I spend most of a first date contemplating whether he’s worth a second one: Am I having fun yet? Do I care about hearing these stories again? What did he say his job was? Usually it ends with a pat or a hug and one of us “attempting” the lean in (that is, the attempted effort of a kiss). *rinse and repeat.*
Of course I’m not one to pry into someone’s dating rituals, but if you’re like me there is always a little anxiety leading up to the end of a date, which stems from one of two things: you’ve either decided he’s not worth a second date so you try figuring out a way to enjoy the next half hour, or you’ve decided he is worth a second date and you spend the next half hour finding words to tell him you’re HIV-positive.
Don’t worry — everyone has been in this kind of a situation, whether it’s related to HIV or not. The secret is owning it. At this point in your life, if you let a virus define who you are to the point where you’re trembling in fear to tell a complete stranger your diagnosis, there needs to be some serious personal work outside of Tinder.
We all know what it’s like in the hot seat terrified we’re about to be judged, but if you really think about it, it’s we who are judging ourselves long before the world is. If we skip that step, we might surprise ourselves. Here are some things to think about:
1) Decide if He’s Worth Telling First.
Because HIV is so personal in our lives, we often associate his disinterest with our status. If he ghosts us afterwards, we’re quick to assume it’s because of our status, when really he might have ghosted us anyway (because he’s a jerk).
So to be double — no, triple — sure, be selective in who you disclose to. Trust me, it will save you so much emotional strength down the road. Allow yourself time on the date to decide whether he’s worth a second date. If he is, let the decision be up to you. Perhaps it’s best to wait till the second or third date to see his character before you test it.
2) Don’t Say You’re HIV-Positive. Say You’re “Undetectable.”
Yes we know you’re HIV-positive, but words are powerful — not just for them, for us as well. It’s time we own what we say. So many people today have a bad association with the word “HIV” that, thanks to ignorance, they’ll turn away out of fear or lack of understanding.
To make yourself feel better (and it feels great to own the word “undetectable”), sing the word from the rooftops because while HIV might be part of you, it is never a part of your name or identity. Undetectable means Uninfectious. That is a fact.
3) Show Them Passion First, Before Your Status.
Hear me out. There is always a moment in the conversation when they ask you about your passions in life, or your dreams. Instead of talking about career or business goals, mention offhand that one of your missions is to lead by example:
Say something like, “Something I’m super passionate about is educating people about HIV. I myself am undetectable, which means I can’t give the virus to anyone because I’m virally suppressed. And not a lot of people know what that means, so I love talking about it with people because it makes me feel like I’m educating them…” (say it with a smile, and find your own words).
Not only are you disclosing your status to him in a way that’s not awkward or apologetic, but you’re giving him a chance to showcase your enthusiasm and passion. And enthusiasm is distracting (and sexy)! You inadvertently change molecules in the air by showing him it’s not a big deal. That kind of attitude is magnetic.
4) Be On Your Own Team
By that I mean never apologize for yourself, but you can apologize for the stigma itself. Everyone fears rejection, especially at the beginning. But at the end of the day, fear is a coward. When you look at it directly in the face, it runs away. It no longer becomes real.
Don’t be afraid to mention the topic in discussion without going into detail. See how they respond to it, then try your best to convey compassion for them on whatever side of the spectrum they lie. Once you get them on your level, tease them by saying something sarcastic like, “Well I’m Undetectable, so I’ve been judging everything you said…” I’ve seen this happen once. It always gets a laugh, and a laugh is a window into trust.
5) Ask HIM First.
Why not turn the table for a change and ask him what his status is, just to knock him for a bit? That way when he comes back to center, he’s more present when you disclose your status. People are so comfortable blatantly asking someone’s status through hookup apps that we forget what it feels like asking it in person.
Hearing the words “Do You Have HIV?” still gives me chills. There’s so many ghosts attached that question, and never should you make it uncomfortable, but in a weird way it does relieve your anxiety a bit by laying it on the line. And you never know… he might be undetectable too.