Out In The Open

'What, oh my gosh, you have herpes too!?': The highs and lows of dating with an STI

Whitney Carlson tells Out in the Open what it's like to be single and have herpes.
Whitney Carlson (Courtesy of Whitney Carlson)

"I felt unlovable. I felt dirty and gross. I had just moved to Chicago, was feeling really good about myself, I had this level of confidence I had never had before and then all of that just went away."

When Whitney Carlson found out she had herpes, it killed her self esteem and made it difficult to find the motivation to go on dates. She feared she would be viewed as dirty.

Thankfully, there's an app for that. She starting dating again using an app exclusively for people with sexually transmitted infections.

"I was too scared to use Tinder or Bumble because I didn't want to get shut down and I didn't want to disclose it to anyone," she says.

Eventually, Whitney decided she would get back on the more popular dating apps, which led to dates and full-disclosure.

"When I first starting doing it I would tell the guy on the first date because I was already tired of being hurt and I didn't want to be vulnerable and it was like, 'If you can't accept this then I'm just going to cut and run right now before I start getting feelings for you.'"

Once, after telling a date she had herpes, she was delighted to find out that he too carried the virus.

"I got so excited about it and I get really loud when I get excited so I was just like 'What, oh my gosh, you have herpes too!?' and we're in the middle of this restaurant ..."

Whitney is over feeling unlovable or dirty because of her STI, but it still adds a layer of anxiety to her romantic life.

"There has always been that underlying fear of 'What if?'. What if I meet the perfect guy and we hit it off and everything is great but he can't handle the fact I have herpes?"