I was 14, and I was perched in a fuzzy white hammock on my very lavish then-best friend Lana’s very lavish bedroom terrace. She was tall and blonde and thin as a rail and beautiful. And she owned Pucci Moon Boots.
We used to buy the thin, crunchy kind of breadsticks before watching Breakfast At Tiffany’s so we could pretend they were just like the cigarette holders that made Audrey Hepburn look so damn glamorous. And we figured if we tried the real thing, we’d feel like movie stars, too.
After all, Carrie smoked—and Carrie was fucking everything. She was smart and sexy and had incredible clothes and a cool career. We’d fantasize about our future loves and how our relationships would be devastatingly intense, just like Carrie’s, and how they’d be all the more cinematic when we’d ruminate about them over a smoke, just like Carrie.
We knew smoking was bad, of course. Lana’s mom smoked, and she’d tell us it was bad—that she wished she didn’t. That she hoped we’d never start. My mom used to smoke, too—back in her twenties when she did marketing for Marlboro. I don’t know if I knew she’d ever picked up a cigarette back then—she probably excluded that detail. But she’d tell me horror stories about the fates of her friends who’d ask her for free cigarettes. We knew about lung cancer and emphysema. We knew smoking was bad. But hell, we new drinking was bad, too. And god knows we’d already started to sneak into our parents’ liquor cabinets.
* * *
Lana’s mom would hide her Marlboro Golds all over the house—in little nooks she thought we’d never find. But no nook is too hidden for a couple of teenagers who want to try something bad. Eventually, we found a pack.
I still remember that blinding rush of adrenaline. Those wicked giggles we whispered as we sprinted to her terrace to weigh our gold. How we felt like vindicated criminals as we kicked back on that fuzzy white hammock and turned our smug grins to Park Avenue’s midnight sky and lit our treasure. How we felt every bit as glamorous as we’d anticipated. How we felt like movie stars.
That was seven years ago, and I still remember.
* * *
In high school, most of us would puff “social” smoke. Maybe a few stolen cigarettes a year. I never made a habit of it—neither did Lana. But that rebel chic rush never faded—the novelty never died.
But after some time, I let it creep in more than a few times a year. Two years ago, I started buying my own cigarettes—something we’d vowed on that fuzzy white hammock we’d never do. We were smart girls. We didn’t want cancer or emphysema or kids who’d look at us with disgust when we stepped out on family time for a smoke. We didn’t want to get addicted. We didn’t want to be smokers. We just craved the image once in a while.
Until I started craving the nicotine. Until, last year, I started buying my own—not just once in a while, but once a week. Until I started to alleviate stress with my Marlboro Golds. Then with Camel Blues. Then Parliaments. Then Golds again. Then American Spirits. Golds. Blues. Reds. Sprits. Parliaments. Reds. Back to Golds. Until I smoked enough to try on different kinds of cigarettes. Until my smoke was part of my brand.
Often, I realize how chic I feel with a cigarette in hand. It’s painfully stupid, trust me—I know. Cigarettes are not chic. And I want to live a long, healthy life. I don’t want to raise eyebrows with the stink of smoke when I step back in the office after a coffee break. I want to run around with my kids without having to stop to catch my breath. I don’t want to be a smoker—I never did. Damn, those images we prayed to as kids are hard to shake.
But it’s time for a new brand. I’m too old for this shit. So fuck it: I’m gonna quit.