Between Herpes and a Hard Place - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Between Herpes and a Hard Place

Between Herpes and a Hard Place

By Eugene S. Robinson


Because while talk is cheap, good advice? Priceless.

By Eugene S. Robinson

A Wink vs. a Nod

EUGENE, SIR: How do you tell a bruised or busted lip from herpes? — Omar

Dear Oh Man: I’m not an expert on herpes. But I am an expert on knowing that if your dating choices are bookended by a communicable virus and violent facial damage causally connected to either attacking or being attacked, then it just may be that you’re barking up the wrong trees. But who am I to judge? Well, I’m a guy with his fingers on the herpes experts’ pulse who called on Dr. Steve Ballinger for the inside scoop on herpes, hits and the resulting busted lips.

Ballinger’s response? “Herpes is a small cluster of blisters at the ‘vermilion border’ — the margin of the normal face skin and the hairless lip skin — that eventually coalesces into an ulcer. A lip injury starts as a split of the skin, or with an injury inside the mouth. It might be hard to tell the two apart after a week or so, but if you are getting close enough to get infected, you should be able to get a pretty good look. Though my virology professor once said, ‘Everybody has herpes. Everyone who has taken a sip of someone else’s drink, taken a bite of food off someone else’s fork or accidentally made contact with the drinking fountain spout has herpes. Some people don’t shed the virus, but it’s there.’ ”

Make you feel better? I didn’t think so.


Not a Bug, a Feature

EUGENE, SIR: I’ve cheated on my girlfriend about five or six times. She started the cheating first, and says she’s been unfaithful about the same amount. We’ve had some straight talk about it and decided we both felt worst about the lying, so we’re going to stop that. We think we should try threesomes and group things so we are not stealing from our relationship but adding to it. Are there ways to do this that are not truly stupid? Your advice will be taken seriously. We’re both 27. — Pokemon

Dear Ya Mon: If your apartment were on fire, you would have a problem. The problem would be that the apartment you owned was causing you problems. If you attempted to put out this fire with gasoline, you could claim later on that you no longer had an apartment that caused you problems, but it might also be the case that that was because you no longer had an apartment. I appreciate your wanting to get to that no-apartment stage as quickly as possible, but the reality is that while your attempt to move beyond bullshit is admirable, your corrective is dangerous. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Threesomes are complicated machines. There was a recent case in New York that saw a fellow going from a happy threesome to trying to film said threesome (which is, incidentally, verboten without permission) to being subsequently accused (falsely) of rape by the now-angry woman whose boyfriend (who had not been invited to the aforementioned threesome) showed up and, with the able assistance of two friends, stabbed and beat to death the unfortunate and dearly departed Manos Ikonomidis, the third part of the threesome and the erstwhile photographer.

I’m not suggesting that you’ll share a similar fate. But I’m totally suggesting that the think tank levels of thinking that need to go into planning something like this means it’s probably unsuitable as a fix for an already volatile interpersonal relationship. So step back a bit, and maybe delve into the whys behind the initial cheating. Afterward, if y’all are even steven and still want to be in a relationship with each other? Then call it at six and get about the business of improving business. After stability has returned? Revisit the threesome thing. That’s a non-stupid way of doing business. Good luck.

Penis Paucity

EUGENE, SIR: How do I deal in a tactful way with a penis that’s way too small to have sex with? — Charlotte

Dear Ms. Web: Isn’t this like the worst magic trick in the book? Two people come together, over drinks, in a time-honored tradition that leads to one of you saying to the other, “Hey, let’s get out of here.” Your hearts are beating like drums, to paraphrase Rod Stewart, because you’re finally both at someone’s home. Or a motel. Or a car. Or bushes in the park. And the one with the penis and the promises drops his pants to reveal? Disappointment. Sure, you’ve heard all of those canards about it not being the meat but the motion, but you’re old enough to have really firm, so to speak, ideas about this kind of thing. 

So how to ease out now? Well, Anton LaVey once told me that he thought popularity had killed more people than anything else because no one willingly wants to run the risk of being unkind and maybe just a smidgen less popular. To which I say: Screw that.

Would you eat a roach if it came with your ravioli just to make the cook happy? I think you know the answer, even if it’s not what you’re asking me — but what you’re asking very much addresses the how

Look, people who believe themselves to be fat know they’re fat. Short people are rarely confused about how tall they are. Similarly, men who are not packing know they are not packing and, I would guess, are hoping for some sort of positive outcome. Like people in hell hope they’ll get a mai tai.

It’s not your responsibility to be flowing this kind of charity. So you could lie — “I have a boyfriend, a husband, a court date” — or you could tell the truth: “We can’t do this. Maybe after I know you better.” That’s the most tactful thing of all since it doesn’t rule out the possibility, but makes it contingent on other qualities and your willingness to have those qualities change your mind.

He’ll know why you stopped and will respect your tact. If he doesn’t? Self-correcting problem!

Sign up for the weekly newsletter!