You Have Herpes: What Now?
Stop the shame
“I’m an unloved leper.”
I’d bet that when most people find out they have herpes, they think their dating life is over. It’s really not. Of course, if you are about to get with a new partner, you should inform them ahead of time that you have herpes. Some people will freak out and some really won’t care.
There are people out there who don’t tell someone they sleep with that they are infected because they think they won’t get laid, so they think putting someone else at risk is okay. These people are worse than a double-feature of Elektra and Catwoman.
But what does happen to your love life?
Ella Dawson wrote a piece for Women’s Health entitled “Why I Love Telling People I Have Herpes”.
After being diagnosed in college, she went through a gambit of emotions until after six months she decided to accept it, embrace it, and eventually shove it in other people’s faces:
“My favorite disclosure happened when a guy made a joke while chatting me up at a party. He offered me the rest of his expensive beer and said with a wink, ‘Don’t worry, I don’t have herpes or anything.’ I had a choice to make. I could laugh his comment off and pretend it didn’t hurt, but that would mean laughing at myself. Or I could steer into the skid and stop being so afraid of what people thought.
‘That’s funny,’ I said, with as warm a smile as I could manage. ‘Yeah, that’s really funny. Because I have genital herpes.’ His face crumbled. Not because I grossed him out—I could practically see the wheels turning in his brain as he realized he’d made an ignorant joke at someone else’s expense. The guy started apologizing profusely.”
If more people were aware of how prevalent herpes is in our country, they probably wouldn’t make assumptive jokes about it.
Any anonymous woman in NYC wrote of her experience having herpes for The Hairpin, which she entitled “The Perks of Herpes”.
The woman managed to find the benefits of having herpes, which was that in disclosing her affliction, she could weed out the f**kboys and the like. She met men who chose her “awesomeness” over her “cellular flaw,” meaning her personality over her herpes.
“The Conversation continued to ruin my life after dark; disclosure brought the othering I had dreaded. But wait a minute! I thought. I’m still desirable. Men still eagerly come to my bed. Down there, I looked and felt the same as I always had.
Even if my male peers had been forged by the same awful sex-ed that I had, surely I meant enough to them to at least do some research before rejecting me, right?
That’s when I realized I was picking the wrong men.
Before herpes, I didn’t think about my body much. But the virus had jolted me into self-awareness. I ate better. I exercised more. I felt more fragile and powerful and worthy of careful handling than ever. Herpes, oddly, did not turn me into damaged goods. Instead, it became a filter for expendable men in my life.”