To Have Loved, But Not Lost

A seagull. Photo by Jeremy Alcorn

To the man with my heart in his glorious palms; that’s how it began. I was rummaging through my files today and I reached into a folder labeled nostalgia sure that there was something there I could throw away. It held a single letter. It was one my second wife had written me on my birthday. I had forgot it even existed.

Our relationship was an unlikely one. 18 years of age separated us. Most people didn’t approve. In the end her interest faded; she moved on and so I had to as well.

Her letter was as spectacular now as it was then, I remembered why I loved her so. As I read through her beautiful prose and all of the wonderful things she said about me, about us, I pondered how such emotion and love could ever fade. Sometimes though, it does.

Things can never go back to how they were. That truth is the only thing that made moving on possible. Life is both complicated and simplistic that way.

Her words continue, this time prophetic “our time is something we have to treat as precious, focusing on what we have instead of what we do not have.”

I was the happiest with her. I can’t imagine ever feeling that way again towards another. I hope I will. If I don’t, I’m thankful for the two years we shared. I’m ever grateful that I was able to experience such emotion once in my life and I’m glad it was with her.

I returned the letter to its place with tears cascading down my cheeks and falling from my chin. The folder is like my heart, it holds something dear to me. I can reminisce about what it holds and appreciate how special those moments are to have lived. A heart bereft of love is barely able to be called heart at all. It is just an empty object waiting to be used, to be filled.

As it turns out, everything in the folder and in my heart is placed just as it should be. I was in love and that is enough.

My Partner Told Me They Have Genital Herpes

So you’ve met someone you like and you’re ready to take things to the next level, but your partner has just told you they have genital herpes.

As someone who themself has genital herpes I want you to know a few things about how to approach this situation with grace and be empowered to make a healthy decision.

So what can you do?

Consider yourself respected

If you are with someone who has informed you they have herpes then that’s one sign that you may have found someone who truly values you as a person. After all, between breakouts (of which some people never have) there is no way for you to tell if someone is infected.

By telling you about herpes or any other STI/D before you have sex they are putting your needs before their own. This is pretty sexy in and of itself. They are giving you the gift of informed consent. Something they may not have had.

Ask them questions

The information they have for you is really important. Hopefully, they can tell you what herpes looks like for them, meaning what precautions the two of you can take and the frequency of their outbreaks.

Even better is that talking to them will help you see that they are not what the virus makes them. They are just people getting along in the world like everyone else. They probably don’t define themselves by the fact that they have herpes and neither should you.

Feel free to think about it

If someone springs the info that they have herpes on you while your both naked and ready to throw down then it’s either that things progressed much quicker than they anticipated or they were hoping you would just agree to sex anyway in the heat of the moment. The first is somewhat understandable the second is deplorable.

Either way, you have the right to say “I need to think about this.” You have to determine your risk in a informed and rational way. I for instance, have chosen both to avoid risks and accept them depending on the circumstances. Obviously, you have this right as well.

Do some research

There’s nothing wrong with seeking out sources other than your partner. Not everyone is fully versed on herpes and it will also help you with your piece of mind by knowing the information you have is correct. To this end, use reputable medical sites and not a site that is posing as one.

Don’t say you’re clean

Often the words we choose have unintended consequences. By saying you’re clean (STI/D negative) you are implying that those who are not are dirty. In fact, dirty is a word that is often pointed straight at those who have herpes.

Know that herpes is beyond morality

Herpes is a virus, period. It doesn’t give a shit about your ideology. It doesn’t matter if you live a life of religiously endorsed virtue or one that is a virtue of your own endorsement. A virus reaches across all ideological spectrums.

I say this because I want you to know that while your partner’s situation will be different from everyone else who has herpes that it does not mean they lived a life of depravity. There is nothing wrong with them. You should know this because you’re with them. Whatever attracted you to them still exists.

Herpes isn’t normally screened for so even you may well have the virus and not know it. There’s not a lot of reason to check for herpes until you have symptoms. In one study, 90 percent of people who tested positive for HSV2 (genital herpes) had never experienced any symptoms prior (1). That means there are a lot of people walking around with one of the strains of herpes and will likely never know it.

At any rate, don’t fret over your partner’s means of contracting herpes unless it is important to them to discuss it.

How did I get herpes?

Why is this here? Because you’re probably wondering. Keep in mind that this is information that you really have no right to. So if your talking to someone and they mention their positive HSV status it’s not okay to ask how they got it. They will volunteer that info if they want you to know.

However, I have a blog dealing with this and I’m comfortable talking about it. I think I received herpes through viral shedding. None of my partners had any visible symptoms, none of them informed me about an HSV2 risk and I trust those I was with sexually. I don’t think the person that infected me knew they had it.

Viral shedding is where the virus is attached to a skin cell that falls from one body and then enters the body of another through a mucous membrane or a wound. The herpes virus lives for a very short time outside of the body but when your close to someone a short time is all that it can take.

Because I was infected in a place a condom doesn’t cover it seems likely that the point of entry for me was a razor nick in my skin (some recommend shaving a day before a sexual encounter rather than the day of to allow some time to heal).

I don’t regret anything. This is just one of those things that happen. I abstain from sex during any breakouts (which seemed to have stopped) and wait seven days after healing as recommended. Anyone I’m with sexually knows my status and we work around it when needed. The results have been good and so far I seem to be keeping herpes all to myself, lol. Which is the ideal situation for everyone.

I hope this little bit of info helps about how to address the revelation that your partner has herpes. Couples working with herpes have full and rich relationships and if you choose so can you. As the saying goes stay calm, and carry on.

1 – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/11/02/you-probably-have-herpes-but-thats-really-okay/?utm_term=.d6c8c7199421

The Wedding Vows

www.jeremyalcornphotography.com

Recently, I officiated my friend’s wedding ceremony for a renewal of vows. I was honored to be given this privilege. Here is what I said which I owe heavily to bell hooks in her wonderful book All About Love:

“Good evening. I’d like to start by welcoming you to this ceremony and congratulating Jeff and Eric on this special occasion.

There’s a line towards the end of a wedding. You’ve all heard it many times before: it reads, “by the power invested in me.” If only things were that matter of fact. I wish that my words here today could grant you life long assuredness, a knowledge that the two of you will prosper together and enjoy happiness till the end of your days. While I believe that you can have this, it’s not something I can provide nor is there a religious or legal edict that can make your relationship a prosperous marriage.

When you were dating, you needed to know that you were on your way to being in love. In a marriage though you will seek something much more akin to true love.

We are often shown, and so we imagine, a fairy tale version of love. Real love though is grittier than that. At times it can be a struggle, disagreements are after all allowed and sometimes necessary. If relationships are work, then love will be your career. Love challenges us in ways that can make us want to withdraw rather than pull someone close and open up. It makes us vulnerable by showing us our shortcomings and it will reveal to us our deepest insecurities. To be sure, truly loving another person is one of the most courageous things you will ever do.

This is why the two of you standing here today makes this event all the more special. By being married you have already confirmed your decision to love and tackle your fears. You have learned that while loving each other cannot end the difficulties you will face, it can give you the ability to deal with those obstacles and emerge stronger for it.

And so it is today that you continue your commitment to one another evinced by this gathering of kindred – this confirmation of spirit, this renewal of vows.

I want to say a few things about love before we get to those vows. Earlier I spoke of true love and that sometimes seems to be a perplexing idea, but it is because we often misunderstand the nature of love. True love does exist, but it is not something you stumble onto or happen upon. We often confuse the incidence of meeting someone with finding love. We may find our partners by accident but love takes much more.

Because we often think that we find love we have come to view it as a noun. Love for us becomes a thing to be given and more often, something to be received. While this view can be a good start it does not take us close enough to where we need to be. Regarded this way we miss the fundamental meaning of this deep emotion. For if love is only a thing, then we must ask ourselves where is this thing we exchange created? Where does love come from?

Obviously love has to come from us and that is why love is actually a verb. It is an intentional act, for we do not have to love, rather we choose to.

Love gives us agency. It is a way of living and ordering our lives to maximize the way we commune with those around us. In this way then, love is also much more than just a feeling. Love as a verb demands that we be responsible and accountable. It means we take ownership for our actions and expect our partner to do the same. When we falter it is our obligation to accept our mistakes and make amends. Love demands this so that we continually succeed or fail better for our partners.

In your quest to deepen your bonds remember that love should be honest. Love cannot exist in a world of deception. Speaking your truths to a partner and in turn hearing theirs will strengthen your bonds and help create respect. Your words should be measured and honest to solidify the trust you have in each other. Speaking and listening in this regard is not always easy but it is essential.

In your honesty be sure to see that your love is also kind. The goal of intimacy should be to foster healing and understanding.

For your marriage to be loving it needs to have an ethic of care. When the component of care is lost a relationship becomes distant at best, or hurtful and abusive at worst – in essence dysfunctional. Love cannot grow where there is an absence of care. When you treat love as a verb you are prioritizing your partner’s personal and spiritual growth along with your own.

In addition to these, you should be steadfastly committed to one another. Commitment is often thought of as being physically true to your partner, and while the agreement you reach in this regard is important, it is too shallow a view. You will find that committing to your partner through love becomes something which is better rounded and more complete than just being physically devoted ever could be.

I want to leave you with this caveat so you know that you are in good standing: love does not demand perfection. There may be times when you don’t feel worthy for the task of love. This is normal, it is often the product of dwelling on your self-doubt too much. Done this way you will undervalue your worth. Always remember though that your partner has chosen you. They aren’t inhibited by your self-doubt. If they could feel what you think about yourself they wouldn’t recognize it as you. Your partner is by your side because they see your truth rather than your fiction. This too is what love does.

Ultimately though as I stated at the outset, what you need, and indeed what you have found to make love blossom can only be touched upon by words in a ceremony. The power of love as a verb can only be realized by both of you.

And so it is now that I ask you both to share a confirmation of that strength within by way of vows.

______ Do you promise to love _____ , to act in a way that confers care, trust, understanding, respect, and commitment to him – guarding his heart and his priorities as if they were your own for as long as you shall live?

Then having heard your affirmations, by the power that resides in each of you and by the trust you have placed in each other. I humbly and happily reaffirm you, husbands. You may each kiss the groom.”

 

An Alternative View of Labels

Like one of the authors of the articles below I have always wondered if labels concerning human sexuality do us more harm than good. I think there are arguments for both sides and I find the interplay of ideas particularly interesting.

Here are two stories of people who though they were stalwart adherents to a particular way of being until someone special helped them discover an unexpected truth about love.

I Came Out as A Lesbian – Then Fell In Love With A Man

How My Sexuality Changed When My Husband Became My Wife

As you can see by the titles, the first story follows a traditional view of relationships while the latter has a more non-traditional story arch. I hope you enjoy them and whoever you love now or come to love in your life, I wish you the greatest happiness.

How Did Your Sexual Orientation Form?

I think for many people the premise that sexual orientation is not fixed, but can vary with stimuli, will be a difficult one to accept. However, thanks to trans folks (again) we have a wonderful new outlook on the world. Here are a couple of women who might just change the way you think.

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/the-trans-women-who-become-lesbians-after-years-as-gay-men?utm_source=broadlyfbus&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000050

Why Being A Grammar Elitist Ain’t All That

16473183_699677330213370_2443169300128591197_n

A tip for dating or relationships in general: policing someone’s grammar is a dick move. Here’s why following grammar protocol doesn’t show the good form that you imagine it does.

So-called correct grammar is an appeal to upper class views of what is proper and just in our language. Except that language has never really worked that way. Do you think the railroad workers, saloon owners, or sex workers in the 1800’s spoke perfect English? Me thinketh not. It was more a mixture of broken Chinese, Spanish, French, Irish (Gaelic), German and a whole other host of languages. And yet, these are the people that built America and they got shit done without needing to resort to the queen’s english.

Proper grammar is an elitist approach to the english language. It’s a way of thinking one person is better than another because of how they speak. Grammar elitists place their self worth and others on education without ever once imagining that not everyone has access to the same level or quality of education or sometimes any education at all.

It’s also a form of racism and classism which ignores the cultural influences that can exist in local neighborhoods and regions. Speaking like an upper class WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant) who is well versed in fine speak is not likely to garner you any special level of appreciation from a Tennessee mining community, the Dark Corner, Flint, Michigan or even in New York City.

Granted, it’s a fictional character but Malcolm Reynolds on Firefly spoke about being immortalized saying, “It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another.” It’s not at all proper english but it’s a wonderful quote (one of my favorites I might add) which easily exhibits wisdom. Everyone who is idolized has a darker side that often gets swept away by the need for a hero. Proper word choice isn’t necessarily a display of intelligence, but rather an example of someone following rules just for the sake of it.

The important thing is that we try and understand what the other person is saying and not how they are saying it. If someone from my home town told me “I found bout 5 five pounds of shroons the other day over on Kuhlman Hill.” I’m not about to correct them and say “you mean to say mushrooms” because I would be a colossal prick and their meaning is easily obtained.

Focusing too intently on grammar can also hide our chosen identity when we develop a stalwart adherence to pronoun choice such as him and her as opposed to zir and ze or they. We disrespect people and who they are over word choice.

The final reason that grammar (and word choice) doesn’t matter is that those whose job it is to keep us abreast of the english language aren’t at all concerned about what is proper. This very month Merriam-Webster introduced the words “safe space” and “microaggression” to the dictionary. Since that will piss conservatives off to no end they might be pleased to know that “riding shotgun” is now included as well. The point of cataloging language isn’t about proper usage, but about documenting what is happening. That word that you despise if it persists will one day make it into the dictionary. The kicker is, it was a real word long before that happened.

So the next time you decide to chide someone for not living up to your language standards perhaps you should critically examine those expectations and their privileged origins.

Are You Heading Towards A Sexless Relationship?

I think this is one of the things that, at least in America, doesn’t get talked about enough. Tons of people have struggled with the frequency of sex in a relationship and many of those have gone on to feel like they are merely a roommate to their significant other.

I can say that I was one of those people and while it was occurring I didn’t really speak to anyone about it. Like one of the scenarios mentioned in this article I eventually didn’t have any desire to have sex at all; my body just wasn’t producing those hormones anymore. While it wasn’t the biggest reason for the end of that relationship it was certainly a factor.

So know that others have been through this as well. You’re not alone and if your relationship hasn’t ended maybe there’s something you can do about it.

7 Signs You’re On Your Way To A Sexless Marriage

Guys, You’re Doing Friendship Wrong

Sociologists have long known that the way we do friendship now is not the way it has always been. However, you’re not a sociologist (well not an employed one anyway) so check this out to start understanding that there is something contrary to human nature about how we do friendship then work to change that; both for your health all those other guys who just want someone to hang out with.

http://www.vice.com/en_us/read/why-men-lose-friends-in-their-20s?utm_source=vicefbusads

As I read through some of these stories it becomes obvious to me why I have tried to establish friendships with women recently.

Wait Till You See These Old Photos of Men

These photos are awesome and they will turn the very notion of what men used to be compared to what they are now on its head.

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/07/29/bosom-buddies-a-photo-history-of-male-affection/

Do You Dream Of Another Guy With Your Wife?

If you do apparently you’re not alone. This is one of the most prevalent fantasies that guys have and the motives behind this imagined scenario are actually quite diverse. This phenomena was a complete mystery to me so if you’re like me or if you have this fantasy and are curious to learn more about it then read on and enjoy.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201602/what-secret-male-sexual-fantasy-is-surprisingly-common

I’m making this guy week because as I look back through my saved articles many of them relate to men so I figured I would clear out the information banks and share them.