People are often not even aware of all the offensive things they say to people who have herpes. Although many of those comments don’t come from a place of ill will, it still feels very uncomfortable to hear them. They make a person who has herpes feel like a freak, and they often feel ashamed of themselves. It brings them down and lowers their self-esteem.
While there is no perfect thing you should say to someone who decides to share this personal information with you, you should watch out and avoid saying certain fraises and remarks.
1) “Ew, gross”
The second you say this to someone with herpes, here’s what they are going to think: “Oh, thank you for referring to my body as something gross. That’s exactly what I needed to hear at this moment, that’s exactly why I shared this information with you.”
Of course the word “herpes” may instantly elicit a yuck reaction in your head, but you should have the decency to hide this reaction and show some compassion instead. The truth is, you will think of herpes as something repulsive only if you aren’t educated enough. Herpes isn’t a revolting, highly contagious disease as you might think. It is a manageable skin condition and an annoyance, and the most important part: many, many people have it. You might have it, too, it just hasn’t been activated yet.
2) “How did you get it?”
I slept with the whole city, of course. Especially with people I’ve just met in bars.
Exactly what kind of question is this? Asking this question alone indicates that the person must have done something wrong, and there must be some kind of an embarrassing story behind the herpes, so now you’d like to hear it. It also forces the person to fall into one of the two common stereotypes: they have either been very promiscuous, cheated on their partner and had sex with everything that walks or they have been a victim of someone of that sort. This is a very personal information, and the fact this person has told you they have herpes doesn’t allow you to ask this question.
3) “You don’t seem like the type of person who would have herpes”
Yes, because only prostitutes have it. And I don’t look like one. When you say this, you aren’t complimenting anyone. A compliment wrapped up in judgment and disappointment isn’t really a nice thing to say, nor does it mean you mean well. The ridiculous stigma around HSV convinces people that only dishonest, promiscuous and desperate people get in touch with herpes. The truth is, one can catch oral herpes if a member of their family kissed them while they had an outbreak. Remarks of this kind actually say much more about you, than it does about them.
4) “Are you having an outbreak right now?”
This is probably one of the most ridiculous, senseless questions you could ask. Exactly why do you need to know this? Would you like to take a look?
This kind of curiosity is very invasive and downright morbid.
5) “Will I get herpes if I let you use my bathroom?”
People don’t tend to educate themselves on things that aren’t of their interest at the moment and that is fully understandable. Being precocious is also understandable. But, for the love of God, don’t make a person feel like a walking, talking disease just because they’ve just told you they have herpes. The virus doesn’t spread if you share a towel, or a book, if they wash their hands in your bathroom.