Dating someone who has herpes
“Then I’m glad I’m going.” I snatched the bra he had struggled to free and the top I lustfully tore off minutes ago. I remember whispering to my neighbor, who, wide-eyed, nodded in agreement. ” The exam room was sparkling and sterile; the stirrups cold. (Spoiler alert: everything down there was in proper order.) Months later, during a visit home, my father: “What’s the difference between love and herpes? “Herpes lasts forever.” *** Eventually, the virus that lay dormant inside of me slayed my fear of sex. I’m gonna go.” He jumped into his jeans and out the door. Let’s just fuck.” He was bleary eyed and hazy, the sex jabby and inhuman.
Here was someone I had kissed, dated, and genuinely liked. And then, definitely aloud: “I have herpes.” Silence. “But before you freak out,” I said as casually as I could, “let me tell you about it.” “The transmission risks are tiny,” I started, and they are: about 2–4 percent from woman to man, depending on condom use. I’d worry about how to escape this foreign part of Brooklyn later. Bye then,” I said, stepping toward him, him, a body shellshocked on the bed. So I made a sort of ill-informed compromise with my sexual cravings: everything but. Down there, I looked and felt the same as I always had. And then one day at the office I met him, a tall, dark-haired, sunkissed drink of coworker water. Thanks to herpes, I took things slow, until the temptation to make things NSFW grew too strong. I untwined my legs and sat up, hopped off the bed, and picked up my underwear. This was always the weirdest part: negotiating a leave. Pictures of the clap danced in my head whenever I had penetration to consider, even in college. The nurse, a bespectacled woman with short hair and a slight waddle, delved into the center of my spreadeagle. “Well,” she said lightly after I had tied my paper gown, “it looks like someone was a little overzealous down there! I had educated myself about STIs and the medicines available to fight them; the whiteboard images of unchecked disease were erased. The first time I told a man, I couldn’t help but cry. The second time, we — a different he — were stoned. The Conversation continued to ruin my life after dark; disclosure brought the othering I had dreaded. I felt more fragile and powerful and worthy of careful handling than ever. Instead, it became a filter for expendable men in my life. “And one in four or five people have it, even though most people don’t know since a standard STI test doesn’t test for it,” I said. In short, herpes hasn’t had such a significant impact on my life. I thought if I kept it light and perfunctory, his reaction might not be so bad. Ever since I had said the word, his hand had frozen on my stomach, started to sweat. Like he had many times before, the boy from the party went down on me. Right away, the scene of the crime was burning, sore, but nothing I hadn’t experienced before. That’s when I realized I was picking the wrong men. As we waited for our results, we giggled conspiratorially, stuffing little packets of lube from the fishbowl into our pockets. My risks are likely even lower; I got genital herpes from oral sex, and HSV-1 is even harder to transmit to a partner’s genital region. “It’s much harder for a woman to give it to a man, and to my knowledge, I’ve never given it to anyone,” I finished. Until nearly the end of college, I still hadn’t had a dick inside of me, but I’d had plenty of tongues. 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? We finally kissed: in his apartment, by the fish tank, his room steps away. He didn’t know what to say, but held me tight throughout our first sleepover. “You’re worth the risk.” Our first real date was to the testing center, where we got checked for everything else.