Holla at my germaphobes!

As much as I hated high school, I’ll never forget what happened to me on the last day.

My classmates and I signed each others’ yearbooks. At the final bell, I grabbed mine and eagerly opened it, expecting to read heartfelt notes and inside jokes. But my smile dropped as my eyes bee-lined straight to this passage:

REMEMBER: Never place your bare ass on a toilet seat. You don’t know what types of germs could be lurking there. YOU CAN GET HERPES. Good luck out there in the real world. Love, Nadia H.

I entered high school a modest girl and left a woman. My mom had always told me to place a seat cover on the toilet seat in public restrooms, but I never knew it was because she feared I’d get an STI!

Terrified, I did what any 17-year-old with a body question would do: I went to Google.

Turns out, you cannot get herpes by sitting on a toilet seat. I was relieved. The viruses that cause herpes (herpes simplex types 1 and 2) are fragile and dry out when exposed to air. Since it’s impossible for the viruses to survive outside of the body, there have been no proven cases of someone contracting herpes from a toilet seat.

Herpes is transmitted through vaginal, oral or anal sex. In some cases, it’s passed along via skin-to-skin contact (in the genital or oral regions) with someone carrying the infection. Okay, science — you win against my paranoia.

“But surely you could catch some kind of STI from a toilet seat,” you may think. Au contraire, my dear friend. According to a WebMD interview with Abigail Salyers, PhD, you’re more likely to catch E. coli from a toilet seat. “To my knowledge, no one has ever acquired an STD on the toilet seat,” she explains, “unless they were having sex on the toilet seat!”

If only my younger self could warn Nadia that the risk of E. coli would not come from a bad experience at Chipotle in 2016, but from a toilet at the Shell gas station off the Ohio turnpike.

Remember: Never place your bare ass on a toilet seat. You don’t know what germs could be lurking there.

All images by Antonio Manaligod/Dose.