I started smoking when I was 12 years old. It was all due to seeing the movie Grease and being impressed with how cool they all looked with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. It was Rizzo's fault most of all. She was my favorite of the Pink Ladies. All that attitude and sass.

My cousin Beth was living with my mother and me at the time. She was from North Carolina, beautiful, and she had a convertible (the style of car that is my favorite to this day). She smoked and there was always an ashtray on the dining room table with half smoked cigarette butts in it. This is from where I got my first taste of stinkweed. Now you always see these people coughing up a lung when they try cigarettes for the first time. Not me. I took to it like a duck to water. I worked my way up from puffing to full inhaling in no time. I would sneak the cigarette butts when I was latch-keying it before my mom and Beth got home from work.

Flash forward a few years and I'm working part-time after school at the nursing home. Patients who smoked would have cartons of cigarettes that my mom, who was the Activity Director, held for them. It was nothing to sneak a pack every once in a while. I had no definite habit, just a smoke on occasion whenever I felt like it. I was into Marlboro Reds at the time (hack, hack) but would take whatever I could get my dishonest little hands on.

At 16, my dad died. While on that sabbatical week in Hawaii, I would sit on the balcony of my hotel room smoking cigarette after cigarette while contemplating the pigeons on the roof of the ABC Mart across the street. How I kept from hacking up a lung on those Reds is still a mystery to me.

A year or so later, I went on a trip to Monterey with my friend and idol, Jane. She was 20 years older than me but treated me as an equal. I looked up to her immensely. She was the funniest person I'd ever met and she took me under her wing. And yes, you're right, she smoked. Her poison was Benson and Hedges (she called them Benches and Hedges) Menthols. While on this trip, she let me smoke to my heart's content. I felt so cool and sophisticated, let me tell you. It was this trip that converted me to menthols for the rest of my smoking life.

I'd quit smoking and then take it up throughout the years. I finally fell into an actual habit when I was 22. I worked my way up to a pack a day of Marlboro Menthol 100s. I didn't like the Kings because they burned up too fast. The hard pack was also preferable since it didn't get smashed up in my purse. Marvin the Martian was a smoker too. I smoked up a storm while I was working at the 2nd nursing home. Constant smoke breaks. I don't like who I was becoming then. Not due to the smoking but due to my incredible lack of work ethic. While I may fart around here at this job, I get my work done. There is never anything lacking because of whatever time I spend goofing off. Back then, the work suffered. I was addicted to cigarettes and to really great sex with a man who was so not good for me.

The January after I turned 23 and a couple weeks after I'd ended things with the Martian, I quit smoking as a new year's resolution. I initially tried to quit smoking and stop drinking caffeine in an insane attempt at better health. HA! Worst headaches I've ever had in my life. Obviously, I took up drinking caffeine again. I stayed off the cigarettes though. Quit cold turkey and it stuck. I've smoked every once in awhile since then, primarily in times of great stress. And I admit, there are days when that need for nicotine sings along my blood. Sometimes I give in. I'll usually smoke one or two cigarettes out of a pack and end up throwing the rest of it away. Considering the cost of those little sticks of tobacco, it's not something I do very often.

There was a line in the movie Dead Again that really verbalized what I think of smokers. Robin Williams to Kenneth Branagh (paraphrasing) "You're either a smoker or you're not. Choose one and be it." I truly believe this. Some people are smokers, others aren't. I am a smoker who chooses not to smoke. Simple as that.

But even when I'm not smoking, there are times I'll be sitting in my car with the windows rolled down and I'll catch a whiff of a freshly lit cigarette and I find myself turning toward the window in order to fully enjoy that smell. I love that first drift of smoke that comes from a newly ignited cancer stick. Even before I began smoking, whenever Jane would light up, I'd turn my nose to the scent of her cigarette. I imagine that's something only a fellow smoker can appreciate
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