tagReviews & EssaysWhere There's Smoke, There's Fire

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire


Smoking is hot. There, I said it.

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for this view, I really am. I certainly mean no disrespect to those whose lives have been adversely affected by smoking; and believe me the sight of my sixty-year old aunt sucking back Merits in a housedress does absolutely nothing for me.

Like poor Pavlov's dogs, I've acquired quite the reflex; the sight of an appealing man lighting up rings my bells in so many ways. Like wearing a tuxedo, smoking a cigarette (or, in the right hands in the right place, a cigar) makes a man look rakish, devil-may-care, just plain hotter than he ordinarily would. (As an aside I'm not a fan of the quasi-organic roll-your-own or "natural" cigarette smokers. And this has nothing to do with any illegal smoking in which anyone may participate. No, just plain Marlboros or Camels or maybe even an imported Dunhill are fuel enough for my fire.)

My youth was spent high on the anti-tobacco horse, believe me. When I was a kid, I spent so much time flashing "stop smoking" brochures at my parents, threatening to trash their 'rettes and grumbling when Mom would send me to the local deli for a couple of packs of Kools. Even in high school, I'd gag the few times my best buddy and I stole a Kool menthol and gamely attempted to puff away on it, trying at fifteen to look like sexy women of the world and failing completely; fearing our imminent capture by a nosy neighbor or parent, we'd guiltily shred the butts and toss them into a neighbor's yard, scurrying to the bathroom to wash the nicotine smell off our guilty fingers.

I blame my buddy Wayne's eighteenth birthday party. He got drunk and passed out, while I made out with his hot brother, Tommy, a horny college senior with a pack-a-day-Marlboro habit. I got my teenage self shit-faced on Seagrams 7 and 7 Up, letting Tommy take full advantage of me, right there on the suburban patio furniture. Of course, full advantage to me at sixteen was making out and getting felt up while I tried hard to push my teenage tongue into his aggressive mouth. So my first formative taste of tongue came with a hefty dose of whiskey and tobacco, thus sealing my fate and tastes at a relatively early age.

During college, I didn't date the smoky but I took up the habit myself, much to my chagrin, partly due to easy access to cigarettes thoughtfully provided by my wealthy, long-smoking roommates (who cultivated the habit in private school). My steady boy disliked it, but, when drunk, even he would puff on a cigarette, holding it in his fist as if it were a professorial pipe. And it was STILL a bit sexy. I'd watch guys in the library (back in the 80s you could SMOKE indoors – even in the library), puffing away, bleary-eyed from studying but oh so sexy. I'd drape myself casually over the leather library armchairs, dreamily French inhaling a Dunhill and avoiding yet another anthropology paper,

Part of the reason I've become a devotee of old movies, especially high-society and film noir types was the whiskey and smoke – but mostly the smoke. Black and white wonders of smart outfits, witty banter and a REAL lighter at the ready at all times – think Casablanca, The Thin Man, Double Indemnity – all shrouded in a classy cloud.

That's another thing that spins my wheels – real lighters. Zippos. Not deli-issue matches or Bic disposables. The smell of true butane flame fires me up just a little more. Show me a guy in a denim jacket lighting a Marlboro with a Zippo; show me the same guy in an expensive suit and a Dunhill; as long as that lighter is vintage, refillable and preferably custom inscribed, and I may fall over on the spot.

As a newly single lady, I've developed a fondness for Europeans. Oh, Europeans – Englishmen, Italians, Irishmen, Slavs – tall and rangy, uncircumcised and inordinately found of American cigarettes. All are a refreshing alternative to the boyish-men and pallid businessmen and smug yoga instructors I'm constantly running into in our fair city.

Ironically I haven't had a serious tobacco habit in about five years; I rarely even sneak a smoke from my buddies and lovers who still indulge. But then there are times when I do indulge...when you're wearing four-inch heels, a black bustier, fishnets and a commanding tone of voice, sometimes a lit cigarette is an absolutely necessary accessory. (I am coveting a cigarette holder at the moment and scour flea markets incessantly for the right one – one that goes with my elbow-length satin gloves.)

Believe me, I'd stop entirely...but guys tell me I look sexy when I do it.

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