February 11, 2024

Cigarettes for Breakfast


One of the reasons why I've gotten a cold is because I've recently taken up smoking again. Or rather it's taken me up. You always start by enjoying a fag or two with your Lienie's one night at the bar and soon enough you're falling asleep in the easy chair to reruns of Night Court with your Basic smoldering dangerously between you yellowed fingers, trying desperately to catch hold of the foam stuffing. While I've not gotten to that point yet, dear readers, I have had cigarettes for dinner a couple nights last week, once at the Country Bar and once at Williams (oh, can you believe what smoking drives me to do?). I've woken up the next morning with my tongue tasting like a Camel and thought, oh, this is gross. But it just doesn't help. Nicotine brings on short term memory loss.

It's not really that I find smoking that cool. It's that I think of it as a vice of youth. For a while there, I was hanging out with little brats still in college who were barely out of diapers. They all smoked, and some of them looked damn pretty doing it. I've always thought that smoking was something you could get away with until a certain age--say, 25 years old. I quit smoking when I was living in London and suffering from monthly colds. In London, smoking was universal, and in addition it helped pass the time if I was bored at a bar or walking the streets alone. I quit, and my quality of life improved. I even started noticing that my monkey lines were fading!

But while there are many beautiful 20 year old smokers out there, there are no beautiful 35 year old smokers. Enjoy the smoky treats as a kid, but then move on.

Unfortunately, my mind isn't that rational.

The thing is, smoking for me still carries a taboo of rebellion. My dad smoked a pipe when I was young, which I thought was disgusting. And I really didn't see any older folks smoking. Once, some construction workers building an addition on our house left behind some chewing tobacco. I was twelve, and put some in my lip, and then proceeded to throw up and lay on a rock in the back yard for an hour until the vertigo passed.

At an early age, smoking was inscribed with a touch of erotics. It happened to the be the case that the first boys I desired also smoked. It's the classic rebel motif--the strong, sinewy guys from the Iron Range who played basketball and bragged about beer at 4-H camp snuck away in the middle of the night to smoke a cigarette with their buddies. I so wanted to be a part of that fraternity.

cigarette2_11_05There was also a touch of class politics to my first fetish, though that's a little bit harder for me to get to the bottom of. While I know that buying a pack of Marlboro Reds for the first time, from a vending machine in Sacramento, California, caused a stirring in my pants, I'm not sure what role class plays in all of this. I guess I tended to prefer boys not like myself--scrappy, ribald, tough, vulgar. The nice boys I went to elementary school with (most of us comfortably middle class) didn't smoke. But many of the kids who joined us at Minnehaha Middle School in 7th grade were townies who listened to Megadeth, got in fights, and smoked. I thought their stringy headbanger's hair, athleticism, metal band t-shirts, and penchant for Marlbs invariably hot.

After I learned to smoke, it became the marker with which I differentiated myself from my family. Leigh and I were talking about this the other night at Williams. As we shared Camel Light after Camel Light, we talked about our high school years, when the big night out in Duluth consisted of going to Perkins on London Road and smoking your way through a pack of cigarettes. It was my way of telling myself I was an adult, and I was ready to leave.


Fastforward to 2024. I'm not alone in fetishizing the cigarette. One only has to type in gay boys smoking to a search engine to find hundreds of thousands of hits. Oh, I know we all want to simply dismiss the cigarette as a phallus (though I do remember walking into a gay bar with a straight male friend in London and hearing him remark, "gawd, gay men smoke cigarettes like they're sucking cock!"). But I think it's got more to do with play-acting as though your actions have no consequence, that you're young and don't know any better. It's a performance. I'm not 20 years old anymore. Gotta think of those damn monkey lines! And covet my meager store of collagen! I should really take up a habit that doesn't have any effect on my physical features, like meth. Your youth will last such a little time, such a little time...

See also: cute boys smoking; burt reynolds' new face; why can't queer white house operatives be hotter?; rex rides a scooter to the coffee machine.

Posted by jason at February 11, 2024 08:13 AM

Man oh man...I can still remember a night not that long ago, posturing outside the garage bay entrance of an artist's workspace party. Remember, Jas? I had been trying to lay off smokes for awhile and had been enjoying moderate success when in comes Mr. W, paperback writer extraordinaire, professing truths so thick I could have snatched them out of the air as they pooped from his mouth. "See, Mike, smoking's like drinking a double shot of whiskey. It's not something I would do all of the time." Cocking his head slightly, he pursed his lips and exhaled a punch of smoke. I followed suit, touched by his speech.
Sometime shortly after, I saw the Jarmusch movie "Coffee and Cigarettes". The scene with Iggy Pop and Tom Waits epitomizes the addict mentality as it applies to smoking.
Waits (to Pop): Yeah, I quit awhile ago.
Pop: Yeah yeah, I mean, when you quit everything is like (makes 'centering' gesture with hands) right into focus. Bam. Wow.
Waits: But you know, that means that, you know, that now I can have one. (offers open pack to Iggs)
Pop: Oh. (takes one. They both smoke in silence)

Quit, you boob!

Posted by: mike at February 11, 2024 12:25 PM

Jason Jason Jason...

Funny how you have been running around in a few of my dreams lately...and that I have recently started smoking again myself...*cough! cough!* Hard to resist the smokey goodness of a Camel Lite.

It was amazing how easy it was to locate you. This blog is awesome. To say that we have some catching up to do would be the understatement of the year....hit me up when you have a moment. Would love to talk to you.

Oh, and you haven't aged a day - you are still lookin' good. ;)


Posted by: Sean at February 11, 2024 02:34 PM

Jason, when you quit smoking a few years back, I was supposed to be one of your supports; I was the representative smoker who had quit that you could call upon in a moment of weakness. So where have you been lately? Believe me, I could've told you a thing or two.

Deciding to smoke on the basis of how well it accessorizes one's age: this is a new one.

And yes, gay boys smoke. So do straight boys and girls. So what? People don't smoke for demographic reasons, any more than they can expect the hospital to assign another gay smoker to their room in the cancer ward.

People start smoking because they're foolish, or because they lack the maturity or the will to resist advertising or conformity. They keep smoking because they're addicted. They stop smoking because they grow up and apply enough will power to break the addiction. They start smoking again because--well, you tell me.

Posted by: glen at February 11, 2024 02:46 PM


Posted by: mike at February 11, 2024 04:27 PM

well, I'm an ex-smoker too, remember, so it all applies to me, except the last part

Posted by: glen at February 11, 2024 04:59 PM