I was slightly nervous about going in for a COVID-19 test. Even though I had no reason to suspect that I might have contracted the dreaded virus, my doctor recommended it as “a matter of …
I was slightly nervous about going in for a COVID-19 test. Even though I had no reason to suspect that I might have contracted the dreaded virus, my doctor recommended it as “a matter of routine. And it will give you peace of mind,” he said. “One less thing to worry about. Besides,” he added, “it’s time to do some blood work anyhow. We can kill two birds with one stone. It doesn’t hurt, you know. And we’ll have the answer fairly quickly.”
A few days later, he called with the results: “Negative,” he said. “And the other tests look fine. There is one thing, however,” he intoned, pausing for far too long. “What?” I asked, panic rising like lava from Mt. Vesuvius. “What now?”
After another seemingly interminable moment, the good doctor sighed audibly. “Well, according to the lab, you have herpes.”
“Herpes?” I shrieked into the phone.
I could hear him laughing on the other end; I demanded to know what was so funny. “You didn’t let me finish,” he said, chuckling. “Apparently your nasal swab came back with glitter on it. I don’t know how you got glitter up there, but you have what’s known in the business as ‘craft herpes.’ What have you been doing with glitter? And how did it get up your nose?” he asked.
After my heart stopped pounding, I sighed. “Oh, dear lord,” I groaned. “I worked on an art project last week that did, indeed, involve glitter. I was immediately sorry,” I continued, “because I found some sparkles on my gloves the next day, and even upstairs on one of the dog’s toys. It’s called craft herpes?” I asked. “Seriously?”
“Look it up,” he responded, still laughing. “One of the nurses showed me on the internet. It sounds annoying, but I’m pretty sure you’ll live.”
My fingers flew across the keyboard. “Craft Herpes” came up right away on something called Urban Dictionary: “Glitter, like the STD herpes. Once you have glitter on you, you cannot get rid of it,” it declared matter-of-factly. “If you have glitter on your body and you touch someone, they will suddenly have glitter on [themselves]. You may think that you have washed it all off, but one day you will be in the right light and notice it on you somewhere.”
Aggravated, I glanced at the jar on my counter, noting that the culprit was more than half empty. “What have I done?” I wailed in the general direction of the dog, suddenly noticing she had glitter on her tail, which was sparkling oh-so-prettily in the sun. “Oh my god, now you have it, too.”
Coincidentally, I was reminded of an Instagram post (@gossamerga) I had read months ago about glitter and the spread of COVID-19. “COVID explained in Renaissance Festival Terms” the headline blared. “You go to a festival with 10,000 other people,” it stated. “Maybe ten of them are playing pixie characters. At the end of the day,” the post concluded, “how many people have glitter somewhere on their bodies?” A darned good analogy warning people of how easily COVID-19 is spread (IMHO) and a cautionary tale to boot.
“Well, that’s that girl,” I said to the dog, wiping her tail with a damp rag. Of course, then I had a rag with glitter on it, and Dharma’s tail still glinted in the sunbeam. “We’re done for. Now we both have ‘craft herpes.’ And of course,” I continued, “It all started with my mother, bless her heart.”
That’s right, it always goes back to dear old Mom, who was extremely crafty herself. She first introduced me to glitter when I was six or seven and had a school project to do about the solar system. Mom helped me make a diorama of the planets, and when we got to Saturn, she broke out multi-colored glitter with which to illustrate the rings. She showed me how to use glue to create the outline, sprinkle “fairy dust” on the wet goo and shake off the excess. Boy, was that pretty. I’m pretty sure I got an A-plus, and thus began a life-long relationship with you-know-what.
Curious to know when it all began, I did some internet sleuthing about the history of glitter. Never one to disappoint, Wikipedia always has an answer: “Since prehistoric times,” the know-it-all website informed, “glitter has been made from many different materials including stones such as malachite and mica, as well as insects and glass. Modern glitter is usually manufactured from plastic,” the article continued, “and is rarely recycled, leading to calls from scientists for bans on plastic glitter.”
“Good luck with that’ I grumbled, grabbing a glass of water and noting that there were glints of pink and green now inside my fridge. Simultaneously intrigued and annoyed, I continued reading.
“Glittering surfaces have been found to be used since prehistoric times in the arts and in cosmetics,” the unknown author continued.
“Like Peter Pan and drag queens (Attorneys at Law). Right, girl?” I said to Dharma, hoping she hadn’t ingested any while giving herself a bath.
“The modern English word ‘glitter’ comes from the Middle English word ‘gliteren,’ possibly by way of the Old Norse word glitra,” my research revealed. “However, as early as 30,000 years ago, mica flakes were used to give cave paintings a glittering appearance. Prehistoric humans are believed to have used cosmetics made of powdered hematite, a sparkling mineral.”
I also learned that from 40,000 BC to 200 BC, ancient Egyptians, produced “glitter-like substances from crushed beetles as well as finely ground green malachite crystal” and that archeologists believe Mayan temples were sometimes painted with red, green and grey glitter paint made from mica dust, based on infrared scans of the remnants of paint still found on the structures in present-day Guatemala.
Crossing “Visit Mayan Temples” off my bucket list, I thought about what the lab had discovered. Following my shower, I found glitter on the cotton swab I had just used in my ears, there was some on my toothbrush, and I noticed that there was something sparkling on (oh the horror!) my flannel sheets.
Tossing them into the wash, I realized there was glitter in the lint trap of the dryer and, later that day, glitter on the cat next door, who I’m still petting and feeding twice a day, apparently for the rest of my life. I re-read the article and some of the comments from other victims who had looked “craft herpes” up online.
“I thought I’d gotten it all weeks ago, but when I looked in the mirror just now, I had a piece of glitter by my eye!” one keen observer had written.
“I was at a party when a wanna-be raver started spreading craft herpes!” another bemoaned. “I think she threw a bag of fairy dust in the fan!”
Commonly called pixie or fairy dust due to its use in movies to create “magic,” the micro-fine glitter (like mine) is the hardest form to remove and the easiest to get. It is dust-like and easily transferred from one surface to another—like me, or my dog, or the eggs in the fridge.
Fair warning: I’m neither Peter Pan, nor a drag queen, but I’ve got Craft Herpes, and it looks like it’s here to stay. You’d be wise to keep your distance, even after the proverbial dust has settled.
Fun Fact: “All that glitters” is an un-credited well-known saying, and has been used as titles for songs, plays, articles like this, and even TV episodes like “The Adventures of Superman,” “Sex and the City” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Disclaimer: Medical News Today states that Herpes Simplex (HSV) is a common virus and not necessarily sexually transmitted. According to the World Health Organization, around 67 percent of people, globally, have an HSV-1 infection, and 11 percent have an HSV-2 infection.