Monday, October 15, 2007

Envy or How My Favorite Vice Went Up In Smoke


The fourth in a series on the Seven Deadly Sins :

Tonight during the cocktail hour we had Scotch Aggravations and snuggled in front of the television to watch "Burke's Law" on the shows-too-old-to-bother-syndicating channel. There was Gene Barry as the millionaire police detective wining and dining a glamorous parade of pulchritude. One after another, these sirens of the small screen sashayed into his arms. They were curvy, sensuous, seductive and all of them were smoking. Chesterfields I think (Mmm, that's mild!). I felt like a starving man watching through the window of an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Shhh, don't tell anybody but I love cigarettes. I started sneaking cigarettes and then packs of cigarettes from the cartons my parents kept on the kitchen counter when I was eleven. My mother always seemed so sophisticated when she smoked. My sixteen year old sister looked so rebellious when she had a cigarette in her hand. When I heard my mother say that she smoked to keep from getting fat, I was sold.

I followed all the rules our etiquette teacher gave us. I never lit my own cigarette in public. I never smoked while standing or wearing gloves. I never ever let a cigarette linger on my lips for longer than it took to inhale. But I did smoke and I smoked a lot. The worst was the semester I traded English for French tutoring with the Parisian foreign students in my sophomore year. I went through about two packs a day out of self-defense (have you ever seen a French student without a lit cigarette? If you do call Ripley's).

Then a funny thing happened. I met a boy. I fell madly in love for the first time. The boy didn't smoke. I began sneaking cigarettes on the sly and then immediately scrubbing my hands, teeth and face on the off chance he might smell smoke on me and lose interest. I was washing my hair constantly and popping peppermints like a crazed Christmas elf. My deception worked like a charm until one day when I married the boy. I stopped buying cigarettes in 1988.

I still love the taste of them, the soothing rhythm of a sweet puff of smoke and the wonderful feeling of euphoria as the smoke swirls in my chest then escapes in a delicate plume of breath. And sometimes, especially when I'm watching an old movie or television show from glamorous bygone days, I envy those elegant sophisticated women on the screen.

I envy them so much, I almost want to run out and purchase a box of my old favorites. Then I think that maybe those glamour gals might just envy me and my generation for being able to grow old with our beloved spouses and enjoy healthy hearts and lungs and throats well into our retirements, because we chose to stop smoking. Having a healthy smoke free home? Mmm, that's refreshing!