Rappaccini’s Son

The reference, for those who have forgot their nineteenth-century American literature, is to Hawthorne’s short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” which is about a woman whose father had, in an attempt to protect her, made her poisonous to other creatures.

One of my straight male friends expressed concern after reading my recent account of the effects of my current medical treatment, most particularly the little fantasy riff in which I speculated that should I experience a return of libido I might track down and join a gay wrestling club and then expose innocent members of this club to a “transfer” of testosterone by failing to wear a tee shirt.

This made me realize that others might have the same concerns, so I want to reassure everyone that I am acutely aware I am Rappaccini’s son and that I have taken every precaution to avoid transmitting anything to anyone.

Most particularly, after I learned that I was HIV+ in 1987 and before I stopped having sex, I started taking the Ultimate Precaution. My first criterion in selecting sex partners was the question, “Are you HIV+?” I never had sex (nor even wrestled, for that matter) with anyone who did not answer Yes to that question. I refused those who said they did not know, as well as that monster who waffled upon learning that his initial No had disqualified him. To further reassure everyone, it has been years now since I have had physical contact with anyone more extensive than a clean, dry handshake.

I failed to mention in my recent discussions of testosterone gel the significant danger that testosterone presents to the fetus, but I must assure you that I am very careful to wash the application hand thoroughly with soap and water after I have smeared the stuff on my torso. Actually, I go ahead and wash both hands just to be sure.

I described a study in which the female partners’ serum testosterone levels more than doubled after extensive daily “vigorous skin-to-skin contact” that maximized their exposure to the application site. What I did not mention was that subsequent to the exposure period the female partners’ testosterone levels returned to normal, and that no lasting effects were noted.

During my last appointment with my doctor, I asked her about the possible harm I might cause one of my hypothetical wrestling partners by failing to wear a tee shirt. She laughed, and then responded that the only way she could imagine a male being harmed by the stuff would be if he took one of the packets and, seeking a new high, ate or injected the contents.

Resumption of humor follows.

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