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What do you recall about sexually transmitted diseases (now called infections or STIs) from your school days? For most people, the upshot was "use a condom and have as little sex as possible." 

 Hounds and pussies, man ...

Hounds and pussies, man ...

Did you do that? Did you go about your teenage years, 20s, and 30s thinking, "Whatever I do, I want to make sure I'm *not* getting laid!"

Did you have a conversation with your potential sexual partner about their entire sexual history before getting naked with them? Did you require physical copies of their recent STI test results? Or did you just wrap that dick and roll with it? 

Do you know someone who has or has had a sexually transmitted infection? What did you think about that person? Did you judge them? Did you assume that stuff only happens to slutty people with poor decision-making skills?

Do you know which STIs are curable and which are not? Do you know the symptoms of them all? Do you know which ones are tested for in the standard set of tests if you request them from your doctor or a clinic? Or is your plan still just to use a condom and have as little sex as possible?

If you request STI tests from a clinic, they generally check for: HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, hepatitis B, and trichomoniasis.

You will not be tested for Hepatitis A or C without asking. You will not be tested for herpes (HSV) without asking. You will not be tested for the human papillomavirus (HPV), in that there isn't really an effective way to test for it. 

Still excited about getting laid? Still feeling smug about your (presumed) clean bill of health compared to that one dude or chick who got the clap? 

Let's talk about herpes (the herpes simplex virus or HSV). There are two kinds of herpes - HSV 1 and HSV 2. It's hard to get accurate numbers, but it's estimated that as much as 80% of the world's population has HSV 1. Most of them (you) have had it since early childhood and are largely asymptomatic. It's still possible to spread the virus, though, even when symptoms are not present. 

16.2 % of the US population has HSV 2, again with 81% of those individuals unaware that they have it. Remember, no one tests for it unless you specifically ask for the test. I can also assure you from my own experience that if you ask for the test, your medical professional will look down at you and ask, "Are you sure? Because you know most people have it and it's not curable and it will likely just upset you to know even if you have no symptoms to treat." 

HSV 1 is typically known as "cold sores" or "fever blisters" and not considered a sexually transmitted virus. It is possible, though, to transfer the virus from the mouth of an infected person to the genitals of an uninfected person through oral sex. The number of genital HSV 1 cases is on the rise, partly because more people are avoiding it in childhood so they are not immune once they become sexually active. 

Because HSV 1 tends to focus at the top of the spinal column and therefore show up orally, if it "takes root" genitally, it doesn't manifest as intensely. It's also less likely to be spread genitally, mostly because the HSV 1 virus sheds far less often genitally (and remember, most people already have HSV 1 so you can't infect someone genitally who already has it orally). 

Like most viruses, herpes is not curable. You can merely manage the symptoms and take measures to reduce outbreaks. Once your overly affectionate aunt infected you as a toddler, you're stuck with it. Anyone you kiss intimately could get HSV 1 from you. And if you engage in oral sex, you can give it to your partner genitally. 

I bring all this up because I had my first genital HSV 1 outbreak last week. Let me tell you, it's not the way I would have chosen to spend spring break. I was sick for an entire week. I cried every day, for one reason or another. The first outbreak can bring flu-like symptoms. Plus there are blisters on your genitals that hurt a lot. And then there's the fear of not knowing if it's herpes (the test takes three days for results) and if so, which kind (1 or 2) until the results come back. 

Will anyone ever touch me again? Will I have to wear a scarlet H on my chest? At one point I was lying on the couch *wishing* I had chlamydia because at least that's curable. At another point, I was lying in bed crying, thinking that I would take an HSV 2 diagnosis if it meant I would stop hurting immediately. 

It was a hard week. It didn't have to be that way. The doctor at the urgent care clinic was horrible. I intend to go back either with a sternly worded letter or a baseball bat, but I'm not up for it yet. He told me how proud he was that he's had HSV 1 since a kid but his wife doesn't have it because he's been so careful. Which implies that I've been reckless. I still ball my fists up when I think of him. He also told me over the phone when I asked for my results that "he was right" as if that were any concern of mine versus my diagnosis. 

Do you know if you have herpes? Have you been tested? What if an aunt or preschool classmate got smoochy with you and you never knew you had it? You could give it to your partner any moment now. You could be a virgin and still give your future partner a sexually transmitted virus. You're a walking time bomb! 

What if you're single? Are you going to only date people who are HSV negative? Are you going to require they be tested and if they test positive (which may be a shock to them) you'll dump them? You're limiting your pool of potential mates to the 20% worldwide who don't have herpes? Or are you just wearing condoms for a while and hoping for the best? You can get HSV 1 or 2 even with condom use as the virus sheds across the entire genital area. There can be zero symptoms while shedding. Do you even know where to buy a dental dam? 

Of greatest note, I was taken aback by the reactions of those I told, both before I had a specific diagnosis and after I officially had HSV 1. Some immediately questioned if I was having unprotected sex. Some said I could just change my plans to only date other people with HSV 2. As if that suddenly became my only dating compatibility factor, versus religion, ethics, sports allegiance, child-rearing philosophies, pet allergies, DUIs, felony records, etc. As long as we both have HSV 2, I'm sure we'll hit it off just fine. Some reminded me that since everyone has herpes in one form or another, I don't need to bring it up with potential partners (if there ever were to be one again). 

And once I got back my official HSV 1 diagnosis? People seemed to be far less concerned about that. My pussy was ON FIRE for a week. Believe me, I was concerned. One said, "Oh, I'm HSV 1 positive too, I thought I told you." Another, "Yeah, but it's not *genital* herpes." Um, tell that to my inner labia, buddy. 

So I'm here to say, do some homework on sexually transmitted infections. I recommend the CDC's website. Talk to your health professional about what tests you've had, and how often you can be tested through your insurance. Go ahead and get tested for herpes if you think you'll ever put your mouth or genitals on another human in the near future. It sounds cliché but knowledge really is power.

And please. Stop. Shaming. Sexually. Transmitted. Infections. Yes, people can practice safer sex. And it's good to be well-informed. And stuff still happens. You are as likely to be in a car accident as you are to get herpes but you don't see people wearing shameful hubcaps around their necks for the rest of their lives. 

If you met someone romantically and they told you they had HSV 2, what would you do? End it? Ask them to take anti-viral medications? Use condoms indefinitely? Would you blow them off completely, knowing that they clearly didn't get infected with the virus on purpose and were probably no less careless than you have been, just a bit less lucky?

Lastly, if any of this was educational for you at all, please consider donating to Planned Parenthood. They are an amazing resource for any human with sex organs, particularly women. I get misty just thinking about it. I called them in a panic because, in addition to my HSV outbreak, plus a yeast infection, I developed bacteria vaginosis (BV). The delicate ecosystem of my lady garden was just trashed and I was in a lot of pain and discomfort. I called the local Planned Parenthood and the woman on the phone was kind, compassionate, and most importantly SUPER HELPFUL. I hung up feeling empowered, even though they couldn't see me that evening. I went to another urgent care clinic with the data I needed to get help immediately. Planned. Parenthood. Cares. About. Women. 

I'm one of those 80% worldwide now who has HSV 1. I had a good run of luck to avoid it for the first 40 years of my life. I'm not really going to let it ruin the next 40 years. 

One boy and one girl

Rich’s first surgery was on Monday, 12 November 2012. Before we drove up to Baltimore that weekend, Rich handed me this flash drive. It was orange, of course. He said it had a video on it for me and one for Ian. In case he didn’t make it through the surgery.

I rolled my eyes at him and tossed the drive in a drawer. I never watched them. I was too busy trying to keep him (and me and Ian) alive. I panicked a few days ago wondering if I had lost the drive. I just found it in my night stand.

The plastic is all sticky and gross and bless his heart he used Windows Media to record it so I had to convert it to play on my MacBook. 

God, he looked so good! So healthy! He smirked at me with that Stryker smirk. He even said he knew I was rolling my eyes at him for making the video.

I miss him so much. He was so wonderful. Even the shit he did that was so annoying was still pretty great.

Someone told me recently that I seem very happy these days, having lots of relationships. He noted that I also had said how happy I was with Rich. He asked me if I’m happier now.

Cancer was a crucible that changed me. I’m not the same person I was in 2012. I’ll never be that person again and I don’t want to be.

I live out loud and share everything but you guys don’t get this video. It’s mine. He told me I was his girl and he was my boy. And that nothing changes that ever.

For five years, whenever he would get worried, Rich would say, “Tell me you love me. Tell me you’re my girl. Tell me everything is going to be ok.” And I did. Over and over.

I don’t want The One. I had it already. He was great. And I certainly don’t want to be someone’s everything ever again. The second time might kill me.

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Kickstand up

I've had a motorcycle license for a year. I went on my first long trip last summer. I went out on my little Suzuki cafe racer and came home on my new Yamaha FJR 1300 sport tour. From that day mid-June until this morning, I have put about 1500 miles on the bike.

So while I'm no expert in the ways of motorcycles, I'm certainly all in. I've learned many things the last year that pertain to more than just my time in the saddle.

Never brake in the turn

Ever. You will eventually need to do something other than go straight ahead. When that time comes, prepare yourself, take all the time you need before the turn. And when you decide to turn, fucking TURN. Now is not the time to be a chicken. The ride will be smoother and safer if you accelerate during the turn on any road. That's why race tracks have distance markers in the straight away for braking so you can haul ass once you commit to the turn.

Don't target fixate

Once you've committed to the turn, look where you want to go (the exit of the turn, ideally). Yes, there is a stray grocery bag in the road and a menacing guard rail. But if you spend all your energy staring at what you *don't* want to hit, it pretty much guarantees a crash.

Throttle will save your ass far more often than brake

If you are in a sticky situation, slowing down or stopping is rarely the solution. Sure, you may think you're being cautious, but you're actually just spending more time in a dangerous position. Get OUT of there. That Honda Civic can't merge into you if you're not there. Bikes want to move. They want to go fast. They are happier and more stable under speed than they are at 5 mph. This took me a long time to process in the beginning, but it's second nature now.

Nobody is looking at you

Everyone is far more preoccupied with their own shit than anything beyond the end of their nose. The dude in the longest text message fight of his life doesn't care that you want to turn left. That minivan doesn't see your turn signal, your extra bright brake lights, your neon yellow vest, your white helmet, or those little strips of reflective material on the back of your boots. You don't even exist to them. The world is paying far less attention to you than you think it is. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you're aware of it. Do your thing and don't expect anyone to make a space for you. Which brings me to my next point ...

Protect your space

You may be but one person, but you're entitled to your whole damn lane. You are IN HERE. Sitting on a motorcycle is not the time to be timid or accommodating. If you allow people to encroach on your space/time, it's as much your fault as it is theirs. As Brigit told me and I immediately put on my fridge, "What you allow will continue."

Sometimes you gotta make your own space

Need a parking space at the Oceanfront? This extra wide sidewalk looks good. Lane splitting, when done with a sound mind, makes things easier on everyone. Sometimes even though the sign says "LOT FULL" you gotta think outside the box. 

Risk is analog

This is actually a Shrop-ism for many things in life, but we first talked about it pertaining to motorcycles. No two rides are the same. Whenever you take on something, access the possible risks logically, do your best to avoid them, correct as needed, and don't let the rest of the world's fear make you its bitch.

Rich once filed an insurance claim for a guy who was riding on a dry, empty highway when as far as he was concerned the hand of God came down and plucked him off of his bike into the bushes. The strap on his backpack was long and got caught in the rear axle, thereby launching him off the back of the bike. Backpacks aren't inherently evil. Neither are motorcycles or clean, dry roads. Sometimes shit just happens.

The get off is less important than the get back on

Even if you do everything right, bad things will happen to you. You can't protect yourself or your loved ones from harm. What you can do, though, is prepare yourself and your loved ones for what to do after the hand of God plucks you off that proverbial bike. The definition of a life well lived is not to get to the end with the fewest number of scars. 

So the next time you lift your proverbial or literal kickstand, pay attention to how you handle the road in front of you.

 It may not *say* motorcycle parking here, but it totally is.

It may not *say* motorcycle parking here, but it totally is.