Interviews With Lovers: A Retrospective
Because hindsight is 69/69
In my last transmission to you, I mentioned a series of interviews I conducted in 2014 with people I had slept with since around the time of my herpes diagnosis. A few morsels from those conversations have lingered as memories over the years, but I hadn't returned to the actual interviews until now. In writing about a particular man who declined to be interviewed, I wanted to look back on our communication before quoting him to make sure my recollection lined up with reality. Before you know it, I was compelled to dig up the whole project.
Well, reader, here’s what I found. Overall, these conversations with lovers felt familiar. As I read through them, the details of our voices, our cadences, where I was sitting when we talked started to come back to me. Meanwhile, there were some parts I had completely forgotten about and was even surprised by. I encountered aspects of my thinking that seemed more evolved than I remembered for the time, and others that were… less evolved. Most of all, though, I was struck by how these talks made me feel.
I should tell you that the confidence-to-cringe life cycle of my self-documentation is, like, really short. Having this newsletter, whose content both is visibly archived and lives on in your inboxes outside of my control, freaks me out for that very reason. Reading old journal entries? I’ll be calling out sick for the day, thanks. Facebook memories? Shoot me. Usually it works like this: the more sincere my expression, the harder it is for me to stomach in hindsight. And my interviews about herpes with people who had been inside me are sincere indeed.
Kind of shocking, then, that I wasn’t overwhelmed with the feeling of wanting to D-I-E when looking back on these records of my past, records that will certainly come in handy if I ever write my tell-all memoir (#manifesting). Rather than embarrassment or shame, I felt compassion — truly gushing compassion — for younger me and for all the younger versions of my interview subjects. We were doing our best! It’s right there in the transcripts! With herpes in the picture, we were all trying to make sense of something that no one prepared us for. How very understandable. How very endearing. It makes me want to give us all a kiss! (Oh wait… been there, done that. 😛)
When I first published these Q&As back in the day, I presented them without commentary. I wanted to focus on the perspective of partners of people diagnosed with herpes, because that was something I’d barely seen represented. Granted, many of my reactions to what interviewees told me are built into our discussion. But there were also some places I was scared to go. Some follow-up questions that would’ve exposed too much. And then there are thoughts sparked by these conversations that didn’t need to be shared in the moment — as well as those coming up only now, more than seven years later.
I’m grateful that these interviews exist as time capsules that I can open and re-examine. I won't argue that my responses today are any more "correct" than my responses all those years ago, nor can I anticipate how I might feel about this material in the future. All I know is that my primary interest in STIs has consistently been how we relate to them, and these conversations are artifacts of exactly that.