My Herpes Confession

The mention of it prompts awkward moments and ends relationship. So she just calls it "H."

by Bell • Member { View Profile }
Photograph: iStock

Another time I went on several dates with a young doctor. I couldn’t decide if I liked him enough to tell him. I always cooled his advances and declined his invitations back to his place. I was terrified to have the talk. I never did get a chance to tell him. He said he wasn’t going to start a “passionless” relationship and broke it off with me. I know he just wanted to have sex, but still, it was another failed attempt to date someone “worthy” of dating, on paper anyway.

My next strategy was to date an ex-boyfriend. We had stayed friends since we dated in our 20s, and when he admitted he was in a dating funk because he had recently found out that he had herpes, I told him, “I have it, too.” I was visiting him in Portland, Ore., when he told me, and we spent the afternoon drinking coffee on a sidewalk café exchanging our herpes stories. “Do you take meds?”  “What did she say when you told her you had it?”  “I absolutely hate having ‘the talk.'”  While sitting on his porch later, talking about other deep stuff, I realized this guy was one of my best friends, and when we were together, I wanted to be nowhere else. During his next trip to Denver, I told him how I felt and that I wanted to date him again. He thought it was weird since we’d been friends for so long.  Really, I think he didn’t trust me not to break his heart since I’d hurt him when we were younger. We made a good effort — plane trips and long weekends — but his heart just wasn’t in it. Crushed, I took a year off from men. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to meet someone new and have the herpes conversation.  Again. 

Finally, I joined a community called Colorado H Friends (I guess I’m not the only one that calls it “H”).  Maybe I just need to date from a pool of men who are infected, too, I reasoned. All awkward conversations avoided. However, walking into a room full of complete strangers, all looking to hook-up, is just as awkward, I soon found out.  When I finally got the guts to attend a happy hour, I walked in and was immediately targeted by several men. Fresh meat. The only guy there who was my age and attractive also scared me. He was shaved bald, tattooed, and pierced to the hilt. Not at all the type of guy I'd normally date. I quickly learned he was an unemployed construction worker. I didn’t see anyone else more promising, so we talked for a couple hours. At the end of the evening, he asked for my phone number. I said sure. By then, I had decided he was charming.

A couple of days in to our relationship, my new tattooed and pierced guy was arrested. His ex-girlfriend accused him of things he said he never did. I don’t even remember now what it was (maybe harassment?), but in the end, he was ordered to stay away from her for years or he’d go to jail. A couple of weeks later, while we were getting pedicures, he admitted that he had spent time in prison years before — again for things an ex-girlfriend said he did, but really, he didn’t do. He did confess to breaking into her house and destroying her fish tank, though, but that was about it. Instead of hightailing it home after that story, I had crazy, passionate sex with him back at his house. For once I wasn’t worried about being perceived as diseased, and he was a fantastic lover. The sex overrode my logic. Besides, he was smart. Really smart. And a great carpenter and dad to boot. But after a few months, when he was hanging out with his best female “friend” more than me, things got rocky. Plus, he touted the swinger lifestyle all the time, converting all of his friends, attending swinging events while I was left at home, all the while saying he was a “one-on-one” kind of guy. I got the hint.

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