sounds).

    Anyway I’ve always had sensory issues, and the fabric strap itched in this one spot super bad, so I scratched and scratched…. Yeah everyone thought I had a hickey at school. It was so embarrassing. lol I was 12 and I hadn’t even kissed anyone. I don’t think I even wanted to yet!

    1. Bird Lady*

      That fabric was the absolute worst. I have truly bad eczema and the headgear fabric irritated it horribly. I had the strap that not only went behind the back of the neck, but over the head as well. There came a point where I was about 14 when I told my parents my buck teeth were not getting any better no matter how long I wore that headgear and I couldn’t deal with my skin burning all of the time and my hair falling out.

      Thankfully they agreed and we mitigated the issue with a retainer that was also miserable, but less obviously so.

    2. Mornington Cresent*

      I’m in the UK, and didn’t realise “braces with headgear” was a real thing- I thought it was just made up for cheap laughs in American cartoons!

        1. Mornington Cresent*

          Wow, I didn’t know that- I’ve never seen anyone with headgear in real life, so this is fascinating!

      1. sundae funday*

        I didn’t know it was real either until my friend had to have it! And then… I had to have it. :( Luckily we don’t typically have to wear it during the day like in cartoons, lol.

        I honestly don’t know why I needed it…. I guess I had a slight overbite but it wasn’t *that* bad.

    3. Workerbee*

      Hated headgear (and braces, and retainers…). I don’t think I ever noticed if it left a mark on me, I was so miserable enduring all the everything in middle school as it was.

      1. sundae funday*

        It’s just the worst! Let’s take the time in a kid’s life that’s already the most miserable experience ever, complete with body changes and acne, and also stick braces on them that will make their teeth hurt on top of it.

        I also once had to wear rubber bands that stretched from my top left tooth to my bottom right tooth, which gave me a lisp.

  9. Indigo*

    Possibly related question: What about marks that could be mistaken for a hickey? I have a bright birthmark on my neck that can easily be mistaken for a hickey. While I’ve never been asked about it in a professional setting, it’s come up repeatedly in social settings. When I respond to questions about it that it’s a birthmark, the universal response is “Oooh, of course” *wink wink, nudge nudge*, which is aggravating.

    I mostly ask because I’ve started job searching again, and I wonder if you think it might be a mark against me (pun intended).

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        In a job search you may only meet someone once. You don’t have the context that it’s always there.

        Again, I don’t think you should *have* to cover it up, but realistically it’s better to not give people ammo against you in a situation with uneven power structures.

        1. Indigo*

          Yeah, it’s the interview part I’m worried about. It’s never been an issue after I get hired, but I have a hard time in interviews and worry that this could be a compounding issue.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It shouldn’t be, but it might be! If you can discreetly cover it up that would be a good idea for job hunting. And then once you’re hired, of course, you don’t have to continue worrying about it.

    2. JP*

      Sometimes I get red splotches around my clavicle and neck. It’s not there all the time, seems to come and go throughout the day. Not sure why. Guy I used to work with always would point them out. Got super annoying after the first couple of times.
      I would hope that people would notice that the birth mark never seems to fade eventually and realize they were being jerks.

      1. Manders*

        I get those red splotches too! Nothing I can do about it, but being embarrassed makes it worse, so I don’t love when people point it out.

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          People are so weird.

          Them: “You have a splotch!”

          Then: “Is there something you’re looking for from me with regards to my splotch?” Or “I’m not sure what you’re wanting me to do with that information”

          1. Avery*

            I wouldn’t bother with that many words.
            Them: “You have a splotch!”
            You: “Yes, yes I do. So about (subject change)…”

          2. LadyAmalthea*

            I get them from my 4.5 month old daughters sometimes. I mean, I guess it sort of relates to having had sex….

          3. JSPA*

            I get those in response to certain allergens, shortly before bad asthma cuts in. They’re an early warning to grab my inhaler, but only if I happen to see them, or if someone lets me know.

            I’d totally flag it for someone else, because nobody wants to go the emergency room or epi pen route, if a hit on the inhaler, a benadryl, and not eating or drinking more of the (whatever it is) will do the trick.

            If you tell me, “no, it’s not a problem,” then oh well, we’ve had a small awkward interaction. That’s a fair price for having often enough headed off an emergency (including someone who did need to do the epipen and ER, but handled it all in time, rather than dying.)

            “someone might need to know, to live” is one of those essential carve-outs to the “no body comments” rule.

            And so long recipes hide peanut oil, sesame oil, mustard oil (etc) in nibbles, while the people serving them only know that, “no, there are no sesame seeds, no peanuts, no mustard (etc) in these,” systemic reactions up to and including anaphylaxis will happen.

        2. JP*

          I suspect it may be sort of related to blushing. I really don’t care about them, but this guy would keep going “there’s something on your neck” whenever he noticed them. Like bro, I’ve explained this to you already, there’s nothing I can do about it, do you think you’re being helpful by continuing to do this?

      2. Spero*

        You probably have a mild skin allergic reaction to innocuous stimuli. I have dermatographic urticaria, where you can like scratch a word into my arm and see it as a raised welt for a half hour after. If I scratch or rub an itchy spot on my neck or face I’ll have blotches for an hour.

        Fun tip – if this is you, don’t try to get a skin allergy test!

    3. Tio*

      I would think that an unchanging mark in the same place would clue them in that it’s not a hickey; that might not help you avoid fools the first week, but I wouldn’t think you need to cover it up

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        I think they were worried about the interview itself, since you may only see that person (and they may only see your birthmark) once.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I’m going to be flooding the comments section for this letter with the following information: some violin and viola players get hickeys on their necks (yes, we call them “viola/violin hickeys”) if they play enough. I have padding on my chinrest so mine isn’t too bad but I still have one, however faint. And I almost never think about it, so if it does come up in conversation (people rarely ask) I say it’s from my viola. But if it’s a colleague whom you see regularly and you know they play violin/viola, you would know the hickey is from that because it’s always there and always in the same place. Not sure what one would say at a job interview, though, sorry.

      1. Rc*

        Fellow violist here. I’ve never thought twice about my viola hickey, it’s always there, I think a coworker would eventually figure out it’s basically permanent like a birthmark. That said my skin is brown so it’s not that obvious.

      2. Pipe Organ Guy*

        Things remembered from music school: violinists and violists with their hickeys; string players with their Damp-its (spelling?), a perforated rubber tube filled with foam (I think) that would be kept moistened, and which lived its live tucked into one of the F-hole curlicues; and oboists roaming the halls on breaks from practice, quacking away on their reeds. That and the pianists playing virtuoso passages over and over and over, singers in full operatic cry, and the occasional whiff of pot from a practice room where a jazz major was ensconced.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Ah, yes, damp-its….you are correct, sir, about what they are made of. I was told never to use them inside my instrument because they can leak and cause damage. Now I have a humidifier so I don’t need any extra humidification for my instruments, but I did use a damp-it for a time.

      3. Orchestral Musician*

        Wow I suddenly realized I had never once considered this might be an issue at work and uhhh now I’m worried that everyone has just thought I was the person with a constant hickey! (Background: I’m a violinist who has worked many part time office jobs; all of them know that my main career is violin, but many of them don’t know enough about it to recognize a violin hickey.) I used to be more self-conscious about it as a teenager but I’m so used to it as an adult.

    5. Llama Llama*

      I get eczema on my neck and reading this I could help but wonder if people assume that they are hickeys.

    6. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Ah! I have several scars from mole removal and I ALWAYS get the shocked comment, “OH MY GOODNESS YOU NEVER TOLD ME YOU HAD BEEN SHOT!”. Even with treatment, the scars are just perfect round holes that people feel they must comment on, as if they are entitled to a juicy story because they saw evidence of something nefarious. Sorry dude, just preventing melanoma. Also a guy in college (Hawaii) told every girl a different story about the massive scars up his arm “shark bite”, “fire dancing”, “ritualistic cannibals”, “saved a cat from a burning building”. Nobody ever did get the real story.

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        I had a small cyst removed on my back and it left about an inch-and-a-half long scar with hash marks where the stitches were and the number of people who have thought I’d been in a knife fight are greater than 1.

        1. La Triviata*

          In college, one of the girls came back from summer break with a large scar across her throat. I was startled and said something and she said it was from a knife … which really surprised me, because she didn’t seem like the type to get into a knife fight (which happened in my high school). Turned out it was from a thyroid operation.

      2. Angstrom*

        Ah yes, the suspicious mole core punch. Leaves a perfectly round hole and subsequent scar.

    7. mreasy*

      If you have it every day they will eventually get used to it, I’d hope? But yeah the teasing is not okay at all.

    8. JM60*

      I think it’s disturbing how many people would jump to the conclusion that a coworker is revealing parts of their sex life, rather than giving their coworker the “benefit of the doubt”.

      In theory, I think you shouldn’t be obligated to cover up a mark just because people at work may mistake it for a hickey. It should be on others to not jump to conclusions about your sex life. In practice, I think it’s in your best interest to cover it up.

  10. redflagday701*

    When I was a teenager, my dad warned me that you had to be very careful and avoid leaving hickeys on somebody’s neck, because they could be embarrassed or even get into trouble if someone else saw them. And that was why I should only leave them on the inner thigh.

    1. lw*

      This is funny but also facts- there are plenty of places on the body to enjoy a hickey that you don’t have to worry about your coworker seeing. Use one of those!

      1. redflagday701*

        Agreed! Though I’m a little baffled by the concept of “enjoying” hickeys — I’ve always thought of them as an unintentional consequence of enjoying making out and related activities, not a desirable end in themselves. But I know other people feel differently. The world is a rich tapestry.

        1. lw*

          I think the enjoyment comes during the, erm, process of receiving one? Either way, plenty of other options besides the neck!

    2. Once Bitten*

      When my cousin gave me a ride on his motorcycle on a family vacation, some obnoxious insect (horsefly maybe?) flew up the leg of my pants and crawled to my inner thigh before it bit me. The bite looked ex-act-ly like a hickey! I warned my bf at the time, that a) he shouldn’t look, and b) if he happened to notice a weird mark on me during our midnight skinny-dip that it really was an insect bite. He gallantly assured me he wouldn’t be able to see anything without his glasses, but that was put to lie when he immediately spluttered to the surface and said, “It does look like a hickey!” Not sure if he thought that out of town family reunion was the kind where you went to look for dates. (thanks, Jeff Foxworthy)

  11. Polar Vortex*

    Another part of this conversation is the bias of PDA and queer people. I assume the questioner is asking from a straight standpoint, but for queer people any sort of PDA is looked at under a microscope. You’re more apt to get judged as “flaunting the gay agenda”, exposing others to sex, etc when you’re queer and even just holding hands. It’s more apt for people to then question your judgement because of that bias either implicit or explicit. What’s acceptable or even just looked down on for a straight couple can go wildly different for queer ones. Particularly in today’s age of people accusing queer people of grooming children, the most basic thing can go sideways. Which is what I’d be terrified of at a generic social picnic gathering where coworkers might bring their children.

    But my own personal opinion is your coworkers shouldn’t see your hickeys unless y’all use the same locker room to change and they’re seeing you in your underthings.

    1. Dino*

      Yes, this is also my concern. The consequences are different for us and something low stakes but maybe unprofessional can spiral out of control.

  12. zinzarin*

    If you have a visible hickey at the *beach*, I’m going to think that’s gauche. Go ahead and extrapolate from there.

    1. Glen*

      I’m extrapolating that you should learn to mind your own beeswax, and I haven’t been in any kind of position to get a hickey in nearly 20 years. My goodness.

  13. Dr. Rebecca*

    I know that the LW didn’t ask for advice, but seriously: look into tattoo covering makeup. No need for a turtleneck, when some weapons-grade concealer will do.

    1. Cut short for time*

      This. I used makeup a lot to cover it up – I don’t know if it was technically for tattoos, but it was some sort of super intense coverup.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      I’ve used stage makeup to cover bruises too. I was embarrassingly clumsy in college and sometimes I just didn’t want to explain that I walked into something again or failed to catch a thing that someone had tossed to me, so it was just easier to grab the heavy concealer and make it invisible.

    3. Budgie Buddy*

      Ooo will try this – my skin gets hickeys so easily and regular concealer just makes it worse

    4. Anon for this*

      I do this but the fact that I’m so pale is both part of why I bruise easily and also why most of this makeup is much too dark. I still use it because it can pass a quick glance, but it’s obviously hiding something so I usually layer a scarf or collared shirt over it.

  14. A Poster Has No Name*

    Oh, man flashbacks to 20 years ago. I had just started dating my now-husband (we worked at the same company) and I didn’t know at the time that he bruised easily so he went to work one day with an unintentional hickey. One coworker I was friends with teased me about it, but nobody else said anything. Fortunately he also healed quickly and had long hair at the time so he just wore it down for a couple days (hickey was on the side of his neck).

    1. anon for this*

      I went through the same thing with my ex. I knew I bruised easily, but I didn’t realize how easily until I looked in the mirror later. I worked from home for the next few days after that. (And now I know just how careful I need to be.)

  15. Marna Nightingale*

    Re: covering hickeys and other marks, not whether but how — as someone who firmly believes that a day without a bruise is a day you’ve wasted, colour corrector plus concealer works MUCH better than layering on concealer, especially on body parts you weren’t planning to otherwise make up.
    Green for hickeys, peach for bruises, do not use on broken skin.

    Alternatively you can slap a bandaid on it and people will probably assume it’s a bug bite.

    1. Bacu1a*

      I was coming down to say band aid too! I get cystic acne on my neck (so not sexual but still a neck blemish), and have frequently worn acne patches that are clear and off white to cover them. Depending on the size of the mark/patch, maybe those will work for you too?

    2. Megan C.*

      I tried a bandaid on the neck for my first job at 19 (I never wore makeup and just didn’t know what else to do.) Absolutely no one was convinced that anything other than a hickey lived under that bandaid – including the customers!

      1. Anon 4 This*

        I remember a friend telling me about the day a coworker showed up wearing a scarf, and EVERYONE razzed her about having a hickey.

    3. Indigo*

      I’ll have to try the color correcting thing. I’ve definitely found just trying to cake on concealer actually makes things MORE conspicuous.

  16. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    Put a metal spoon in the freezer for 10 min and then hold it against the hickey for 60 seconds. This isn’t guaranteed, but it does work sometimes so it’s worth a try. If it doesn’t, I agree with the person above who recommended color corrector under concealer. Green hue for red hickies, red hue for purple ones, top with your usual shade of concealer.

    1. Dahlia*

      Yellow will work better for purple ones. With colour correcting you want to go with whatever the opposite of the colour wheel is. So green and red, yellow and purple, blue and orange.

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        Of the concealer, not of the hickey, I hasten to conclude you mean. :-)

        And yes, indeed, although makeup sponges have gotten so cheap and ubiquitous, if you own concealer you probably have some.

  17. AnonToday*

    if you are actually quite young (early 20s) people are more likely to just roll their eyes and ignore it. But most people either learn how to cover it or how to not leave/get hickeys in visible places.

  18. Except...*

    I know I’m a minority on this (clearly). It’s not that I disagree, per se, but saying things like hickeys bring coworkers face-to-face with your sex life, I mean… so does pregnancy? And there is still bias and discrimination around that. I personally think hickeys should be treat like scars or blemishes or generic body marks – they exist and we all mind our business. Like I said, I don’t NECESSARILY disagree, but I’d be horrified if my boss told me to put makeup over a scar because it was “unseemly”, or that I had to wear shapeless garments to hide a baby bump.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      In my perfect world I would personally love to never have to encounter pregnancy at work or the myriad of medical details some women decide to share about their pregnancies with no prompting, and I super don’t need to know if you’ve been trying for a baby. However, I also know the physical aspects of pregnancy are not reasonable to ask someone to hide and at a certain point for most women, are impossible to hide. We also tend to culturally focus on the after part of pregnancy, not the before part. And it doesn’t heal on it’s own in a few days.

      If I see a hickey on someone’s neck I’m probably going to ignore it, but pregnancy is really an apples and oranges comparison.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        Agreed; people existing as pregnant isn’t the same type of problem. Now, people going on about TTC, basal temperature readings, debating the strategic vs. the scattershot method…that I could absolutely do without.

        1. Observer*

          Uh, yeah. That’s for your spouse, your doctor and MAYBE a a couple of REALLY close friends.

    2. Observer*

      This is such a weird and frankly gross comparison. When confronted with a recognizable hickey you are being confronted with a fair amount of detail about someone’s sex life without much else to overshadow it. When confronted with a pregnant woman all you know about that woman is that she once had sex with someone – and there is a ton of other, more relevant stuff that should waaaay overshadow that very, very mundane fact.

      It’s totally apples to oranges. It does not do anything to make people more comfortable or reasonable about pregnancy.

      1. Ellen*

        Also, you don’t actually know that she had sex with anyone. A lot of babies are conceived via IVF or other medical procedures.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “It does not do anything to make people more comfortable or reasonable about pregnancy.”

        Yes. I am very squicked out by pregnancy – it’s a personal thing, but I try to be very aware of it because I work in HR and I need to know my biases. I promise, I am very careful and manage my own feelings. But I am the target audience for “normalize, make people more comfortable, make workplaces more welcoming” because it’s a really hard issue for me and I would love those strategies to hit home for me better!

        Frankly sex is less taboo than pregnancy in my personal life, but making it more acceptable at work would not put a dent in my issues around gestation. It’s totally separate, and I think the conversation is really “this is a slippery slope to harassment, because you’re asking people to ignore their discomfort around sexual displays in a professional setting” and less “if we normalize bodies we normalize motherhood”.

        I think this is a really interesting conversation that we could stand to have more, because I think it is an important distinction that can get cloudy in the back and forth.

        1. allathian*

          Maybe, but feel that it has to be said that the vast majority of people are not squicked out by pregnancy in general, even if they are squicked out by the idea of ever being pregnant themselves (case in point, my childfree sister). I’m glad that you recognize that this is your personal issue.

          And yes, if I knew that my HR rep thought that pregnancy was squicky, I wouldn’t feel comfortable working with them.

          Sex is, by and large, still fairly taboo in the vast majority of professional contexts, except presumably in actual sex work, and for my part, I hope it remains that way.

      3. Cut short for time*

        What you know about my “sex” life from a hickey is that I have been kissed on my neck. I bruise easily. It could have even just been from kissing my spouse, no sex involved! I am glad someone started this thread because I also feel like I would ignore someone else’s hickey like a scar and move on, but realize not everyone feels that way, but the assumptions I see people make about hickeys can only mean they are getting a lot of exercise jumping to conclusions.

        1. Observer*

          Let’s put it this way – when someone shows up with a hickey, it’s generally pretty clear that that person has been quite intimate with someone within the last 24 hours or so. And it’s probably not just from a kiss, although I really, really don’t want to speculate on that. Because all of this is waaaay more than anyone needs to be thinking about a coworker.

      4. Peanut Hamper*

        Agreed. Mammals have been getting pregnant for 70+ million years. Hickeys are relatively new by comparison.

        The two things are in no way equivalent. Except… is making a false equivalency here.

    3. steliafidelis*

      I don’t quite get the strong disapproval either! A bruise on someone else’s neck has no effect on me at all and is very easy to ignore.

    4. Pipe Organ Guy*

      One of my coworkers is pregnant and has reached the point where her appearance changes every week. I go in to the office about once a week, and I simply ask her, “How’s it going?” and she gives me conventional conversational responses. We all know she’s pregnant; we all know she’s tickled about it; whatever she wishes to share is hers to share, not ours to demand. I hope that’s the way I handle anything with others’ appearance.

      1. Observer*

        whatever she wishes to share is hers to share, not ours to demand. I hope that’s the way I handle anything with others’ appearance

        That’s completely true, regardless of the source of the physical presentation.

    5. jj*

      I agree with you. This whole thread makes me pretty sad. I understand in the world we live in having hickeys is looked down on and therefore anyone who chooses to acquire and leave unhidden a hickey should do so with an understanding of the risk factors and potential consequence.

      All that said – sex and pleasure are parts of life and our natural human rights. The idea that something so incredibly innocuous – just one of a thousand potential consensual and otherwise unproblematic sex acts a couple could enjoy – are basically ruled out for us the entire 45 + years we are expected to work is crazy to me. And sad. We all only get one life so the fact “hard neck biting during sex” and “being the office IT manager” are not two things one person can enjoy in a single life time really bums me out. Our culture makes me sad.

      1. Book lover*

        I agree that “hard neck biting” and “managing IT” should be fully available to one and the same person at the same time in their life. What shouldn’t happen is “talking about hard neck biting while on the clock managing IT.” It isn’t fair to coworkers who deserve a sex-free workplace.

        And, for me, displaying the results of hard neck biting is just too close to talking about it. That might be where you and others disagree, and I do understand that.

        1. Dinwar*

          The issue is, we each draw the line at different points. Do you have a problem with a wedding ring? Children? Pregnant women? I’m guessing no–no rational person does. Yet these all are pretty good indicators that one has an active sex life. The idea that we should totally remove all evidence of sexual activity from the workplace isn’t going to happen, and is in fact illegal (see pregnant women); however, where we draw the line is fairly subjective. And in a society that’s experiencing a fairly radical shift in cultural norms, particularly on the topic of sex, this is inevitably going to lead to conflict.

          In this case, I err on the side of “Not my business.” As many have pointed out there are a myriad of alternative explanations, and real harm is done to those who have blemishes that look like hickies but that stem from other activities or from medical issues. As such, if a person has an occasional blemish and doesn’t make a big deal about it, I simply don’t see where I have the standing to formulate an opinion on the matter, much less comment. The mere existence of a blemish isn’t sufficient to prove anything–and if it is a hickey, the mature thing to do is think “Good for them! Glad they enjoyed themselves!” and move on with your lives.

          1. Observer*

            Yet these all are pretty good indicators that one has an active sex life.

            True. But no one is asking anyone to pretend otherwise. Do you REALLY think that people assume that someone who doesn’t have kids and doesn’t wear a wedding ring is celibate? Not in this world.

            In this case, I err on the side of “Not my business.”

            That’s a good idea regardless. If I hear too many details of your kid’s doctor’s appointments because you are having a loud conversation in the office, that’s also unprofessional, and that’s also not my business. Same for the other bazillion personal things that some people over-share in the workplace.

            I’m not talking about pretending like we don’t have lives out of the office. But there is just a lot of detail that just also doesn’t belong there. On the other hand, someone being mildly unprofessional in this way is not something that should generally be taking up too much of anyone’s headspace.

      2. saskia*

        Yeah, some of these replies are silly and, not to sound like an old-school hippie, really uptight. Especially the ones about intrusive sex-related thoughts when witnessing pregnancy… like, what?
        Sex, pregnancy, death, birth, illness — all completely normal parts of the human lifecycle and totally weighted down with societal baggage.

        1. Moira Rose*

          I’m with you, friend. This just seems like prudishness taken too far. Surely we can all just ignore minor skin blemishes??

      3. Observer*

        The idea that something so incredibly innocuous – just one of a thousand potential consensual and otherwise unproblematic sex acts a couple could enjoy – are basically ruled out for us the entire 45 + years we are expected to work is crazy to me.

        It’s crazy. But no one is actually suggesting that. That’s not what the culture is at all. All people ask is to just not bring that into work. When you are managing IT, please focus on that. When you go home do whatever you want with your consenting partner(s). (And it’s probably to everyone’s benefit that you don’t try to manage IT while you’re doing your thing that way, too.)

        1. Kaiko*

          But your body exists across all activities—you don’t have a work body and a sex body and a surf body and a eating ice cream on the couch body, and things that happen to your body don’t just disappear because you’re working.

          I can focus on my job just fine even if I happen to have a hickey. If *you* can’t focus on your work because *I* have a hickey, that’s not my issue. Grow up and get over it.

          1. Bella*

            The conversation is about whether to cover it, not whether to have one. I don’t even care one way or the other on this, but at least discuss the same things.

      4. anna*

        It makes you sad that coworkers want a workplace where they don’t have to look at information about your sex life? Huh, I would have thought that’s something we could all appreciate the need for.

        Comparing hickeys to pregnancy is really gross.

      5. Courageous cat*

        I feel like this is… a lot. It seems like a reach to equate “hickeys are unprofessional to display” with everything else you said. Not having hickeys to display is almost certainly not destroying your ability to enjoy your one life, lol.

        I think we need to keep this in the context of the scale of the problem, which is most definitely not as large as “you can’t be a human being and have a life outside of here”.

    6. Empress Ki*

      I am a minority too. I couldn’t care less I someone has an hickey, whether it’s a coworker or anyone else.

    7. MEH Squared*

      Same. I just don’t see how a hickey on the neck is such a horrible scandalous thing. It means someone kissed you hard enough to bruise you. For me, that’s not very hard at all. I am keloid so I bruise/scar twice as badly as most people. Plus, I’m clumsy so I usually have a bruise or five on my body. Finally, I practice Taiji and when I do two-person practicing, yeah, sometimes, there are going to be bruises. One hickey amongst those bruises doesn’t seem like a big deal.

    8. popko*

      As an ace person who will never need to worry about having hickeys at work, same.

      Especially because, as many people have noted in this thread, it’s possible to have marks on your body that look like hickeys but aren’t– I already find it a bit silly to be judgmental or scandalized over low-key, non-targeted evidence that someone enjoys a bit of necking, but particularly when it “legitimizes” judging people with specific skin types/skin conditions/hobbies and results in those people feeling obligated to hide the resulting blemishes.

      It’s a total non-issue AND makes life harder for people with skin issues (or, like, who play certain string instruments,) can we all collectively get over it?

    9. Critical Rolls*

      This is a nonsense comparison. A visible hickey is very elective, very temporary, has no other effects, and shouldn’t be difficult to cover during a work day or event. You can’t choose to do pregnancy in a non-visible way, it often has side effects, it’s kind of unavoidable if you want to have kids, and it’s not *about* sex — you can get pregnant without having any!

      Personally, hickeys are so far from my mind I don’t know if I’d correctly identify one if I saw it. But the basic advice — if you have a hickey, cover it at work, it’s a visible mark of sexual activity and not really professional — is sound.

  19. ijustworkhere*

    Not at work. Cover them with makeup or clothing. Don’t bring visible evidence of your sex play into your work life. That goes for visible evidence of S and M, etc.

  20. Minimal Pear*

    Can I ask why hickeys are seen as tacky and immature? I’m asexual and sometimes miss some of the context around these things. If I notice a friend has a hickey I will razz them about it a little bit, but that’s just because we have a teasing relationship, not because I see them as tacky or immature.

    1. MsAnon*

      Typically you don’t get hickeys unless the other person is fairly inexperienced (though anyone can have an oops). You have to apply a fair amount of suction to most people’s skin to get that kind of marking, though some people are more sensitive. ‘Lamprey mode’ is something most people grow out of. This is why you see way more teens with hickies than 50yos.

      Some people also do it on purpose as a way of ‘marking’ someone and that’s also typically seen as tacky.

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        It’s a skill issue (or seen that way)? O.O genuinely did not know that. I thought it was a mild form of sensation play like open hand spanking

        1. hbc*

          If it’s in this category, though, I hope you would agree that a visible hand-shaped mark wouldn’t be particularly appropriate either. Someone’s affinity for sensation play is not a fact I should know about them without explicitly opting in, anymore than I should know what orifices they prefer or equipment they use. And that’s not a judgment of “unconventional” preferences–it’s still true if they only do lights-off-under-covers-missionary-position vanilla sex. I simply shouldn’t know.

      2. Stick Witch*

        But even a cursory look through this thread verifies that what you posted isn’t true.

        Lots of people get them from very normal levels of interactions simply because they are pale or bruise easily.

        Lots of people get them because they enjoy more intense contact, which doesn’t mean they’re trying to put on a display; the mark is just a byproduct.

        Lots of people get things that look like hickeys but which aren’t—they’re violin marks, martial arts practice marks, roller derby marks, kitten paw bruises….

        What if we literally just stopped commenting on or making assumptions about coworkers’ bodies?

      3. Random Dice*

        I don’t think it is a skill issue at all, I think it’s sex shaming and it’s primarily aimed at women.

    2. AnonToday*

      With a friend a little teasing is completely appropriate, depending what your friends are like maybe a lot of teasing.
      At work, it’s too much display of what you’ve been doing sexually. Like, if I had a vibrator in my work bag where everyone could notice it, and carried it there every day, that would also be inappropriate IMO.
      It’s seen as immature partly b/c young people get them a lot due to an honest to goodness lack of experience. They don’t have enough experience chewing on other peoples’ bodies/being chewed upon to know if it’s likely to leave a mark or not. (“chewing” maybe not the best word for it, but you get the idea I hope.)

    3. She of Many Hats*

      Hickeys most often are seen on the teens who are figuring out sex rituals, lacking the knowledge and finesse to not leave marks on their partners. Then, often, the beginners see it as a hilarious sign they’ve managed to get with someone. Both traits of not yet mature people. If someone continues to frequently flaunt hickeys into full adulthood, one wonders if they’ve ever matured past their teen years or not.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        Ah, thanks all! Didn’t realize it was, as the kids say, a “skill issue”. That makes sense.

        1. Cut short for time*

          This may be how people view it, but as the easy bruisers in the comments have mentioned, it is not the case for everybody. Some of us just bruise at the lightest touch, and it’s annoying that people assume it is due to inexperience or marking territory.

          1. Jazzypants*

            I was just about to come in here and say the same. I really enjoy my neck being kissed, but I bruise really easily because of a genetic disorder, which is really nobody’s business. Even light kisses where someone isn’t even trying, it happens. Besides, there’s no guarantee that a mark on the neck was from someone else’s mouth, lots of things cause bruises, and that’s all it is. I wish folks would simply not make assumptions and get over it.

            That said, probably don’t make hickeys on purpose, they can cause blood clots.

          2. Minimal Pear*

            I feel you, I’m an… inconsistent bruiser, I guess. Sometimes I bruise from a mild bump, sometimes I’m totally unmarked from a really painful injury.

          3. CorruptedbyCoffee*

            very much. just about any kiss leaves a mark in me. according to these people I should invest in some unitards or never be kissed outside the lips.

      2. OneAngryAvacado*

        That’s an unbelievably judgemental approach. Some people just happen to like that intense form of petting; why do you assume the rest of the world has to adhere to your sexual standards?

    4. Dinwar*

      Like anything in communication, it’s cultural norms. We view hickies as immature because the culture views them as immature, not because of anything intrinsic to them. Add in a healthy dose of “Sex is icky” for the Puritanical side of our history.

      For my part, I find the preoccupation with looks immature. It’s exactly the same sort of behavior that high schoolers just learning to express their individuality exhibit, after all. If hickies are considered immature because they are associated with high school, so should gossiping about peers. Similarly, someone who is overly distracted by a minor blemish because it might have come from sex is displaying a very childish perspective. The mature thing to do is to treat it like any other blemish–ignore it, so long as it’s not communicable or dangerous to the person.

  21. Anonymouse*

    I definitely accidentally gave a college girlfriend many hickies the day before she had a shift in the cafeteria and she handled it with great grace (I believe her response was “I had a lot of fun this weekend”) but I don’t think that would fly outside of that setting. Certainly I was a bit mortified for her and would have died before going to work in the college library that marked up; there was a lot less Adult Supervision in the cafeteria and most of her colleagues (a) lived with us or (b) were 19-year-old boys, so the professional standards were a bit laxer.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Hahahahah, reminds me of the day where I had to go to a meeting during college wearing a V-neck sweater (because that’s what I had on yesterday and I didn’t go home) and a big ol’ hickey. Those were the days.

    2. Quoth the Raven*

      I once had someone give me a very accidental hickey before my shift at this coffee shop I worked at when I was 18. I hadn’t seen myself in a mirror so I was completely unaware it was there, and it was my boss who pointed it out (I was not in trouble or anything, but he was like “Uh, you may not be aware of it but you’ve got something on your neck, just fyi”).

      I was mortified.

  22. Niniel*

    I am an adult who has had hickies that I have done my very best to cover up. Sometimes I can’t wear a scarf at work, and my line of work means that sometimes makeup will rub or sweat its way off. Unfortunately, my skin also gets a mark at the slightest bit of pressure, so there have been a few times where I have had no idea whatsoever that I had one until I happened to notice it halfway through the day. Luckily people have either actually not noticed or pretended not to notice all of these things, and it hasn’t been a problem for me professionally.

    1. Meep*

      Frozen spoon in the refrigerator. Apply it to the bruise. It breaks down the clotted blood underneath the skin. Works for all bruises.

      I bruise easily myself and hardly anyone comments, but then again they have watched me repeatedly accidentally run into a door frame before.

  23. MsAnon*

    I have a newer employee (probably mid/late 20s) who has come in with hickies a couple of times recently and …. yeah, I definitely notice. I don’t really want to say anything about it and I wish she would cover them up. Especially because everyone in the office knows where they came from (no one is anyone’s boss so it’s okay) so it’s just very uncomfortable.

    1. Stick Witch*

      Have you and your coworkers considered just not paying so much attention to other people’s bodies?

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I think it would be a kindness to say something if you’re a manager as opposed to a peer. Not everyone knows that hickeys look unprofessional and it’s better to give the heads up kindly and before she’s been wearing one daily for ages. I definitely agree with you that we’d rather not notice, or not discuss it …if at all possible! That’s why I’m so confused by people making references to bruises and other types of unnoticeable marks (and I say that as a pale skinned bruiser who bruises so often they’ve become invisible). If you have a bruise or mark, I’m not going to see it because I don’t pay close attention to skin. If you have a livid red circle with teeth marks? Yes, I will probably notice. Definitely speak up if it’s like the situation upthread where the employee’s colleague boyfriend kept giving her more and more hickeys until there was one on her face too.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        Do people use teeth when they give hickeys? Honest question…I am ace and never made out when I was younger, adn while I’m married now this isn’t something we do.

        1. Beth*

          Sometimes yes, sometimes no, depends on the people involved and what they like. But even if you’re using teeth pretty aggressively, having “a livid red circle with teeth marks” visible hours or days after the fact would be pretty unusual. Hickies are usually just small, round-ish bruises on the neck.

  24. Hiring Mgr*

    I would cover them for sure, but not really a big deal imo. There may be some gossips but most people probably wouldn’t care or notice. Plus it’ll go away in a couple of days

    1. Budgie Buddy*

      I’m also a little surprised by some of the more negative responses along the lines of “it looks abusive” or “if you’re not a teenager you should have grown out of it already” or “even at the beach it’s tacky to have any marks on you showing.”

      Didn’t know some people felt so strongly, but you live and learn. I’m often not shocked by the same things as most people anyway (I’m shocked by total different things most people think are fine! Lol).

      1. April*


        I have permanent marks (non-hickey, but easily mistaken for bruises) that I cannot hide at the beach unless I want to wear a burkini or wetsuit; some of them are visible in 99% of professional wear. I admit it’s somewhat disheartening to see all this talk about how my body is inherently unprofessional/tacky/immature because it looks like I have visible bruises.

  25. I should really pick a name*

    I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a hickie on someone.
    That being said, my level of observation is probably way worse than standard.

  26. TootsNYC*

    When I see hickeys on a woman, I instantly think her boyfriend/husband is an asshole.
    It just seems very territorial and invasive. “let me make my mark on you.”

    I think I’m greatly influenced by junior high, when a classmate had a much older boyfriend who left her with HUGE hickeys, despite her objections, and it always seemed very territory-marking

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      What if it’s not a woman? Do you feel the same way? Genuine question I’m curious if there’s a gendered aspect to general reactions.

      1. Cut short for time*

        Some of us just bruise easily! Not marking, just any pressure at all. Please don’t assume the partner is an asshole!

        1. Meep*

          ^I agree. My arms and legs are covered in bruises. My husband isn’t above. I am just clumsy and an airhead who doesn’t pay attention to where she is.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I also bruise easily – and I once had a coworker tell me he’d worry about my home life if he didn’t watch me hurt myself so often right in front of him. I’m definitely not going to judge someone covered in casual bruises but I am curious about broader perceptions.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              I have a friend with Ehlers-Danlos and if you so much as sneeze in their general direction they will get a massive, dark, painful-looking bruise. They have said the bruises don’t actually hurt, so they often don’t realize they have one until someone asks why they have a massive purple-black bruise.

      2. Random Dice*

        I’m guessing… no.

        Hickey-shaming is so linked to sl*t-shaming of women.

        Males just aren’t judged as harshly for visible signs of sex. Females, though…

    2. methionine*

      I think that’s a pretty big assumption to make. Plenty of people are easy bruisers, or just enjoy biting. Not something you should advertise at work, certainly, but it doesn’t mean whoever gave it to you with your enthusiastic consent was abusive.

    3. allathian*

      I guess this is why hickeys on a woman make me vaguely uncomfortable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them on a man/male-passing person as an adult. If I have, they just didn’t register.

      I didn’t date until my junior year in high school, but in my middle school there was a group of bullies who’d jump on girls and give them hickeys. At the time, more than 35 years ago, this was passed off as “boys will be boys” although today they’d undoubtedly be charged with sexual assault.

      To this day, I don’t tolerate my neck being kissed or caressed.

      That said, I also bruise fairly easily and I have a bruise or two somewhere all the time. But I also dress fairly modestly, so they don’t show. In summer I can wear open-necked shirts, as long as they aren’t so open that they show my cleavage, and elbow length sleeves to the office, but that’s pretty much it. I don’t wear skirts unless they’re at least calf length, and never to work.

      1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

        I gave a college boyfriend a hickey (I’m a woman). We were fully dressed and about to go out. I managed to nip his neck on just the right spot and made a small bruise. No sex involved, just me being affectionate.

        I did feel bad, because his family was definitely in camp “eew we don’t talk about sex” even though boyfriend and I shared a bed at their house.

  27. Managercanuck*

    From Moonstruck: You… you got a love bite on your neck. He’s coming back this morning, what’s the matter with you? Your life’s going down the toilet!

  28. Budgie Buddy*

    Oh look a fellow hickey having weirdo lol

    I used to never get hickeys in my 20s. Then in my 30s my skin decided to bruise from everything. So every time I have sex there’s some kind of mark for 3-4 days. This is not from anything kinky, but I don’t even consider biting someone hard enough to leave a mark kinky, so who knows maybe I’m actually a freak and never figured it out.

    Someone above recommended tattoo concealer so I’ll look into getting a bottle so I have that as an option. But still seems like a weird thing to be so taboo.

    1. saskia*

      Seriously. Difficult to hide =/= “showing it off”

      Some of us are pale and bruise easily but still like to have fun! That said, hickies are definitely looked down upon (as we can tell by the above comments…), so green color-corrector and full-coverage concealer/foundation are my friends.

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        Also, sometimes it turns out that your co-worker’s shameful secret is … that they play the viola. :-)

    2. Cut short for time*

      I agree it’s weird. As a fellow easy bruiser, I also found multivitamins reduce my bruising, probably because of the iron. May help!

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        Thank you :) I think I’m going to try the iron supplements and the frozen spoon thing too. Nothing wrong with having more options if I get a particularly nasty hickey or bruise and don’t want people focusing on it.

    3. Marna Nightingale*

      I think it’s the difference between knowing, in theory, that you are probably Getting Some and evidence of an extremely particular act, in a clearly visible location, of a kind that ages so predictably you can practically tell whether it was last night or a morning quickie.

      I don’t judge people for them, at all, but it is a bit uncomfortably specific.

      1. Cut short for time*

        Is liking being kissed on the neck so rare? Because that’s how I get them – no sucking, biting, etc. Just kissing. The rest is their imagination getting away from them.

        1. Marna Nightingale*

          It’s not super rare I don’t think, but the crossover between that and really easily bruised probably is rare enough that it draws attention, and the goal is to not draw attention at work to not-work stuff. Not to hide it, just not to make it attention-getting.

          It is absolutely people’s imaginations running away with them, but we do that. I think it’s a pack-living mammal thing: we are (on average) just really really attuned to both sex things and marks that look like they could be injuries, and so we have created a bunch of social rules for managing that.

      2. penny dreadful analyzer*

        of a kind that ages so predictably you can practically tell whether it was last night or a morning

        I’m sorry, where in the name of sweet baby Jesus are some of you people getting these assumptions?

  29. Jazzypants*

    I have a genetic condition that makes me bruise easily, and it also makes me very clumsy. That combo means I’m always walking around with marks and bruises, many I don’t even know how they happened. Sometimes they look self-inflicted, sometimes they look like hickeys. Reality is I was born with poor spacial awareness and thin skin, but people make assumptions anyway.

    Marks that look like hickeys can be caused by all sorts of different things, and lots of folks with different medical conditions or medications bruise really easy. I wish people would simply not make assumptions about people based on an incidental mark and get over it. I think it’s pretty rude to jump to the conclusion that someone is reckless or inexperienced or unprofessional or obnoxious, or immature, or that their partner is trying to “mark their territory” just because of a mark, that you don’t even know how it actually got there, based entirely on your own assumptions of how it got there. I know on some level that’s just how it is and the rest of us just have to live with others’ judgement based on their unfounded assumptions, but that’s really frustrating. I’m sick of it.

    1. Indigo*

      I feel this. If we can ask “Is it professional to have hickeys at work,” I feel we should also be able to ask “Is it professional to judge a co-workers personal life (or sex life!?) based on their bodies?” Obviously we live in the society we live in and can’t change how everyone’s personal biases affect how were seen, but maybe if enough cat owners, viola players, easy bruisers, and all the other people with mundane reasons for having a supposed hickey keep commenting, we’ll train a few more people to say “Actually, I have no idea why my co-worker has a bruise, and it’s rude of me to speculate (or worse, gossip!)”

    2. Moira Rose*

      This is the answer, as far as I’m concerned. Stop obsessing over coworkers’ bodies, full stop.

  30. EtTuBananas*

    OP does run the risk of Olympia Dukakis’s ghost appearing and shouting, “you’ve got a love bite on your neck! Your life is going down the toilet!”

  31. Elysee*

    I just tell people I burned myself on the curling iron.

    It’s an obvious lie, but I tell it without breaking eye contact, and people gauche enough to have asked don’t ask anything else.

    1. Indigo*

      For whatever reason, I’ve had the opposite experience. When someone is brazen enough to ask, they also tend to be the kind of person to press on and keep pushing for the ‘salacious details’ of my birthmark. Despite me clearly telling them it’s a birthmark.

  32. hbc*

    As an easily-bruised person, I can reassure my compatriots that this isn’t really an issue for us. If someone has known you for any length of time, they will have seen your arm bruise up randomly in the middle of the day and come in with a new bruise at least once a week. Someone might make a joke if one bruise out of 20 looks hickey-like, but they know it’s you and your lousy platelets to blame.

    If you are claiming to bruise easily but somehow 98% of the bruises you get are on your neck, I think you (or the person sucking on your neck) are trying to fool yourself, and you should at least invest in some scarves or concealer.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I am puzzled as a fellow easy bruiser what on earth bruises have to do with obvious hickeys. If you are bruise coloured everywhere your neck doesn’t stand out. It’s also far easier to bruise the arms and legs. I’m sincerely wondering if some people only bruise on the neck but not elsewhere?

      1. allathian*

        Maybe they dress fairly modestly. I tend to stick to long sleeves and jeans or slacks, so basically the only pieces of my skin that my coworkers see for at least 9 months out of the year are my hands and my face and neck. For the summer months, I might go all out and wear an elbow length shirt with an open neck that’s open enough that my clavicles would show if they weren’t buried in so much fat. They don’t know that I bruise easily because my bruises rarely show under my clothes.

        But I also realize that my body image issues are my own and that most people are comfortable with showing more skin at work than I am. The dress code at my office’s very casual, but even so you don’t see skirts shorter than about a handspan above the knee or shorts of a similar length and short sleeves. I don’t think a sleeveless shirt belongs in the office, and my coworkers seem to agree because you just don’t see those.

  33. Knitting Cat Lady*

    i’ve been around way too many violinists. if i see a hickey type thing on someone’s neck my order of thinking goes like this:
    1. man, you must have practised your violin a lot yesterday!
    2. wow, that’s one hell of a zit
    and since sex in every way, shape, or form is so completely off my radar a hickey wouldn’t even cross my mind.

    i have heard teen age violinists of all genders complain about romantic partners going all jealous about the neck bruise you get from playing for a long time…

    1. IminTreble*

      Came here to comment about violin hickeys! I play violin with a community orchestra. my work has nothing to do with music but the violin/viola hickeys are so normal I don’t even think about it. Now I’m panicking and ordering turtlenecks

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I never thought much about my viola hickey until reading this letter and now I’m all self-conscious about it. When I was a teenager all us upper strings players felt it was a right of passage to get a hickey (I guess we thought it meant you were a serious musician) so we wore our hickeys with pride. I guess I will continue to do so, although I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t hurt so much sometimes.

  34. UpNorthAdmin*

    This reminds me of a time, several years ago, when I had a few skin tags removed from my neck while I was on my lunch break. The doctor had fantastic, neon coloured bandages, which are of course very visible, so I joked that my coworkers were going to think I’d gotten a bunch of hickeys. English wasn’t my lovely doctor’s first language, so I then had to explain to him what a hickey was. His admin was in the waiting room laughing heartily!

    1. Random Dice*

      Ohhh no, having to earnestly explain a hickey to a doctor, that makes me cringe for you!

  35. Oops Story*

    I used to work with kids with disabilities (think ASD, ID, etc.) and I finally started dating someone I actually liked (I was a bit of a late bloomer…). You do the math. It was middle of summer so my best option was, I thought, a small band-aid.
    EVERY kiddo I saw, even the ones with limited verbal skills, asked about the baind-aid! Halfway through the day, I got so embarrassed, I took it off. Avoided the parents, but no more curious questions from kiddos! I guess the bruise was less visible LOL.

  36. very very anonymous here*

    OP here. Thank you for all the advice! Don’t worry, I’m not actively going to work with any visible marks on me. I’m starting my first professional job post-undergrad soon, and I’ll definitely be covering any hickeys if they do happen. I’m mostly trying to figure out what people’s assumptions are going to be if they do accidentally catch a glimpse of something, especially a very light bruise that’s mostly covered by a shirt- will they jump right to thinking it’s a gross sex thing? From the answers I’m getting here, it seems like enough will that it’s best to be super cautious with clothing choices and maybe learn to use makeup to cover them up as well.

    In answer to other questions asked: Yep, I’m young! Yes, hickeys are a thing that happen to me sometimes- I acknowledge that it’s a little goofy, but hey, I like what I like. No, I’m not in any sort of abusive relationship, and I’ve never gotten one without consent. No, I’m not heterosexual.

    1. Lucky Meas*

      I think this is one of the many many many things where the answer is:
      If it’s you: don’t do it because some people might judge you
      If it’s your coworker: don’t judge them and mind your own business

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I think if you’re talking about light bruisings or shadings then I wouldn’t even bother with cover up. When most people think about hickeys they’re thinking about attention grabbing red and purple circles that would remind you of the kind of deliberate teenage displays we all remember, or the results of vacuum level neck sucking. If it’s a vivid shade, I definitely would cover up. If it’s at all ignorable, people do their best not to survey your skin.

  37. Young10*

    In general, your coworkers want the details of your sex life to be like the details of you going to the bathroom. The less they know, the happier they are.

    1. saskia*

      I’d be concerned a mob of Puritans is going to burn down your cubicle if you dare go into work!

  38. Cyndi*

    Commenting late on purpose because I don’t actually want to get into it about this. But there’s a lot of “hickeys are embarrassing because they’re a sign you and/or your partner are new at this” in this thread which a) as lots of people have established, isn’t necessarily true b) people can be new at this stuff at any age, it’s a jerk move to judge people for how sexually experienced they are or aren’t in any context but especially at work, so can we maybe please not?

  39. Anwa*

    So… I have a scar on my neck that sometimes, in the right light, looks like a hickey and believe me I’ve been teased about it at work.

  40. Dog momma*

    “is it unprofessional to have hickeys at work?”

    does this question even need to be asked? I mean.. really.

  41. Viva La Revolution*

    I get medical injections in my neck and sometimes they look like small hickeys. I have long hair so it mostly covers them. I’m Pretty open with my immediate co workers about my injections, so if I see anyone staring or whatever I’ll just say “don’t mind the bruise! I got my injections the other day and it looks ugly but really helped” or some sort of acknowledgement it’s there and embarrassing but not a hickey

  42. Beth*

    I have hickeys pretty often and do cover them up for work. Depending on how intense they are, that might mean makeup, a turtleneck, or an arguably fashionable/decorative scarf. I’m sure people catch glimpses sometimes anyways (via a slip of a scarf, or makeup rubbing off a little, or other normal life things), but making the attempt feels like the right thing to do in a professional setting–work is a space where I don’t usually bring my sexuality to the table. I would hope that anyone who sees through my concealers would do the professional thing in turn and pretend they didn’t see anything.

    I don’t bother hiding them in the rest of life, though, and I’m surprised how judgmental some of you are about this! They’re just light little bruises–yes, they’re a sign I had sex recently, but that’s a normal thing for adults to do, and I do trust the people in my social circles to be mature enough to acknowledge that sex happens without making a big deal about it. You don’t have to think about the details of someone’s sex life just because they have a hickey, any more than you have to think about the details of when someone had sex just because you noticed that they’re pregnant. And you definitely shouldn’t be assuming that they’re a sign of abuse or anything extreme like that! Y’all, sometimes it really is as simple as “it feels good”.

  43. Always Bring Pickles to a Potluck*

    I bruise easily too, to the point where wearing a watch regularly gives me a bruise that looks like a ligature mark. My watch broke yesterday so I’m not wearing it today and now I’m wondering if my coworkers think I’m into bondage and if this is inappropriate.

  44. OneAngryAvacado*

    I’m amazed at the number of people freaking out so hard about the notion of people enjoying things that aren’t 100% vanilla and coworkers briefly being aware that you may have had the possibility of physical intimacy with another person *gasp!* . I’d be really interested to know how many people in this thread are coming from what background, given that the responses here seem to be wayyyy more Puritanical than a lot of attitudes outside of the US. (For context’s sake I’m from Europe and aside from razzing your friends No-one. Cares. About Hickeys. At All.)

  45. Anon a neck discoloration*

    Oy – I get the ‘wanting to cover effects of sex’ thing at work in the U.S., but what if you have skin discoloration that makes people think there is a hicky when none exists?

    I have always been very careful at work with these sort of things, but I have discoloration on the front of my neck, toward my collarbone, around a mole that sometimes looks redder than others, and could appear like a hicky. When I was 23, a supervisor grilled me about it at a retail job and I swore up and down that it wasn’t that, but wasn’t believed. I can’t reliably put makeup on this part of my neck without it getting all over tops throughout the day, so I’ve just let it ride and it hasn’t been an issue since (in my 30s now). People are so annoying and I wish this particular prudeishness at work in the U.S. would become silent – even hickies are not someone rubbing their coworkers’ faces in their sex lives.

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