Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Not Kool

Today is smoke-free day 309, and I'm so very glad that the whole supposedly fun and glamorous image of smoking I once held is long gone. Luckily, it was long gone even before I quit this last time.

I talked to an old friend over the weekend that I'd forgotten was a smoker since we haven't really hung out in person in many, many years and talk about once or twice every couple of years. In any case, I kind of marveled at some of the things she said when she mentioned smoking because they were quite telling about her attitude about smoking, and I wondered if maybe in her circles smoking hasn't yet lost its cool.

As much as I still find some rules and regulations and taxes to be completely overboard and unfair to smokers (and likely made up by whiny ass used to be smokers with something to prove because they quit and think that fact gives them the right to act like complete jackasses raised by inconsiderate whore mothers - OK, or just inconsiderate, we'll leave the whore out of this), I will admit that the same social stigma now associated with smokers that still annoys me, even now as a non-smoker who used to smoke, has been yet another little factor doing its part to help me stay on track not smoking.

It would be great if I was so totally above image that I didn't give a rat's patootie about how I look (sometimes I do overcome image by wearing my hat and "fanny pack" in public in defiance), but whether I actually profess to like people or not (often not), humans are social creatures, and to some degree (probably more than I wish or would admit), I am influenced by what society tells me is OK/Not OK. While this isn't always all good, neither is it always all bad, especially on those somewhat rare occasions when society heads in the right direction instead of into the toilet (or twa-lay, as I pronounce, for no good reason other than to entertain myself).

When I started smoking at 12, I thought smoking was cool, especially for the misfits like me. As I evolved from there into the kid who wore all black, skipped school to get (very) high and wrote suicide poems, smoking was still the height of cool for stoners and stoner wanna-be's ('cuz we all gotta wanna be something, I s'ppose), and if I did go to school, I hung out in the "smoking lounge" (not what I had in mind when I thought of a lounge - it was an area outside within the painted yellow lines). Then I spent some time in some rooms where coffee and cigarettes were the fuel of recovery (whole other 15 year chapter, that) as much as being there when a call for help came in the middle of the night, often sharing a smoke as a bond that bridged the gap. Then, being in Japan while the US was just starting to disallow smoking within a million miles of a school (or whatever the rule is/was that affects school workers who smoke) was like going back in time being able to smoke at my desk in the teacher's room at some schools (or at least in the designated smoking room in others), and it was like the opposite of social stigma (except that I didn't realize it wasn't considered very lady-like. oops.).

I was in for a surprise when I returned to the States (almost 10 years ago already) because it seemed like everything had gone non-smoking, and even McDonald's no longer had those funky little disposable ashtrays. Since then, it's been more of the same even in movies, bars and general wandering around in the world. I'm not sure how I feel about all of this with the movie/bar thing (and to some degree even disagree), but that's how it is. There just isn't as much smoking going on, and when there is, there is more scowling, rude comments, nasty looks and other unpleasantries expressed by those who think being polite is just as uncool as smoking has become.

As someone who still smoked, for the first time in my life I started feeling like I needed to either hide it or at least not flaunt it, depending on the situation. At one job, rude co-workers made it clear that they thought it (I) (see, the line gets blurry sometimes) was disgusting by making comments and sometimes going way further over the top than necessary and generally being prickish in their righteousness. Another few years later, in other situations, like at a friend's house with lots of other people and as the only smoker, I was the one who banished myself away from the group to enjoy my habit because I was actually embarrassed that someone as smart, sexy and cool (and humble, y'all know how always humble I am) as me would actually be doing something so the opposite of all that. As much as I enjoyed smoking, it started to seem disgusting to me in the light of day in the reflection of those around me who didn't smoke. At other times, I noticed that instead of being an acceptable way of coping in an awkward situation, smoking had suddenly become the last thing I'd want to do in an awkward situation because I thought it made me look even more awkward instead of less so. Amazing.

Smoking had lost its cool. Not just a little. Completely.

When I decided to give the Chantix a go and try to quit smoking again, for the millionth time, it was because I was tired of being a slave to something that was getting so expensive, was preventing me from being able to laugh without coughing (and what's life without full belly laughs, I ask you) and was so dangerous to my health and because I was starting to believe that "bad things" from smoking really could happen to a girl like me and not just on paper as some cold and random statistics that happen to other people. I didn't quit because smoking has become so very uncool, but I do have to admit that it has made it easier knowing that the world around me is pretty much a non-smoking world and that being a smoker in it was becoming more and more like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. I was constantly having to adjust my routines and force my addiction to fit into the my world by standing way over there instead of here or feeling the desire to hide in order to continue killing myself by sucking poison.

As long as I ran in circles where smoking was still cool or at least not so detested, it was easy to pretend it wasn't killing me, that it wasn't disgusting, and that I smoked because I enjoyed it instead of because I was a slave to my addiction (don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it, but I'd probably enjoy a bunch of other things I won't do simply because they are more dangerous than I'm interested in today).

Another entirely too long post. I'm off to run around in circles.


  1. It's amazing how much our perspectives change, eh?

  2. You're absolutely, positively right about the influence of that shame and the part that it plays. But I sort of wish you weren't, just because I really want to keep carrying the chip on my shoulder about how people are SO MEAN.

    When I was still smoking I actually had someone come up to me at my father's memorial, held at my own house. I had tried very hard not to smoke while it was going on, finally I sneaked out to the front of the house, outside, over in the bushes basically, all shamed and very sad while everyone else was in the backyard and main house. And this woman who was like a distant cousin or something came up to tell me what a nice memorial it was and how stupid I was to smoke.

    Okay, I'm letting that go now. Honest. Thanks for sharing some of your story. It doesn't feel long when it's clever and true!

  3. So true, Janet, my own perspective and the world around me, too.

    K, I still get irate when people are rude, no matter the topic, and you are a tough woman not to have punched someone for poking at you during your father's memorial. I would have been livid.

    Can I get an amen? I can? Thanks, Mishi!

    Stan, I'm not sure how to take that, so I assume you mean smoking is appalling, right?

  4. You put into words what I couldn't Maggie, thank you. Although I didn't try to quit as many times as you, the reasons I smoked and then quit are the same.

  5. Thanks, MamaFlo. I kind of got going longer than intended, but I'm glad you could relate.

  6. I could so relate to this post! I also started smoking at age 12 and was a stoner. I mean really, what do stoners do? They smoke things! I was never much of a pothead and when it became uncool to be addicted to cigatettes I was too addicted to care! Even though the people in the rooms we both talked about will sill defend thier right to kill themseleves, I am mostly around "everyday, normal people" and they used to look at me like I was a total idiot! It wasn't look after that I started feelling like a total idiot! Then my cousin quit, I started watching it be so unacceptable and lastly was the huge financial cost to kill myself. I hope to stay quit forever!

  7. I hope we are both all done, too, Mz Diva.

  8. No, Maggie, it's insinuation of being raised by "inconsiderate whore mothers" that is absolutely inappropriate in my opinion. Way over the top. To the point that it's utterly offensive.

  9. Stan, I think you missed the point where I said "OK, or just inconsiderate," showing that I was going deliberately over the top in a tongue and cheek kind of way by saying "whore." Offensive? Wow.


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