I grew up watching all of the Disney princess movies, and dreamed that one day I would find my own Prince Charming. Well, I found the man I thought was Prince Charming, but the relationship did not work out. And he gave me HIV. But when does make-believe ever come true? I am now looking for the guy who is right for me.
I discovered that I was HIV positive seven years ago, in 2003. Since then I have learned a lot about what it means to value myself. Ironically, it's been the information I've learned and the experiences I've had since getting the virus that have caused my self-confidence, self-love and sense of independence to shoot through the roof. All of this started when I began to understand that I have value. Not only do I now have a strong sense of self-worth, but I am proud of the amazingly strong woman I have evolved to be.
Of course, most people assume that because I have HIV, I have not been in a relationship. I can assure you that this is not the case. I have had several takers--men who are HIV positive and men who are HIV negative. But unlike during my pre-HIV days, I am no longer impressed with bling-bling and fancy cars. I no longer believe in fairy tales or fairy tale endings. And I am definitely not desperate to have a man.
Before, men used to think my body was sexy; today they are attracted to my positive characteristics. I used to feel good when the man I was seeing told me he loved me. Now I laughingly say, "You should. What is there not to love about me? But thank you for communicating, baby. Kisses!" I used to get chills up and down my spine when a man told me I was beautiful. Now I answer: "I already know that, but thank you for reassuring and reminding me, baby. Hugs!"
I do not settle just because I have HIV. In fact, I would not dare date someone whom I would not date if I were HIV negative. A man actually had a better chance of getting a date with me before I had HIV. These days, I am picky and have standards, and any man I'm going to have a relationship with needs to fulfill all of them. Since I have come to embody strength, courage, beauty and ambition, why would I settle for a man who is lacking in those areas? I need a man with goals and dreams.
After a speaking engagement, a young woman approached me and asked, "Do you think that when you get a man, he will be jealous that you call the guy who infected you 'Prince Charming'?" I told her that I would only date a guy who had enough sense to know that Prince Charming is a fictional character. Make-believe. He is not real. I need a man whose flaws I accept and whose heart of gold I admire, not to entertain a fantasy about who that man really is.
Marvelyn Brown is the author of The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive.