22/30: Re: Against His Values

Just wanted to transparent about some things from that last post.

“Against his values” was not meant to shame or trash talk my ex from last summer. The purpose of that story was to shed some light on all the subtle ways people perpetuate stigmas, myself included. We’re still friends today because he’s a total sweetheart who would jump through fiery hoops if it meant protecting another human. I had a few people reach out to me afterwards sharing stories about their experiences with having hsv, and one of them mentioned that he no longer gets upset when people turn him down. I’m not offended by people being uneasy around the topic because if the tables were turned, I don’t know how I would’ve responded. When I first found out, I thought my life was over because jokes about vegas and dirty toilet seats were my only frame of reference.

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Except for herpes. That shit’ll stay with you.” – The Hangover

Over the past year, and more specifically, the past few months I’ve become a lot more open and confident when it comes to having these conversations (obviously, since I’m posting about it on the internet). You should always be concerned about your health, and I’ll always respect that everyone has their own way of responding. The boyfriend from last summer did not say it in a discriminatory manner, nor was he trying to make me feel bad – we still continued dating for a few more weeks and broke up because of something unrelated. At the time of that conversation, he was looking out for himself and thats a totally healthy response. But, instead of initiating a productive conversation about navigating hsv – I decided to shut it down immediately after because I didn’t know how to have that conversation. I chose to write about that interaction because I wanted to explain how I believed all the misinformation, stigma, and stereotypes about myself at the time.

Kelly: Can we please talk about how gross Meredith is?
Angela: This is what you get when you treat your body like an outhouse.” – The Office

I was never mad at him for saying it. Not then, not now. If I got mad at every person who has made a joke/questionable comment to my face since then, I’d find myself in a lot of conflicts because hsv is also a common punchline to countless easy, cheap jokes – jokes that I’ve definitely made without realizing that I was potentially insulting people straight to their face.

“There are certain things we know are impossible to get rid of – terrorism, herpes, and Guy Fieri – but the penny is a nuisance we could actually do something about.” – John Oliver

I heard my first joke two months after getting diagnosed. I was at work sampling a new beer we had on tap, and my coworker offered me a sample from hers before saying “don’t worry, I only have herpes *wink* HAH.” I’ve heard several variations of these jokes over the past 1.5 years, and I never really spoke up about them. I just responded with a slight chuckle because I didn’t want to make them feel bad about disrespecting me straight to my face. They didn’t mean it. In the before times, I’m sure I would’ve responded with another cheap, easy joke.

“Girlfriend: ‘Do you have herpes, Keith?

Keith: ‘The old Keith did, but this Keith? naw…he’s good.” – SNL 12/08/2020

These jokes have appeared in several shows as punchlines, such as SNL and Last Week Tonight, and I’ve even had close friends and family toss these jokes into casual conversation. They come up when you least expect it, like when you’re watching a comfort show or talking with strangers at a bar. Honestly, one of my new favorite hobbies is admitting that I have herpes after someone makes a joke. “HAH don’t worry, I only have herpes” “OH COOL, same – 1 or 2?!” It’s obvious that they didn’t mean to insult a friend, stranger, or potential hook-up straight to their face by the look of total panic that crosses their face as they realize what just happened.

“Herpes had to originate with a female, otherwise it would be called “hispes.” – from the 61+ best herpes jokes list

Hsv has become synonymous with shame, bad decisions, and poor sanitation through jokes like these. Most of us have been in a situation where after discussing a questionable hook-up, we were consoled by a friend saying “at least you didn’t get herpes.” These jokes aren’t funny and they are a direct result of our lack of education when it comes to inclusive sexual health. You know, sex-ed that doesn’t involve fear or bananas wearing condoms.


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