Daisy Buchanan remembers a one-night stand in the City of Light that helped mend her broken heart - and sparked a desire for sexual self-discovery
It’s thought that Mae West once said, ‘The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.’ And so, aged 21 and in the depths of heartbreak when my university boyfriend told me he was in love with his housemate, I tried to cure myself with a series of one-night stands, in an attempt to feel powerful and desirable. Unsurprisingly, this did not work. So when I went to see my friend Demi, who was studying in Paris, I tried to blind myself to the romantic potential of the City of Light. I wrapped my vulnerability in a layer of brittle cynicism, rolling my eyes at couples feeding each other macarons in Ladurée. And then I met Sebastian.
‘He talked to me, he teased me and then we were kissing up against a wall’
Demi had taken me out with her friends, who were all dressed in heels, with hair and cleavage teased and manipulated out of all proportion. A month earlier I would have been in an outfit practically cut to my crotch, but a bud of self-respect had burst through my brain in the Champs-Elysée branch of Zara. I rediscovered my sexiest, most confident self in a simple blue shirt. When I noticed Sebastian noticing me, I registered his beauty as you might spot the Mona Lisa’s, deciding to admire him from afar. I’d only come to dance, and I assumed he’d stop staring to go after a babe in bodycon. But he kept looking, and captivated me with his easy confidence. He talked to me, he teased me, and then we were kissing up against a wall – he touched me as though he might pass out if he stopped.
All I remember is his mouth on mine in a taxi, then in a hotel room – and suddenly I felt myself withering under the lights, conscious of my pale body, my bad bra, my lack of preparedness. ‘Don’t be shy! You’re gorgeous,’ he said, unbuttoning my shirt. ‘I’m not shy!’ I protested, and in that moment my anxiety dissolved. I stopped trying to float out of my body to witness how I was being seen. I focused on feelings – feeling his tongue touch my inner thigh, or his teeth on my nipple, and let go of myself completely. We both wanted exactly the same thing. A single night together. A one-night stand. Instead of worrying about how to make him desire me more, I simply submitted to every sensation. Being in Paris was gloriously disinhibiting – I could just enjoy the adventure.
‘You can’t have sex with someone who thinks you’re a mirror – especially when they will never be satisfied by their own reflection’
Sebastian became an anecdote, a story I kept as a treasured souvenir from my single-girl days – until I found myself thinking about him five years later, in LA, while another man was on top of me. Andy was nearly twice my age, dazzlingly successful, with a phone full of famous friends. I was in California ostensibly to interview a pop star, but actually because I had a grown-up lover who was keen to seduce me in his suite at the Four Seasons. Unfortunately, Andy was bad in bed.
Hollywood had made a B-list performer out of him, and his conversation was full of Mary-Kates and Leos. He couldn’t manage pillow talk as he wasn’t interested in words that he couldn’t sell the movie rights to. While I was working out how to tell him that my clitoris was a full inch from where he thought it was, I realised I was a woman watching a man watching himself. You can’t have sex with someone who thinks you’re a mirror – especially when they will never be satisfied by their own reflection, or even convinced by it. It’s a cliché to go to LA and complain that everything is artificial, but our connection was as two dimensional as a plywood spaceship or a polystyrene moon. I was part of the problem. I’d allowed myself to be dazzled by the man Andy thought he was and hoped to absorb some of his status. I’m not even sure what Sebastian did for a living, but the sex had been amazing because he made me feel seen, and his tenderness and generosity gave me the space to look straight back.
All great sex is a form of travel. It’s getting away from it all – ‘all’ being whatever is in your head – and feeling completely connected with your body. I could travel 5,000 miles for sex with an Andy, while mentally remaining exactly where I was. But sex with someone as secure as Sebastian has the power to transform and transport you, no matter where you are.