Mum – for whenever you next stalk my Twitter and dig this up, I’m sorry. But it makes for a compelling story.
When I was, say, 5 or 6, I was at my Nan’s house. I got a placemat to use as a steering wheel, and mimed my mum driving the car, swearing at everyone and flicking her fag out the window. My nan found it hilarious, of course. She still brings it up to this day. How embarrassing. There’s even a picture of her sat outside the hospital, about to give birth to lil’ ol’ me, cigarette in hand.
When I was a bit older, probably more 8 or so, we had to write a description of our house in primary school. I can’t remember much about it, except the specific announcement that all the walls in my kitchen were yellow and that my house smelled of smoke because of my mum. “It’s disgusting and I hate it.” Out of the mouth of babes. My brother and I would sit in the back of the car while my mum and my grandma sat in the front, one cigarette after the next, being flicked out the front window, ash blowing in the back window and all over our laps.
At secondary school, it became a thing that my mum was the one that smoked. None of my friends’ mums smoked. No one wanted to get a lift home in our car because they knew it would smell. People in my class would tell me that I smelt of smoke. My teachers would ask me if I’d been out by the bike sheds lighting up. Then it was my boss and people I worked with who asked how often I had a cigarette. By this point, I was just the girl who stunk of smoke.
But now I’m nearly 24. And I don’t get to make funny jokes about it anymore. I don’t get to just shrug it off as a thing that my mum does. I can’t look at it like it’s normal.
Now, I live everyday as her only daughter, watching my mum kill herself for £8 a day. Being around her while she smells of cigarettes, makes the fresh laundry smell of cigarettes, makes my £300 leather handbag smell of cigarettes. Watching her have to get up from our family meals and go and stand outside so she can have her cigarette.
I have to tell her everyday that I want her to stop. And I have to deal with the fact that she doesn’t want to. She doesn’t want to listen to the opinion of someone who loves her. She doesn’t want to respect the love I have for her and instead decide that her health as my mother isn’t worth it. That she would rather smoke a cigarette than be alive to be my mum. That my life is directly worsened because of her desire to keep on smoking.
Oscar Wilde: ‘Do you mind if I smoke?’
Sarah Bernhardt: ‘I don’t care if you burn.’
Because of this, I naturally have an aversion to it. I can’t be around it. Partly because it stinks, partly because it’s bad to everyone’s health. But mostly because I can’t watch anyone else that I care about do this to themselves. You can tell me as much as you want that drinking is worse. And if I’d grown up with an alcoholic father then I’d probably share the science with you more than just the semantics.
This disillusion spills into plenty of other drugs as well. Yes, I’m a goody-two-shoes who wouldn’t dare break any rules or do anything illegal, plus I’m epileptic so not necessarily a prime candidate for hallucinogenic drugs. But combine that with a few ex-boyfriends who left me in one room of the party while secretly snorting coke in the next, and, essentially, love and other drugs ain’t quite my scene.
Alas, the influences and situations that have shaped my life for 24 years have brought me to this point. And yes, that’s me. It’s a massive part of me as a person – I don’t like it because I don’t like what it does to those that I love.
But. I’m not here to lecture anyone about it – well, except my mum, but mostly because she hasn’t changed anything about her life in 24 years, and that in itself is worth the pity.
I will never tell anyone that they can or can’t smoke. I will never stand at a party complaining that people are doing x y or z in the toilets. I will not demand that you have to quit smoking if you’re going to date me. I’m honest in these views. I’ll happily have this conversation a hundred times to those who go “What’s the big deal?”. I’ll explain my reasons that I personally think are pretty valid. I’m scarred from my childhood, fine fine fine. But I’ll let you do your thing, if you let me do mine, and if you’re smoking me out, I’ll go back inside and leave you in the rain.
It’s even harder when dating. I end up having this deep and meaningful conversation pretty early on. It can be an awkward question to go in with so soon, but before things get too serious, I’ll say my bit and then there we go. It’s not a black mark, it’s not a deal breaker, it’s just a discussion. Then you know how I feel. If you can respect my views, that’s great. If you think I’m boring or stuck-up, then fine, at least I’m being honest.
Sure it’s the unpopular opinion. Sure it’s old fashioned and closed minded of me. But if you fail to see my aversion to it, it’s only because I love you too much.