TESTIMONY; 'Did I feel ashamed and sorry? Not a bit of it. I felt pleased, proud, profoundly, curiously moved.' Heather Chalmers reveals how she became a trollop
i really don't know what comes over me. There I was, chatting supportively to a woman about her latest baby, a second gin and tonic in my hand. Next thing, I was snogging drunkenly with a man who, so far as I can tell, keeps body and soul together by working as a drug-dealer. In a toilet, in a bar. In a bar with a lock-in for the local gangsters, it being by this time 3am or 4am. The toilet, I think, was the ladies'. It smelt very strongly of pot-pourri, and all the sinks and towels were coloured pastel pink.

And there was that other party I went to, at which I suddenly spotted a kind-looking chap by the window, with big, thick eyebrows and tickly sideburns to match. There then ensued a sort of long and blurry zip-pan, with the odd discernible image inside it. A taxi. A drink or two. Baby- soft yet distressingly scuff-marked inner wrists, astroturf friction burns, apparently, from all the indoor football. What strange creatures these men are, and what a privilege it is to get to know them in this way And then I was waking up in the morning, gazing in amazement at the bushy head all snug and snoring on the pillow by my side. Did I feel like a slag, a slapper and a trollop? Ooh, yes, not half. Did I feel all sorry and ashamed? No, not a bit of it. I felt pleased, and proud, and profoundly, curiously, moved.

A little over a year ago, I was a woman with a future. There was Heather and there was Kevin. There was a flat with pots and plates and matching bed linen in it. And that more or less was that. I really thought this Heather-and- Kevin stuff was what I wanted. I worked my butt off to keep it going, far too worn out by the effort of all that working to even think of having sex. Then one morning, Kevin just suddenly told me that he had found himself a new woman. I don't want to dwell much on the year of horror that came next. But there was anorexia in it, and black, black depression, and much self-abasement, and total falling apart.

By the time I ran into my gangster, I had been mourning my Kevin for pretty well a year. I had got to the point at which most celibates get to, bemusedly watching all the sex scenes on the telly, unable to believe that sex is really such a straightforward thing. All you do is take your clothes off in the presence of another person, nothing so uniquely difficult about that. It lets off steam and it's a good way of getting to know a person better. In the world at large, people just like you and me are out there, taking their clothes off, having sex with one another all the bloody time. Strange but true. It is, apparently, a basic human urge.

After the gangster, however, my learning curve was prodigious. There was the soigne gent who in my naivety I thought was having an attack of asthma, so heavily was he panting as he let me into his room. And there was the lad I decided must be completely exhausted, because of the way he kept yawning really obviously, only then to let his outstretched arm fall along my back. The asthmatic turned out to be a revelation. He came from a Pentecostal Christian family, and had been exorcised at the age of 12 after his mother caught him wanking in his room. The yawner, too, was in his way rewarding. Along with much vigorously laddish lovemaking, he explained to me the exact contours - and this will date us - of the at-that-time burning Blur-Oasis debate.

Now I have found my true vocation as a born-again trollop, it horrifies me to think how much I used to confuse the real work of loving with all sorts of fetishistic nonsense to do with need and fear. When I'm old and grey, I think, I'm not going to be mulling much over the duvet set from Habitat I lost the day my ain true love Kevin idly decided to be off. Pink sinks, pink towels, on the other hand, a sleazy sex scenario with a drug-stashed gangster among the pot-pourri? That will still be worth a chuckle as I sit there in my chair. Friction burns? Pentecostal Christians? Blur versus Oasis? Such, surely, is so much more the stuff of life.

I will never know if it was the pot-pourri or the scent of hash against gangster sweat that did it. All I do know is that after just one whiff of it, I would never again be able to confuse such heady passion with that stale consumerist illusion we are taught to think of as domestic bliss. A life's partner who comes like clockwork to your doorstep, clinking and clanking behind him a useful complement of shiny pots and pans? Stuff that for a soap opera. Give me the drunken zip-pan, rather, and the delightful confusion that comes with the sort of pot you smoke. I don't know how long I will go on wanting to risk this sort of romantic adventure. But right now I'm perfectly happy with my vocation, learning all manner of things I never even knew I should be learning, and ever so curious to see where I might end up next.