For the first installment of Tales of the World for Miss C, check out this post.
When my friend Kendra visited Miss C and me last week, we got to reminiscing as old friends are prone to do about our days in elementary and middle school. She is probably my only real remaining friend from those days, so I rely on her to remind me that my penchant for eating a jar of peperoncinis with a large glass of milk is well-established as one of my
most disgusting oddest cravings. I did that when I was a kid; now the training wheels are off and I can down an entire jar with no pain-dulling beverage whatsoever, which pretty much freaks/grosses out everyone.
We also got to talking about being members of the Smoke Free Class of 2000. (Yes, this was a Thing, and I even linked to a 1989 NY Times article to prove it.) Basically, being born in 1981 and 1982 meant that Nancy Reagan and the girl who played “Rudy” on The Cosby Show were going to try their dardest to keep you from smoking by way of your public school guidance counselor. Kind of a mall Santa Claus-type thing; since they couldn’t do it themselves, they sent out a representative to do their work for them.
From first grade onward, we were drilled in the protocol of Just Saying No to smoking, specifically. Pretty much anyone from our class could spew the stats on how many people die in America from smoking every year and what the lung of a lifetime smoker looks like postmortem. The lung assembly resulted in
me many students being ushered from the cafetorium to put their heads between their knees so they wouldn’t barf.
I totally got on board with saying no. This is probably because no one was asking me to smoke in the first place, but we needn’t split hairs. In sixth grade, I even wrote a poem wherein a girl gets approached on the playground by some older kid (who else?) to smoke but she declines in iambic pentameter. Did I mention that I wrote this poem on my own accord? Yeah, it wasn’t assigned; just did it on a Saturday afternoon. (For further reading on why I’m a nerd click here.)
By the time the year 2000 rolled around, I was a beacon of light for the smoke-free agenda. Bill Clinton was in office but Nancy Reagan was still in my heart. On my eighteenth birthday, in a misguided display of my staunch opposition to nicotine, I went to a gas station with Cameron and her then-boyfriend to buy a pack of cigarettes which I would then flush down the toilet in an act of defiance. Nevermind that I was giving the tobacco companies money by doing so. It was the gesture that counted.
I sidled up to the counter with my still-underage friends flanking me and immediately blanked when the attendant asked me what I needed.
I asked them, “What kind am I supposed to get?”
“Marlboro Reds,” the chorus chanted.
“Ah yes, one pack of Marlboro Reds, please.”
To this, the attendant rolled her eyes. “You do realize I’m not going to sell you cigarettes now that you’ve clearly shown that you’re buying them for your friends, right?”
Why it was more important for us to be smoke-free than our friends from the classes of 1999 and 2001, I cannot explain. Perhaps it was our birthright for our lungs to be especially looked after by First Lady Nancy, who saw the potential in us and was adamant to protect us from the dangers of smoking.
So Kendra and I were talking about our smoke-free indoctrination when she said, “Well, I guess it worked pretty well because I never smoked.”
I guess this means I failed Mrs. Reagan.
Because I did smoke for about fifteen minutes in college.
What can I say? College brought out the rebel in me. My gateway drug was Pringles, which I had consumed maybe only a few times in my life due to the fact that my mom had the pesky habit of feeding us actual food during our formative years. Before I knew it, I was unabashedly bringing Pop Tarts into the dorm and eating them too with no abandon, not only for breakfast but for
dinner in-between meals as well. Months passed in my downward spiral and before I knew it I was making midnight runs to Taco Bell for chalupas. The destruction of my body was well underway via junk food so it was only a matter of time until I undid the best efforts of my parents and the Ad Counsel and started smoking.
It began easily enough and ended in an all-night ralph session. Out of boredom and curiosity I smoked a few of my sorority sister’s cigarettes one night and subsequently coughed up a lung. However, if I am anything it is determined, so once I discovered that ultra light cigarettes existed, I was all about them.
Yes, nothing is cooler than a nineteen-year-old girl carrying out the same rebellious acts as eleven- and twelve-year-olds, and for the exact same highly sophisticated reasons. The only difference was that my defiance lacked teeth since I was, you know, legal and all. I certainly wasn’t impressing any of my peers with my pack-a-year “habit,” but I never would have known it at the time because I was too busy to notice. My time was monopolized by constantly posing with the cigarettes in front of a mirror and practicing how I would hold them at parties. I was one happening gal.
My foray into smoking ended as abruptly as it had started. One night I was up studying for finals, which had all been scheduled for the following day. I thought to myself, “This seems like a nice opportunity to try out this chain smoking I’ve heard so much about.” Great plan. Keep in mind that over the course of the prior six months I had smoked maybe three packs of cigarettes. Maybe that many. Likely far less.
So that night when I staged the Great Chain Smoking of Emily, I was probably four hours in to my binge when I got horribly sick to my stomach and ended up ralphing for hours. When I finally went to bed I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck. Surprise, surprise. I’m not a born smoker.
Why is this a Tale of the World for Miss C? Is it to show her that smoking is bad for her and she resist the urge to try it? Is it to demonstrate that I have been there and done that so there’s little she can do to shock me? Is it to make her jealous that I had the likes of Nancy Reagan looking after me in my formative years?
Well, yes, but it’s mainly to remind her that she is a product of me. She’s got that nerd gene that will shine through whether she chooses to embrace smoking or compose poems against it.
The moral of the story is to just write poems about smoking. It’s way healthier.