Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

Seducer or stalker - it's a fine line
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But, as I was watching a DVD of Sleepless in Seattle - the saccharine Nora Ephron comedy in which a reporter becomes convinced that a widower is her soulmate after hearing him on the radio - I realised that I shouldn't have been so surprised. Romantic movies constantly glorify obsessed lovers doing everything possible to win over the object of their crushes. In Sleepless, Meg Ryan's character writes Tom Hanks a love-letter, tracks him down and flies across the country to follow him and his son around. The two pledge undying love on top of the Empire State building.

"The ending only works because she's hot," says my friend Michael. "If she looked like Andrea Dworkin you can bet that she would get strapped with a restraining order."

I'm not against the idea of spontaneous romantic gestures - because, let's face it, sometimes they work. I once had a gorgeous guy who worked in an office two doors from my flat, who I smiled at every day in passing, hold up a note in his window with his name and phone number.

I was enormously flattered - and turned on - by his boldness. Eight hours later, clothes were flying off before we could get up the stairs to his place. Our frenetic fling lasted several passionate weeks - although I suspect that it wasn't the first time he'd used the same pick-up line. I used his strategy myself at university, when I found out that a former crush whom I'd lost touch with worked in a coffee shop. I went in and pulled the "I had no idea that you worked here!" line while he poured my latte. Contrived and devious? Yes, but it worked.

That's why I will never understand the psyche of someone who thinks, "OK, she didn't respond, so I'm going to leave another eight messages so she'll realise how keen I am." My friend Victoria has one work colleague listed as "STALKER" in her mobile due to the number of late-night calls telling her that he's out with friends and "just happens to be in the neighbourhood" - of whichever bar she is in.

And Michael told me about his attempt at romance. "I met this girl at a party - this was back in the day when everyone was in the phone book - and found her name. But the first thing she said when I called was 'How on earth did you get my number?', which I took as a bad sign."

Don't get me wrong, I find nothing more exhilarating, and flattering, than a man making a grand gesture, but there is a fine line between charming and creepy. And it's well before some guy shows up in an acrylic monkey suit.