I am not an adventurous person. I was never one for all night parties, sex without regret, and experimentation of anything illegal, mind-altering, or past it’s expiration date. All my life, I thought it was shameful to be so tame, but I’ve finally learned to embrace it. It’s who I am. So here I am. Liz Black, born to be mild.
No Ifs, Ands or Butts
by Liz Black
Fear of my parents was an issue for me. IS an issue for me. Just because I live in a different state now and I’m over 30 doesn’t mean I’m free of that parental vise. For example, I’m pretty sure that if my parents knew I ever smoked even one cigarette, they would disown me. So being the good daughter I am, I hid this dirty habit that I indulged in socially because I was paranoid that it would get back to them. I really did think that if someone that my mom and dad knew saw me smoke a cigarette, they would immediately call my parents to tell on me, and may God have mercy on my soul when my mother was done with me. This was not so much after I moved to New York, but I definitely felt this way when I went to college, which was just 45 minutes from my parents’ house. I also thought my professors might have a secret pact to spy on my and tell my parents what I was up to. I would actually think to myself “My senior advisor saw me smoke outside class one day! I’m sure he’s calling my parents RIGHT NOW to tattle!” Even as a senior in college, folks, this is the type of thing I genuinely worried about. That my teacher would call my parents to tattle on me. Somewhat off topic (but not really) there was also the time when I was in therapy and I told the therapist that sometimes during sex I would think about my parents and worry that they would be disappointed in me for what I was doing, and she actually guffawed. Not sure if that was out of shock or because she was thrilled since it meant I needed to keep seeing her indefinitely, but she was certainly caught off-guard. We worked through it. It’s no longer an issue. Not a big one.
Back to the real issue. Once I found a whole, fresh cigarette on a bench on my college campus. And this was right after they started to tax the crap out of tobacco products, so I mean, we’re looking at roughly 25 cents worth of perfectly good merchandise just sitting there. So of course, I decided to light this mystery up. Midway through the butt which I was sharing with my friend Abby, I told her to promise me that if the cigarette was poisoned she would not, under any circumstances, tell my parents where we found it. Because, did I say we got it on the bench? I mean under the bench. Here’s a little lesson in prepositions that makes a real difference. Finding a stray cigarette on a bench means we had the good fortune to find something that slipped out of someone’s pocket, say, and now it belonged to us. Finding one under it? Well that just means we were smoking garbage. And it was Abby’s solemn vow to not reveal the very thing that killed me, should that happen. I guess I was setting her up for a fall since any other time I smoked, she was the one who gave me a cigarette. (You are also not a real smoker if you never buy yourself a pack. And it extra-helps to have friends whose parental issues are worse than your own and just keep charging contraband items to the credit cards provided by an emotionally distant but wealthy father.)
I stopped smoking altogether years ago, and now I actually feel about smoking the way my parents or Jan Brady feel about it. (That it’s a symbol of moral depravity and a cry for help. Or at least it’s just stinky.) But it took a few years of puffing to make me see the light. Luckily, I didn’t die that day I found the cigarette, but it made me realize two things. 1) I am never going to outrun this fear I have that my parents are able to omnisciently observe every bad thing I do, and b) I am not above putting trash in my mouth just because it happens to be free.