Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

Cigarettes and Poetry

I recently tweeted about the biggest influences on my writing and thinking back, it occurred to me that I started writing poetry and took up smoking around the same time–when I was 15–and for just about the same reason: To be cool.

The cool girls had a sophistication, I thought, that culminated with the swirling smoke wafting around their fingers, wrists bent at 45 degrees. Inscrutable faces, bored eyes: They belonged to a club into which only those who carried matches for a purpose were allowed.

I studied them closely and practiced smoking in secret, until I had perfected the look and the tolerance. I remember my debut when I opened a pack of cigarettes and lit up in plain sight of my peers; me, a heretofore corny, quiet girl. Skeptical eyes blazed as bright as the tip of my Kool (c’mon, what other brand would I be smoking) as they watched me take a drag.

I didn’t cough and I must have looked good doing it because no one laughed. I could see surprise register across some faces, across some, a twinge of approval. But seriously, in the long run, whoever didn’t like me before that day didn’t like me any better afterward, and I still was not considered cool–unless someone needed a light.

Ten years later, I tried to quit and I did … 20 years after that. I had my last cigarette 4 years ago.

By the same token, I started writing poetry to impress the new kid on the block, a gorgeous, older (cooler)  boy named Tre. I’m not sure which came first, my first real kiss or my first poem, but I do remember him telling me that he liked to draw and write poetry.  Since I could only draw stick figures, I told him I wrote poetry, too, although before then I did nothing of the sort.

I found that I liked it right away, that it felt natural, and that I was transported while I was doing it. Even before poetry ceased to be a topic of discussion between Tre and me, I realized that’s what I wanted to do.

One summer night, sitting on the steps of my porch talking, Tre leans in, takes my face in his hands, and kisses me with no warning. It is not tentative but rather assured, bold, and sincere. He does not involve his tongue. His full lips are soft, supple, and perfectly moist; they could not be more expressive.

Although I would have agreed to it gladly, we never had sex. He said he did not want to take my innocence. A couple of years later, I gave that away to someone not even close to being as worthy.

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2009.

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Comments on: "Cigarettes and Poetry" (15)

  1. i think cool is very difficult to acheive.
    Different people see it different ways.
    But yes i started smoking for similar reasons
    To look tough

    • You are so right, kseverny, it is hard. For all the effort I put into trying to be cool plus the years not being able to quit smoking when I was ready to, it hardly seemed worth it. I guess the moral of the story is to just be yourself. Thanks for sharing.

  2. […] those of you who read my post that mentioned Tre, my husband is not the man I gave my virginity to. My husband came later and was supposed to be my […]

  3. I read this, and closed my eyes and lived those times with you Sweepy. It took me back to things in my life that I started when I was young…smoking. Everyone in my family smoked or smokes, and I think my own smoking did not evolve from wanting to be cool to just thinking hey this is what normal people do, and I started smoking in earnest (not just having one now and again with step-cousins) when I turned 18. In the teen years, I was the ultimate geek..and back in my day an “ash person” what the 80’s called goth-like people who wore all black in the garish neon glow of that decades fashion. I played in the band, was drama club pres, german club pres…and most well known, social pariah in school. Oddly enough, everyone remembers being my friend…so am I now retro popular? Don’t know, don’t care…We do it our way Sweepy, that is the women we are now, I feel that. But we became that wise by f*cking up by the numbers in our life, wanting some approval until we learned we are worthy by just being us.

    *ramble off*

    • Lol, retro popular, I like that! Self acceptance … I have to keep homing in on that one but it’s getting easier and easier with practice. Rock on, Lady!

  4. […] I began writing poetry when I was a teenager (see “Cigarettes and Poetry“), but somewhere along the way I gave up serious aspirations of being a writer as married […]

  5. […] most beautiful post is one of my early ones: Cigarettes and Poetry. It describes an awkward and significant period in my life in as much honest detail as I could […]

  6. Love this post! So honest, I could feel the teen angst. My first real kiss was kind of a surprise too. I knew the kiss was coming, but I didn’t know the tongue was LOL

  7. lovely…got into smoking to be cool, just like you. whats with cool eh? basically boils down to peer acceptance. how important was that when we were younger. as for the first kiss, i remember it distinctly and again just as you, i wished i had saved it for someone more worthy:-)

  8. Ah this post takes me back. I made a brief attempt to smoke but just looked a fool as I didn’t inhale. As for my first kiss? I waited six months for him to kiss me and when he did it was soooo sloppy. We broke up shortly afterwards. I was 15:-)

  9. I also started smoking to be cool. Peer pressure. And quit for good at the age of 28.

    My first kiss is memorable too. It took the boy all summer to work up the nerve. 😀

    What a wonderful post. Ahh, memories. I am so glad you continued with the poetry.

    ~cath xo

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