3 years


The Goodbye at the End of a Night

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…and why it doesn’t have to be an awkward, shame-filled moment

It’s a scene familiar to all of us. You go to a party, meet new people, flirt with a few, make out with a couple and end up in bed with one. For those of us who aren’t ‘that type’, American sitcoms fill in the educational gap. Dishevelled hair, crumpled clothes, heels in hands and a litany of ‘oh fucks’ in the head. Check, check, check and check in the recipe that makes a one-night stand.

It’s happened to me often enough. I’ve woken up in the morning, mentally kicking myself for letting things get so out of hand. I gave up that life a few years ago; not the sex, just the bullshit that surrounded one-night stands. It took a very special man to make me realise that minus the regret, one night stands could be a time for self-discovery for a girl taking a break from the heavyweights called love and relationships.

I was nursing an appropriately coloured single-girl cocktail at a friend’s party when I met him. And three minutes of conversation and a switch to my actual poison later, I knew I wanted him. He was charming and intelligent, and my lady parts had finally woken up after their four-month-long breakup-induced slumber. I was definitely ready for some good old-fashioned sex.

That’s the thing about one-night stands. The moment of decision is actually a myth. Most of us know what the evening has been leading up to when the ‘your place or mine’ question is finally said out loud. Which makes the whole morning-after charade a bit pointless. Because deep down, we knew. Mostly. Then why lie?

We had mind-numbingly good sex that night. It was selfishly feel-good and pure in the way that only sex without ulterior motives can be. I didn’t care what he’d think if I asked him to do this or if I did that to him. It was so good that it was almost painful to pretend that I regretted it.

When we woke up in the morning, surprisingly, I wasn’t awkward at all. He treated me like a friend who’d stayed overnight; he found me a toothbrush, made me toast and attempted to explain equity and debt to me over coffee. When it was time to leave, we exchanged numbers, hugged and said goodbye. There were no promises to stay in touch that neither intended to keep. Sometime in the middle of the day, he sent me a text saying, ‘Thank you for last night, it was wonderful.’ We haven’t met since that night but every once in a while he sends me a random text that never fails to make me smile.

It was a refreshing change. And since I didn’t have to set aside time to feel guilty and ashamed, I spent the time thinking about what those one-night stands represented. I grew up believing that women simply couldn’t have a casual physical relationship with sex. And if I did do it simply because it felt good, I must have a deranged worldview, issues with men, or low self-esteem at the very least. In reality, these encounters were helping me figure out who I was and what I wanted. Since sex was accessible even without a relationship, I could take my time to figure out what was worth getting into a relationship for.

For the past three years, I’ve only slept with men who don’t make promises and don’t expect me to make any either. Because I’ve learnt it’s a lot easier to smile at a person you slept with when you run into them on the road if you haven’t left a blazing trail of lies and unkept promises in your wake. Besides, as a woman, I know only too well the shitty feeling when someone makes a fool of you. I’ve had my share of waiting by the phone, willing it to ring and when it didn’t, I’ve punished the next six men for the crimes of the one who came before them. Why would any sane, grown-up person want that on one’s conscience?

Last night, I met two guys from my past. One was Mr No-Show, the guy who pursued me so relentlessly that I thought I’d have to marry him to get rid of him. But once we had sex, it was like he’d lost his memory and moved to Yemen. The other person was someone who came into my life while I was going through a very low phase. We met under unusual circumstances, spent five amazing days in a faraway city and parted ways with fond memories. Recently, he moved to Mumbai, and last night, we met at a party again. As I was leaving, he tried to kiss me. When I didn’t let him, he walked me to the car The Dude was waiting in. Today, we made plans to catch up over dinner soon. And it’s a date both of us intend to keep. We’ll probably never be friends, but we don’t have to pretend to be strangers. As for Mr No-Show, he can go back to Yemen.

(The article has been modified after it was published)