Monday, October 10

Neurotic + Nicotine = Madeleine

If you last 19 years without smoking, you should feel happy, not wonder what will happen if you take just the one drag. I started smoking knowing I'd want to quit someday. That's the thing about starting smoking when you're 19--lung cancer is more than just a rumor.

Even after I was smoking, I never considered myself a smoker.

People who really smoke carry around their pack of cigarettes, but also a spare pack, for when the last cigarette of the first pack is sucked down. People who smoke schedule their life around smoking; I schedule my life around the library hours. Today, for instance, the Carroll Gardens Library is open until 8PM, so I'll be able to replenish my books after work.

So I'm not really a smoker. But starting Sophomore year, I smoked. At first, it was so casual. A drag off someone's cigarette at a party. A way to meet people at bars. A fun way to flirt. It got worse when I realized that the smokers, huddled outside in the entryway to the parties and gatherings, are the most interesting people not allowed in the room.

Cigarette prices went up in Boston, went up even more in New York City. I began to feel guilty about bumming cigarettes; battered packs and half-broken lighters made an appearance in my purse. I bought a larger evening purse, since my tiny old purse meant choosing between cell phone and cigarettes, which felt too much like Sophie's Choice for me.

I still called myself a social smoker, but wouldn't tell people that I went out nearly every night.

Not to worry; I created the "great quitting cigarettes" plan on the day of my second cigarette. I'm not really the kind of person that does long-term self-destructive things. Also, my dad is on the record as saying, "people who smoke are suicidal." So long-term smoking--that was never going to happen.

So starting to smoke led to the development of Smoking Rules and Regulations:
  • No smoking because of stress EVER.
  • No smoking during the day except if there was a really good excuse.
  • No smoking as a break from classes or work.
But most importantly, since I'd seen too many people refuse to quit because of the weight issue, no decrease in eating was allowed as a result of smoking. In fact, I took this rule so seriously that within a month of my first cigarette, I became the first person to gain five pounds from starting smoking. I'd wake up mornings, dehydrated from a night's drinking and smoking, and wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep. Instead, after reviewing the night, I would carboload with pancakes. I would order the trucker's special at diners, and insist on eating lunch afterwards.

After all these rules and regulations--after 3 increasingly difficult smoke-free Febuary's--it was truly a relief to quit. Life is simplier now that I'm not force-feeding myself, and asking people for judgement calls on the time of day at dusk.

And so you see, I do not miss smoking at all. I am so not the kind of person who would force people to blow smoke in my face. I do not purposefully walk 3 paces below smokers on the sidewalk. I have never forced an entire group of work folk to take a cigarette break and take me with them. I do not hang outside of bars on cold winter evenings pretending I'm one with the smokers. Right. Cause, you know, that would be kind of crazy.

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