Dating is like the American Gladiators gauntlet without the American-flag themed spandex (or, at least I hope so): You have to look pretty and be on your best behavior. You have to suck in your gut and smile a lot -- but not so much that you remind him of a plastic Christmas ornament. You have to offer to pay, so you don’t seem like a gold-digger, but let him feel like a man at the same time. You have to be wholesome and sweet enough to make him think he’d like to introduce you to his parents, but flirty and seductive enough to help him envision knocking your boots. Phew. It’s the mental equivalent of wearing a body-shaper, a push-up bra, and a pair of too-tight pantyhose all at the same time.
If dating itself is an Olympic-esque challenge, then it becomes a hundred times more daunting when you’re carrying an incurable sexually transmitted disease.
You know exactly what kind of STD I'm referring to -- the kind adults warned us about when we were hormone-raging teenagers. The kind we tried to avoid all our lives. The kind thousands of women sob about after their doctors diagnose them with one and explain it's been the source of the weird goings-on underneath their panties.
Now, it’s one thing to know your status for herpes, genital warts, or HIV, but quite another to have to share that information with someone you see as a love interest. That conversation can be -- in a word -- terrifying. In another? Humiliating.
Here's something to make you feel better: It’s not like instances of STDs are becoming less common. In other words, no one on the opposite side of abstinence should be turning up their noses at anyone who winds up with one. Statistics for folks with an HIV, herpes, or hepatitis diagnosis are all over the news because of their staggering shock value.
Speaking of statistics, here's the latest: Half of all sexually active people, including 50 percent of all men, are diagnosed with HPV, the virus that can cause genital warts (which is the clustered series of bumps that probably either grossed you out or freaked you into swearing off sex forever out when you sat through those gory middle school health class videos). That’s a recently released figure gleaned directly from the good ol’ Centers for Disease Control. Not all strains of HPV cause genital warts and, in fact, the body can sometimes rid itself of the infection. In the meantime, there’s life to be lived with the disease in tow.
This enlightening information doesn't make for a cute and comfy conversation with your new boo on a night out on the town, though. I’m not the brightest bulb in the box, but I’m almost positive there’s no easy way to work an STD into the conversation over dinner. It seems like it would be a mood killer to throw "Oh, and by the way, I have herpes" in there between your raving about the restaurant food and him envisioning you sprawled naked across his Sealy Tempur-Pedic. But it’s one of those super uncomfortable, terribly awkward kind of talks that two grown-ups have to have in order to know where they stand with each other.
Of course, once you have the conversation, know that there are plenty of guys who can’t handle the idea of playing it safe -- a la wearing a condom every time they go in for a nookie play. And in this case, I have to say, that reaction is understandable: It’s a burden to have that part of your life hampered by a constant need to be careful, especially when you’re in a budding relationship that usually entails two people not being able to keep their hands off each other.
But if the "L word" (not the HBO kind, but the original one) is tossed into the air, then that should translate to him being willing to work through that part of your life with you -- because he’s that into you and your super special self. Awww. And heck, according to statistics, he might need that same kind of grace and flexibility himself.
Let’s flip the scenario: Would you date a guy with a sexually transmitted disease?
Image via Helga Weber/Flickr