Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

It started with a click...
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The Independent Online

Under "Who I am Looking For", I typed: "Someone sexy, with a sense of adventure, who is able to contribute to endless stream of sarcastic banter (British or Irish accent - though an incredible ability in the sack exempts you from either!). Basically, I want someone who is more interesting than the best book on my shelf at any given time, who can handle a crazy but totally loyal girl. Any takers?"

At the urging of my drunken workmates, I also attached a photo of myself. And under the heading "In my bedroom you will find" I wrote: "Juxtapositions of soothing lavender walls and less soothing police handcuffs". Then I waited.

The next morning, I was shocked to discover that my online persona, StoneColdFox, had 58 responses - the majority from cute guys. By lunchtime, I was exchanging racy banter with a foxy lawyer. Twelve hours later, we were in a cab heading north - and he was headed south.

Over the next few weeks, I revelled in the rush of taking control of my love life. Some of my girlfriends seemed to be against the idea, saying: "If it's meant to be, it will happen." But I found that exploring cyberspace beat the hell out of sitting about waiting for the phone to ring.

Of course, some of my online hook-ups have crashed and burned. In addition to the boys who lied by several years (and several stone), there was the self-described "Clive Owen clone" who turned out to be 5ft tall with a Donald Trump comb-over, and the "doctor" who bought his medical credentials online.

Still, before long my girlfriends and I were e-mailing guys' profiles around like trading cards. "I could walk into work feeling hungover, but it was a real ego boost to know that I could set up a date any time I wanted," says my friend Michelle, who met her current boyfriend online. "But we still haven't told many people how we met - even though I know tons of people are doing it."

Another girlfriend, an interior designer, realised that her on-screen pick-ups were getting a bit out of hand when she started double- and triple-booking them. "I knew I had to scale things back one day when I woke up at the cute Dutch guy's house and was supposed to have a brunch with another new guy," she said.

As for me, I started scaling back when I realised I was spending too much time dreaming up witty retorts to e-mails and not enough getting to know the guys in the flesh. So I've pulled my profile - at least until the next dry spell.