Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

Some things are better left unsaid

The night before, we'd been in bed after a two-bottle dinner followed by several snifters of morbidly expensive brandy, when I accidentally blurted out: "I love you." He froze, like a deer caught in headlights. Then, total silence.

OK, I may have done the verbal equivalent of premature ejaculation, but he's the one who's been pursuing me, and telling me about the inner workings of his mind. So why do I feel guilty about being a bit of an emotional slut?

I'm panicking in part because I remember the day - after five blissful months with a certain boyfriend - that I first realised that "Freak Out!" was not just the chorus of a 1970s disco anthem. Two weeks after having asked me to move in with him, he changed his mind and I never saw him again. His paranoia intensified to the point where he treated me like the blade-wielding Fatal Attraction character.

Most of my girlfriends have had run-ins with drama-queen men, and some are cynical as a result. Chances are, the guy who talks spontaneously in future tense about going away together on the second date will probably never show up for the third.

So I ask my friend Michael what I should have done. Said: "Just kidding!" - or act like I do in a new relationship when one person passes wind, and pretend it never happened?

"You probably scared him," says Michael, "so don't be surprised if he runs like hell."

"But he was the one going on and on about intimacy!" I protest.

"Yeah, but you have to remember that men are the weaker sex, even if they do try to be control freaks. You've got to be careful how you handle it - he's now in the power position, and it's going to be tough to turn that around."

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I just can't bear to think of love as a zero-sum game. Besides, with all my neuroses, I don't have to play hard to get - I am hard to get.

Meanwhile, my friend Victoria advises me not to panic. "You were in bed!" she shouts over cocktails. "That's an automatic get-out clause!"

She then recounted her experience with her current boyfriend, another drama queen. "He pursued me for months, then when I started reciprocating affection he basically said that he was busy for the next three weeks and stopped calling." So she took decisive action on their next date. "I told him that I wasn't putting up with it and deserved better. Next thing I know, he's chasing me down the street in the rain saying, 'I don't want to run from this relationship! I want to marry you!' It was surreal."

In the end, I remember my mum's advice. "Just be yourself," she had told me. "If it's meant to be, it will be." So the next day I tried to make light of the situation. "Sorry for the other night," I said, offhandedly, "I blame the brandy."

We both laughed and agreed that we needed to chill out. He mumbled something about needing some time, which I decided to take in my stride. "You've got it, babe," I said, blew him a kiss, walked away, and deleted his number from my phone. The ball is in his court now, and "Que Sera Sera" is my new ringtone.

c.townsend@independent.co.uk

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