Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

I find it incredibly flattering when a guy takes charge
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The Independent Online

My girlfriend Victoria and I were downing cocktails at a bar in Chelsea last weekend when I saw a tall, tanned and gorgeous guy with a glint in his eye - and he was checking me out. So I purposely brushed past him en route to the loo, and smiled. He smiled back and kept staring, but instead of heading over to talk to us, he kept sinking pints until the bell tolled for closing time when he stumbled across and grabbed me by the shoulder. Staring down at me with red glassy eyes, my knight in shining armour said, "that's a nice top, it would look even better crumpled on my floor tomorrow morning," before heading outside and throwing up. His friend later came up and apologised. "He's not usually like that," he said. "He's just nervous."

This scene is replayed most weekends, which is ironic because my British boyfriends have been the most brilliant conversationalists. It's just too bad that they never approach me - at least, not sober. In England, the cute guys hide in corners, waiting for liquid courage to kick in, until after 15 pints when these mostly shy and self-deprecating wallflowers morph into Russell Crowe in search of a dial tone.

In New York, men are more direct. But there, you have to suffer the masochistic Manhattan ritual known as the "dinner date" - it's basically a CV swap that's about as enjoyable as a bikini wax.

"I would have never approached you in a bar, because I find pretty girls really intimidating, and you were so beautiful I would have assumed you were taken," said The Journalist, whom I dated recently. We became friends, but - still haunted by the memory of a Brit who invited me up to his flat to "see his etchings" and actually spent two hours showing me plans for his house - I was taking no chances. So I used the English approach and blurted: "Do you want to make out with me?" after downing several vodka tonics. It worked.

I met R, my current flavour of the month, when we were thrown together for a work assignment. He says he "probably wouldn't have chatted me up" at a bar, because he's "really quite shy".

I have no problem making the first move, but like many women, I have to be so dominant in my life and career that I find it incredibly flattering when a guy takes the lead.

If nice guys are going to stay silent, they can't complain about tossers getting the girl. My ex, S, was an arrogant bully - but he had a killer chat-up line. On the night we met, he walked up to me at a party with a bottle of red wine. "This party is boring," he said. "Fancy a quiet drink on the terrace?"

He wasn't particularly good looking, but I had to admire his style.

I have no doubt that English boys are romantic, because they have no problem mapping out elaborate scenarios to snare the object of their affection. Victoria's boyfriend, who works in a neighbouring department, sent carefully crafted e-mails and engineered small moments alone with her for months before finally screwing up the courage to risk a first kiss. Which is all very sweet, but I work from home and don't have a regular routine. So unless I fall for the Dominos' delivery guy, I'm going to have to rely on serendipity. I can understand the boys' fear of rejection, but none of my friends would be rude to someone who politely said hello - and if someone was horrible, at least they could be written off quickly.

The quiet ones may regret never taking a chance. I ran into S's former flatmate, an incredibly cute graphic designer with stunning blue eyes, last night at a bar in Hoxton. After buying him a beer, he admitted that the night S and I met, the guys all had a bet to see which one could chat me up first. "I thought that you were gorgeous, and really wanted to talk to you, but S got there first," he said. Although he now has a girlfriend, he said, "I really wished for a long time that it had been me."

So do I.

c.townsend@independent.co.uk

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