Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

My first love was sitting in a bar, sexier than ever
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As the Eurostar pulled into Gare du Nord, my stomach fluttered with anticipation. Jean-Claude, my mad French first love, on whom I hadn't laid eyes for a decade, had texted me to see if I would meet him for "coffee". In a moment of madness, and horniness, I agreed.

I had met Jean-Claude, a dead ringer for Robert Downey Jr, when I was 17 and working as a waitress in Paris. Though he spoke no English and my French at the time was limited to bad pick-up lines, we fell madly in love and decided to continue our transatlantic romance after I went back to university in New York. While my friends were downing pints at parties, I was scouring websites for cheap night flights to Paris just to spend 12 hours in his arms.

I was so smitten by his bad-boy allure that I ignored his erratic behaviour, such as disappearing for days at a time, saying he was "working for the government", when he actually had a low-level desk job with an airline company. When I questioned him, he blamed stress after losing his wife in a tragic scuba-diving accident, which turned out to be yet another fable.

The cracks in his story were really starting to show when he presented me with a platinum and diamond rock - and I found myself about to board a plane to Jamaica an hour later to exchange vows. Somehow, I knew that my entire future time-line hinged on that instant. I was desperately in love, but could not shake the horrifying vision of myself in 10 years' time - my dreams of going to New York or London to become a writer sacrificed to become a French housewife, eating truffles in a remote chateau and waiting in vain for him to come home.

So I got the hell off the plane - and never looked back. Until now. My palms sweating, I walked into café in the Marais and saw him sitting at the bar, looking sexier than ever. After we discussed the obligatory "how's your family/job/ house" questions for about an hour, he took my hand. "I was so in love with you then," he said. Then, gazing into my eyes, he added: "And I'm still in love with you now."

For a moment, I swooned. Had the perfect man actually been there all along, while I was too young to appreciate true love? Reality kicked in after I asked him whether he had split up with his girlfriend, with whom he has lived for four years. "Well, I don't have the money to buy my own house, so for now we're under the same roof," he said, shifting his eyes in that all-too-familiar manner. "But we don't sleep together. I'm sure you understand." Well, no, actually - because I would rather live in a cardboard box and eat Pot Noodle every day for the rest of my life than stay with someone I'm not in love with. I realised in that instant how far I've come from the rather naive teenager who used to iron this man's shirts and ignore the lipstick stains on his collar.

But he's still hot, and so - drunk on burgundy and nostalgia - I kissed him outside my hotel. Then I asked him if he wanted to come upstairs. "I would love to," he said, cupping my chin. "But I have to tell you, if I come upstairs I will never leave."

So, just like I did when I was 17, I walked away. He may have stayed the same, but I have definitely outgrown him.