Saying goodbye to 2013 was one of the happiest moments of my life. I had finally extricated myself from a long-term relationship with a beautiful Bogan-man. Seven years of good times and lots of great sex wasn’t enough. My brain needed oxygen and I was starving. The last three years our relationship can only be described as flapping about like a goldfish gasping for breath before being put back in the tank (that’s code for great sex)  only to jump right back out and start gasping again. I was the goldfish.

In the end, it was easy for me to end that relationship but not for him. In between romantic, over the top gestures to ‘win me back’ there was childish petulance, anger and sobbing howls of “I love you, why can’t you love me?”  I despised him for putting me through that emotional crap. I’d spent years telling him what I needed in our relationship and years suppressing my inner light and dreams so that I could maintain a level of sanity to be with him. In the end, I just couldn’t live his bong Bogan life anymore. I was thirsty for culture and intelligent conversation, sick of pretending to be something I wasn’t (a bogan) and I could not bear to watch life from a couch any longer. Time, gentlemen, time aka, Run, Susan, Run.

Fast forward six months and I was living on my own and on the cusp of relocating my life from North Queensland to new adventures in Brisbane.  I had plans. Huge f*cking plans to reinvite myself and invest time in ME.

I was looking forward to living a single life and taking a lover (or two!). I wasn’t looking for a deep relationship, I wanted a male friend (either straight or gay) to accompany me on day trips, music gigs, theatre, movies and comedy shows. I was also looking for someone to guide my journey of sexual exploration from vanilla to spice. I was a hot blooded woman on fire with excitement for her new future. So hot that I sizzled! I kid you not, I was glowing with happiness from the inside and out. I was finally going to live my life for me and do it my way. This was my new chapter and at the age of 47 I was going to embrace it and ride it by the fucking horns. 

And then, just like that, my life changed with a burning sensation in my vulva.  My life was suddenly smashed sideways and the rug ripped under my feet. What. The. Fuck?

I went straight to my wonderful GP, Dr Michelle. (Fuuuuck): ‘Susan, I’ll need to do a swab to confirm however I am sure that this is HSV2’.  

Me: ‘What, I’ve got a Holden in my vagina? I’ve always been a Ford girl!’  (That was me trying to bravely hold on to humour to stop me from bursting into tears).

Dr Michelle: ‘Yes, I’m afraid so. Herpes.’ (she was always upfront).

What followed was shock, tears and three days of agony waiting for my pathology results.  I was numb. I had NEVER had a cold sore my whole life (still haven’t) and now I have a cold sore on my fanny. I lamented to myself Who’s going to want to fuck me now? My hopes and dreams for my future self were the fuel for my inner light. I could feel it diminishing, and I became almost a ghost in my own shell as I questioned Who is going to love me now?

The phone call came.  Positive for HSV2. All clear for every other STI under the sun.  I was sad but relieved. Now what do I do?  I called one of my oldest and dearest friends and told her my fate. ‘It’s not a death sentence, Susan. Lots of people have it.’ Hearing those words gave me hope. It didn’t stop the tears though.

I was only a month away from moving to Brisbane and I decided to contact my previous partner and anyone I had been intimate with to tell them about my recent diagnosis. It’s the honest thing to do, and part of me was angry that perhaps whomever gave it to me should have been a bit more honest too. However, I have since learned that HSV1 and HSV2 can lay dormant in your body for a very long time without showing symptoms. It’s also one of the most common viruses in the population. The World Health Organisation estimates that half a billion people are living with HSV2!  According to the Australian Government’s HealthDirect website, ‘as many as 1 in 8 sexually active Australian adults have genital herpes’. Ummm….that’s a lot of cold sores on dicks and fannies out there and now I’m one of them!

I decided to take time to reflect, retreat in to my celibate spirit and work this out, because I had one burning question: “Who the fuck is going to want to love and have sex with me again?” 

Jump forward into early 2014. I had relocated to Brisbane, started a new job and decided that while I would put my ‘sexual self’ on the backburner while I worked through my new ‘status’ there was nothing stopping me from enjoying all of the cultural offerings available in Brisbane. I had friends and family here so that helped maintain a social life. What everyone didn’t know was the turmoil and grief for the future I felt I had lost. How was I going to resolve this grief? How could I ever date again?

I decided to tell my closest friends about my experience and they were all very supportive and understanding. I found the courage to tell my daughter because, as she was also single and dating, I wanted her to learn from my experience. It was Mother’s Day and I’ll never forget her response after she listened to my story, she gave me two thumbs up and with a cheeky grin said, ‘You can only get it once!’ I burst out laughing. Fuck I love that memory.

So, feeling powerful after owning my HSV2 (but never driving it because I really do have an aversion to Holdens) I decided to test the waters by entering the online dating sphere. I already had a good my profile from when I was in North Queensland. I’d written that in such a way to filter out the blue singlet brigade and attract the right people (I warned readers that they would need six pack and a cut lunch to get through it – also a deliberate tactic to fuck off any wankers). My profile worked and I met quite a few nice guys for coffee or a drink however, being the person I am, I always told my potential lover that I was dating with HSV2.  It wasn’t a surprise to me that 99% of my dates never called for a second coffee except for one guy, a nice Christian bloke who was exploring his sexuality. We ended up becoming chaperones for each other in the world of Fetish exploration. Both of us noobs or fresh meat. I am forever grateful for his acceptance and friendship. He was a light in a dark place.

After six months of experiencing rejection, I had come to the realisation that it would take a significantly magnificent human to love me unconditionally. How do you find a diamond buried in a pool of egotistical dicks? I just couldn’t bear the thought of wasting time and energy with rejection so I decided to be upfront and save myself the pain. Towards the end of 2014 I wrote the following dating profile that identified my STI status to any potential suitors.

My opening line was:

“I’ve got HSV2… but thank god it’s not a Holden!

About me: Passionate. Compassionate. Ethical. Sexual. Sensual. Goofy (sometimes). Style. Grace. Smartarse wit.

I’ve been single long enough, I am looking for that special person to spend my time with. I want to find deep love…had it once, at least I thought I did. I miss being immersed in trust, it’s a wonderful place to be and I’d like to meet someone who is prepared to dig deep into developing a relationship that celebrates the sensuality and spirituality between two people…this requires someone who is confident in themselves and has a willingness to explore the depths of intimacy that develops when cloaked in trust.

I am a BBW. I know I’m hot to some but not all, each to their own. Before you start thinking with your cock please read further and make sure you pay attention.

Please ONLY message me once you’ve fully read and understood what I say in the opening title. I can’t believe how ignorant people are about this. Forget about the arse picture, let some blood trickle back to your brain and comprehend what I have to say. It’s important. If you have no idea what the HSV2 reference is you better Google it – hopefully you will learn something. I am not going to invest my time and energy with people who are ignorant about it.

Okay…here is my wish to the Universe. If you understand what my profile title means, either you also share this in common (my preference) or it is of no consequence because you understand relationships are built on more than just sex (though sexual fun can still be had) and if you are an accomplished gentleman nearing 6FT or taller, with a deep, earthy, sensuality; is a lover of nature; has an incredible smile that belies your kindness then I am your girl…BUT…only if you are prepared to accept a woman who knows her own spirit, strengths and weaknesses and that you accept that being true to herself will always be her number one priority, and that her integrity and dignity is more precious than you will ever be, then please…get in touch. Because if you can accept that then I know you’ve got the emotional maturity that I so admire and crave.

If you want to contact me I’m here, send me a message. I will give you the courtesy of a reply but please make some effort with your message. If I’ve got the guts to put myself out here please have the guts to say something worthwhile and meaningful.

Should there be trolls who read this, I will not feed you. You will only have my compassion and prayer that you never buy a Holden.”

As you might have twigged, I wasn’t dating on a sweet, sugary dating site like RSVP (I was banned for using the word clitoris FFS!). No, I was navigating my ship in the adult dating world. I lived with butterflies of anxiety bracing myself for a message from an ugly troll. I can’t say that I heard from trolls though I did get messages like ‘What’s wrong with Holdens?’ or ‘I’ve got a Maloo’ (I don’t think he was referring to his dick). I was fortunate to experience messages of support and encouragement which uplifted my spirit and confirmed for me that I was on the right track. 

As it turned out, 2015 was going to my year as my ship bumped into someone else on a journey and as I soon discovered, this person was a magnificent human being who loved everything I stood for and had an incredible smile that belied his kindness. I can happily say that this Ford girl now has a Ford Ranger parked in her garage and has journeyed full circle to complete nearly all of her dreams and hopes that she had for her future. As it turned out for me, HSV2 was my gift from the Universe because I would not have met my soon to be husband if I didn’t have the odd cold sore on my fanny.

Jump forward to 2021, I find myself now a business owner advocating for positive and ageless sexuality as Susan, The Maven, founder of The Spicy Boudoir – Purveyors of Pleasure.

I am choosing to share my story with Women Beyond Forty because I know I won’t be the only woman over 40 to experience a STI post relationship. I want other women to be wary of falling into the trap of stigma. Don’t. You are still worthy, deserving of a great sex life and relationship. You are not alone. I’ll stand with you.

PS. Life is pretty fucking awesome and I still dislike Holdens.

Susan Jarvis

Susan Jarvis is a positive sex and body positivity advocate and is the owner of The Spicy Boudoir, an online sexual health and wellness store to celebrate the sexuality of people living with disability and for people aged over 50. Susan is also the host of podcast The Maven’s Private Diaries.