I still remember how I felt during my first year of having herpes: angry, alone, and dirty. I remember crying on the phone to my sister, desperately looking for support groups in my college town where I could turn to for help and understanding. But there was something about my sister’s reaction that made me think seeing a support group for herpes was overly dramatic, so I never visited any of them. Then before I knew it I had a loving boyfriend and accepting friends who all knew my condition, and I never looked back…well, until now. Five years later, out of curiosity (or possibly an excuse to explore more regions of the Internet) I decided to sign up with a herpes dating website and an online social group for people with herpes in my area. I have to say, I’m still a little uncomfortable with it all.
First of all, I actually haven’t finished signing up with the herpes site. The lengthy process involved opening a new email account and getting an assigned number so that later I could make a user name…all this administrative run-around ad nauseum. I got so turned around in it all that I finally just gave up. I understand wanting to keep everything private and anonymous (believe it or not, my name is not actually Penelope James ;-)), but this was just too much for me. I mean, I’ve dated people who don’t have herpes, so is it really necessary for me to limit my options now to only herpes carriers? It doesn’t really make sense.
Has anyone else tried herpes dating? Has something so great come of it that I can be persuaded to continue?
As for the social group that organizes events in my area for people with herpes, it also feels like a bit much. I opened yet another email account for that, and received about fifty emails in a matter of days. Man, these people sure like to party, and carpool, and remind each other of parties, and travel to parties, and discuss accommodations for parties…you get the point. I’m interested in going to an event, but it still feels a little forced. Like I’m supposed to be friends with people because we both have an incurable, but non life-threatening, virus. Whatever. I have at least a half a dozen friends who don’t have herpes but who know that I have herpes and still like to hang out with me. In fact, I’m a resource for them, frequently answering questions about whether they’ve put themselves at risk, what the symptoms are, clearing up common misconceptions, etc. (Hey, you don’t get this fancy “Expert” title for nothing!) Now that I think about it, I may actually be benefitting the general population by being friends with non-herpes carriers, and spreading knowledge and awareness to those who are unaware.
I’m not saying that participating in a herpes social group is a bad thing. I’m sure it’s been really great for many people and is an excellent way to meet people and make friends. But I’m a very social person as it is, so I’ve actually unknowingly made friends with people with herpes, and more often HPV, on my own. It was really exciting when I found out that some pretty close friends of mine also have herpes and HPV, and to know I can have serious discussions with them about sexual health issues that I can’t have with anyone else. But I didn’t meet these friends because of STDs. Our diseases were just more things we had in common that we could laugh and cry about.
I guess what I’m trying to say is even though herpes is a part of me, I don’t want it to define me. I would like to sit in on support groups, so that I can maybe help people who feel desperate the way I have in the past. But I feel silly seeking out friends and lovers who specifically have herpes, when I know that healthy people will also love me just as much. I don’t need another reminder that I have herpes, and I think joining a group like that, for me, would counteract my desire to live a “normal” life and not let herpes consume me.
Is anyone else involved in a herpes social group? How have your experiences been?
Published On: December 13, 2008