Dear Hopeless with Herpes

I was going to write about how I’m completely hard headed and stubborn when it comes to asking for help which will probably get me killed someday, but Rory already wrote about that so I will refrain.

I will try to be better at this.

So, in a completely random request for help, can someone please come over and take this off of me because I am frightened to. They slapped it on me pretty good and I’ve tried to pick at the edges to lift it off but I start to get dizzy when I do. I’m sure it’s going to take off skin.

I started taking Cipro yesterday after trekking all over Pacific Heights to get bloodwork and pick up my prescription. I remember taking this back when I first moved to SF, the last time I had a kidney infection. I remember lying in my hand-me-down twin mattress in the mildew closet that was my bedroom on Fulton St. sweating and having ‘nam flashbacks.

I give you a blog flashback from my old one, found via The Wayback Machine, which explains what happened the first time I infected my kidneys.

An Encore, as requested

Dear Hopeless with Herpes,

I understand you found my site by Asking Jeeves, “How do I tell my parents I have herpes?”

There are no concrete answers listed in “You Know How You Do” to help you in your plight, but as an upright citizen of a Sex Positive Community, the least I can do is pass some knowledge along.

Depending on your relationship with your parents, you don’t really have to tell your parents you have herpes. It may also depend on your age. Being 28, I do not think I would volunteer that information. If, for some reason I had to, I would slip it in at the tail end of a conversation.

For example, like: “Yeah, work’s been stressing me out, I’ve been working 6-7 days a week so I’m sorry I’ve been lax in the calling department as of late. Things are okay tho. I’m really sorry to hear the dog has explosive diarrhea and by the way I think I have herpes byeee!”

If you are 14, you may have to have a sit-down-at-the-kitchen-table-talk-with-them, like the ones you see on those Anti-Drug commercials. But don’t feel like you have to tell them about your drug usage in the same sitting. That’s best saved for another occasion…like if you get caught.

My parents and I never talked about drugs or sex, for that matter, during the crucial years where I should have been sternly talked to about these topics. It was like being gay in the Army. Completely “Don’t ask, Don’t tell and we’ll all be happy.”

That’s Roman Catholicism for you. You would never believe I spent a good chunk of my formative years in Catholic school. Or maybe you can. I don’t know.

Sex never came up till, get this, when I was 26. My first year in San Francisco was riddled with illness. Some of it I chucked up to the mildew closet I lived in on Fulton St. Some of it I chucked up to the reckless drug/whiskey abandon. And when I really got sick, I chucked it up to a weekend in Reno.

Reno. Carleen and I had taken off to Reno without telling anyone till we were well on our way. We were supposed to hit Loveworks with people, Matt’s Saturday night gig at 111 Minna. We bailed, with her exboyfriend John, in tow.

The weekend was a haze of alcohol, bad buffett and weed. I had been sporting some lower back pain, but I chucked that up to the long hours spent in the backseat of John’s car and to the bad beds at the Hotel De Po’Dunk we stayed at.

Side note: If you think Vegas is frightening, Reno is the crack whore sister of the Strip.

I plunked nickles into Video Poker machines, not really playing, waiting for a tawdry cocktailer to ask me if I wanted a beverage. I’d order Bombay Sapphire Martini’s. She’d look at me like I had a third eye and was speaking in tongues.

I’d smile like I was playing some joke on her and order a rum and coke and she smiled when she realized I spoke english.

There was a lot of that for two days. Upon arriving back in SF, we caught a quick dinner at Herbivore and passed out.

I woke up several times in the middle of the night, plagued with intense muscle spasms and a building fever. Nothing a lil Advil can’t fix. I swallowed a handful and went to work the next morning like I had a simple cold and a bad back. No biggie.

Your body does this thing called sweating when you have a fever. It’s your body trying to cool itself down to combat the fever. I had stopped sweating at some point that day and had started shaking.

Vigorously. Uncontrollably. I was freezing. At work.

The last thing I remembered before completely blacking out was my HR manager screaming at me in the ambulance: “JUST TELL THEM!! TELL THEM! WHATEVER IS SAID IN THIS VAN, STAYS IN THIS VAN!!”

I found out later that was in reference to the question if I had done any drugs in the past 24 hours.

I came to in the Emergency Room completely paralyzed with fear.

Not any fear that I was dying, or had a limb amputated or had cancer. That would be too easy. I was consumed with that almighty Mom Fear, a power greater than any fear. I was convinced someone had called my mother and that she was on a flight already on her way to California to kick my ass.

This, of course, was not true.

But I laid there thinking that life as I knew it was over. I would have to ‘fess up to everything. I would have to tell her about smoking, about pot, about ecstasy, about my bad cholesterol, about sex, about…

I had no idea why I would have had to tell her all these things, but that’s what I was thinking, lying on a stretcher with oxygen tubes up my nose, IVs in my arms and little electrode looking suction cups stuck to my chest. When I opened my eyes, I saw my HR manager standing far off at the foot of the bed and a pale grey faced doctor looking at my vagina.

He didn’t even look up to make eye contact and sorta just knew I was awake. Without even acknowledging I was conscious, he asked when the last time I had my period was.

“Wha?”

He repeated the question, nonplussed.

“I don’t know,” I answered.

He then looked me in the face with such disdain.

“You don’t know?”

Well, excuse me, assface, if my cycle escapes me. You see, I’m lying in the fucking ER concerned my mother is on her way here with a hatchet, so your diagnosis won’t do me any good. I’m already on my deathbed, so don’t give me that attitude mister fuck face , or I’ll mention it to mom and she’ll hatchet you to death too.

That’s what I should have said. Instead, I let the doctor win and a single tear escaped and rolled down my cheek. I couldn’t help it. I felt so defeated.

Carleen showed up. She came barelling through the door of my observation room in her usual Carleen flurry. She walked in, paused, then turned around and walked out.

Apparently my naked vagina has that effect on people.

She came back in a couple of minutes after the doctor had left and I was oh so grateful someone had called her and she had come. I figured my mother would be nicer and would kill me more quickly with another Filipina in the room. She’d at least be cordial, smiling, asking Carleen how her parents were and offering her some halo-halo as she hacked me to death. Filipinos love other filipinos in the US. They spot each other in a store and all of a sudden they’re spouting out words with lots of ngs and asking you to call them ‘kuya boy’ or ‘auntie’ or ‘ate’.

I asked anyone in the room if anyone had called my mother.

I think Carleen laughed.

No. No one called mom.

I was then shuffled off for x-rays and a battery of tests. Apparently I had a kidney infection. The lower back pain I tossed off as car/bed suckage was actually a UTI (urinary tract infection). Instead of water or cranberry juice, I plied myself with alcohol, unknowingly worsening the situation.

I went to Reno and all I got was a lousy kidney infection and a weeks worth of delirium.

Sma came to the hospital too. By the time he got there, I had been demoted to the hallway of the ER. My room was needed by those who were bleeding openly. Good enough, my IV and I hung out near a wall near the exit. My hospital gown felt too short and too small, like it was made for a child or a dwarf. I passed out for a bit, waiting to find out what was supposed to happened next, while Carleen and Sma checked out hot orderlies and doctors. Sma woke me up at one point to let me know my vagina was trying to free itself.

I hate hospital gowns.

Fuck face wrote me a prescription and I was set free once my fever had plummeted down to 100 (I was hovering at 104 at work and thus the shaking and freezing). Sma and Carleen picked a side, took my arms and helped me out of the hospital and down to Walgreens to pick up my meds.

While they scoured the aisle for sprite, cranberry juice and soup for me, I went to the pharmacy counter and handed the girl my HMO card and my prescription.

When she told me that it was $175, I broke down in tears. I mean broke down. I mean you-just-told-me-my-lover-is-dead broke down. Hiccupping sobs and the sounds of complete and utter grief filled the drug store. Like homing pigeons, Sma and Carleen were there in seconds.

I looked at sma and gurgled several words about not being able to afford my drugs.

The girl behind the counter looked frightened. I was in ER disarray and I had cotton balls band-aided to my arms and electrodes still stuck to my chest. I was Frankenstein gone wrong. I was a sad scene from Steel Magnolias unfolding before her eyes. I was a trainwreck, a defeated, tired mess of a girl, puddling on the floor in front of her window.

Sma helped me pay for my meds and we cabbed it home. I hiccuped the whole way.

Cipro. That’s what I was on. The anti-biotic to top all other anti-biotics. The stuff they give to people with Anthrax.

This, was actually worse than the illness itself. I didn’t leave the mildew closet for days as I laid there dizzy, nauseous and sweating like a Vet having ‘Nam flashbacks. This lasted several days in real life and several weeks in my minds eye.

The moment I felt good enough to be mobile I walked to Haight St. to have all my hair chopped off. In my sweaty feverish dreams I had yanked and pulled and yanked and pulled my long hair. I couldn’t wait to get rid of all of it.

The moment I was practically coherent again and not mumbling about the Vietcong, my mother called.

Unprecedented. I didn’t tell anyone remotely close to my family about being sick. She just called.

“Hullo.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

Hi Mom. No hello, no how are you doing. It’s always What’s wrong with you?

“I’m sick.”

“I knew you were sick! I knew it! You don’t know how to take care of yourself! What happened?! What do you have?!”

To make matters worse, my mother is a nurse. I told her about the kidney infection. I did not tell her about Reno or the drinking or anything else for that matter. She didn’t need to know. I got more yelling about how I don’t know how to take care of myself before she stopped, mid-banshee-yell and paused before she asked quietly:

“Are you having sex?”

“Yes.”

Then the sex tirade began. Out of nowhere. What that had to do with anything, I still can’t figure out. I immediately got a phone call from my sister later on that night admonishing me for saying “Yes” to the sex question.

“I can’t believe you told her you have sex!”

“What am I supposed to do? Lie? I’m 26. Of COURSE I’m having sex. I can’t lie about that! I can lie about everything else, but not that because if I said no…then, then, then…”

“Then what?”

“Then they’d think I was a complete loser.”

At that moment I couldn’t believe I cared whether my parents thought I was cool or not. Like I was 13 and my parents were popular girls or something like that. Lame.

That was the only moment in my relationship with my parents did we ever discuss ANYTHING of importance. It was the only moment my mother has ever uttered the word “SEX” in my presence. And we’re now back to the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and we really are ALL THE MORE HAPPIER.

So, Hopeless with Herpes, fear not. Everyone hides things from their parents. Select few of us still hold Mom Fear above all other fears. It’s completely normal.

Don’t feel like you’ve got to tell your parents about your STD.

Please DO tell your future partners though. That’s a completely different scenario.

My .02 cents for the day. Hope things are well. Keep in Touch. Don’t Ask Jeeves personal questions as such, he doesn’t know and he’ll just refer you to other people.

Feel free to email me. I’m friendly and I smell nice.

Till Then,

~Jen-I-Just-Gave-Out-Unsolicited-Advice-Like-I-Said-I-Wouldn’t-Anymore~

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2 Responses to “Dear Hopeless with Herpes”


  1. 1 Alicia May 21, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    I remember that entry:)

    And I took Cipro after I had Ellie for infection. That crap messes with your head. Rest, Hon. Hope you’re feeling better soon.

  2. 2 Aunt Bee May 27, 2009 at 12:45 am

    wait i’ve just had a terrible paranoia that some member of my family is going to read your blog and i’m going to be in deep shit. and so i’ve removed my last comment. suffice it to say, being raised by roman catholics is rough. indeed.


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