Even though there are few things more deliciously agreeable than returning to the chintzy comfort of your very own pillows after a long, hard day at the metaphorical coalface one of the many perks of single life is the frequency with which you get to stay overnight in beds that are not your very own. Don’t panic, I’m not referring to the tedious inevitability of casual sex in the life of the long term single here (although I forgive you if you thought that, I suppose it is suggested in this week’s title). What I am referring to is the freedom you have as a single person to sleep over, as a platonic guest, at the homes of friends and casual acquaintances, when the party’s over and your battery’s died and you’ve missed the last bus.
There is nothing like being an overnight guest in someone else’s house. It’s an everyday adventure that never gets old. The fragrance of just-laundered sheets – if you’re lucky and get the guest room; the perplexing firmity of a different mattress; the spooky vivid dreams; that moment when you wake up and have absolutely no idea where your are or how you got there; the unsettling shape of the furniture in the inky darkness (is that a hat-stand or a murderer holding his breath and standing very still?); and sometimes, the reassuring dead weight of your friend or casual acquaintance curled in the foetal position, exhaling peaceful sighs that lull you into the kind of intimate relaxation you used to hope that sex would deliver – if they don’t have a guest room and you have to bunk down with them.
I love accepting the offer of tea in the morning; declining toast (I can rarely stomach food before midday); supping the hot, milky thickness as light streams through the slats of the original wooden shutters – restored to former glory with a slick of whitest paint; witnessing the sleep-crushed faces of friends who always do their very best to appear attractive in public. I love that tiny moment of heartbreak, the dipping sensation in the pit of my stomach, like a swallow wind-diving, as I say good-bye. The clunk of a front door, shutting me out. I love making my way home in the dusty morning sunshine – wearing last night’s party frock, tottering on sparkling heels; a smear of scarlet lipstick and crazy punk hair, the palpable promise of potential alive on the breath of the air.
Sadly though, the regularity with which one is able to stay over at friends’ houses declines with age after peaking somewhere around the mid-twenties – before everyone gets proper jobs and ambition fuelled by the looming spectre of rising unemployment rates and a triple-dip recession. Of course, the ability to frequent the beds of friends and near strangers is further restricted once you have committed to a serious relationship – by which I mean one where there is a property that contains a bed you share with a (real or common-law) spouse, and/or children. This is reason enough to avoid serious relationships, which, as far as I can surmise, have nowhere near as many moments of everyday wonder as does a spontaneous overnight stay in someone else’s home.
Still, despite my warnings, one day that potential riding on the breath of the wind will materialise into something tangible. You’ll meet a tall, dark chisel-jawed cad who’ll know about religion and find you sexually alluring. He’ll invite you out to listen to jazz music at a club with red velvet bar stools and teeny candles on the mottled mahogany table-tops and touch your leg just above the knee when he’s consumed enough whisky to stave off fear of rejection. And there’ll be the faintest spark and a moment of relief, like ‘ahh! this is it’, before you kiss him. And that will also be wonderful; at least until the excitement of access to regular intercourse and the company of a human person you don’t find physically repulsive has worn off. At which point, you’ll be alright, because you can always leave your lover. And anyway, friends are doubly likely to invite you to stay over when you’re lonely and shattered of soul.
You see, there’s always a silver lining.