Red flags, bad dates and help for perpetually poor choices

"All seemed well until the guy started withdrawing a bit, saying he was sure he had gotten herpes and could “feel the disease in his body.” It was seriously kinda crazy."

Q:

I seemed to have a good rapport with a guy I was talking to online, and we decided to meet. I had a cold sore and was open about it before the date. I’ve gotten them since I was young, and we just happened to meet during an outbreak. 

The date ended in a totally consensual blowie in the car. All seemed well until the guy started withdrawing a bit, saying he was sure he had gotten herpes and could “feel the disease in his body.” It was seriously kinda crazy. 

Even when I thought the discussion had waned, he wouldn’t stop worrying, finally make me feel bad about giving a blow job that this guy agreed to and made me feel like a whore. 

A few weeks went by, and the guy calmed down and now talk of a second date is on the table. Should I consider it? 

Also, he appears to generally be afraid of the world, he’s 30+, and he lives with his parents. He has canceled dates so that he could have dinner with his mom because she was going out of town for a couple of days. 

Maybe dating this person is just a terrible idea for a variety of reasons?

Dear Sore for More:

Before we get into red flags flying on the play, I want to be clear that no one can “make” you feel like a whore — or any other kind of way — without your permission. You are in charge of your own self-perception. Take responsibility for your self-worth.

Now, about Paranoid Pete: An old saying comes to mind. When people show you who they are, believe them. That happens most frequently when they are under stress, and even though you did everything right, he gave himself permission to freak the hell out. 

First and foremost, Herpes 1 is usually inherited in the womb and is about 95% non-transmissible, yes even by fellatio, unless there is prolonged open sore-to-open sore contact. It took me about 12 seconds to Google that, which would have saved you both a lot of handwringing.

He may be the kind of person who gets attention via meltdowns, possibly from his parents. Right now, it’s not your problem, but if the idea of it bothers you, it will bother you more if you start dating seriously. Investigate further to get the lay of the land.

Looking forward, if your new friend will create diseases out of fear and misinformation, what will he do when he’s under a real threat? When the chips are down between you? The next time you have an outbreak? Are you prepared to talk him down every time he does an attention grab? 

If he balances the co-dependence and paranoia with irresistible positive qualities, you might decide it’s worth it, but it’s never a bad idea to acknowledge the issues in advance.

Q: 

I have a friend who dates all the wrong people. If it’s a horrible choice, my friend is there. Closeted 18-year-old at work? Tried it. Emotional attachment but sexual incompatibility? Keeps going back for more. Getting back with the ex who wanted him as a sex slave? Twice so far.

My question is, how do I support him? He seems to have a moment of clarity, then refuses to be honest with himself. 

I am his only shoulder to cry on, but I’m also the one who has to deal with the aftermath of his decisions. Help me help him!

Dear The Help:

Friends are there for each other, but the best ones can also be the ones that stop helping. We’ve all picked up the pieces of a broken heart, empowered someone to stay away from a toxic ex, or lent an ear when emotions are in the way of good decisions.

Still, repeat occurrences can put pieces back together with Scotch tape when they need super glue. Your brand of help keeps him from the kind he may really need, and it sets you up to do it again when it falls apart. 

Next time, instead of encouraging your friend about what to do, encourage him to seek out a professional who can help in a more permanent way. The Health Initiative in Atlanta even has referrals for free mental health resources to anyone who identifies as LGBTQ in Georgia.

Try something like, “This feels like it keeps happening and I’m at a loss. Do you think a therapist could help you fix it for good?”

The Q is for entertainment purposes and not professional counseling. Send your burning Qs to [email protected].

Illustration by Brad Gibson

This column originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the latest issue, enjoy all of the past editions of The Q advice column, and look for a new issue of Q each week online and around town.