Q: I am a 30-something, single, straight woman who is pretty active in the dating scene, or at least trying to be. A year ago, I tested positive for herpes. Now I’m having trouble figuring out how to be as active in dating with this new issue. How and when do I tell people?
A: I’ve heard this question a lot, and for good reason: One in five people have either the oral or genital form of herpes. Say you’ve dated 20 people in your single life — four of them had the virus.
Good news: You already know and you’ve already decided to tell your potential partners about it. (More good news: You are not a dick.) I know it can be an awkward thing to discuss and you may fear rejection. I won’t sugarcoat it: You should start becoming comfortable with your wording, your approach and your timing. By the fifth time you’ve told a date, you may find it rolling off your tongue. You may not. But you’ll need to learn to embrace the discomfort because it may not go away. Like many things, it’s all in the anticipation. The buildup will likely prove more nerve-racking than the actual talk.
Herpes doesn’t define you, it’s just part of your complete package. So date normally, highlight your best qualities, and when you feel like somebody’s worthy of knowing, or you’re getting close to sexual intimacy, then try to reveal it with confidence. Especially as people get older, they anticipate that potential partners have a few bumps and bruises from life: divorce, child-support payments, 14-hour work days, bad credit, etc. Herpes is your bump, your bruise, and it’s not worse or better than anyone else’s. Remember that.
It might help to think of herpes like it’s your fairy godmother who sits on your shoulder at dates whispering into your ear “Frito-breath guy? Really? He’s a nope.” Your herpes story is an automatic disqualifier for the anxious, mean, closed-minded and just generally uninterested possibilities out there. Yes, there’s the possibility of rejection when you tell someone you have herpes, but there’s also the possibility you find out how kind, open and loving they are before you had a right to.