Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

Sex that was worth waiting for
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I felt stuck. I wanted to make a move, but didn't want to risk ruining the friendship if everything crashed and burned. Besides, the uncontrollable passion and intrigue at the beginning of the relationship has always been my favourite part: how could I be swept off my feet by a guy whom I'd already seen unshowered and wearing a stained sweatshirt?

I was also terrified of rejection, especially since I'm pretty sure that being knocked back with a line like: "I don't want to risk ruining the friendship" translates to "I don't want to see you naked. Ever." Even if he didn't, what if the sex was horrible and the resulting awkwardness of seeing his hairy naked bits makes it impossible to look him in the eye ever again?

Making the transition was also tough because women are conditioned to maintain an air of mystery to hook a man - and Richard has definitely seen me at my worst. He was the one who provided a shoulder to cry on - and lots of tequila shots - after my last breakup. And as my alcohol and oestrogen levels increased, he listened to my tearful dissection of the entire split, and my sex life, while I sobbed into my cocktail napkin. That night I had suggested that we go back to his place - but when we got there, I threw up.

I needed some advice. "Just get pissed and do a drunken lunge," my girlfriend Victoria advised, "That way if he knocks you back, you can always blame the booze." But Richard hadn't run screaming after the head-in-the-toilet incident and instead, had asked me to go for a weekend with friends in the French countryside. At this rate, we would be sharing a room before we'd ever hooked up.

But this time, I was determined to carry no baggage on my trip - emotional or otherwise. As the weekend progressed, Richard saw me sans makeup in my ratty tracksuit bottoms that should be a registered form of birth control. He even caught me shaving my legs. "At least it wasn't your face," he teased me.

By Sunday night, I was having the time of my life. So I grabbed him outside the nightclub and asked if he wanted to kiss me. "Yes," he said, as we walked back to the auberge. "But I don't want to be the rebound guy, or for this to be just about sex. I really like you."

It turned out that he had been planning my pursuit for weeks. I realised as I looked up at him that it may not be love at first sight, but finding something new in someone you already care about can be exhilarating in a different way. So we went back to the house, and I ripped his clothes off. After three months of sexual tension, the sex was amazing.

And we still had coffee together the next morning. Only this time, it was in the buff.