Last month I overheard two women talking about one-night stands. I was on a train, standing to keep my pleated skirt straight. The two were exchanging an animated debate in the empty carriage.
The middle-aged woman in a leather jacket declared “one-off sex was cliché and outdated”. The younger, dressed in a pinafore, believed “sex is best without follow-up conversation.”
I enjoyed the argument immensely.
I got off the train at South Yarra station and wandered toward Chapel Street. I couldn’t help thinking about their conversation. Their opposing views ran through my mind over and again. Having been over a decade since having a one-night stand, I pondered: what was there to gain from one-night stands?
Once upon a time ago, I had my first one-night stand. I was eighteen, only a few months into adulthood. I thought I was breaking the rules. How wrong I was.
Warning: Slut Assumptions Ahead
I didn’t think the Kingdom allowed one-night stands. Those who indulged in one-night stands ‘had to be a slut’. If not, they were descending into slut-hood, or wishing to be an unwed-pregnant-slut. Either way, you were a slut.
I was the first of my all-girl friendship group, The Girls, to have a one-night stand. Out of ten girls, this would seem like a shock, even to me. But they were all waiting for one of us to dip our toe in first. Unfortunately, I didn’t dip first; I sank.
It Could Have Happened Any Night, But It Happened On This One
The night started very much like every night out with the girls. We were at my house for pre-drinks; consuming as much vodka or champagne possible. We piled into a taxi and hoped we could hold our pee until we arrived at the club.
I was wearing a blue and white floral dress, tied in a halter around my neck. The gown was backless until the second tie which held the midsection together. It was the most revealing dress I had worn to date, but I felt absurdly confident in the material.
I had bought it while shopping with Weston, who said this was the only dress that ever suited me. His rare yet backhanded compliment filled me with unfounded self-assurance. I was a sucker for his flattery.
Nothing could stop me in this dress.
We were at Saloon Five in South Melbourne, the enormous venue feeling like a labyrinth after countless drinks. Within a few moments of arriving, I lost most of the girls. But it didn’t seem to matter. I danced to nostalgic nineties pop and smirked at strangers.
With the dress, you could say I wasn’t feeling like myself. Or maybe this was my true self. Or perhaps it was both.
And Then There Was Eddie
The details of meeting Eddie, my one night exploit, are blurry at best.
I believe I was standing at the downstairs bar waiting for a drink (the details are vague). I ordered a drink, the largest, most alcoholic cocktail on this list. When the waiter produced the colourful glass, Eddie paid before I could hand over the money. I didn’t know where he came from, but there he was. Gallant and paying for my drink.
I owed the man a conversation. Eddie asked me who I was and what I did with my life. I told him without a second thought.
Still to this day, I don’t know why I told him my actual name or even my nickname. I never let anyone call me by a nickname unless we were close. But there was something undeniably sincere about Eddie. When he asked me to go home with him, it wasn’t sleazy or uncomfortable. It felt like right, as right as going home with a complete stranger can be.
After waking up the next morning in his bed, I returned to the revealing ensemble. There wasn’t anything shameful about sleeping with him. But, in the cold, judgmental light of day, I faced reality. Sunday morning, Melbourne traffic, and I’m dressed like a… slut.
Their words, not mine.
At home, I sat in the shower for an eternity before scrubbing away the faint remanences of make-up and dignity. I pulled on an old pair of jeans and sat in front of the television. I didn’t care that my head hurt after three measly hours of sleep.
If it wasn’t for the fact I hadn’t slept in my bed, it was like any other night out. Except it wasn’t. It was far more than that.
So How Good Was The Sex?
I have no idea. I don’t remember the specifics of sleeping with Eddie. I know it wasn’t bad, because I always remember the disasters. And the mind-blowing, can’t-walk-I’m-so-satisfied sex no one forgets.
But with my first one-night-stand, it was like the sex didn’t matter.
When parting ways with Eddie, we didn’t swap numbers. We didn’t promise to call or message each other. We exchanged satisfied smiles, shared a tender kiss, and said an uncomplicated goodbye.
This was the most critical moment in my relationship with men. In the space of twelve short hours, I learned I could have a relationship anyway that pleased me. For one night, or forever. The choice was mine.
That’s the thing about one-night stands; you only need one night to change your life.
I ask myself now, as a thirty-something-year-old woman, what is so wrong with having a one-night stand?
Eddie wasn’t my last one-night-man. Along the way, there were other men that lasted for one night, and I learned a lot from these brief encounters. The biggest lesson was that meaningful relationships and one-night-stands don’t mix. Well, in the Private School Kingdom at least.
That’s not to say it won’t happen, but moments like these often need treasuring rather than analysing. I taught myself that. It became a mantra.
You see, sometimes all there is to gain is one night of physical release. So you can return to your life with the endorphins of an orgasm to refuel your physical needs. Sometimes it’s an experience to feel desired. Sometimes it’s all of it.
And sometimes there is nothing to learn. Those moments were the best.
Before you ask, I was the first to sink, but I sure as hell wasn’t the last. While my one-night-stand became yesterday’s news, the others were off, well, doing the same. Some of them weren’t so discrete in their conquests. Some weren’t playing by the rules.
But that’s for another day.
And Did I End Up A Slut?
Well, the entire Private School Kingdom knew I went home with Eddie. And all seemed to put the pieces together with no clarification from me. There were questions, a lot of them, and assumptions that I would go home with every guy I met for years to come.
After declaring I was sexually free to do whatever I wanted, the direct comments to me stopped. But I know they continued behind my back.
Once a man-eater, always a man-eater, apparently.
See you the next time I open the Little Black Book….
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. My want is for a better opportunity for writers, especially fictional, in an increasingly technology dominant world. I write the stories that have formed my life and comment on the experience along the way.