A few weeks back, I felt the familiar beginnings of a yeast infection. When my over-the-counter treatment didn't work, I set up an OB/GYN appointment; maybe I just needed stronger medicine. By the time I reached my doctor the next day, the standard itching had morphed into pain so excruciating I couldn't sit down. "Are you in a relationship?" my doctor asked. I told her I was, for a few months now, with a man named Jaylon. "Congratulations," she said, before dropping the bomb.
What she saw was not a yeast infection gone awry but "an angry case of genital herpes." My face flushed with rage as she told me about the daily medication that would cost almost $300 a year, and that the virus would remain in my body forever. I left the office with a Valtrex prescription, got into my car, and sobbed on my steering wheel.
All I could think was, How the hell could Jaylon have done this to me? I'd expected him to give me flowers occasionally, compliments, the odd foot massage — not a frickin' STD. I was especially pissed because we'd been so careful before we ditched the condoms, having the monogamy talk and both getting STD tests. My doctor said that Jaylon likely infected me unknowingly, since they don't screen for herpes in standard STD tests and 60 percent of carriers are asymptomatic.
Even though I knew he'd infected me unintentionally, I was still furious. He'd basically served me a dating death sentence — if we split up, would I be able to find another guy willing to deal with my condition? I had lots of time to stew over the injustice of it all while I was bedridden for the next four days. I was so swollen that it hurt to walk; raw blisters made peeing only possible in a bathtub full of water; even downing Vicodin didn't help much. I picked fights with Jaylon and became incredibly needy, making him reassure me again and again that he was still attracted to me.
But as my blisters healed and the pain eased, something amazing happened: We grew closer. This was the first bump in the road for us, and we got past it together. He saw me panicky and irrational; he saw me at my worst. And rather than run, he picked up my prescriptions and helped me into the tub. Despite my lousy, lifelong affliction, I'm more confident in my relationship — so confident, I'm asking him to move in with me. Ah, romance!