Dating Positively

11.29.2012

By Aby Sam Thomas

Searching for love can be difficult. But one HIV-positive gay man explains the 'rules' and 'reactions' of dating openly in the 21st century

It was through OkCupid that Anthony met Goodman. They exchanged emails for a while before they actually went out with each other on a date. After their third date where they watched Broadway singers doing Tori Amos covers, Anthony had fallen for Goodman’s “goofy goofball” personality and wanted to take things further.

As he put it on his blog, Anthony wanted their relationship to “evolve past the goodnight kiss and into the land of carnal knowledge.”

Since Goodman was HIV negative, this meant that Anthony would have to reveal his own status, and “the art of telling” is something he’s still trying to master. It’s a difficult thing to say face-to-face for both parties, since while Anthony is faced with the prospect of instant rejection, the other is put in a difficult situation if they are uncomfortable. “So, that is weird; it’s just weird all around,” he says.

It is because of the weirdness involved that Anthony has resorted to another method of confessing his status, which he calls “the coward’s way out.” After a really good third of fourth date which ends with a potential for “something” to happen in the next date, Anthony tells them of his status via an email or text.

“Because it’s easy for me to tell them, and it’s also much easier for them to reject me,” he says. “When you are with someone face to face, then it’s different, because they want to save face, they want to be nice about it. But when you’re doing it online or text, they don’t care, they are not seeing you, and they’re not seeing your reaction.”

With Goodman, Anthony took the coward’s way out. As he walked back to his apartment after his third date with Goodman, he opened his phone and sent a message to Goodman:

I am really having an amazing time with you (and your Jew fro) but before anything goes any further, I need to tell you that I am HIV positive. I am always upfront about my status.

But despite Anthony’s apprehensions, Goodman responded just as Anthony hoped he would.

“I wrote back to him almost immediately,” Goodman remembers. “I said I really appreciate you telling me, that I’m sure this is not an easy thing for you to have to do, but this doesn’t change a thing. I have some questions for you. I said we should talk about it more, it doesn’t change a thing and I think you are great.”

Goodman thinks that he reacted well to Anthony’s positive status because of his own circle of friends, some of whom were HIV positive as well.

“I have a decent amount of friends who are HIV positive, and I work with a bunch of people who are. I also have one very good friend who is positive and he talks about dating all the time,” says Goodman. “And so, I have some insight into what it must feel like to date and sort of have to come out that way and how badly people can react. It was important to me to react the best way I could.”

Goodman reflects for a moment. “For him to acknowledge it, it sucks if he has to do that,” he says. “I don’t know why, I suppose it could have freaked me out, but it didn’t. Maybe that’s because I know people and I am somewhat educated.”

When Goodman graciously accepted Anthony’s HIV positive status, Anthony felt he had found his very own “happily ever after.”

Anthony says that he has what he calls the “Cinderella complex” on his dream of an ideal relationship. “I know some people don’t want to get married, or whatever, but I do. I want to get married. I want to have kids. I want to have a family. I like flirting with guys and whatever, but I would rather be in a relationship. I’d rather have that one particular person who kind of challenges you as much as they support you,” he says.

But, as much as Anthony would have liked Goodman to be that one person, their relationship wasn’t meant to be. Although they dated for a couple of months, they eventually broke up. “We had a lot in common, but we are very different people,” Anthony says. “He is one person I wished we had worked out, but we just didn’t have that chemistry, the spark, you know…”

“There was nothing wrong with him,” Anthony says. “It was just something wrong with us.”

But, although they didn’t get to become a couple, Anthony and Goodman became, and remain, steadfastly good friends.

“I have only very positive feelings for Anthony,” says Goodman.

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It has been nearly a year since things cooled off with Goodman, and Anthony has been on a number of dates since then. His Cinderella complex remains as strong as ever, and Anthony refuses to allow his HIV positive status to change that. “Being HIV positive shouldn’t affect what I want to do with my life, who I want to spend my life with. It just adds another component to who I am, it doesn’t change what I like or what I am looking for,” he says.

One suggestion Anthony repeatedly gets from people is that he should “find other HIV positive men to date.” Barring the fact that he gets this suggestion mostly from dates who have said no to him, Anthony refuses to specifically look for such a dating subculture.

“I would never date someone because of it; I would never search for someone because of it,” Anthony says, quite emphatically. “I am not going to date someone just because he is HIV positive. That’s like me dating someone just because he has brown eyes. That’s kind of stupid. I am sure there are other HIV positive people, but that doesn’t mean I am going to fall in love with them,” he says.

But, wouldn’t dating a HIV positive mate possibly be easier? Anthony laughs at the question. “Maybe. But when has dating ever been easy?” he asks.

Anthony’s grueling patience and persistence in the hunt for an ideal mate and family seems to be related to his own tenuous family life. Anthony has had a tough life even before he became HIV positive—his mother died while he was young, and his father and step-mother threw him out of the house when he was eighteen for being gay. Yet he seems insistent to brush off issues with his family, talking instead of memories of his mother teaching him to dance to Madonna.

Anthony says his writing helps him stay upbeat and look forward to the future. “The more and more I write, the less and less it is about me being HIV positive. And I think the whole growth of my blog kind of shows the whole growth of my self-acceptance. And at this point, I don’t think it’s no longer a big issue for me as much as it was before, which then allows me to handle things a bit differently, and allows me to handle rejection differently. Whatever some might have said to me before is now no longer blog-worthy!”

Reflecting on his blog, Anthony says he can see how much he has changed. “A lot of it has to do with finally accepting myself and finally feeling accepted into a community, not just bloggers, but this whole HIV community out there. It makes me realize I am not the only one; I am perfectly fine; I am okay with who I am.”

And as Anthony gets on with accepting himself, he gets on with dating in New York City, looking for “that kind of everyday nothing that turns into a life.”

He’s on another first date today. And he is excited.

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