I was at a party recently, talking with a new acquaintance whom I really rather like because she’s funny and weird and smart and has a really hot husband too, who’s nice. I don’t even recall how we got on the subject, but she said “I have a friend who says, ‘When life gives you AIDS, make lemonAIDS.’” And then she paused for a minute and said, thoughtfully, “I guess you wouldn’t think that was so funny if you had AIDS, huh?” She looked a little concerned. She knows I’m one of The Gays. (I’m not gay, I’m a Gay, or one of The Gays, and I am proud to be one of them.)
What she didn’t know at the time was I’m one of The Gays with The AIDS. Well, actually I’m only poz (I remember thinking years ago, when this magazine was launched, that the name POZ—and even having a magazine for people with HIV—made having The AIDS seem kind of cool and edgy, in a “Yeah, I’m poz, boom boom boom, let’s go back to my room” kind of way).
So I told her. “You know, I have The AIDS and I thought it was pretty hilarious.” And I was hoping my date would play along with me and say “What!!! You have The AIDS! You didn’t tell me! I could be infected!” And then throw a really big fit in the middle of this really classy catered party. Fun times, right?
I’m poz going on seven years, and I say, “Why not have some fun?” I mean, hell, I’ve spent enough on health insurance and copays to buy a house by now, which makes me one of The Lucky Ones. I’ve been blamed for everything from the rising rate of HIV infections in young men (because 19-year-olds are all desperately looking to have unsafe sex with bald guys pushing 50) to 9/11.
I’ve been lectured about my irresponsible lifestyle (jealous?) and how I’m taxing the health care system (yeah, as if Mr. Dick “Land of a Thousand Blood Clots” Cheney takes care of his own medical emergencies at home). Even our “friends,” the people who work tirelessly to raise millions and millions of dollars to “care” for me and presumably you, are always after us. They’re trying to ensure that never, ever again will we experience even one more erection, or, you know, that puffy thing that happens to girls—why isn’t there a name for that?—or one more relationship without thinking about the horror and the suffering the weapons between our legs could wreak on The Innocent.
So that’s why I love telling someone I am HIV positive in the middle of, say, a discussion about our really fab national non–health care system or why George Bush is just the best president ever. And they say:
And I say “Yeah, really.”
And then they ask how I got HIV: “Were drugs involved?”
And I say “No, sorry.”
And they say “So how’d it happen?”
And I say “It was this really hot Conversion Party. I’m sure you’ve read about them.”
And at that point, they start shifting around uncomfortably and I have to say “Just kidding! But I had ya going there, didn’t I?”
And then they’re totally relieved and go find their spouses or something.
And I go off to pour a big ole glass of lemonAIDS.