Ask Andrew W.K.: 'How Do I Date With an STD?'
Photo by F. Vierti
[Editor's note: Every week, New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
Hi, Andrew W.K.,
I get plenty of dates, but when I tell someone I have genital herpes, none of my charms seem to matter anymore — they bolt. Telling people is so much worse than the actual virus. I get pretty bummed about it, and I imagine it's even tougher for your readers who have more serious illnesses.
I'm trying to find the party in this situation, and I could really use some advice. How do I deal with being rejected over something I can't change? How can I keep the virus from damaging my self-worth?
Looking For The One
Dear Looking For The One,
When I was quite a bit younger, I had a long-term relationship with an older woman. I had only been in a few serious relationships, but I went into this one with an open heart and complete blind trust.
After being committed to this woman for several years, she experienced a herpes outbreak. I was confused. I knew I didn't have the virus, as I had been tested before she and I had started dating. It was then that she admitted she had always had herpes and had lied to me when I asked her early on if she was disease-free. I was devastated — not so much by the fact that she had exposed me to the virus, but that she lied right to my face and maintained the lie for so long. I couldn't believe that this woman who I thought was supposed to be so mature and smart could be so coldly dishonest and inconsiderate about something so intimate and fundamental.
It should come as no surprise that she ended up cheating on me and we broke up not long after. She had never really been honest, and though she appeared to live a life of righteousness, she was riddled with hypocrisy. And I had trusted her entirely, even after she admitted to lying about her disease, and it was still not enough to motivate her to lean toward the truth.
The entire experience was crushing for me and extremely disillusioning, but one thing I took away from her (besides the disease) was a promise that I made to myself: I vowed I would always and forever be honest with anyone I was ever with romantically. I realized more than ever the sacred power of truth and how much of love and life is built upon it. I finally understood through actual heartbreaking experience why it was so important to be true to someone you care about, especially someone you decide to be physically and emotionally close to. It hasn't always been easy, but even the most challenging moments of truth were helped by understanding deep down inside that this was really the only way to live — not just for the well-being of my loved ones, but for the well-being of my own soul. And while it's undoubtedly an unpleasant and sometimes humiliating experience, being honest and direct with a romantic partner is the very foundation on which genuine intimacy and respect are built.
If you have a virus, telling the person you plan on being with is simply the right thing to do. Suffering from an illness or a stigmatized condition can cause damage to your sense of self-worth, but being dishonest about the situation will ultimately do a great deal more harm to everyone involved. It will slowly eat away at your self-respect and sense of personal integrity, even more than the disease itself.
In moments of physical sickness, the health and strength of your character matters just as much as your physical constitution. In fact, it is most likely all one interconnected system, one intricate body of physical and metaphysical integrity, and each aspect of it has the ability to negatively or positively influence your overall vitality and health.
While you might not be able to do much about the disease itself, you have total control over how you react to it, and how you conduct yourself with others in regards to it. This is a chance to do something good about something bad. It's a chance to see things clearly and act accordingly. Being honest with people — especially someone you want to have sex with — is one of the most noble virtues you can cultivate. And while it's awkward and maybe even painful to be honest about your illness, you will be rewarded in the end for your truthfulness.
The person who truly loves you and wants to be with you will accept that by being with you they will be dealing with this virus and most likely getting it too — or they may already have it themselves. Either way, being upfront is a relatively small price to pay in order to follow that true love. Perhaps the people who "bolt" when you are honest with them about your situation weren't really the right people for you anyway. Perhaps your destiny is leading you toward your true love, and this seemingly frustrating part of your journey is all part of getting to your one and only soul mate.
As always, this challenge is here to make you improve who you really are — to make you more honest, more considerate, and a stronger person. Perhaps there's a way to apply this type of honesty and consideration to other areas of your life beyond dating and sex. Perhaps this entire experience can be a chance to live a better way, where you make a promise to the world to do the right thing, even when it's hard or embarrassing or inconvenient. If you don't do what you know in your heart is right, you're truly hurting yourself. There's no reward for cutting corners, cheating, and lying. It all catches up to us at some point, and always for the worse. When righteousness is this clear and obvious, we must follow it, or we'll slowly destroy our souls from the inside out — and not only lose faith in ourselves, but in all of life in general.
The truer you are with yourself and with those around you, the truer the love will be that you eventually find. And best of all, you will have earned that true love through a life lived in dedication to truth, and you will deserve and deeply appreciate all the glory that comes with it. Stay strong.
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