Scenario: The school bully keeps poking and prodding the new kid. “Nice shoes, dweeb.” (I doubt bullies still say such antiquated phrases, but being a Calvin and Hobbes fan as a kid taught me that’s what bullies say.) If the kid believes his choice in foot fashion is something left to be desired, he’s liable to hang his head low and take the abuse. “He’s right,” the kid thinks, “my shoes DO suck.” So the bully continues this teasing throughout the school year, picking on every aspect of the kid, his glasses, his acne, his backpack.

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But what if (and this is the pivotal part where the inspiring music starts to play) the kid actually doesn’t see any problem with his shoes, glasses, acne or backpack? Then he’s liable to stand up for himself with unwavering confidence and say something like, “Thanks! I like my shoes, too. They were on sale at Wal-mart.” The bully knows an unwilling victim when he sees one, so he goes to pick on someone else.
So yes, we, the people with herpes, are the kid allowing people to call us dweebs. Yes, that’s the takeaway here. But in all seriousness, if we’re calling a spade a spade, herpes really is just a skin condition “down there” that happens to have a whole lot of cultural baggage attached to it. So if that’s the case, we need to start acting on that truth instead of backing away from it.
Let’s tie this back into the title.
Changing society’s perception of herpes starts with us changing our relationship to herpes and to ourselves. Let’s start now, shall we?