I’ve often said when it comes to dating men they inevitably fall into one of three groups:

Group One: guys who are always the right guys in every way possible. The connection is there, the chemistry is right, you get goose bumps at the mere thought or mention of him. It just always seems to happen at the wrong time for whatever reason; and there are always lots and lots of reasons.

Group Two: guys who are always, without a shadow of a doubt, the wrong guys. Period. But we always tend to fall for guys from this group. It is almost like we know they’re going to mess us about, leave us hanging on for days, not reply to text or phone calls… yet somehow this attracts us to them more. Why this happens, because it defies all known logic and reason, is beyond me. This is the type of guy we always advise friends about – telling them to ditch them – and how we wouldn’t tolerate being messed about like that, but then, when it happens to us we forget all this.

Then finally we have guys from Group Three. These are always the nice guys; sweet lovely my-mother-will-love-you type guys – just not ‘my’ type of guy. Yep, the ones who fall head over heels for you, yet you never feel anything stronger for them than you would a dear friend. The ones you spend days thinking why couldn’t the guys who fall under category two be more like.

Now having said all of that and neatly identified men into groups comes that other problem – I’ve never much liked dating. Dating for me just seems, for the most part, to be a series of silly pointless mind games perpetrated by individuals, who seem unable to be honest with themselves, let alone anyone else. Either that, or you’re second-guessing what the other person is thinking whilst trying to maintain some degree of balance of not appearing too keen, whilst trying to not appear so aloof to it all that they take it as a sign of disinterest. Why is it so hard to just be able to say, ‘you know what, I actually really like you’? We don’t, because often when we find ourselves in this situation where we want to say just that, we do actually like them and don’t want to scare them off. But what is there to be scared about when you’re at either side of this situation?

I openly admit that I’ve succumbed to cynicism. In truth, I think I just use it as a shield to guard myself from rejection. No one likes rejection, but when it happens time after time after time you do start to wonder – should I really be taking the hint?

Another problem I seem to have is compliments, and merely accepting them. I’m always touched when a compliment is passed my way. I just really never know what to say past a mere ‘thanks’, and when I say this fear I’m coming over as insincere. I wouldn’t say I’m insecure, although I’m always left feeling rather perplexed when I’m informed by a friend that the hot guy in the corner, who I have noticed yet pretend I’m oblivious too, hasn’t been able to keep his eyes off me. Yet I’m frozen with fear at the mere prospect of walking over and saying hello, or of them doing the same. Honestly, I never understand what they see, even if I do spend a considerable amount of time in front of the mirror before I go out. But for all the bravado I engulf myself in for those few minutes in front of the mirror, it all soon fades when I’m no longer stood in front of it. I’m not vain, however may appear so to others…Maybe I am slightly insecure?

Yes, I do watch sappy Hollywood movies and think to myself, I wouldn’t mind some of that. Who doesn’t? God I know I have a few hundred times, but I hide it, god-only-knows why? Again, I suppose I use cynicism as a shield mechanism to avoid being upset when I inevitably get let down just as much as I use it to hide the fact I’m hopelessly romantic. Maybe my expectations are always too high? I have worked on the basis that if you expect very little in life then you’ll never be disappointed. This mindset stuck with me well before I was diagnosed with HIV, yet even more so since diagnosis I’ve found it all too often sums dating, if not life, up.

Even before I was diagnosed I never really took to the dating game; now to some degree it terrifies me. We all have hurdles to overcome in life. Some we place there ourselves, others we unfortunately have to overcome for reasons we are powerless to do anything about and this is where stigma comes into play. Stigma is a funny little concept. No matter how hard we try we can’t escape it or the consequences of it and I’m already growing bored of feeling like I have to justify the fact I am HIV, or point out the fact that just because I am doesn’t mean I spent my 20’s hoping from one bed to another in a mass orgy of unprotected sex. The truth of it is that I’ve had unprotected sex twice and on one of those occasion I was just bloody unlucky. See, I’ve done it again. Felt the need to explain myself when really I shouldn’t have to.

It’s not so much the ‘going on the dates’ that fills me with apprehension, rather the inevitable conversation that will come. But when do you have that conversation? From the word go? Bit heavy for a first date, but I can see the merits in being upfront from and straightforward. Or, after a few dates at which point feelings have developed and then it suddenly becomes so much harder because the fear of rejection is much more present due to the use of those three words after I say, ‘by the way, there is something I need you to know, I’m’……

To tell someone you’re HIV in any situation is like tossing a coin – whilst you may feel you are fairly sure how the other person may react, there is always that uncertainty until about a second or two after you have uttered those three little words. So the safe, if not easier and stress-free route is to date other positive guys. Cant say that’s been a fruitful pursuit thus far, rather more a feeling of settling for second best because it’s easer, or being quizzed as to whether I do bareback and even more disturbing, bug-chasing – which is a blog rant of its own.

I guess the onset of ‘social networks’ has made this prospect even worse. Thanks to the onset of Facebook and Twitter I now know the thoughts of hundreds of people on a weekly, daily, hourly basis. Knowledge is power, apparently. I’ve heard that a lot lately when it comes to disclosure. But what happens when this knowledge falls into the hands of someone who doesn’t fully understand or care about the consequences of that knowledge. At times I struggle to tell close friends I am HIV, but take strength from the fact that with each day I feel more able to open up and speak to those around me. However, what I do not want is to lose the ability to do that and to lose control over who knows and who doesn’t. Choice is the real power. Being able to choose who I want to inform and choose when I want to do so. Not losing it because someone I told on a date a few weeks back decided he felt it was something he needed to put in a status update.

Being a person who over thinks situations and basically worries doesn’t help with the above, and I know anyone reading this who knows me will agree with what I’ve just said – I worry way too much. I need to stop caring so much about what others I don’t really know think and stick to those who I’m close to and are important to me. But we all want to be liked.

I guess the real problem is something I know only too well. Years ago I dated a guy for a while who was HIV. I thought I could handle it as I felt I was fairly clued up on the subject and considered myself to be open minded and non-judgemental. I felt awful when I ended it because I couldn’t cope with it and I felt even worse when I saw the look on his face. I could tell this wasn’t the first time he’d had this conversation. I knew he’d been here before and that he already knew that nothing he could say would change the outcome, so he didn’t even try. I could read it off his face and now I know exactly how he felt at that moment. Out of all the guys I’ve ever dated that one moment has stuck with me to this day. It’s such a bizzare feeling to now be in his position and the most annoying part is I really liked him, and still do I guess, but at the time I let my own stupid fear get the better of me. So the question really must be, if I was like that, then how can I realistically expect anyone else to react any differently than I did?

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