It’s a tale as old as time: Guy and girl fall in love, guy lies to and cheats on daughter, daughter violates up with guy and becomes a cold hearted, guarded version of herself as some kind of PTSD survival mechanism.
OK, so maybe it’s not a narrative as old as hour, but I have heard this story before.
For the longest time, I felt that it would be stupid for someone to close themselves off emotionally just because of one bad relationship. That is, until this clich narrative became my story, and that’s exactly what I did.
That’s when I realized becoming guarded is not so much a misguided selection as it is a psychological response to emotional trauma. That is how I became who I am today, almost three years after the end of my last relationship: an emotionally unavailable female in her 20 swho struggles to engage in expectation-less relations with equally emotionally unavailable f* ckboys, all so I can still get laid regularly while being single.
According to my other single friends, I’m even more “normal” now than I was when I still believed that relationships were made of sunshine and rainbows and happiness.
So here I am today: the quintessential guarded single girl who has slowly collected a handful of partners to sleep with. The guys who gradually became what I called my rotation were either friends of mine or someone I had gratified through a close friend. It somehow felt less risky if I was connected socially to the guys I was sleeping with, almost as if having mutual friends forced us all to be safer or more selective about our partners. I got screened for STDs every couple of months and continued coming up clean, which reinforced the idea that I had a good thing going.
In retrospect, this was incredibly stupid because unprotected sexuality is still unprotected sex, but hey, you live and you learn, right? Regardless, I was pretty happy and entertained for the better part of three years.
The no-feelings, casual sex situation maintained me pretty happy and very entertained until the working day I got an STD. I wasn’t being consistently safe with all of my partners, and since we were all sleeping around, I had known that there was a chance this could happen.
I can make a bunch of excuses as to why I wasn’t having safer sexuality( condoms suck, I was on birth control, sometimes I was drunk and other days I was caught up in the moment ), but the bottom line is that I was being reckless.
To say that I was disappointed in myself was an understatement. I was a smart daughter inducing unbelievably stupid choices when it came to my sexuality life. I knew damn well that the rates of STDs were continuously rising especially in San Francisco, where I lived and yet I fooled myself into thinking that if I didn’t sleep with strangers, I was being safe enough.
I was at a birthday brunch when I got an email saying that I had tested positive for Chlamydia.
I sat there in silence, enduring a internal panic attack while my friends drank mimosas and chuckled. While I am not proud to acknowledge this, I knew in that moment that I had two alternatives: 1) I could stop sleeping with the guys in my rotation, get cured, and deny ever having had an STD going forward, or 2) I could tell all of them that I had potentially set them at risk and be forced to grit my teeth through whatever verbal or social backlash resulted from my honesty.
I knew immediately that as a responsible adult, I would do the latter, but I genuinely could appreciate why someone in my shoes might attain the incorrect choice out of dread and say nothing. Let me just say that I respect anyone who has ever had to disclose a positive STD screening to someone.
Even though it is the right thing to do, it’s a difficult conversation to have. It necessitates respect from both parties, some fortitude, and also trusting that they won’t use your private medical information against you or broadcast it to the world.
Instead of just one or two people, I had to disclose my exam outcomes to a handful of guys. Regardless of how I got it, there was also a high likelihood that I was responsible for devoting it to someone else. This is the part that really bothered me. Poker face , no attachment act be damned at my core, I care deeply about people and knowing that I accidentally set someone else as risk built me feel pretty sick to my stomach.
I was embarrassed and angry with myself.
For some reason, I felt the most guilty about this guy Brett* because I thought he was the least likely to have given it to me. He was also farthest removed from my social circle, and we had never discussed the obvious dangers of both of us sleeping with other people. I knew it was wrong to send this kind of news in a text, so I drove to his house and sat in my car trying to prep myself for the uncomfortable face to face dialogue ahead.
I’m usually level-headed in a crisis, but as I sat there trying to figure out the most upfront style to deliver the news, I broke down and started to cry. I never supposed I would find myself in this situation, and it was humiliating to have to tell someone that you probably dedicated them an STD.
I also had no idea how he was going to react. Was he going to say horrible things to me or kick me out of his apartment? Would he be cold and make me feel even worse than I already did?
In that moment, anything seemed possible, so as I asked to him to let me inside to talk. I braced myself for the worst possible reaction. But then, something really crazy happened: He let me into his apartment, I explained that I chlamydia and that I may have given it to him too, and he high-fived me.
I’m not kidding; he actually high-fived me.
I was nervous and didn’t know where to begin, but when I finally spit it out that I tested positive for the clap, I assured genuine relief flood his face. His tense body language relaxed. I think he maybe even smiled, and then he reached over to give me a high-five. I sat there in shock as he explained that out of all the STDs, at least Chlamydia wasn’t life alter and that it going on around here with medication.
I had already known that, but even the best-case scenario that I had hoped for while prepping outside in my vehicle was way worse than the optimistic, matured adult he was being. I couldn’t believe it. As I sat there still weeping in residual shock and shame, he went on to tell me that everything was going to be fine and there was no employ crying over spilled milk.
He talked briefly with me about who else I was sleeping with and how I found out. There were no angry accusations or thumb pointing; he admitted that while he believed he was clean, there was always a prospect that he had given it to me so he would get tested and be in touch with his results. Lastly, he thanked me for having the balls to talk to him in person and for being honest about it. He gave me a hug and sent me on my way.
As I left his apartment stunned, I felt relief clean over me. That was exactly how person you’re sleeping with should react if you have to tell them that you devoted a non life altering STD. Okay, perhaps they don’t have to high-five you, but staying calms and not placing blame is what you should do in this situation.
After all, it’s a mutual decision to be irresponsible, and no quantity of screaming or rage can undo something that has already been done. His unruffled reply single handedly changed my perspective on the conversations that would follow with the other guys and even on how I felt about myself. It allowed me to let go of some of the disgrace I was feeling from getting an STD and remember that we are all accountable for our selections. He helped me assure the silver lining in that we had gotten luck because it curable by taking a few pills. To quote him immediately, he told Chlamydia was the best of the worst.
As I drove away, a second wave of emotion made me and the relief was replaced by sadness. I was sad because I was so much more grateful for the route he answered and I hadn’t properly thanked him. Now that he would insure me as more problematic than fun, I would also maybe never get another chance to do so.
It became abundantly clear in that moment that he was a good person who had chosen to treat me with respect when he could’ve easily chosen to be angry instead. It was pretty disturbing for me to realize that even though we had been sleeping together, I didn’t know him that well. I left that conversation knowing that he was the kind of person you would want in your corner if sh* t were to made the fan. Good people are hard to come by, and I had managed to miss out on one because of how detached I had become.
For anyone else who is shying away from feelings and relationships to mitigate risk: participating in no strings attached, casual sex doesn’t eradicate health risks of getting hurt or hurting other people.
Know that the risk is actually higher because when sh* t does reach the fan, casual partners aren’t obligated to stay and assist clean up the mess. I’m not denouncing casual sex, but I know that I get really lucky with Brett’s high-five and positive attitude.( Read: my other dialogues did not run so well ).
If you decide to forgo looking for a relationship and have none monogamous sexuality, you owe it to yourself to be smart about it. I was able to learn from my missteps without doing any permanent injury, but not everyone gets so lucky. This was a huge wake up call for me; I now have an opportunity to be safer, appreciate for the next person who comes along and hopefully remind others that even if we know the people we’re sleeping with , none of us are truly safe from STDs.