After being diagnosed with herpes, I had no idea how to date. I wasn’t sure how long you wait to tell someone, how to tell them, what to expect, how it’ll feel. I want to periodically share some of my first dating experiences/dating disasters with herpes, to show the variety of situations that come up. At the very least you’ll be glad you weren’t me for a few of these. This is the first of those dates…

No matter how well adapted you are to the art of conversation and dating, when you combine these two realms with having herpes things can get a little messy. Conversations with the person you’re dating about your herpes aren’t very fun. They can be scary. You’ll be nervous. You don’t know what that person will do. Ever. To illustrate my point clearer, I’ll take you on a journey of the different reactions a person could potentially give you when you have the “I Have Herpes” talk. Welcome to the first man I dated after contracting herpes; he is the first date that is going to suck for both of us.

Before herpes I had no qualms of having a sex life right away with men I probably had no business chatting to let alone sleeping with. That’s one plus, you hopefully think deeper about what you’re doing in the sex department. Which hopefully matures you.

My date began innocently enough. We stuck with the tried and true plan of a movie, minus the dinner. When the movie ended, without the prospect of dinner on the horizon, we swung into a bar for a drink. I highly recommend not doing what I did next if you have recently begun a dating life with herpes that you know nothing about; and if you are on a date with someone you definitely know nothing about; AND you are drinking.

We went home together.

In my innocent mind, I assumed we wouldn’t be rushed into anything too sexual that would force me to confront my situation so early on. In reality, two adults that are sexually attracted to each other that go home together on the first date are getting themselves into a sexual situation on some level. It began innocently enough with the two of us in bed together, kissing, before I panicked, and blurted out that I had something to tell him. Immediately, I felt his body tighten up and he scooted away from me waiting to hear what I was going to say next. I told him point blank, very ungracefully, that I had herpes. I was terrified to tell him so I didn’t even have more to say than that one sentence, really. I was also extremely uncomfortable with the situation I had gotten myself into and wished more than anything I had waited longer to go home with him. But, I didn’t and had to deal with it.

His reaction was not much of anything. He said alright, politely thanked me for telling him, kissed me a bit longer, then he said I should head home because it was getting late. I actually thought maybe this wasn’t really going to be such a big deal after all.

Which gets us to Reaction #1: the slow fade. The slow fade happens for many reasons, and it’s usually a similar experience for all of us. Suddenly, the person you’re dating becomes unavailable for plans; then suddenly stops telling you they’re unavailable; then becomes full blown unavailable by never responding to any of your calls or texts. All of this while never giving you any explanation.

I highly recommend, (which shouldn’t be too difficult if you’re more emotionally stable than I was), to absolutely not corner someone when they clearly have drifted away from being interested in you. When I began to realize what was happening, and that my date was no longer interested in me because I had herpes, I was naturally devastated. I was also pretty pissed. I was angry that I couldn’t attract people as ‘easily’ as I used to because I had this hanging over my head. I felt like I was restricted in who I could become involved with now.

So I called him, and forced him to explain to me why he was no longer interested in me. He very politely told me it indeed was because I had herpes, and that he didn’t feel comfortable enough with it to continue seeing me. I screamed at him, through tears, “I’m not my disease! Herpes doesn’t define me and I’m so much more than that”. That might’ve actually been compelling had I not been acting like a full blown crazy person at that point. We also collectively went on about four dates. So that escalated quickly.

It is painfully clear to myself, and I’m sure anyone else, that I handled this all wrong. I learned don’t take your date home with you on the first night. (Yes, I should’ve already known this). Don’t put a complete stranger and yourself into such an intimate and vulnerable situation on a first date. Don’t start the conversation off in a tone that’s going to make both of you extremely uncomfortable. Finally, don’t attack your date for their decision in the matter. Everyone should be allowed to have a choice about whether or not this is something they can or want to try to work through. This isn’t an easy discussion, but it is true that the way you present the information affects the way the other person reacts.

That date definitely sucked for both of us.