“Your son has herpes,” Dr. Brian tells me.
The year is 2009 and the doctor is seeing Jack because of a problem that Jack has in his genital region. I just stepped into the room, after waiting in the hall during the examination.
And now, I’m having a mild panic attack because of the diagnosis.
“What—you’re teasing me! You mean herpes simplex one, cold sores,” I sputter. 15-year-old Jack sits on the exam table, watching me. I cannot read his face.
“He has herpes simplex two, a sexually transmitted disease,” Dr. Brian says calmly.
My eyes threaten to pop out of my head and my skin feels hot—I’m sure that I’m turning red. Maybe blue; I should breathe. OMG my teenage son is sexually active and has an incurable disease!! Ok, so maybe it’s a major panic attack.
Dr. Brian adds, “Just kidding. He has razor burn from shaving.”
“DO YOU THINK YOU’RE A PORN STAR?! WHY DO YOU NEED TO SHAVE? Is that why you wanted a video camera—to make sex movies?!” I ask, seriously confused and with high blood pressure.
Jack shrinks back away from me, looking from me to the doctor and saying, “No…I…Mom, please!”
Dr. Brian laughs. “No one is a porn star here. Sometimes guys want to shave, because hair can be hot and itchy. It’s not a big deal.”
“Dad told me to,” Jack squeaks.
I seriously have NO IDEA what to think at this point. “So…no herpes?”
“Nope,” Dr. Brian says with a smile.
“Are doctors allowed to give their patients heart attacks?” I ask.
He laughs again.
“Valtrex” is written on the prescription label. I’m drunk, so my brain isn’t working well. I’m sitting in my friend’s bathroom, peeing, so I google, “Valtrex.” My friend Google, who knows all, tells me that Valtrex treats genital herpes. I’m more awake now. OMG should I be sitting on this toilet seat?! I hurriedly finish my business and get dressed. Time to go!
“Thanks, Jason, I had a good time,” I tell my host, suppressing my building freak out.
Jason, 30-years-old and an amateur body builder, smiles at me. “Rushing off so soon?”
I melt as I gaze into his sparkling blue eyes. Stay strong! I tell myself. “Yes, it’s late. Gotta get home before I crash,” I say.
“You can crash here,” he says, stroking my arm.
I shiver and smile. “Not tonight,” I tell him. Or any night, ever, I think to myself. “Tell Sara I had a great time.”
He hugs me. His girlfriend Sara is still in the hot tub with the other guests. I pull away a little quickly and leave.
The next day comes the freak out, where I google “herpes” and “hot tub.” What I find is that hot tubs contain chlorine (duh!) that kills microbes over time. It’s that “over time” that really gets me. How much time? Seconds or days? If I’m sitting right next to the person, will the chlorine kill the bugs before they reach me? What if everyone in the hot tub has herpes besides me—is there enough chlorine in Jason’s hot tub to kill the germs from 8 or 10 people?
Side note: yes, at one party we were really packed in the hot tub. With close friends and enough alcohol, it’s not “cramped,” it’s “cozy.”
Besides, it’s a big hot tub. Jason and his girlfriend are engineers without children (DINKs), so they have disposable income to spend on things like their big house, alcohol, and a spacious hot tub. I met them through a previous employer and we’ve been friends for years. I just hadn’t attended any of their parties until recently.
Back to my freak out. Googling, “herpes” wasn’t much more helpful. It can be spread through sexual contact (duh! It’s an STD!) and oral sex. Wait, if it can be spread through oral sex, then can it be spread through saliva? If Jason had tasted my drink, left his saliva on my glass, then gave it to me, would I be infected?
Enough freaking out and relying on Google for info; I needed facts from a medical professional. I scheduled a doctor’s visit for the next day; Dr. Brian will set me straight.
I get up the nerve to send a text to Jason, “Hey, I saw the prescription for Valtrex in your bathroom. Is that for—what I think it’s for? I think it’s only for one thing?”
“Ya, I think it’s just for one thing, too. Listen, I’d rather have this conversation in person,” he replies.
I freak out a little harder. I should have canceled my meetings and gone to the doctor TODAY!
Dr. Brian’s Advice
“If you like this guy, fuck the shit out of him! Hang from the chandeliers!” Dr. Brian tells me.
“Uh…what?” I ask.
“Look, if he’s taking Valtrex daily, there should be zero chance of transmission. And there’s only, like 1% chance of it infecting you in a hot tub if he’s not taking Valtrex—extremely rare. So if you really like the guy, go for it! Fuck the shit out of him!” Dr. Brian advises me.
“Ok, well, I’m not going to fuck the shit out of him, but thank you for that information,” I reply straight faced.
“Listen, you shouldn’t leave a good guy just because he has herpes. Seriously. I knew a woman who was married to a guy with herpes, and he took Valtrex, and she never contracted the disease. Her labs always came back negative. But then, she divorced him and married another man; the new husband has herpes out of the blue. It’s like, you just never know—some people carry it and don’t know, others can be someone who has herpes and never get it,” Dr. Brian tells me. “We can do a blood test if you want, but I’m telling you, if he’s on Valtrex, you have nothing to worry about.”
“I’m not leaving him because he has herpes. I’m not going to date him because he has a girlfriend,” I say.
Dr. Brian gives me a sideways look. “You’re hanging out with some guy in a hot tub, fooling around, even though he has a girlfriend?”
I roll my eyes. “It’s not like that. They have parties, we end up on the hot tub. There is no fooling around,” I emphasize. “They do have an open relationship, but we are just friends.”
“Oh, so they’re swingers and they have orgies in the hot tub when you’re not there,” Dr. Brian says, making it sound like an accusation.
“Um, I don’t know if you can call them swingers,” I said.
“If they’re in an open relationship, they’re swingers. Did you know, there are three big swinger clubs around Dallas, and some private parties by invitation-only at private residences, where guests arrive in limos. There is a healthy population of swingers in Dallas, alright. Now I do want to do a blood test—you want the whole panel, the whole set of tests?” Dr. Brian says and looks at me.
“Sure,” I say, a little overwhelmed. In five minutes, we had gone from It’s no big deal, fuck the shit out of him to Let’s see what you contracted from the hot tub and your filthy swinger friends.
“You’re probably ok,” Dr. Brian says, while looking at his computer screen. He does not sound like he believes what he’s saying.
“Do I have an obligation to share this information with other people who attend the hot tub parties?” I ask him.
“No. Anyone who is in the lifestyle, or who knows that your friend is in the lifestyle, knows the risks. You aren’t obligated to warn anyone; they already know,” he tells me.
I didn’t know; I didn’t even know about Jason and Sara’s open relationship for years. They keep it to themselves. But then, it’s possible that everyone else at the hot tub parties know.
Trying to lighten the mood, I joke, “I feel like I just confessed something. Do you get paid extra for therapy?”
His turn to roll his eyes. “This is nothing. I treat guys with STD’s and have to keep their affairs secret from their wives. I treat wives for the same thing—that’s the worst, because it takes an act of congress to get a woman to cheat. Seriously, men will cheat for next to no reason, but women—well, let’s just say they have to see no way out of the marriage before they’ll stray,” he shakes his head. “I’m a hormone doctor,” he nods to the poster that advertises artificial hormone replacement treatments. “So I see a lot of strange shit. I had one patient who became so horny from the treatments, that she would wear a vibrator to work every day. Can you imagine?! She got tired of changing the batteries, so she bought a vibrator that plugged into the car’s power outlet!”
I do not know how to respond to that. A few jokes come to mind, but they don’t seem appropriate. Then again, this whole conversation seems inappropriate. If I had a hot tub, I’d invite Dr. Brian over to hang out. If he’s this much fun sober, think of the stories he’d tell while he’s drunk!
Dr. Brian continues, “My point is, your story is nothing. I’ll forget it in 30 minutes. Now, the lady who plugs her vibrator into the car’s power outlet? I’ll remember that one.” He pauses and looks at me. “You should really get a life.”
I about die. “My doctor is prescribing me, Get a life?!” I ask.
“Well, I guess you go to hot tub parties, so maybe not. But you aren’t going to those any more, right? You need to find new friends,” he says.
“Right. Thank you, Dr. Brian, you’ve been very helpful,” I say. “Very informative!”
Lessons Learned from this escapade:
- If a person is on Valtrex, there is 0% chance of contracting herpes from him.
- If a person is a swinger, there are other things that you should be worried about.
- My doctor is has some fucking hilarious stories to tell.
- If you like a guy, fuck the shit out of him. Doctor’s orders.
- Hanging from the chandeliers while fucking the shit out of him is optional, but highly recommended by the doctor as well.