Your personalised alarm ringtone, The Arcade Fire’s Wake Up, shocks you out of your slumber. Upon reaching over to deactivate your phone you see it’s 10.30 a.m and you’ve got exactly three hours before having to arrive at that family event hosted by your insanely domesticated little sister. Your senses begin to awaken; these are not my sheets and they smell distinctly like…WTF is that Lynx Africa? You sit upright this is not my bedroom either, but wait whose bedroom is this and where are they? Your eyes survey the room, a framed Death Cab For Cutie tour poster hangs in the far corner, things could be worse. The half open sliding wardrobe door is lined with minimalist shirts… no prints, no patterns, just muted palates. The nightstand! There must be a wallet on there that will give you an indication of their name. Fail no wallet only a copy of Think Like a Champion by Donald Trump…cue the Psycho score…shit what have you went home with? You can’t hear a shower running in their ensuite either. Perhaps you passed out and your friends took you back to their flatmates room to sleep off the Belvedere blackout? That’s like totes what happened, I mean you were pretty Chelsea Handler last night! Get your shit together, hope for some bacon on the frying pan downstairs and that there aren’t too many embarrassing tales to remind you of the aftertaste of last night. But wait, time for the final piece of the ONS forensic investigation kit. You lower your hand to your briefs; your index finger is slightly moist and sticky, perhaps you were highly aroused and brought a resurgence of a teen wet dream back in your drunken slumber, stranger things have happened when you’ve been trashed. But then your fingertips find one final piece of evidence to confirm the perpetrator, the residue of lube. It’s official another one nightstand has unfolded, but where are they? Do you even want to see psychical confirmation of them and are you in a suburb that will offer you a quick fire solution for that ‘bring a plate pre-requisite’ of this afternoons family gathering?
The unavoidable sequel to a one-night stand is of course the walk of shame and whether you like it or not, there is no way to avoid this installment. You’re probably in a different suburb or you at least pray to the goddesses of adulterated bedroom sheets that you are, so that the likelihood of bumping into someone you know is zero. You know coffee is needed to survive the trek ahead and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have sunglasses to give you a veil of protection from the judgment of strangers. So you arrive at a café, maybe you should explore this suburb with your friends more. It seems to have a lot to offer if the cafés lining the main strip and boutique stores igniting a scent of exploration, are anything to go by. You order a triple shot skinny small takeaway latte to fuel the journey ahead. The hung-over university student at the cash register flounders for buttons on the till. Your belly button feels a little itchy, you give it a scratch. The café worker is suddenly and inconveniently ready for your payment now. You search for a note in your pocket, hand over the note, smell the scent of semen and before you can pull the note back and search for some coins. You pass on the residue of last night to said café worker. Did they notice this? You leave the till and hide your gaze in a newspaper; you catch your reflection in the mirror. A shade of red wine lip has been lavishly applied, why did you not look in the mirror before scurrying out of that apartment? Your coffee arrives and the journey begins and as you open the café door to embrace the walk of shame ahead, you ask yourself, what can we learn from a walk of shame and why can’t it be a stride of pride? I mean you got some, tick! Your coupled friends probably just went home and passed out to the soundtrack of their partners snoring and maybe just maybe, last night could become a series of fortunate romantic events? But hold up, your getting ahead of yourself. I mean they haven’t texted you and you haven’t even contemplated sending them a message either and as for your main priority, well right now it’s getting home without dry reaching on the sidewalk.
Over my 28 years I have definitely experienced more walk of shames than I can count on my fingers, actually make that toes too. Does that make me a slut? To many a statistic like that most certainly would make me seem like a man hoe. But I strongly believe those who have experienced a series of walk of shames in their lifetime, are actually highly educated. From the narratives of a one night stand we become articulated and can confidently acknowledge what we like and don’t like, from form through to sexual exploration. The sensations of our heart and feelings are also much more rational, which is not to say that post some forays our head and heart is not painting canvases of romanticized future moments. But we do have the coherency to withhold, the ability to avoid anticipation and the competence to accept this adventure for what it is in the now, until signs that it could have a tomorrow arise.
Some seasons of my life have meant that my friends saw me more often on Ponsonby Road striding with pride and a permanent takeaway coffee clutch, then they did in person. Other one-night stands have allowed me to greet sunrises on hotel rooftops with a Brooklyn producer, sharing the same latitude as me for three days to film microwave lasagna commercials, and afforded me the cultural insights that no Lonely Planet guide could ever offer me. And there have been times when I’ve ended up saying yeah why not to a free breakfast at The Hilton. Only to find myself dining with twenty of my one night stands co-workers and needing to shine the bat signal across the city to my two loyal Go Girls. So that they could supercharge the Peugeot and meet me outside the hotel lobby ASAP!
Yet although a walk of shame can liberate us, provide us with a humorous brunch tale to share with our fold and ultimately leave us with shameful regret. They can also end up hurting others, like when you witness your mates new Romeo kissing Romy goodbye outside his apartment block or when you rush into your local pharmacy only to catch out of the corner of your eye your mate sharing lunch with your friends latest beau and affectionately caressing his hand as his eyes undress her blouse. But the most heart-wrenching post one night stand deposit to witness, is when you and your crew see your mates parent embracing the thrills of a stride of pride with someone else. Because in reality you not only have to unleash this news upon your friend, you also are about to release the ripple effects of what you saw upon their entire extended family.
Then of course there is the ultimate one nightstand and walk of shame. You know the one that really does leave you striding with ecstatic pride home. The cause of this stride of pride can vary, but usually it comes from sex and brunch. Sometimes this spring in our step becomes electrified by an intoxicating first date. One that leads to the kind of exhilarating sexual adventures that have your entire naked body weight wrapped around his chest, as he stands upright and passionately lashes your lips. This sensation is then followed by shower sex, morning sex, brunch at a café and then one last bedroom waltz back at their place before your journey home. Other times the penetration and verve of what happened once undressed is insignificant in comparison to how it felt spooning them all night, with their defined chest in your arms. And it’s the conversations that followed in the morning, as you lay lathe and naked searching into each other’s eyes and sharing your worldviews. Before going for brunch to only connect and share more, that leave you beaming with elation as you spontaneously kiss them goodbye, before literally skipping through the park home like Nina Proudman.
Yet the best stride of pride comes when for the first time in months, after yearning for a love lost or person you really shouldn’t have fallen for. You wake up in the arms of someone new. Someone who wants you to stay for brunch even though you know you really must get to that pre-arranged brunch date with your Fitzroy girl pal. Someone who when you farewell them at the doorstep of their tastefully tailored home, asks “can I show you that exhibition we spoke of next weekend”? And as you bounce out of their apartment block and through that Autumn leaf lined courtyard, worthy of a Serena Van Der Woodsen voice over, you beam with the brightest smile. Not because you scored, not because the vista in front of you is radiant either. But because as you stride with pride upon the walk of shame home. You know at last that you’ve been awoken from the slumber of that ill-fated romance and liberated by the possibilities of new heartbeats.
So whether you need a one night stand to fuck away the pain of your stressful working week. Whether you need a walk of shame to remove you from the rut of an expired romance or you simply need one to remind you that sensations can be embraced, experienced and savored fondly without attachment. The next time you find yourself on a bustling sidewalk without the mask of your sunglasses and inhaling a strong caffeinated revitalizer. Stride with pride, because last night you didn’t make the biggest mistake of your life, you made one of the most sensible decisions of your life. You allowed yourself to feel alive again in the embrace of another.
Written by Samuel Elliot Snowden