1. As soon as you hit publish, you start crying. You can’t explain why—it’s a strange moment of bodily supremacy where your brain has been thinking about this decision for months but your lungs decide this is a big deal and you are no longer in control. You can’t explain this feeling when you have never known it before. The closest you can get is relief—the delicious, transcendent relief that comes from being true to yourself. All of the traditional clichés apply but you have earned them: a weight you didn’t know existed has been lifted from your slight shoulders. You have put words to the story stitched tight under your breast and now no one else can tell it for you. You own yourself.
2. Your mom is nervous for you but praises how well-written it is. Your dad texts you, “Be loud, be proud.” You start crying again.
3. The messages start coming within a few hours, mostly on Facebook. Mutual friends, Wesleyan students who found the post on so-and-so’s wall, a few emails and Tumblr fan mail: the newly diagnosed, your people. They are all scared and they thank you for talking, sharing your story, fighting the stigma. Mostly they are thanking you for existing without actually saying it. You remember that cloying, helpless shame but most of all you remember the isolation. You welcome them to the largest secret society there is. They should know that they are loved.
4. A thousand people read it within the first few days. It sparks a conversation in the erotica community, winding up on Salon, and you lose count of the retweets and shares from writers and editors and general badasses you admire (Cindy Gallop?!). There are a lot of new Twitter followers. It becomes your most successful blog post of all time, and what was supposed to ruin your career might have just thrown it into third gear. If this is what you become known for, you will be just fine with that. You’ve suspected for a long time that getting herpes might have been the best thing that ever happened to you.
5. Your exes check in. They gush about how strong you are and use a lot of smiley face emojis. No one shrinks away from associating with you, a fear you didn’t realize you had until now. The only person who goes MIA is the cute mutual friend you’d been texting about getting drinks, but good riddance. You have no use for men who scare easily. You never hear from the bad ex, no harassing phone calls, no passive aggressive emails, and this is a relief too; this is not a story he gets to write with you anymore.
6. Several of your co-workers at TED read it but wait for you to bring it up, not wanting to make you uncomfortable. They tell you that you are brave. You stop feeling like the intern who just makes robot GIFs.
7. Only after the shock has worn off and the disclosure is something you did, less new, already processed, do you get the message you have been waiting for (the one you were a little hurt thinking might never come). Last spring you sat on his living room couch, still on a high from CatalystCon and driven to write about it but so, so scared, and he quietly said, you could do it, you know. He didn’t need to elaborate because those six words said everything: fuck what people think of us, I love you. You couldn’t help but remember that when you hit publish. A few weeks later he says on Facebook, “Hey so I’m really proud of you,” and you start crying, again. You did this for yourself and you did it alone, but you still have his borrowed faith in your bones.
8. You don’t regret it, not once.