None of this promiscuity, however, was without other unintended yet completely innocent consequences. At least two of us ended up with a case of HPV or genital warts.
The farmer’s daughter also had oral cold sores, otherwise known euphemistically at that time as “the kissing disease,” but better known now to be the Herpes Type 1 virus…which she was good enough to share with me. Call it by any other name; it’s still just a sexually transmitted salivary venereal disease of the oral vermicular.
The problem with venereal disease is that like any highly communicable disorder, even the common cold, it spreads by geometric multiplication. It is only linear, for example, if a man goes to a prostitute or a mistress, gets something he then gives to his faithful wife, in which case the train stops at that terminal. Usually so does the marriage. But this was an era when the worst of the STDs was still not enough to kill you and, in most cases, was easily curable. If not, they were simply common “ho-hum” nuisances with little or no attached social stigma. Even the cold sore did not have a known etiology, much less knowledge of how easily it could be transmitted. At the same time a wart was simply that: a wart. So what?
But if the 1960s had been the era of not so free love, it was soon supplanted by the 1970s being the era of crass, casual promiscuity. Nobody knew then that HPV is associated with causing cervical cancer. At the same time nobody really paid much attention to any of the STDs until the early 1980s when having Herpes Type 2 or the genital variety became a widely advertised social stigma, a stigma soon to be dwarfed by the appearance of the potentially lethal HIV virus. HPV and HSV should have been a warning that viral VD was replacing bacterial VD and that unlike bacteria, viruses not only do not respond to antibiotics, but also have a nasty knack of being able to permanently insert themselves into the human genome.
That fact, along with the sudden appearance of the super venereal viruses helped to usher in the 1980s as an era of renewed sexual sobriety and gave great credence to Talmudic scholars who in pointing to the traditional religious proscriptions against fornication had warned the world for centuries as they autistically rocked back and forth in their libraries. Or in taking it directly to the Wailing Wall, they might perseverate as they autistically beat their heads with the holy books or beatific bricks:
- I told ya so, I told ya so, I told ya so, I told ya so.
I only got “the clap,” once, from a very promiscuous nurse when I was a Resident. She had let it be known that she was on a mission to screw every house officer in the hospital, to wit every house officer in the hospital seemed more than willing to sign on to help her accomplish this odyssey. When it abruptly became symptomatic, I knew at once why they called gonorrhea “the clap.” Whenever I tried to pee, without any premonitory warning it was so horribly painful it I stood straight up on my toes like a ballerina on point, only then to segue immediately into a crude version of Flamenco. I was clomping around in my clogs, holding my hands high over my head, slapping my palms together, clenching my teeth and whining through a sheepish grimace. It also left me with a residual urethral stricture that to this day sometimes causes me to pee with a forked stream reminiscent of the forked tongue lies I had told to put myself in this payback circumstance I so well deserved in the first place.
The Urologist who treated me found the whole thing professionally amusing, adding that if all I got was a stricture, I should consider myself to be lucky and then refused to fix it. He said the cure could be worse than a problem that would serve as a permanent reminder of my wayward habits anyway.
- White man pee with forked stream. Ha, ha.
You would think that would have taught me the lesson that even nice people can get VD…but no. By the time I had married for the second time in my late fifties and estimate I had sex with perhaps fifty or so “nice” women, one of whom was even “nice” enough to generously share her type 2 genital variety of herpes. It may sound like promiscuity, but for the most part, except for a few insane or widely scattered sexual benders in the 1970s and 1980s, most of my relationships would still be categorized as sequentially monogamous. Some short. Some long. But always in a faithful sequence.
Magic Johnson and Long John Holmes, the former having survived HIV and the later who died of it, who each admitted to having sex with 3000 women or more, would come to serve society as more permanent reminders, as well as being unfortunate yet unwilling icons, of the Golden Age of Sexual Promiscuity.
My brother once told me I was lucky that my dick hadn’t developed gangrene and fallen off. His statement harbored a combination of satire, envy, and truth as well as a premonitory HIV vision of a deadly future to come.
- Watch out, Al. If you keep this up you’re going to come down with a bad case of the Faccala.
- The Faccala? What the hell is that?
- It’s a VD you can get when you indiscriminately fuck the fish in the fish tank. It started in Rome in 49 B.C. That’s why the Italians dry the things out and salt ‘em down before they eat them at Christmas. “
Don’t give a dose
To the one you love most