Herpes doesn't change, but attitudes do


April 17, 1994|By SUSAN DEITZ | SUSAN DEITZ,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: I'm a college senior who has had herpes for two years. At first I was devastated and believed my dating life was over (I didn't even consider dating men who had the virus). Through a lot of talking with my doctor, my family and the few friends I told, I got a lot of support and eventually began to feel as if could live again.

The first few months were the hardest, as I had frequent outbreaks and felt very depressed.

But as I accepted my condition, began exercising and tried to keep from becoming stressed, my health improved. I have gone a year without an outbreak and rarely think about the fact that I have herpes.

Eight months ago I began dating a man and knew I had to tell him before anything got too serious; I was extremely scared about it and was positive he'd reject me when he found out. To my surprise, he wasn't shocked. He had roomed with a guy who had it and knew all about the virus. We dated for seven months and I never had an outbreak -- it was not anything that interfered with our relationship.

I think people would be surprised to know how many Americans are infected with herpes. It is not something that has to drastically change your life or prevent you from doing things. There are ways to deal with it and live a normal life. I hope this letter gives hope to those newly infected and those who $H continue to have problems with the disease. I know it is very difficult not to feel as if your life is over because you suffer from it, but it is not! Keep yourself healthy and don't compromise any of your dreams.

A: Letters like yours make this a strong and timely forum, a place for sharing ideas and comparing reactions to the issues that surface in single life. Fighting through fear and ignorance with the help of caring people has given you a wholesome view of your condition; you can't change the virus, but you can change your attitude toward it.

Q: Relatives of mine are trying to fix me up with a woman they know. I was a little apprehensive at first about meeting her, but I finally called her and she sounds pretty nice.

The problem? She has two children under 5 and another one on the way. She was divorced about two months ago, which according to her was her ex-husband's idea.

Do you think it would be a good idea to steer clear of a possible relationship with this woman? I'm 27 and want children of my own some day, but she already has plenty of them. I'm just not sure how to handle this situation.

A: Run for your life. Remind your well-meaning (?) relatives you are in no position to assume the responsibilities of two small children and a pregnant wife. Placing you in the position of suitor is not fair to the woman, either, since it raises her hopes and expectations. If you do go ahead and date the lady, it is inevitable that at some point in the relationship you would be forced to speak your piece. Better to avoid that future shock.

Q: I met Olga 18 months ago. She is married, I am divorced. (She shares a house with her husband but says she loves me, not him.) When I bring her to my small studio apartment, she says it is cramped and shows that I'm not ready financially to marry. (She feels that I'm pressuring her to marry, and that is her reply.) I plan to move to a larger place, but it's not possible just yet. She tells me she'd like a life together with me. And she takes chances of being seen together in public, and I don't understand that.

I'm so confused about the situation. I believe her love for me is real and strong, and maybe I'm too impatient and should wait until she's more ready to leave her marriage. Am I just a Sugar Daddy and a great lover (she thinks I am), living a dream?

A: I get the sense that you are living in a castle in the air -- but not alone. Your married friend is right next to you, feeding on empty hopes and distant realities. If she truly loved you, she wouldn't be able to abide another moment of life under the same roof as her husband. Their marriage would be a sham, and she couldn't carry off the deception a moment longer. The fact that she appears in public with another man shows her mixed feelings about the situation, but she goes home to her mate every evening. Her comment about your living quarters is a lame excuse for her inability to follow up her words about sharing a life with you. There's an ocean between wishing and wanting. Unless you are prepared to continue inhabiting a dreamland, consider leaving it.


AIDS wisdom: It's well known that abstinence is the best way to prevent being infected with the HIV virus, and you know how I feel about it: If in any doubt whatsoever, say NO. Noncaring sex has done nothing for the single world except create horror stories and an unknown number of casualties. But for the sexually active, use of a latex condom correctly and consistently is indicated. (Second best is a relationship with a love partner who has been tested twice along with yourself and found to be HIV-negative. Obviously, the relationship must be monogamous to be foolproof.)

If you are not AIDS-wise and current, the deadly virus is now the third largest killer of young people. For assistance and information on the correct usage of condoms, phone the AIDS hot line, (800) 342-AIDS.

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