Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank I Getty Images

IF YOU LOOK around your office today (discreetly, dude!), you will probably be able to identify one person who is more attractive to you than the others. That person could be your ‘Office 10’. But here’s the thing. Objectively, in the wild, in the street or on a train platform, you may not have looked twice at this person. At best they might be a 6.5, but thanks to the wonders of what has been termed the self-contained, close-circuit environment of the workplace, they have catapulted several rungs up your subjective ladder of attractiveness.

The concept of the Office 10 was recently floated in a story in New York magazine and it’s the type of phrase I, for one, have longed been waiting for. Like all of us, I was vaguely aware of this phenomenon and had actually given it some thought, but until now had struggled to articulate exactly what was occurring in a pithy catchphrase. Office 10 does the job well but is actually a little limiting, for this behaviour extends outside the office to any environment in which there are a limited number of people. That’s why ‘closed-circuit crushing’ or CCC, is probably the better descriptor—we’ll leave it to TikTok to decide which one becomes the default catchphrase.

A word on the use of a rating system to evaluate attractiveness. Yes, in the past this has been cast as a sexist and degrading pastime. It certainly can be in the wrong hands or when used for erroneous purposes. But here, we are going to apply the veneer of pseudoscientific, semi-anthropological enquiry to use it to subjectively rate both males and females. Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but CCC is essential to the survival of the species. Without it most of us would struggle mightily to be sexually appealing, so I believe the stakes are such that we simply have no choice but to use a standardised scale of attractiveness to illustrate our points. Some things are just too important.

CCC begins in high school. There you have a limited pool of prospective romantic interests. Some of this pool will be more attractive than others but it doesn’t really matter because due to the miracle of CCC you will find yourself attracted to someone and proceed to elevate them well beyond their objective level of attractiveness. In fact, you will likely elevate the whole class beyond their station.

I recall in my own high school class, some of the guys, thanks to the wonders of CCC, could claim a rarefied rakishness, their plunging fringes framing rockstar sneers. I have a high school reunion coming up and will be interested to see whether some of these adolescent Johnny Depp’s have mutated into pudgy office workers with wandering hairlines, or, if CCC will instantly corrupt my neural circuits so that I once again look upon them in envy. I suspect the latter and the same for the women; in my mind CCC will likely forever preserve these beauties in amber.

Office 10: Clark Kent, Superman I Warner Bros

Having said that, I have often wondered what happened to ‘Classroom 10s’ at university, when they met stiffer competition. How did they handle going from being cock of the walk in a classroom of 25 or so, to being a mere face in a lecture hall of 200 and seeing their rating plummet from a 10, down to say, a 7? I suspect they took it on the chin and once they got themselves into a tutorial where they were insulated by the cushioning of CCC, they were back to being admired as they’d long been accustomed. After university these people probably graduated to become Office 10s. Still, those brief periods of objective averageness must have been truly frightening for them.

The impact of CCC can be confounding for random strangers. How often have you seen a couple on the street and thought to yourself, how the hell did he end up with her or vice versa? Often, the default reaction is a bitter and cynical one: dude must be loaded. But in fact, it could be a result of CCC. Dude was probably a 9 or 10 in whatever closed-circuit environment these two met, let’s say an OH & S seminar. But you, as a random, objective stranger, can’t possibly see what she sees in him: a lopsided smile, dimples, a twinkle in his eye, deadpan wit and a dead set heart of gold. As someone who was, and never will be, part of their closed-circuit cohort, you just see an above-average looking woman with an average looking man. Which is what they are.

Okay, time for some flexing. I was once, for a brief period, an Office 10. I know, I know, former Office 10s aren’t really supposed to write articles like this. It’s like a cheetah filming itself on the savannah. But hear me out, for if I can achieve such exalted status, then anyone can. For me, I was just the right man, in the right place, at the right time (yes, the opposite of John McClane). Perhaps I had a little help from the universe (I just watched Love at First Sight on Netflix last night so I’m all about the powers of fate and serendipity today), as you need to have to reach this elusive, nigh-on mythical position. I was a young man teaching English in South Korea. All the other male English teachers in my school were far older than me and, frankly, a rather peculiar collection of weirdos and misfits, who had come to Korea where their novelty saw them find partners they never would have been able to attract back home… that’s another story. The point is, it wasn’t hard for me to walk into that teachers’ staff room and immediately assume Office 10 status.

Now, I won’t say I didn’t enjoy my time at the top and perhaps let it go to my head. I distinctly remember my girlfriend at the time bursting my bubble one day when she said, “You know when we go home next year you’ll just be back to normal, right?” That thought haunted me for a while. I wondered if I should perhaps stay in Korea, in that job, and enjoy the fruits of being an Office 10, rather than subject myself to life further down the scale back in Australia? It was sorely tempting, I can tell you.

As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait too long for the universe (the real one, not the sentimental rom-com version), to ruthlessly relegate me to my rightful position, as a roster of fit, young attractive guys joined the school the next semester. Chief among these was Simon, an Englishman with dazzling blue eyes and a stupendous jawline. Simon was actually so good looking he would have been an Office 10 in almost any workplace in the world, though, of course, my judgment may be clouded by CCC. While it stung at the time, in hindsight I should have been grateful to cede my position to such a specimen.

I would never again get close to Office 10 status but it didn’t matter for CCC still worked out in my favour: I met my wife at work. The only issue, and it’s one I haven’t really contemplated until now, is that I will always wonder if she found me objectively attractive or if I was just the beneficiary of CCC. Deep down, I think I know the answer.



The Roman Empire TikTok trend: an explainer

Hugh and Deb are done. Why do we care?