This Girl Who Got Herpes at 15 Still Has a Totally Normal Dating Life
Herpes is one of the STDs that seems to be the butt of every joke, leading everyone to think that as an incurable STD, it will ruin your life.
But if you talk to one of the 1 in 6 people in the US who actually has the disease, you’ll realize that herpes is kind of no big eal. Many people who are diagnosed with herpes only have an initial outbreak rash and then never experience symptoms again. Even those who do experience multiple outbreaks can easily get rid of them with medication. The only time when herpes is dangerous is when someone has a partner with HIV or if an outbreak occurs during the third trimester of pregnancy, which is incredibly rare.
In fact, the biggest struggle that people with herpes have to face is not the actual symptoms, but the stigma surrounding the disease.
For obvious reasons, you’d assume this can damper someone’s dating life, which is why sites like Meet People With Herpes (MPWH for short) are popping up to serve people affected by the disease. We talked to one new user on the site about how getting herpes at age 15 affected her life, and you’ll be surprised to find out that in the 20 years since her dating life has actually been pretty – dare we say – normal? Answers have been edited for clarity.
You got herpes at 15, how did you handle that?
I had sex with this guy and then my friend came up to me like a week later and said she had sex with the same guy and got herpes, telling me I needed to get tested. I was freaking out because no one was supposed to know that I got with this guy and that was the one thing I was thinking about at the time.
And then I got it, so I went to the local health department in my town and I started crying in the changing room, and that was the last time I cried about it, because after that it was kinda like well, what do I do from here?
I was really mad at the guy at first because he knew he had it and he didn’t tell anybody. I hated him for like, two years, and then when I came to the realization that it’s my body and it’s my responsibility to keep it safe, I was like, “okay, so I can’t be mad at this guy anymore.” From then on I made the decision to tell everybody before we got intimate about it. That kinda keeps me sane about it.
That’s good that you had such a realistic outlook about the whole thing.
Yeah, but I came to terms with it at 17. There were two years before that when you know, I’d be sleeping around and I was freaking out that someone might get it and they’d be mad at me, I felt like shit. But once I started telling people, it was okay. I figured I was letting that person have a choice that I didn’t have.
So at what point do you normally tell somebody?
Well for a long time it was right before we had sex, and then I realized that that wasn’t the best time because you know, guys don’t make the best decisions then.
No, definitely not.
I’m seeing a guy right now and I haven’t told him yet, but we’ve only hugged a couple times, we haven’t even kissed or anything. It’s really hard and nerve-wracking. I mean, I tell a lot of people I have it, I talk to friends about it, and what’s really cool about that is they tell me their experience with it because some have it or know people who have it, and they’re just like, “oh, it feels so good to talk about it because no one talks about it.”
And so many people have it, so you know that someone you know is bound to have it.
Exactly, and a lot of people do have it that I’ve talked to. I tell other people about it and I don’t have a problem with it, it’s just when it’s a guy I like. I’m not big on rejection, so I guess that’s the biggest fear. But, I’ve told a lot of people that I’ve slept with and a lot of people don’t even care. They’re like, “oh, I’m glad you told me.”
Have you ever had a bad reaction when you told somebody?
No. This one guy I told, I don’t think he knew what it was, he got it confused with HPV and he called it the Herpes Papilloma Virus, and I had to Google it with him. But I’ve had two guys that didn’t want to actually have sex with me, but we still kind of messed around.
So what is your experience with the website MPWH?
I just recently got on MPWH a month and a half ago. I went on at first to find guys to date or hook up with because I really like sex, you know? I started going on the blogs and I discovered that I like the site more for talking to other people who have it, especially the new people who come on, cause I’ve had it for 20 years now. I like going on there, talking to people who just got it and they’re kinda freaking out.
Yeah, just calming them down about the whole thing.
And people have questions like when they should tell someone or how you tell someone. Or people think their lives are over. I’m a really positive person, I try to bridge the positivity.
Have you ever actually hooked up with someone with herpes?
I don’t think so. I know I gave it to three people, and I told them before we got it on, and it was before I started taking the medication. One guy, after I broke up with him, went around saying, “that bitch gave me herpes!” Which is fine, whatever, he sounds miserable. I’m not miserable, I feel sorry for him. But the last guy I was with for two and a half years, he didn’t get it, because I was on the medication and everything. But then again, people have it and don’t show signs of it, so you never know.
So what do you think is the biggest misconception people have about herpes?
That people get it and their life is over and it’s so horrible and everything. A few years after I got it, I would poll people and I would be like would you rather have it on your mouth or down there? And most people said down there so people can’t see it.People think it’s worse than it really is. To me it’s no big deal, but like you said, there’s such a stigma on it and it sounds so horrible. You know what’s funny, I think I got it because when I was 13, I got mad at my boyfriend for breaking up with me so I wrote *his name* has herpes on my backpack in Wite-Out, so I think that’s karma biting my ass.
It’s the type of disease that tends to be the butt of a lot of jokes when it’s really, medically, one of the least harmful STDs.
Exactly. What’s funny is I tell all those herpes jokes too and I think it’s funny when people get around and talk about it and how horrible and dirty it is and I join in because it’s funny.
So have you used other dating apps before?
No, I’ve had one long-term boyfriend after the other, like overlapping each other since high school. I just recently started the online thing, but I don’t even know if I like it. I haven’t been single in a long time and I hate it.
So do you think because you have herpes, it’s easier for you to be in a bunch of long-term relationships so you don’t have to kinda go through the process of telling people all the time?
It would be easier, but I don’t know. The struggle of it and the uncomfortableness of it makes me stronger, there’s always something good on the other side of it, even if it’s with a person who does reject me. It still shows that person that people are still good, they’re still honest.
Back to when you were diagnosed at 15, did you tell your parents?
I don’t think I told my parents until later. Like my mom and I are really close and I think after I turned 17, she and I started talking about everything and I think that’s when I told her. Telling people about it, it makes me more and more comfortable talking about it, minus telling the guy I’m about to get intimate with, that does not get easier.
Obviously when you have to tell somebody, it’s very tough for you, so what would you like other people to know about that process?
In my experience telling people, I haven’t really had a negative reaction, so I guess the only thing I can say about it is being honest about anything helps your self-esteem. If you hide stuff so people will like you more, that’s just a vicious cycle.
What advice would you have for other girls or guys who are in the same situation who are affected at a young age and they don’t really know how to handle it?
Talk to people about it. Talk to other people who are going through the same thing. They could learn from other people. Like MPWH, it turns out it’s not just a dating site for me, it’s a support group.