Letting myself smoke when I wanted had the expected effect that I smoked more consistently. My smoking settled into a predicable schedule. I smoked on average 5 cigarettes per day, more when I hung out with Drew. More was sometimes two more than usual, sometimes 4 or 5 more than usual. My typical day was, get up, shower, eat breakfast, smoke a cigarette on my way to class in the morning. A couple during the day, either at lunch or between classes and then another on my walk home to my house. In the evening, I either went for a walk (smoke) or I’d go to the gym and have a smoke after.

It was predictable and I liked it that way. Having to go home for Thanksgiving would ruin it. Or so I thought. All I could think a bout in the days leading up, was how to tell my parents. I practically drove Drew nuts with my what ifs and various schemes I thought up to get away with not telling them.

His advice was simple and probably exactly what I should have done. Just casually excuse myself after dinner for a smoke. Something like, “Dinner was wonderful Mom! The only thing that would make it better is an after-dinner cigarette. Excuse me while I step out for one.” To be fair that is what I imaged casual would be like because I had no idea how to play something like this cool. I am a geek. I was the good daughter much to my younger sister’s dismay. I always made curfew and I never drank (much) underage or at least so far as my parents knew. My friends organized charity events and were straighter laced than I. Drew’s casual would be more like:

Mom: What is new dear?

Me: Oh.. I love all my classes, especially chemistry. I started working out three times a week, met a boy and oh yeah I smoke. 

Mom: What was that dear?

Me: Oh I workout now. Three days a week. A bit of cardio and some circuit training.

Mom: No not that… you said something about smoking and a boy?

Me: Um yeah. 

Mom: Smoking? Really I expect this from Anna, but not from you. You are too smart. It is going to kill you. You know that right. God… I can’t  believe I pay for you to go to school and flit about, chase boys and smoke cigarettes. I should cut you off until you quit. 

And at that point my anxiety from fortune telling is so high, I actually wanted to smoke a cigarette.

It was finally the night before I would have to hop on the bus home for the holiday. Drew was getting tired of telling me things were going to be okay so I decided to stay at my place. He was taking me to the bus station after classes ended so I would get to say goodbye then. I couldn’t sleep all I could do is picture my various family member’s reaction. The reaction pictured above is probably a mild version of what my mother will be like. She and my dad both used to smoke, but quit when I was two. I don’t have any memories of my mom smoking. For as long as I can remember she has been vehemently anti.

My Dad is a different story. He has probably smoked more of the years since him and mom quit together than he hasn’t. He always warned me against starting. He will be disappointed but potentially will enjoy having an ally. He tries with various degrees of success to keep his smoking from mom. How he reacted would depend on whether he was in a smoking phase or a non-smoking phase.

As terrified as I was to tell my mother, I cared most what my sister Anna thought. I also felt she would be both the easiest and hardest person to tell. Anna grew up in my shadow. Despite Anna being smart, her grades were never as high as mine. She was very artistic and hung out with an alternative crowd. She started smoking at the age of fourteen. Mom caught her at the bus stop one morning. She was grounded for a month, which stopped her smoking in the short term. She started again but was much more careful. I knew but never told on her. I did give her a hard time about it though. She said I didn’t understand. It had to be hard for her growing up, trying to be herself, feeling like our parents wouldn’t be happy because she wasn’t like me.

In that sleepless night, I decided to tell them each individually, starting with Anna. I was hoping Anna would be able to give me tips on how to handle our mother. That, it turned out, was very, very wishful thinking.

Chapter 16

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