I started smoking at the age of nineteen. Not because I had a “bad” group of friends or because I was going through things in my life that could only be cured by tobacco. Of course my eventual “addiction” and regularity of smoking came as a result of things I thought would be cured by smoking.
I have always loved the smell of cigarette smoke. This was a result of childhood memories of travelling with my parents and waiting in airport rooms that had a beautiful smell of coffee mixed with cigarettes. My dad also had a white friend who I have very fond memories of to this day even though I have not seen her in over fifteen years. She also occasionally smelt like cigarettes and coffee whenever she came to visit us and brought us gifts or took us out (funny enough, I remember now that my first ever art set came from her and as a result I have always had a thing for drawing/creating).
As a child, I equated the smell of cigarettes to adventure, freedom and excitement. There was always a sense of not knowing, of discovery, of new places to visit, new people to see, new experiences to feel. As a teenager, my smoking became my symbol for rebellion.
My rebellion was targeted towards society and everyone who had thought that I had changed as a result of my smoking. That I was less moral, less smarter, less gifted, more worldly, more sluttier, as if my smoking had finally opened up my eyes to the dark ways of the world and my morals and “right upbringing” had followed my eyes into this darkness.
So I started smoking more often, more publicly. Just to see the disapproving looks on people’s faces. I loved to watch people judge me, I still do. My favorite moments are actually right after a meeting of some sort, after I have shown them how smart and likeable I am, I go out and smoke a cigarette. When I come back in I am always asked questions such as, “wow, you smoke? I had no idea! You seemed more together” (I really don’t know what that means) or, “you’re so smart for a smoker” or “you’re too pretty to smoke”.
But you know what I love the most about this? Is the fact that these small minded people will go home and think about me, think about what they thought about me before they found out I smoked and after they found out I smoked. I like to think that I tricked their little judgmental minds into realizing that women who smoke are not necessarily stupid, that we are not always whores (according to the African social understanding of black women who smoke) and even if we are stupid and whores, so what?
I am getting older now and I really don’t care much about this small rebellion of mine anymore. But I was thinking about all this as I had my morning cigarette. People like to ask me if I will ever quit smoking. And I don’t really know.