Catherine Townsend: Sleeping around

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I've never been afraid of the dark and can pick up a spider without batting an eye, but I do have one irrational fear. Instead of wanting to cuddle after sex, I have a fight-or-flight reaction when staying overnight at a new man's house. When I see the sun rising, I feel like a werewolf panicking about an impending full moon - even though, for such an occasion, I would have no doubt shaved my legs.

What puzzles me is that this happened even though I really like Mark, whom I reluctantly agreed to meet after he left me three voicemails and six texts begging for the chance to "explain" the women's undergarments I'd found in his flat.

Looking gorgeous and contrite, Mark swore he'd ended things with his ex-girlfriend, and said he was crazy about me. Though still hurt by his initial deception, I was also horny as hell, and the prospect of make-up sex was a powerful motivator. So we went back to his flat, played records and talked for hours - then retired to the bedroom, where he gave me a massage that quickly turned dirty.

Afterwards, I stared at the digital clock on the wall for hours. Part of my problem is physical: I'm a really light sleeper who just can't deal with snoring. I've always found it a bit strange that, even though it's socially acceptable to have casual flings, staying overnight seems to be viewed as mandatory. That's why I never invite a man back to mine: I relish the freedom of an instantly accessible escape hatch - or at least a minicab.

But maybe there's a more complex reason why the line "your place or mine?" has become a purely rhetorical question for me. A tumble between the sheets is one thing, but letting a man see my barefaced, pre-coffee self? That's real intimacy.

In fact, I can count on one hand the men I've felt comfortable waking up with. With the right person, that brave post-coital chat and the ensuing Sunday roast are amazing, but it doesn't come naturally to someone who craves her own space.

Sometimes it's tough to come up with an excuse. "I've got an early meeting" sounds a bit lame when the guy in question knows that a) it's Sunday and b) I work from home. Calling him a cab seems a bit mean, so I suffer through and get zero sleep.

In the past I've resorted to desperate measures to get rid of them. I remember a lawyer named Joe, who came up to my flat after our first date. We kissed, fully clothed, and when I came out of the bathroom he was curled up in my bed. So I put on a pair of clown-and-balloon pyjamas and started talking to a cuddly toy. After about five minutes, he said, "You look so sweet and vulnerable Cat, I could really see myself falling in love with you."

So I decided to be honest with Mark about my sexual sleeping disorder. "I totally understand," he said. "Then again, if you're already up..." Five minutes later, I wasn't the only one tossing and turning.

Maybe there's something to this intimacy thing after all. Then again, maybe I just need to find a man who can go all night.

c.townsend@independent.co.uk

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