Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

Time for a sexual sorbet...
Click to follow
The Independent Online

When my hot American across-the-street neighbour asked me if I wanted to "come upstairs for coffee", I knew there was a lot more on offer than a cappuccino.

I met J, a banker, two months ago and the sexual tension had been obvious. But fooling around in the beginning was out of the question, because I was still seeing my sometime-boyfriend Andrew. That is, until last week.

I had been hesitant about hooking up with someone else right away, because Andrew was so fantastic in bed. So I decided I needed a fling to exorcise the erotic demons of my ex. My New York friends call this post-breakup fling "a sexual sorbet", because it's meant to act as a palate cleanser between the "main course" and the next big thing.

"Sorbet sex stops me obsessing when I meet someone else that I like, because I've got another point of comparison besides my ex and it stops me fantasising about him," says my girlfriend Amy, who recently found herself in the sack with a friend after breaking up with her boyfriend. "The sex wasn't technically that great, and he snored, but I woke up feeling like I was ready to move on."

One of the hardest things to kiss goodbye has always been the ex sex, that amazing feeling you get when someone really knows you. But emotional connections like these can be few and far between since it's hard enough to find someone who I want to invite into my home, much less my bed.

And there are times when sorbet sex should be avoided - namely, when we are still digesting a past relationship. In the early days after past splits, when I was in the crying-in-my-bathrobe-while-listening-to-Joy-Division phase, jumping into bed with someone would definitely have been a mistake.

But one day I woke up feeling ready for a new adventure. Not to mention that when J invited me upstairs, I was about to head off to visit my dad in one of the American South's many "dry counties", where selling alcohol is banned. If I was going to spend a week feigning enthusiasm over unwrapping socks while sipping ginger ale, I figured I deserved an early Christmas present.

I knew it was now or never. "Look, I really like you and I think we have a great time," I told J. "But I'm just getting over Andrew, so whatever happens will just have to be purely sexual. Can you handle that?"

He paused for a second. "Definitely," he said, carrying me into the bedroom. "This body was not meant for celibacy," he told me as he undressed me. He may not have had the mind-melding emotional intimacy of my last fling. But he had a great body, and I revelled in the newness of it all.

The next morning was freezing, but I couldn't help smiling as I did the "walk of shame" home in fishnets and a long wool coat. One of the great things about palate-cleansing sex is the opportunity that it gives me to reflect on my last relationship and rediscover my confidence.

Now, hopefully, I'll be ready for dessert.