Photo: That's my girl. Fight Club forever.
Now that I'm a non-smoker, I see smokers everywhere. Usually this is cause for alarm; with triggers everywhere, how long can I hold out? But as Kathie Lee Gifford might say, "triggers come from within"--and at this point, she would break into song, probably while on board a Carnival cruise. She's like a modern-day Yoda.
After thinking about it, my triggers are: stress and smoking. So I don't smoke, and when I'm stressed out (all. the. time.), I have a refreshing V-8. Just kidding! I punch someone in the face, hard, and without mercy. It's helpful. I haven't had many cravings, although the other day, I watched a guy put a cig out with his shoe, and then walk off; the cigarette was stuck to the bottom of it, so every time he took a step and the cigarette disappeared, I felt like it was waving good-bye to me. Probably because it was.
The smokers I used to see on the street, back when I started smoking, were actually sort of cool. Of course, I was really young back then and to me, 'cool' was anything I wasn't: stylists with edgy haircuts wearing all black, sharply-dressed gay men, bull dykes with chain wallets on badass Harley's, rockabilly pin-up girls and their bouffant-loving boyfriends, 'fast women', and older people who used the word 'fuck' in their conversations as much as they used the word 'and'. There were others--artists, thugs, secret smokers, and roommates--but at the time, those were the people who shaped my idea of what a smoker was, or rather, the kind of person I thought I could become one day. I don't know why I thought the world was ready for a Samoan Betty Page, but the 'cool' factor I sought through smoking never really revealed itself.
Now there's a sameness to the people I see smoking today. Maybe it's because I've adopted a different group now (the 'new, fragile non-smokers who need lots of love' group--although I'm looking forward to joining the 'newly-converted, high and mighty non-smokers who preach to current smokers about how stupid they are' group), or maybe it's wishful thinking, but the quality of our smokers has gone way, way down. This used to be a club for beautiful people like Marlene Dietrich, but now it's for the Marla Singers of the world (although I loved her, too, wholly and undeniably).
The people I spy smoking downtown nowadays: Penguin waiters (or if they're liberated, "penguin servers") in their black-and-whites, smoking fast and loose in front of their restaurants. Women in their early 40's, with fake tans and too much makeup, smoking ultra-slim cigarettes. The homeless, always. People in ill-fitting clothes, for some reason. The poor, which seems like an oxy moron, because cigarettes are so damn expensive these days. Drug addicts sucking furiously on their cigarettes, chainsmoking on the corner, looking for a real fix. Drama queens who use their cigs to emphasize something in their stories, stabbing the air with a lit cigarette to prove a point. Surly hipsters who have a homeless look about them, except for the pricey pack of Camels in their front pocket and an Iphone glued to their ear. People who wear sunglasses at night (Corey Hart, I'm talking to you). Underage whores in whorewear, talking on their blinged-out, hot pink cell phones, smoking Newport Lights. Old hippies with home-rolled smokes, sauntering around the park in their rock-climbing shoes. Rockabilly men smoking Lucky Strikes, who still make it look like a death-defying lifestyle, rather than a deathwish. Tourists from Jersey, or places like Jersey, who smoke everywhere and don't care if they're ashing onto the head of your six-month old baby. Guys who go to Shiny Shirt clubs (and wear shiny shirts, and the shiny-shirted women who love them). Women with crunchy, curly, overprocessed hair. Girls who look like Lindsay Lohan; girls who are Lindsay Lohan. And then, the cab drivers--although generally, they're either Really For or Really Against smoking. Tell a cab driver you smoke, and he might just light up with you. Tell the wrong driver you smoke, and you'll get a 10-15 minute lecture on how smoking is bad for you (Newsflash: "You could DIE!") and a story about a family member who perished from smoking, even after the family member was lectured to, in the very same cab. Then you pay for the lecture, and feel obligated to tip the man, since he sounded much more interested in your health and your future than you had ever been.
This is the best part about being a non-smoker: judging those who do smoke. Also, there's the health benefits, but I'm interested in things of real value. For the most part, it's about bringing down the Iron Fist of Judgment upon the Lame and Unworthy, in--your--mind. Don't go around teaching smokers a lesson by trying to fist them; that's awkward. Just silently judge them from afar, and feel good about yourself as you throw metaphorical stones from your metaphorical glass house. I'm not saying smokers deserve to be judged (they do, they do!), I'm merely making the statement that YOU DON'T QUIT SOMETHING FOR NOTHING, BUDDY. And, reversely, that's what you get! I was judged every day! Take my judgment and SMOKE IT, BITCH, while I'm over here hating you! This is my just reward! I've never had a leg-up on anyone, with the exception of sarcasm and how many stones I weigh; now I can add Non-Smoker to the list, along with 'ate a salad this year' and 'didn't punch any strangers today'. That's called progress.
There was an attractive, underdog quality about Marla Singer that I found positively appealing; I think it was how natural she made smoking look, while at the same time coming off as jagged, desperate, and totally unhealthy. Someday, I hope to make jagged, desperate, and totally unhealthy look natural--effortless, even--without a cigarette. R. Kelly believes I can fly (also? I can touch the sky), and I will put my faith in that.