Days Without a Cigarette: 18.54791666
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $23.62
Time Saved: 26 hours, 16 minutes
Last night I went out to dinner at one of those events where I was with three people I liked, three people I didn’t, and another half dozen I’d never met.
I find those things exhausting as all fuck. I hate being ‘on’, and I especially hate being ‘on’ when I also have to be someone other than me. And I very often have to be someone other than me. I’m a brash, vulgar, vocal, liberal atheist in South Georgia. They damn near have signs on the businesses telling me to be someone other than me.
So I make it through this introvert’s nightmare and Lucinda and I hop in the car to head home. And I don’t light a cigarette. And I don’t know if I’ve missed one more. And not just because I needed to wind down; it was almost like I needed one to put back on my personality.
I know this’ll sound weird to people who never smoked… and hell, it might seem weird to people who have… so let me back up a bit and give it some context.
For about a decade and a half I worked as a children’s entertainer. And that’s always amusing to people who know how often I say “fuck”. But it’s how I made ends meet for damn near half of my adult life, first as a juggler, and later as a rep for a toy company.
And that was a pretty cool job. I went around the country playing with toys and teaching kids how to juggle. I spent my workday in amusement parks, schools, sporting events, toy stores, and other touristy locations. I stood in front of groups that ranged in size from a family to a sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden and played with toys for them. And then kids would ask for my autograph because they just saw me on a stage.
But, as a pretty public face of the company, it was super important to management that I not smoke. The boss knew I was a smoker. The boss was one of those on-again, off-again, not when my parents are around smokers himself; but we agreed that when a kid points to me and says “Mom, I wanna be just like him when I grow up”, I probably shouldn’t have a Camel hanging off my lip. So when I took a cigarette break from work, I didn’t just go outside. I went outside, around the corner, into an alley, up a fire escape, across a couple of roofs and into a shadowy alcove. I couldn’t smoke until I was absolutely certain no kids were gonna wander by and see me.
So, as you can imagine, it was all that much more of a relief when I was able to get in the car at the end of the day, drive far enough that I know I’m not gonna get recognized, and just smoke a fucking cigarette. I wasn’t ‘on’ anymore. I wasn’t pretending to be someone I wasn’t anymore. I finally had the world’s permission to be myself. And the first draw off of that cigarette said all of that in a wisp of carcinogens.
Obviously identity is a big part of this. I was part of the smoker clan for a long time and for whatever reason my desire to suck cancer down my lungs came to define me in a lot of ways, at least internally. And to be honest, being a nonsmoker has felt a lot like being ‘on’; it’s felt a lot like I’m walking through the world pretending for the sake of the kids that I’m somebody else. I feel less like I’ve managed to not smoke for two and a half weeks, and more like I’ve managed to trick everybody into thinking that guy who isn’t smoking is the real me. I feel pretend.
I’m sure at some point I’ll grow into this new self, but for now it’s kind of like the least comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever broken in, and I’m not allowed to take them off an go barefoot, even for a few minutes.