Is it possible to become more sensitive to and intolerant of vile habits as one gets older? I think that’s the effect that cigarette smoking is having on me in my middle age. I recently floated this idea past someone, and he pooh-poohed the notion out of hand.
Come to think of it, that someone was Marcelo, and his smoking habit actually played a minor role in my desire to expunge him from my life. It wasn’t the fact that he smokes, which, despite my distaste for it, is still not a deal breaker. It was what it revealed about his personality. It annoyed me when he begged me to allow him to smoke in my apartment, which is strictly a smoke-free zone. And it infuriated me the two times he sneaked in a smoke in my bathroom. Our final night together, when he begged me to let him smoke in the bathroom, I knew in my heart that he wouldn’t be coming back. Considering that Marcelo knew how I felt about smoking in my apartment, I saw it as another sign of his self-centeredness and overall lack of regard for my feelings. I couldn’t wait for morning to come, so I could be rid of him for good.
Even after Marcelo began to take his smoking breaks on the balcony of my apartment and stopped throwing the butts onto the balcony below, I was still annoyed. He reeked of cigarette smoke all the time, and he always wanted to kiss me post-puff. If I had any desire to taste nicotine on my lips, why wouldn’t I just take up smoking again myself?
Yes, you read that last part right. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am no stranger to having the occasional cigarette. Though I’ve never been an official smoker, and I never indulged during regular business hours, cigarettes used to go very well after-dark with a cocktail in hand. But it’s been two years since I’ve broken that habit, and as my intolerance grows, I find myself avoiding social situations (like house parties in the homes of smokers) where I know people will be lighting up in proximity to me.
Sometimes when my friends disappear for their long smoke breaks, I wonder what I’m missing. Like Jennifer Aniston in the episode of Friends in which she temporarily took up smoking to get ahead at work, I wonder what wheelin’ and dealin’ is going on in my absence. Then on Saturday night, I went up to the rooftop/smoking area of Dudui, one of my new favorite hangout bars in Buenos Aires, and I saw people, my friends included, shivering to the bones, braving the cold because they couldn’t do without their nicotine fix.
That’s when I realized once and for all that there’s nothing glamorous about smoking. It’s as anti-social and breeds desperation as much as any drug, and seeing all of those people sitting out in the cold, smelling like ashtrays, made me realize that it’s not something I ever want to do again. I’m not judging those who light up. We all choose our poison — mine happens to be whiskey. I’ll roll my eyes when a dinner date interrupts a good conversation to go outside for a smoke, and I’ll tell people to point their fag in another direction when their second-hand smoke blows in my direction. Otherwise, I’ll deal with it. As long as they fire up outside of my home — and don’t expect me to kiss them after they have — we’re good. Though their lungs and hearts won’t thank them tomorrow, that’s between them and their primary care physicians.