This morning I was responding to some of the discussions on the Herpes Opportunity Forum and came across a question from a young gentleman who lives in a small town and who is concerned that if he discloses, that someone might “out” him and the whole community would learn of his H+ status. I want to post my response here because I think it is sooooo important that people learn the lesson that H is giving to many regarding how we often allow the Opinions and Ignorance of society to run our lives ...
The young gentleman said:
“I watched About Last Night with Kevin Hart. In the movie he is trying to hit on several women and his ex walks up and scares them off. He asks her what she said to them , her reply was that he gave her herpes. He screams out I don’t have ‘fucking herpes’ — everybody in the film stops and looks at him. There is a bunch of laughing where I was watching it. It’s just awful feeling. Watching the jokes, hearing them, knowing that you would be shunned if people knew.”
Here is my reply:
So imagine you are watching that movie before you had Herpes. What would you have seen in that scene that is one of the lessons of the movie? (Because writers are usually writing about the Human Condition … how we live and react to what happens around us, there is often a message in the parts where there is a strong human interaction). What is the message of that scene? Play along with me….. I’m going to create a space here so you don’t see my answer immediately …
I want you to think about this on your own first …
So here is what I see. I see an angry, vindictive, hurt woman that the guy is lucky to be rid of. I see a bunch of uneducated women who take one angry, vindictive woman's word for something and who don’t do the right thing and ask the guy if it’s true and if so, what are the implications. But most of all, I see a guy who is allowing the OPINIONS and IGNORANCE of other people to cause him to react to what she has done in a way that it hurts him more because he is now on the defense. Game, set, and match to this woman.
Now, lets recreate the scene. Woman goes around telling all these girls and they run. Because really, can you blame them? They don’t know better. Their small town ignorance is running their lives and no one taught them how to live with Integrity and thus to go to the person who is being slandered by said angry woman (And BTW, as a woman, if another woman comes to me unasked and starts bad mouthing a guy to me, I make sure I get more information elsewhere but I also still make up my own mind about whether that was an ugly person spreading lies or something I need to clear up with the subject).
And then you have Kevin Hart’s reaction. I’m realizing more and more on here that most people are letting the Opinions and Ignorance of other people run their lives. How sad is that?
If you are 100% okay with who you are, if you are totally confident in yourself, if you do your best to live a life of Integrity and Compassion (especially with yourself! ), other people’s opinions and ignorance will not affect you (Water off a ducks back!!!) ! AND (here is the kicker), while there may be an initial awkwardness around certain revelations about yourself (IE: you have Herpes), if you are confident in yourself and your condition, people will eventually 1) see that Herpes doesn’t ruin your life or change who you are and 2) Many will approach you and start to discuss the condition with you and you can then be an educator in your community. Take it from me … this is exactly where I am right now. I live in a smallish city – 15,000 people, which may seem like a lot but I have learned (the hard way, more than once in separate experiences, by the way) that it’s much smaller than it seems. While I have had one backlash (something that affected my daughter via an unforeseen connection) the general reaction to my coming out has been very, very positive.
So let's put another scenario out there. You are in a bar and that scene plays — a vindictive ex comes in and starts telling all the girls that you have Herpes. We are in a movie/fantasy here so play with me here. You (or Kevin Hart) stands up and announces (calmly) to the whole bar …
“Yeah, I have Herpes, What of it? At least I’m honest about it. I don’t hide it from partners, and I am controlling it with medication. And unlike 80% of you here, I KNOW I have it. Have YOU been tested? Because one in five of you will have Genital Herpes and four out of five will have Oral Herpes. And you won’t necessarily be able to see it on the person… Yeah — that’s right. There’s this thing called Asymptomatic Shedding… a person can be shedding unknowingly at any time. Do you like Oral Sex? If so, do you know that the common Cold Sore is HSV1 and it can be transferred to the genitals via Oral Sex? Yup, that’s right too folks. So yes, I have Herpes because someone was not honest with me about their status ... but it could have been avoided with medication, education, and better communication. And to be honest, most of you have probably not been tested for Herpes…. so while you may *think* you are okay, a large portion of you are unknowingly putting your partners as risk because many people never have an outbreak and never know that they have it. So yes, I have Herpes. What of it?”
You see, if you live your life in fear of other peoples opinions and ignorance, you will always live small. The relevance to Herpes is that if you live your life that this is going to ruin every chance you have of finding love, you won’t find love because you will unwittingly pass that fear and self-stigmatizing on to anyone who you disclose to, and odds are you will frighten them off. If you approach every job opportunity with the inner dialog that if they found out about your status, they wouldn’t hire you, odds are you will not get hired because they will sense your lack of confidence in yourself. Same with any “flaw” that you have by the way… this is soooo much larger than just Herpes when it comes to who you are to yourself and how you are therefore perceived in your community.
I know it can be hard in a small town to be “different” in any way, shape, or form. I was raised in an incredibly ignorant, red-neck area of Florida and I was different because I relished education and schooling and most of them were going to be happy to barely graduate. But I didn’t care. I took Summer School classes so I could graduate a year early. That was the only option for that scenario for me – to graduate ASAP and move on. So I did it. Now, I live in a small city, I am 100% out. Yes, I had one bad experience that has affected my relationship with my daughter but, HER reaction (which was not exactly compassionate to my situation) just drives me even more to change the stigma. I didn’t raise her to react the way she did… she knows better (and is usually very compassionate to those with differences/difficulties) but I’m her mother and it struck too close to home for her. One thing, I will never, EVER allow another person’s ugliness to run my life ever again. I get that it’s about them and not about me. AND I get that the only way to change things is to be a stand for people to have open, honest, adult conversations and dialogs about the difficult things in their lives.
I get you may not be there yet – but maybe, just maybe, YOU are going to be the person who changes the small minded thinking of the people in your town. If not, at least know that Herpes doesn’t define you, and that you WILL find love and respect … but you have to love and respect yourself FIRST.