Spoiler: It was not because it was cool.
When you look at her, she doesn’t look like a smoker. Not that I can ever tell but I, like so many in my community, have been brainwashed to associate smoking with wild, unbecoming behavior. It’s true that smoking is bad but smokers…?
When I spoke with this girl who would allow me to tell her story but not her name, I was forced to learn all over again about judging people based on assumptions. Smoking is generally frowned upon and it goes a step further for women. I have had discussions on whether it is sexy when a woman smokes and I’ve come to realize that the majority look down on these women as trashy.
Most of my peers do smoke because it’s cool but it has a whole different, deeper meaning for this one. Her story follows in first person for better understanding.
“My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up. My parents were careless people. But it bothered me that we were poor. Most of my friends had better houses and better clothes. My mother said we were poor because my father spent our money drinking and boy, did that man drink! He would come home stinking of alcohol and cigarette smoke and he would yell all over the place until he passed out. However, we never went hungry. We may not have lived in a big villa. We didn’t have a closet full of shoes, but we had food and we had beds.
I loved my father. He was our provider and our protector. He turned into a beast when he drank and everyone feared him. Our neighbors’ houses got broken into but no one ever dared ours and no one disrespected his kids in the streets.
A few years ago, he passed away. I failed my 12th grade national examination so I had to take his place to get a job and be the provider for our family. I now understand what hard work that is and I miss him every day. I scolded my mother for misspeaking about him.
That smell of liquor and cigarettes that came with him wasn’t around anymore. So I started smoking because the smell reminds me of him and it’s like he’s with me every day. I would have preferred if he could have given me something better to remember him by but this is all I have.”