Even though I’ve been doing the dance of herpes for 10 years now, it only dawns on me recently that I settle far too often for men who aren’t what I want or deserve because I feel like I’m damaged goods. Even though I’m educated, successfully employed, attractive, have a good credit score, and have never been to jail, I find it hard to date a man who’s my equal.
The first guy I dated after I found out was married. Not only that, I had never met him. We were both gamers on my dad’s Unreal Tournament server. A big group of us played online sniper shooting games almost every night, talking to each other over the microphone. This was during my geeky gaming addiction phase.
“Hopper” had seen my photo and was crazy about me. He was always complimenting me and turning on the charm. First we only flirted in the game—his avatar seducing mine—but soon we were chatting when we weren’t gaming. In our first phone call, I told him I had just found out I that had herpes and was devastated. I told him: “No one is going to want to date me now.” He said “I would!” That was good enough for me. Soon after, I was on a plane to Reno for a weekend romp in a cheap casino hotel on the strip. The fact that he was married, unemployed, lazy, constantly smoking pot, and a cheater didn’t even phase me. At first. It didn’t last long, though. I do have my limits. And so does my credit card. Funding our long-distance affair by myself got very expensive.
The second guy I dated after the diagnosis was my neighbor. He’d been asking me out for two years. I always said no because we could see into each other’s condos, and our balconies faced each other’s. I told him, “If we don’t work out, I don’t want to have to army-crawl my way to the balcony to have a cigarette outside, knowing you’ll be out there smoking, too.” But I’d already told him about the “Big H,” and he didn’t care. He kept asking me out anyway. Finally, I gave in. He liked me for who I was, flaws and all. But unfortunately, I couldn’t like him flaws and all: He was often angry, had creditors hounding him, had little ambition, and had a really shady past. Oh, and he smoked pot constantly, too.
I knew it was over after he blew up over something ridiculous and refused to keep our plans to take his daughter to the pumpkin patch. She was so disappointed, as 4-year-olds can be, and instead of just sucking it up for the sake of his kid, her day was ruined. I held my breath through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year and then, thankful the holidays were over, ended it. I spent the next two years dateless and sex-free, though, afraid he’d wig out if he saw a man through my living-room window. When I finally did start dating, he was either cold to me or yelling at me. If I shut my blinds, I was shutting him out of my life. If I left them open, I was rubbing it in his face. I moved.
After that, I really wanted to make better choices. That’s where Marty came in. I quit smoking and joined eHarmony. Marty was my first attempt at dating a “good” guy after dating the other post-diagnosis messes. He had a master's degree like me, was gainfully employed like me, owned his house like me, had migraines like me, and loved animals, just like me. But my confession put an end to any romance that may have been brewing. Marty and I have stayed friends, though. Turns out we were not a good match. He’s a bit too conservative. “What? The guy I just met—your roommate—is…gay?” The look of stunned horror in his eyes said it all. Unfortunately, it took me years to realize he wouldn’t have been a good match, and I wasted some of that time longing for what I thought was a real catch, the feeling of rejection hanging on like the smell of cigarette smoke.