Catherine Townsend: Sleeping around

'I'm a closet drunk-dialler. In the morning I reach for my mobile to find out who I've called'
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He picked up after the third ring, and my fourth dirty martini. "Richard, it's me. Listen, baby, we haven't spoken in a few weeks, so I'm going to be blunt," I slurred. "I know that we still have a really intense connection... and you feel it too, don't you?"

"Actually, I don't," he said. "And, erm, I think you have the wrong number... My name is Tom."

Call it my dirty little secret: I'm a closet drunk-dialler. By day I'm clever and logical, but after a drink (or 10) I morph into the girl who once woke an ex at 2am singing an Eighties love ballad, thinking it would be cute and ironic. It wasn't.

My drunken logic after an evening of partying is as follows: I haven't been able to work out my differences with the guy who dissed me through adult discussion, but now, after liquid inspiration, everything is crystal clear. So why shouldn't I call to let him know what he's missing?

The consequences of the call don't hit me until the next morning. I find myself reaching under the pillow for my mobile to figure out who I've called even before I scramble for painkillers.

I've done them all: the cheesy, nostalgic greeting that usually follows an overdose of Richard Marx lyrics at weddings, the "accidental" dial from the bottom of my handbag so that he can hear what a great time I'm having, and yes, even the booty call.

At least I'm not the only one. These days, dialling while drunk has become a social phenomenon. Back in the pre-mobile era, having to locate a phone booth or landline usually killed the urge. But like caller ID and texting, drunk-dialling now plays a central role in modern courtship.

Mobile phone firms have been scrambling to come up with deterrents. Virgin Mobile is offering its Australian customers the option of blocking certain numbers until 6am. Another firm has launched a "Breathalyzer" phone that bans certain digits when blood-alcohol level is above a certain point. It's already sold 200,000 in Korea.

My girlfriends and I have developed our own strategies. During post-breakup periods, we adopt a "friends-don't-let-friends-dial-drunk" policy, which means swapping phones with a designated dialler. The repercussions of the two-minute "cathartic" call, such as being labelled a bunny boiler, can be mortifying. Worse, the object of our (drunken) affection might just take us seriously.

Amy, a girlfriend, was alone one night when she began to get curious about her ex-boyfriend, a postman whom she'd dated for two weeks at university. After several shots of schnapps, she let her fingers do the walking. He showed up on her doorstep the next morning. "He said that he'd always dreamt about marrying me, too, and I had no idea what he was talking about," she said.

As for my ill-fated tête-à-tête with Richard: I finally reached him, only to loudly proclaim, "I'm over you!" followed by, "Can I come over?"

Yikes. Maybe there is something to the Breathalyzer. Now if they could only come up with an anti-drunken hook-up feature...