Sleeping with a stranger

Sex on Tuesday

Photo of Khristina Holterman

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I jolt awake, immediately aware that I am not home in my bed. Trying to piece together the events that led me here, my eyes focus on the vines covering the ceiling above me. Plants are everywhere — it certainly is a beautiful room. Anxiously planning my escape, I accidentally awaken my new “friend” spooning me. 

“Good morning,” he mutters, half-awake. 

“Good morning,” I echo, suddenly way too aware of the fact that he’s seeing me naked in the scorching daylight. 

I insist I must go. “You can stay,” he reassures me. “Or at least let me drive you home.”

“I … it’s okay. I’ll walk, it’s super close.”

As I get up to go, he looks at me quizzically. No logical reasons for my rapid departure come to mind, but still, I scramble for my clothes. 

As I pull my boots on, the boy stands beside me. I cringe at the realization that I’m taller than him. A true gentleman, he escorts me out the door. I assure him I’ll return the tie-dye shirt and basketball shorts I’m sporting (which will never happen) just as he assures me he’ll text me (also won’t happen). But we both know these truths and we don’t really care, so I stroll on home.

We’ve all been here: Waking up confused, disoriented, disheveled, rapidly trying to replay the events from the night before in our minds. Good old one-night stands. They happen to the best of us, the worst of us, and, to some of us, they happen often.

While there are, of course, different types of one-night stands, my personal favorite is the sleepover. Often I don’t plan to sleep over. But the overwhelming exhaustion I feel post-fuck makes the thought of squeezing my jeans back on and walking home or locating my friends feel almost impossible. Sometimes he’ll offer to share his bed for the night, other times I’ll pass out in it regardless, but either way, the mornings are the same. 

Waking up after a one-off sleepover is awkward and shameful. There’s just something about the blinding sunlight, completely juxtaposed with the darkness, or maybe complete blackout, of the night before that is so raw and vulnerable. 

My makeup is usually smeared and extra gross as I try to untangle myself from the sweaty and possibly naked stranger lying beside me. A wave of regret washes over me, but it never lasts. 

I find so much humor in the embarrassment. You might think I’d be more nervous, more frantic the morning after as I leave a man’s house, never to return. But who cares if he doesn’t text me or if I don’t see him again?

It’s difficult, maybe even counterintuitive, I know, to not expect anything more from the person you just shared yourself with intimately. But in my case, it’s exceedingly necessary. One-night stands have been imperative to my sex life.

Over the years, I’ve learned to sever my emotions from my motions. The key to this is complete detachment. And the only way to achieve that is to forgo any expectations of where the night will go. I don’t go into spontaneous encounters expecting anything more than a hookup, and therefore I’m never left disappointed. 

Because I don’t hold onto expectations, I can find humor in the parts that otherwise might feel awkward. The embarrassment sets in, as does the staleness of the night before, but while I could dwell on these things, I don’t. 

In fact, I can often laugh at how the night went because it didn’t stray or stay on any predetermined course. 

There’s a certain beauty in the ability to have free sex without commitment, devoid of any “What is this?” or “What are we?” conversations. The pressure is off. I can be my true sexual self and share that self with someone else — a completely new someone else who has no preconceptions or expectations of me. 

Being able to authentically and freely fuck whoever, whenever is almost therapeutic. Casual sex is a realm in which I can explore my desires and dislikes with honesty. I don’t have to worry about bruising his ego with my suggestions or complaints because I barely know him. It’s a humbling exercise that also boosts self-esteem. Either way, we both learn something new about ourselves.  

People often say there is so much you can learn from strangers. I’ve found that to be especially true in having sex with them. I mean, if it weren’t for random men and one-night stands, I wouldn’t know that I like hickeys on my thighs or that I like my hair pulled during sex. 

I’ve especially learned how funny sex can be, because how can it be that serious when the only thing you’re hoping to get out of it is a good time? 

So I don’t expect my one-night stand to text me. In fact, I won’t even give him my contact information. As effortlessly as I slid in, I slip out of his navy checkered covers, holding only my pile of clothes and no desire to return.

Khristina Holterman writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact her at [email protected]