Herpes infection keeps lonely woman on the dating sidelines

DEAR ABBY: I am a 65-year-old woman, attractive and lonely. I am uncomfortable using dating sites because I have genital herpes. I was infected by my first husband more than 40 years ago.

If I were to meet someone on one of those sites, when would be the right time to reveal my problem? After we have gotten to know each other? Or should I be up front about it and say something when we first meet?

- Unsure in New York

DEAR UNSURE: Herpes is an infection, not a scarlet letter. Many people carry the virus, and a surprising number of them are not aware they have it and can infect others. In fact, according to the American Sexual Health Association, one in six individuals in the United States between the ages of 14 and 49 has genital herpes (HSV-2).

Because you are hesitant about when to reveal your status, please visit the ASHA website (ashasexualhealth.org). You will find it informative. It includes a section on relationships, suggestions about when to tell someone, how to talk to a partner, reactions to expect, etc.

Another website that has been mentioned in my column before is H-Date.com. It offers a free dating service through which thousands of men and women meet. Many nice, eligible people - people just like you - have herpes and live full, happy lives. I hope you will check it out.

So many questions,

almost no boundaries

DEAR ABBY: I recently moved to a new area of my state. I like the environment, the cost of living, etc., but there's one problem I don't know how to address. The people here share far too much information with strangers in everyday conversation. I think there should be some boundaries and limits on what is said in public.

While I was waiting to ask a salesclerk a question, the person ahead of me in line described her entire medical history in detail. There are times when I can't get through a store without someone asking me question after question. I believe in being polite, so I have reached the point of just nodding my head or responding with a yes or no most of the time. It's really off-putting.

- Needs Boundaries in the South

DEAR NEEDS BOUNDARIES: Many people ask questions as a way to start a conversation because they are interested in you or are lonely. Because you consider their questions invasive and you need boundaries, you will have to set them. A way to do that would be to tell the questioner that the query is a personal one, and you prefer not to share that kind of information with strangers.

Letter of the law

DEAR ABBY: I have been living in my current home for eight years and frequently receive letters addressed to previous occupants, including medical bills and notifications from the DMV. (I don't open them; the envelopes have return addresses.) How long am I obligated to stick the letter back in the mailbox with "Return to sender"? I'm getting the impression the former occupants use this false address to avoid paying their bills. It makes me feel dirty and complicit when their mail comes to me.

- Complicit in Maryland

DEAR COMPLICIT: Why are you jumping to the conclusion that what's happening is nefarious? The former occupants may have forgotten to turn in or renew their change of address notice, or change the address on their driver's license. Stop feeling guilty for something that really has nothing to do with you. The next time one of those envelopes arrives, instead of writing, "Return to sender," write: "Not at this address."