Turn 18. Coincidentally, you are also in your first week as a freshman studying photography/ creative writing/ what-have-you at a private liberal arts college. Now is the time to think about your image and how you want to be portrayed for the next four years. Buy into the whole “young 20s’, don’t-give-a-damn-about-my-health-attitude.” Immediately run to the gas station to buy your first pack. Squint, stare and be intimidated by the never-ending rows of mysterious color-coded societal coolness behind the counter.
What brand should you get?
Your dad smokes Marlboro Reds, so maybe you should too. But your dad isn’t cool. Your college roommate smokes American Spirits (the teal ones, right?). Strain your memory to remember what you smoked your senior year of high school — and by smoking, you mean taking a few light puffs in the parking garage after prom — was it menthane? Methadone? Oh right, menthols. Aren’t those worse for you though?
End up with a pack of Camel Lights.
Walk quickly back to your dorm housing, lean effortlessly against the wall—but make sure you are still in plain sight of everyone when enters and exit the building. You are now a smoker and want the world to know it. Pretend you’ve always been a smoker.
Light up a cigarette and wait for the guy you have a crush on that lives on your floor to come outside. He smokes too. This moment will forever be ingrained as your gateway into the world of smoking forever. You did it all for a boy. But, that’s ancient news.
Four years later, college has whirled past you and you barely remember the drunken nights at house parties where all the pretentious art majors were sticking their heads outside windows or sitting on porches smoking their cigarettes talking about pseudo-intellectual bullshit, the random conversations you had with strangers you met outside bars while you were smoking, and the boy that asked for a light and whom you ended up taking home (and later sharing your last cigarette in your pack with after making love). You barely remember the time you bought two packs of cigarettes and drunkenly smoked them both in one night, the time you projectile vomited outside your favorite dive bar and then proceeded to light up a cigarette, and the time the boy you had been living with for two years broke up with you in your car and after he left you crying and you commenced to have the best goddamn cigarette you have ever had.
In the end, it is always about a boy.
Smoking is living your life a little desperately every single day. But then again, so is dating. For some unbeknownst reason, you just can’t stop. Your friends glorify smoking, but what would happen if you quit? You would lose the social aspect of it. You would miss the conversations, the plan-making and the juicy gossip that goes on outside of bars and parties in the smoking section. You already lost your dignity and self-respect years ago—you just can’t stand the idea of losing the few perks that come with smoking. You’re still young, right? You’re barely 25, your lungs can deal with another few years.
Recognize that this rationale is all bullshit. Now recognize that you are bullshit. Quit smoking.
Go out for drinks the next day. Get tipsy. Take some more tequila shots with your girlfriends. Get drunk. Remember the boy that you desperately loved once upon a time, your senior year of college, your first real adult relationship. Miss him desperately. Miss living with him. Miss coming home to him. Wonder what he is up to these days. Miss smoking even more. Bum a cigarette from one of your friends. God it has been so long since you’ve smoked. It’s been two whole days after all.
Realize that smoking has been the one stable relationship in your entire life. Now wait for the post-graduation years of your life to go by—another endless repetition of your college days where you were outside smoking of bars, house parties, etc.
One day, light-years and ballparks from the day you bought your first pack, you’ll wake up next to someone. Realize that you aren’t the same little shit that you were at twenty-one. Your hair is longer, your career is stable, you’ve paid off the majority of your student loans, your circle of friends aren’t the same as they were six years ago, you’ve dated half the population of Seattle, you’re thinking of going back to graduate school—and you think you love the person sleeping quietly next to you. For once in the six years that you started smoking, feel self-conscious of your vices. Stroke his hair gently and make your first real adult decision since you turned 18.
Quit smoking for real this time. Of course you did it for a boy. You are so predictable. But this one is actually worth it this time.