Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

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The Independent Online

There comes a time in every relationship when a person realises that they need space. Or, in my case, storage space. In fact, a corner of a drawer in his apartment would do. If I'm going to spend time with Paul on a regular basis, it would be fantastic not to have to wake up and stagger home looking like a dishevelled hedgehog.

I've done the Walk of Shame from his place in fishnets, miniskirt and oversized sunglasses so many times that I'm afraid commuters on the Tube are going to start asking how much I charge. I'm the girl who's hiding her bloodshot raccoon eyes behind a newspaper, reeking of cologne and stale sweat. And yet, I resist the temptation to drop so much as a spare pair of knickers in his sock drawer.

I don't have a great history of sharing space with men. Last time I left conditioner and a hairdryer at an ex-boyfriend's flat, he gave it to me in a Tesco's bag the next day. Another time, I "road tested" sex toys with an ex for an article shortly before we split. Now I can't look him in the eye without thinking of the gold-tipped glass dildos stuffed under his bed (I didn't have the heart to ask for them back).

I may strip off all my clothes in the heat of passion, but by morning every trace of my contribution to the previous night's excess will have been erased. Somehow, leaving make-up remover at a boyfriend's seems more intimate than sharing bodily fluids.

The trick is to test the water by leaving something small and inexpensive, something with zero emotional attachment - like an umbrella - to see how a beau reacts.

"Believe me, men always notice when a girl leaves her things behind," says my friend Michael, a serial dater. "It feels threatening, like she's marking her territory."

So I decided to ask Paul point blank if he minded having my clothes around, and he happily cleared me a shelf in his wardrobe. But then I went into the loo and saw it - a brand new, pink toothbrush. That's when it hit me: Paul may not realise that I want convenience, not commitment. Suddenly, the tables were turned. I know I'm being hyper-sensitive. But I can't help thinking that if it starts with a toothbrush, what else will he want from me? Joint bank accounts? Marriage? I never thought that a 99p piece of plastic could bring on a panic attack.

Everyone always told me that once I met a nice guy, my "nesting instinct" would kick in. But in a cruel twist of fate, getting shagged regularly seems to make one much more attractive to the opposite sex. So even though I'm having a great time with Paul, I can't help getting turned on when the hot French waiter at the local bistro winks at me. I wonder if he would be into a three-way? That's the kind of love nest I had in mind.

So when Paul offered me a key to his flat, and half the wardrobe, I told him that I'm going to stick with my one shelf: for now, I'm happy to keep this relationship compartmentalised.

c.townsend@independent.co.uk

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