Cold Sores and Fever Blisters – A Life of Herpes Euphemisms (Don’t worry, no photos)


My plan was to write a post about a certain unsettling half-ass grin that I’ve caught myself making at strangers when I’m working in crappy jobs that don’t pay me enough to put forth real effort at faking happiness.  I had been looking forward to writing the post all week and including photos of the disturbing smirk, but herpes intervened.  Now I can’t publish that post until this cold sore goes away.

And now here I am, writing about herpes instead.

Cold sores are a sad fact of life for a lot of undeserving people.  I’m sure some deserving people are mixed in too, though.

“Many {without cold sores} deserve {herpes}.  Some with {herpes don’t deserve it}.  Can you give it to them, Frodo?  Do not be too eager to deal out {herpes} in judgment.” – Gandalf (slightly paraphrased)

These monstrosities may have been a mystery of science at one point in time, a frustrating abnormality that some fool decided to study.  Today, it is common knowledge that cold sores are a strain of herpes – which as we all know is most often procured by putting your bits in someone else’s bits that are infected with the virus.

Like all of the best afflictions, herpes is permanent.  As you progress through life, the people you surround yourself with come and go, but your friend herpes, he will always be there for you.

Thankfully, we live in a mature society where everyone has the common decency not to make the same 3 herpes jokes every time they cross paths with some poor sap with a fever blister.  Wait, never mind.

Cold sores are a part of life for many people.  Like getting a flat tire, or eating 20 chicken McNuggets by yourself, it just happens and every single time it does, your day is ruined.

My first time happened at Church camp.  I’m sure many of you can relate to this sentence, especially if you haven’t read anything that came before it.  There was a strange tingle, like an itch underneath my skin.  I tried to scratch it by lightly chewing on my lip.  Soon, my bottom lip got weird in the corner.  It looked extremely chapped and it stung like a mofo whenever I ate salt and vinegar chips (which was every night because they weren’t feeding me enough so I had to raid vending machines whenever I could find them).  Being a teenager with a strangely underdeveloped sense of cause and effect and no prior experience with fever blisters, I kept eating those chips and ignoring the spreading rot.  By the time someone had the decency to tell me that I had a cold sore, it had spread all the way across my bottom lip.  Luckily, that same person (I think it was our youth pastor) was able to procure some cheap cold sore medicine for me.  For those who don’t know, cheap cold sore medicine is basically just some type of acid that eats the herpes off of your lip and replaces it with a large, even-more-obvious-than-the-initial-cold-sore-sized scab of as many colors as Joseph’s coat.  On the bright side, the scab is a proportionate souvenir for helping you to never, ever, ever in your life forget how bad the medicine burns.

I learned a lot from the experience, but more importantly, I got a cute girl’s phone number right in the middle of it all.  This proved to me that when my game is on, it is on.  

Cold sores came and went with sunburns and the changing of the seasons and I endured the easy ribbing opportunities that my friends and acquaintances took advantage of growing up.  I initially tried to defend myself, but there is literally nothing you can say that helps you save face.

Example:  Friend (?):  “Nice herpes, did you get that from (current or past girlfriend)?”

Me:  “No!  Both of my parents get them!  My siblings too!”

Friend (definitely not a friend):  “Eww!  So you got herpes from your parents?”

Me:  “Dammit!”  (shakes fists at the heavens)  “Why God?!?!  Why?!?!”

Eventually I just accepted the fact that I get cold sores and that medicine to make them better helps, but also makes them exponentially uglier and more enjoyable to make fun of.  Now I just laugh along with the people teasing me, because I’d rather look like a dummy who can’t recognize when people are cutting him down than a guy embarrassed by his herpes.  If that doesn’t make sense to you, then you truly don’t understand the meaning of the word “pride.”

For the past fever blister-free year, I have convinced myself that I had cracked the code.  I knew what caused my breakouts.  I knew the suspect tingle of warning.  I knew how to treat them before they happened.  I boasted to my herpes, “You can’t surprise me anymore.  I will always see you coming and I will always be prepared to destroy you.”

And so the cold sore waited.

“And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost.  History became legend.  Legend became myth.  And for two and a half thousand years, the {herpes} passed out of all knowledge.” – Galadriel (paraphrased)

Until one night, in the flux of Florida’s indecision on whether or not to participate in Winter, it struck without prelude.  There was no logical cause.  It just happened.  I woke up with a cold sore.  Son of a bitch.

I struck back, buying the expensive cream that has always been my secret weapon, but it’s been a battle of attrition for several days now.  This leaves me to endure the social consequences of the pizza bubble on my lip.

Yesterday, a nice girl that I work with broke the flood gates with merciful sympathy.  Her words were something along the lines of, “Oh man!  I hate cold sores.  I get those too!”  This makes us herpes-friends for life (HFFL).

Today, I wasn’t so lucky.  Another co-worker meant well when he pointed at my bottom lip’s best impression of a volcano and said, “Do you need some cream for that herpes?”  Thank God he didn’t call it a fever blister.  That would have been embarrassing.  My sitcom-worthy response:  “No, I’m already putting medicine on it.  But thanks for pointing to it with your finger like that and talking so loudly.  Now everyone in the store gets to share in this fun, very awkward for me moment.”

He must not have been sure whether I was joking or not, because he later asked another co-worker if I was offended by his unintentional joke.  Other co-worker’s response:  “Nah, Brantley’s a good sport.  He can take it like a champ.”  Relieved, the initial perpetrator jested, “I’ll bet that’s how he got herpes in the first place.”  It was a good one.  The set up was too perfect.  I’m not mad, just jealous that my lip and I are on the butt side of the joke.  The rare original or well-timed humor is the best part of having a cold sore, not that there is much competition for that title.

One of the tags on this post will be herpes.  If you find it by searching that tag, don’t tell me.  Don’t tell anyone.  Just get some help.

4 thoughts on “Cold Sores and Fever Blisters – A Life of Herpes Euphemisms (Don’t worry, no photos)

  1. Ha! I have had fever blisters since i was a child, and so did two of my siblings. My mother actually told my sister she had them because she ate too many sour pickles! How science has progressed! I have a lovely one right now just below my bottom lip. I seem to get them after I am sun or wind burned. Thank you, abbreva. You are ever so much better than blistex.

    • That blistex stuff is just flesh eating acid. It’s the worst!

      Glad you could relate and felt my pain. It makes you an easy target for adolescent ridicule (at least it does for me as a guy), but I’ve developed a sense of humor about it!

      It’s just a part of life and if I’m wasn’t laughing about it, I would be crying about it!

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