My first one night stand in a year
LAST weekend, I did something amazing.
I completed an act I had spent almost a year anticipating: I put on a special outfit, I huffed and puffed and got very hot and sweaty, and I even got a little sunburnt on the walk home. And, to be quite frank, the whole experience left me thinking I could really stand to work on my fitness level.
No, I didn't attempt the City2Surf. I had casual sex. A hook-up. A one-night stand, if you will.
While this might be a common weekend occurrence to some; for me, it was just as momentous an occasion as spending my Sunday trampling through the city streets in Lycra.
I'm not afraid to admit that my heart has been a little tender since my last relationship ended around 10 months ago. Terrified of being hurt again, I treated it like a torn muscle and kept it tightly wrapped in protective swaddle.
I've avoided any activity that may see it overused or, indeed, used at all. Dating apps get installed then deleted from my phone at breakneck speed, and swiping through each catalogue of eligible bachelors leaves me feeling both desperately lonely and completely terrified.
Sponsored ads for speed-dating events are deleted and blocked from my social media as soon as they crop up, with 'I am not interested in this content' selected as the reason every time.
When friends offer to set me up with their single mates, I can't find an excuse to get out of the date fast enough: I'm busy, I'm working on a huge project, I'm deep-conditioning my hair that night and every other night until at least January 2020.
The upside to all of this is that I've become intensely productive. Having no romance on the horizon has given me all the free time in the world, and I've filled it with everything from study to exercise to obsessive podcast-listening.
On Sunday mornings, when most people I know are sharing romantic brunches with their significant others, you'll find me hiking or catching a midmorning pilates class. On Friday nights, when my friends are venturing out on exciting first dates, I'm at home with a face mask on and a glass of wine in my hand.
Admittedly, it's been a pretty blissful state of existence, but I've known for a while now that I couldn't stay in my armoured cocoon of self-enforced singledom for too much longer. It hasn't just been my phone that was on 'Do Not Disturb' mode - it was my entire life, as well.
So like a star athlete being coaxed out of retirement for one final game, I unwrapped my heart - and some other pretty important parts of my body - and got back on to the field.
And you know what? It was fine. In fact, it was better than fine: it was good. The gentleman in question was funny, handsome, stylish, and incredibly intelligent. He cooked me a delicious dinner and I woke up the next morning to a picturesque view of the sea.
I showered before I left his house - thank goodness he was enlightened enough to have a quality facewash - and as I made my way to the nearest cafe for a much-needed almond latté, the sun emerged from behind the clouds and the birds began to sing like something out of a Disney film.
I realised almost immediately that the fears I had been carrying for so long were totally unfounded. There was no pain, no deception, no raw emotional wounds caused by reopening my heart - or legs - to another human being.
After all that time spent sleeping alone, without so much as a winky-faced emoji lighting up my phone screen, it was heartening to feel desired and wanted again. Sure, we may not have been picking out a china pattern together, but that didn't matter. It was fun, and it was exactly what I needed.
I shared my train home with what felt like every single person in Sydney who had run the City2Surf that morning, and even though the carriage was packed tight and reeked of Tiger Balm and protein bars, I didn't mind.
For many, the race signifies the end of Sydney's short and chilly winter and the beginning of spring; and I felt the change in the air as well. Something was beginning to shift, and I was defrosting.
I know, of course, that a bit of time alone after a relationship is healthy. Often, it's necessary. Whether the breakup was good or bad or somewhere in between, it's important to spend some time solo, getting to know yourself again and realising your own wants and needs without considering another person in your life.
But I had taken it to the extreme: a sad breakup sent me spiralling into pessimism, judging everyone by the perceived sins of another without ever giving them the chance to show me otherwise.
It will be a tough habit to break, and I know that one night - no matter how good - won't suddenly turn me in to the Pollyanna of the dating world. But much like lacing up your shoes and getting out the door is the toughest part of any run, I have a suspicion that I may have overcome my most difficult dating obstacle: myself.
So, like many other Sydneysiders on Sunday, I pushed through the pain and conquered my very own Heartbreak Hill. From the bottom it looked insurmountable, but the reward was well worth the effort.
When I reached the summit I was rewarded with a view of the ocean waves racing up to lap against a greedy shore; and as it happens, I really like the view from the top.
- Kate Iselin is a writer and sex worker. Continue the conversation on Twitter @kateiselin