He felt less pressure to decide immediately whether or not he was comfortable proceeding, and I felt less like a freak asking someone to decide if sleeping with me was worth contracting an incurable illness.
As fate would have it, he quickly decided I was awesome, but I still didn’t quite feel like myself. I don’t know what made me decide enough was enough.
But this was easier to know than to actually believe.
The next six months were a bit like learning to walk again—I stumbled around like a baby deer, too heavy for my own body.
In fact, the same could be said for most of the sex I’ve had since I was diagnosed with genital herpes two years ago.
of my 21st birthday, I woke up to find a cluster of painful red sores on my labia.
I tried to convince myself I was having some sort of allergic reaction to a new pair of underwear, but Google-searching my symptoms pointed in one, very specific direction: an STD.
He apologized and said he had just gotten over chlamydia and wasn’t in a rush to gamble with his sexual health again. Andy was working on a political campaign in Maine while I finished a social media internship in New York City.And after texting for two months about how much we wanted to see each other—and have sex with each other—he and I were finally standing side by side.He asked me without any trace of judgment what having an STD meant for my sex life, and I answered that condoms were a must.He nodded contemplatively before changing the topic.Rebuilding my sense of self was harder than getting over the symptoms of my first outbreak, which only lasted about a week and a half, thanks to Valtrex and a ton of Extra-Strength Tylenol.After a few weeks of isolating myself from the world, I made my first foray into dating and the conversation it now required.Although I respected his decision, I wasn’t able to separate his rejection of the virus from his rejection of me.I was devastated, and it felt like getting diagnosed all over more successful.Further Google searches opened my eyes to the powerful and invisible stigma associated with sexually transmitted diseases.Stigma is what keeps people from chatting about herpes the way they discuss allergies—we associate genital herpes with liars, cheaters, and the rampantly promiscuous.