SG and I had a talk today.
As I mentioned, I went through another round of testing for HSV2. He caught me the day before I got retested when he called asking to schedule some time with me. I had to decline given the situation, and as I promised him back last summer, I told him what was going on.
That news isn’t easy to hear, so I wasn’t surprised by the reaction. I’m way too blunt for my own good and have never learned the subtle art of breaking news. I tend to take the bandaid approach, do it quick to try to keep it painless.
His reaction was appreciation at my honesty. Taken back at the fact this was coming up again so soon. And just a 180 from where he was hoping the conversation would be headed. A few hours later, his wife updated her status on Facebook and the wording made me feel that my news had screwed with the day.
When processing the situation myself, I realized I needed to be very black and white with him. I realized he needed to understand the larger more lasting effects of the decision. He needed to understand that his is “if” in terms of his risk while my risk is a “when” I get a positive diagnosis.
So, that was the conversation I had with him. I told him he and his wife needed to talk again. I gave them a list of things to consider. I explained that condoms were not 100%. I explained how virus shedding works for HSV2. I explained how quickly he could transmit it back to her. We discussed how the swingers they play with would react to the diagnosis. We discussed if they were ready to drop out of the scene. These are things that I wanted to make sure they considered.
By the end of the conversation, SG was clearly wanting me to give him some news to say “if we do XYZ, we’ll be 100% safe from the risks.” I explained as clearly as I could that there was no sure thing. You could do everything and still get it. Just the way it is.
Last summer, I should have said these things to him. I know I said some of it, but I tried to be optimistic. Everyone around me was saying “Oh…bad news for G, good news for you – but no more play – I won’t take the risk.” And the hurt was hard. Many of these people drifted away given the “dirty” status. Friendships that were going to “not change due to this news” were almost all changed with the news.
When SG was not in that camp, I was relieved and happy. I tried to educate him just to make sure he knew what he was getting into, but in hindsight, I don’t think I pushed him enough to consider all angles. Seeing how easily things can change after a short amount of time, I couldn’t do that again. I look back at last summer and wonder if I did that out of selfishness or inexperience with it all. I hate the idea that it could have been selfishness.
I have since made it a policy to inform anyone I play with 1×1 – upfront. While the upfront conversation is difficult, it is better than the post-positive discussion whereby you have to either hide the fact you knew this was a major risk factor for you (but you neglected to tell them) – or be honest and incur the wrath of someone who feels betrayed that you made that decision for them because you didn’t tell them beforehand. Since I don’t lie well and would like to avoid that conversation, I chose to lay all the cards on the table beforehand.
Like with SG, I don’t want to feel after the fact that I may have acted selfishly. I know it will limit the field of play, but I’d rather have people who enter eyes wide open. A hard reality, but a reality none-the-less.
While I’ve said it many times, HSV is far from the worst thing to contract. It’s a nuisance. It’s annoying. It’s full of stigma. But it is far from HIV, hepatitis, or even the some of the more perceived minor ones whose risks include sterility. This is just a thing to take a pill for and deal with outbreaks if and when they happen. Like an outbreak of acne, nothing else.
But that stigma – oh, that wonderful, fucked-up stigma….wouldn’t wish anyone to have to go through it for that reason alone.
I fully expect SG to call me and say no more. I hope he does, truth be told. Both he and his wife have been swinging for a long time – LONG time – and I don’t see either one being ready to close that door yet, let alone risking that it be a decision made for them.
As I told a friend afterward, being responsible sucks.
Doing the right thing is rarely easy.
But it is much easier than having to have a different kind of talk.