In the beginning of the New Year I disabled and deleted all my online dating apps. I went cold turkey; I cut them all off. As I write this post, I am 15 days sober, and I realized that I over-estimated the number of horrible stories I had. Now I am faced with the question- Where do I want this blog to go? There a still a healthy amount of dating mishaps I will divulge but the topic of this post is essential to fully understand the upcoming stories. This post of extreme open-vulnerability IS LONG BUT NECESSARY. I will explain how I emerged from the flames and entered into a world of self-love and self-discovery, that I might not have otherwise experienced, had it not been for the below. So, I hope that at the conclusion of this post; you take a moment to be open and honest with yourself and start to change your mind about all that you thought you knew.
I lost my virginity at the age of fourteen. I wasn’t in love or anything, I just thought the guy was cute and I wanted to get it over with. After that, I had a string of high-school boyfriends (at which time, dating for a month was the emotional equivalent of being married). I was never the girl your mother warned you about- because I would travel far and wide to do my dirt. Armed with thick bottle-cap glasses and my Catholic school uniform- no one could detect my true-sexual identity. In my late teens and during college I had a few flings here and there. After a long-term break up, that rocked me to my core (stay tuned for that one), I took a few months off from dating and then I met HIM- the one that would become THE EX THAT NEVER LEFT
We connected on BlackPlanet.com. He was educated, handsome, and he demonstrated a genuine interest for me and my likes. He was a stark contrast to the men I had dated and slept with before; he put a smile on my face and I never felt so secure. We would joke together, laugh together, and one day he even met my mom. It wasn’t official introduction, but it meant a lot that he joked with her, rather than evade conversation. When he took me out for my birthday; I wore a dress that I made and he complimented me on it, which made me feel very good. All was going well, until it wasn’t. After about 5 months of perfection he became unreachable, and we started seeing each other less and less. Eventually after two weeks of him pulling away, I sent him a message- I guess you no longer have interest. Wish you all the best. I concluded that he had started seeing someone else, so I left it alone.
Two weeks later he popped back into my life- but not in a way I could see coming…
It wasn’t the horror show you find online when you google; mine was much like a mosquito bite, which was why it didn’t cause for alarm at first. But when nothing aided in easing the discomfort, I showed my mom (a RN) and her friend and I went to my GYN. A week later, when my doctor finally confirmed my suspicions, my response was: “For all the years that I’ve been fucking- it’s the time that I’m in a committed relationship that I get herpes? YOU’VE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME!” Yes; He gifted me with Genital Herpes Type 2. WHAT THE ENTIRE FUCK!!!!! My young mind, in its early twenties, could not understand how this could’ve happened. I was doing everything right: I asked him all the questions: When was his last test? What were his results? -He assured me everything was fine. We used protection (condoms) and I know I wasn’t fucking anyone else; so why me, why now, and how?
Through my research I discovered the following: He very well, may not have known he had it prior to me. Why? You ask. How could he not know? You ask. Well here’s your answer.
1- People can be carriers and never have symptoms of the virus. So, people who never have an outbreak will automatically assume that they don’t have herpes, and yet, may pass it on to their partners.
2- Doctors don’t willingly include herpes testing. On a medical scale of diseases and viruses in the world- herpes is at the bottom of the list. I can remember getting tested, for years, and not once was herpes ever included. Sure, they tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and syphilis; because if left untreated these could actually lead to cancer, infertility, and/or death. But, herpes- NOPE! So, since one has to specifically ask for it; and, (back to point 1) if you have no symptoms- why would you.
3- It’s everywhere. Another major reason why doctors don’t test for herpes is because 80% (every site will indicate a different number) of the population is living with or has had some form of the herpes virus. For example, if you ever had chicken pox – that’s a strain of herpes; if you get older and develop shingles – that too is a strain of the herpes virus. The blisters people call cold sores is also a strain of the herpes virus. The only difference is the strain, stigma, and location of the outbreak. People with oral herpes aka cold sores (commonly HSV1, but can also be HSV2) don’t go around telling everyone about it; they live their life, kiss and date and be merry. However, people with genital herpes (whether Type 1 or Type 2) are expected to disclose. There is a reason there’s a rise in Genital Herpes Type 1 cases. Ever got head or ate pussy from a someone? Well- there you go.
4- And lastly, he simply could have neglected to inform me. As horrible as that idea may seem – it’s just as much a possibility as the above are. I eventually had to take responsibility for my actions and my decision to take his word as truth. But, take it a step further…
Think about it- Did you ever had a one-night-stand? Did you ever meet a person and have sex (intercourse or oral) that night? Did you ask the person you were dating when they were tested last? Did you go and get tested together, just to be sure? Did you abstain from sex the required 3-6 months it takes your body to build antibodies once a virus is detected? Do you always use condoms (not just for intercourse, but for oral as well)? Do you follow your partner everywhere they go, to make sure they are being faithful? If you answer no to any of the above, you too, could have found yourself in my situation. You were just lucky not to.
The occurrences of my outbreaks (1-2 a year) were as annoying as random mosquito bites. So, even though I wish I didn’t have this- I still consider myself lucky. The worst part of this virus is THE STIGMA attached to it. The idea that people would think you’re dirty (I take 3 showers a day sometimes), or a slut (I prefer the term sexually-free) is more painful and always in the background of my mind.
During the many years and conversations, I’ve had with thousands of people I can confirm that, there is no direct relation between sexuality and herpes. I met people who were born with herpes or contracted it from sharing a beverage with a parent or friend. I met virgins that were gifted by their first partner, women and men that were gifted by their cheating spouses, people who were victims of rape and/or sexual assault, people that could count on one hand their partners and acquired their gift, and people that fell in love with a positive person and made the decision to stay with them. I also know sex workers and porn stars (with hundreds and thousands of partners) that are herpes negative. Herpes does not care who you are, how sexual you are, your nationality, religion, salary, etc. It simply does not care and having this virus does not change who a person is.
So, after the initial wave of devastation passed, I confided in a close group of friends, one of which had a history of cold-sores (Oral Herpes) and asked her how she dated with the virus. I didn’t run into conversations exposing my diagnosis, but I told my partners on a ‘need to know’ basis and it worked, for years. When I would enter relationships, I would tell my partners and, luckily, they were all accepting. The fear that often lurked in the back of my mind: What’s he going to think? Will he hate me? Will he break up with me? Was always put at ease the moment he said ‘It’s ok. I still want to be with you. Thank you for telling me. And, “This doesn’t change how I feel about you”. I was lucky to have met men that were accepting of my status; and to this date, I have been successful in never transmitting my virus to a partner.
Fast forward some more years- I had concluded that, if the man really liked me, and was ok with getting to get to know me before trying to have sex, my disclosure conversation (DC) would go over much better. This worked out great; until I broke up with my last ex (The Ex Files) and started dating again. After him It was obvious that I was in a very new world of dating and I was totally clueless to the rules of the game.
Long gone were the days of conversation; everyone wanted to ask me my favorite position. So long was the idea of meeting up for a first date; everyone wanted to send me dick-pics and get a confirmation of sex. Hell, even the corny guys were playing the fast game. How the hell was I going to manage my newly found sexually-free identity with my status? Would I be outcasted as a leper? Would I be forced into celibacy? I didn’t like the idea of either. I could limit my dating pool to people in my similar situation, but I never liked limits and the people on those sites were just as bad as other online dating apps. So, I took a chance and I figured the only way to discover what would happen, would be to dive right in; and I’ll admit what I found was quite empowering, and I hope you stay tuned for more.