On A POZitive Note: Opting Out
At two in the afternoon I text him, "Am I seeing you tonight?" By seven I had my answer, nothing. I had a hunch it might happen so I didn't feel as victimized, but it still hurt.
"I take it you opted out" was the beginning of my last text to him. "Don't worry, I get it. I've done it more than a handful of times to guys who told me they were HIV positive, so I know what you are going through. Truthfully if the tables were turned, and my new crush just found out he was POZ, I would have done the same thing. Two dates does not a relationship make, so it won't kill us to face facts. If I'm wrong, you can call me to talk me out of feeling this way. If I'm not? Well, we both know the answer. Hope to hear from you."
He didn't call.
I was stood up for a date he had pressed me to keep even though I was still in shock about my new status. He who sent me consoling text messages saying, "Just because you're positive doesn't mean I won't be here for you." And, "Don't push me away, we can still make this work" and even, "I'm going to hold you all night and play big spoon little spoon."
The idea of being held got through to me. It had been a little over a week since I'd found out I was positive and with all my confusion about it, I could have really used his arms around me while I wallowed in self pity, if only for a few hours.
I had tried to dissuade him from pursuing me because I knew he hadn't thought it through. He was doing what I had done so many times before, being altruistic in his mind but his heart hadn't caught up yet.
I knew the language. I had used it with guys I'd dated who told me on our third or fourth date that they were positive. "Sure I can deal with it," I always said, "I've had sex with POZ guys before, of course I can deal." But it was a lie. Not to them, but to myself. So I would ease away. The more distance I created between us, the easier it was to find other reasons why we wouldn't work.
So when my new boyfriend failed to return my phone calls or texts last Saturday, standing me up for our "holding me all night" date, I got the message.
Perhaps in the deepest part of myself, I feel I deserve to be rejected because I am a dirty.
There I've said it, even though it might be unhealthy for me to think these thoughts. And though tears are blinding me even now as I type, I have to face this ugliness and ask myself; how am I to come to grips with this and not let guilt and shame set the tone of my future?
So instead of being miserably home alone on a Saturday night, I went out with my friends to laugh away my heavies. Re-discovering that enjoyment of life lies in our own perceptions.
The next morning I woke up feeling empowered. I wasn't going to let this guy creep away as I had done so often without at least an acknowledged goodbye or an apology for standing me up. So I text him again:
"Listen, I'm going to keep bugging you until you call back and prove to me that you are the honest, upfront, smart and caring guy I thought you were. Please don't ignore me."
He called a few minutes later and started yelling at me, "It's all about you, you, you isn't it? I was with my mother in the country all day out of cell range and got back to your text messages that made me so upset I didn't feel like calling."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you angry, as I'm sure you didn't mean to make me angry when you STOOD ME UP FOR OUR DATE."
"What makes you think it was a date? I thought we were just going to be two friends hanging out."
This was bullshit and we both knew it. He was looking for reasons to make me wrong. His loving and supportive text messages promising we could "get through this together" and "I'll be your heater all night, and we'll make oatmeal for breakfast" were not coming from a platonic friends perspective. They were coming from a new boyfriend who was just now getting his head around our changed situation and trying to opt out in a cowardly way. I didn't bother to point this out.
Rather than let it turn nasty, I softened my tone of voice and said, "Even if we were to 'hang out as friends' the fact I didn't hear from you pissed me off. I'm not usually a needy person but finding out I am HIV positive a week ago deserves at least one night of wallowing in self-pity in the arms of the man who offered. So regardless of our relationship status, you stood me up and I deserve an apology."
There was a long pause over the phone until he said, "You're right, I'm sorry. I should have called, but you saidâ€¦"
"Whoa stop right there. All I needed was to hear you say those words. I'm sorry too for upsetting you, and for the fear you must be going through having to get tested again next week, and in three months, it sucks. Now we're settled. I can put the puzzle pieces together and not have to wonder what you were thinking for the rest of my life."
He started to speak but I stopped him saying, "It's really okay, there's nothing more to be said. I'm happy now, and I hope you will be too. If you even need to talk, I'll be here to listen."
Now that he's gone a great weight has been lifted. The weight that he might have tried to stay with me out of pity, or obligation, or fear he was infected and might as well string me along until he found out. In reality, he doesn't want an HIV positive boyfriend, and now I'm not sure I want a negative one. At least I don't feel victimized because a guy walked away from me for being POZ.
This way we both get to opt out with our integrity and respect intact.
* You heard my story, let's hear yours. If you've experienced opting out because of HIV on either side of the coin, we'd like to know about it.