Message modified by board administrator July 7, 2009, 4:32 am
"Risk. Acceptance. Assertion. Surrender. Desire."
By Matt Landry
Settle in, folks...it's gonna be a long one
The story of my first cigarette is pretty widely known in the community. Our Beloved Hostess probably remembers it...the email in which I told it to her was a pivotal moment in the prior phase of my friendship with her. I won't repeat it here, both because it violates the board's rule about references to the underage smoking of others, and because it's really fscking long and I don't feel like doing that much typing right now.
But even when I was one of the three most visible people in the smoking-fetish community, I didn't actually give much thought to the psychological origins of it for me. The oedipal thing held no truth for me, nor did most other "early childhood influence" hypotheses...my mother didn't smoke, and in fact was such a fanatical anti that she kept me, to the best of her ability, completely isolated from all smokers (including most of her own family) for a surprisingly long time.
I have a couple of stories I've told a few times...one about a reception at a private school, one about a Satin ad I saw in a magazine, but while they're excellent history markers, they don't explain much psychologically either, since what seems to have happened was that a latent fetish they have no way to explain was turned on suddenly like a light switch upon exposure to those stimuli.
One clue that should have been obvious, but wasn't until I started getting serious exposure to the "Dark Side" content of which I now find myself the primary host, was that I was never all that interested in "social" smokers. You can't always tell one by looking, but if I find out a woman is only smoking in certain contexts, and doesn't see herself as a smoker, I immediately lose interest. She might as well be a non, as far as my arousal reaction is concerned.
No, my interest has always been exclusively with smokers, as opposed to people who happen to smoke a cigarette or two on occasion.
The best way I can describe it is as a fascination with the contrast between domination and surrender. Not in the BDSM sense...that whole scene turns me way off. But the paradoxical mixture of both phenomena within the mind and body of a smoker, and in the way she, as a smoker, implicitly relates to the world.
Vesperae has mentioned, in quite a few of her messages on this board so far, part of the phenomenon I'm talking about...the powerful act of will it usually takes for someone who's never inhaled cigarette smoke before to force her lungs to accomodate it. But the flip side of this force of will is an abject surrender of that same will. By not merely smoking, but becoming a smoker, she is, at the same time she's exerting her will upon her lungs, surrendering it in her brain. Surrendering to the addictive powers of nicotine. From the moment she makes that fateful decision, her very identity ceases to be fully under her control.
I won't talk about details, because I know that's super-forbidden here, but I can say that I know for a fact that not every new smoker -- not even the teenage ones -- is in denial about that. There's a big difference between "I want to be cool, so I guess that means I should learn to smoke", and "I want to smoke". And there's an even bigger difference between "I want to smoke" and "I want to be a smoker". I've heard all three, including the latter from people who obviously understood the implications. It's not just an artifact of darkside fiction, folks.
And those latter ones have always been the most exciting. Because, while "people who smoke" quit smoking all the time, once you become a smoker it defines you. You may retain the freedom to live a basically normal life, but that life is circumscribed in any aspect where being a smoker would interfere. In a sense, you've sold a portion of your free will -- and therefore, your soul -- to the tobacco industry.
And, thanks to the physical mechanics of the act of smoking, you've elected to take your friends and family along with you. Become a smoker, and the world is your ashtray. Your place of residence will smell like cigarette smoke for months after you move out. Your walls and curtains will turn yellow. And everyone who spends time with you will end up reeking of smoke, in their hair, their clothes, and whatever porous posessions they have with them at the time.
Perhaps in the golden age of cigarettes (sadly, a couple of decades before I was even born) this wasn't a significant limitation. But now, it is. It means that becoming a smoker doesn't just keep you off the track team...it circumscribes your choice of friends.
And so we have the interplay of the force of will and the abject submission, playing out in the external theatre as well as the internal. On the one hand, the act of smoking imposes the smoker's mark on the world around her, and declares her superior to the base elements and her fellow (but nonsmoking) humans, in a very Randian way. "Look what I can do", she says. "I can cause the very world around me to be altered purely by smoking these cigarettes!" On the other, the social consequences of this fact make the smoker occasionally a virtual prisoner of her own habit.
Perhaps folks Vesperae's age and older didn't have the data to see the extent of this mandatory surrender coming, if they started smoking as teenagers. But anyone of any age who becomes a smoker today (or hell...who started smoking when I was a teenager in the early 90s) can definitely see what it means to do so.
They not only risk their health (which, let's face it, most teenagers don't pay that much attention to anyway), but they surrender a big part of their free will, and foreclose options in a wide array of life choices. And while they may not see the whole width, your average teenager can definitely see at least some of those doors ahead of them before they close, and decide to close them.
And yet they decide it's worth it. Becoming smokers is so important to them that they'll not only risk long-term consequences (that they know about but don't consciously believe in) and endure short-term pain associated with those first few attempts at sucking poison into their lungs, but accept that being a smoker will define them for the rest of their lives.
That's DESIRE. That's desire so powerful it can be contagious. And for me, anyway, it is contagious.
Yeah, it gave me a good excuse to hang out around smokers...not only is that a nice practical rationalization, it's even true. But if you really want to know why I started smoking...it's that contagious desire.
This knowledge has been in my mind for quite a while. It started forming shortly after I read "Graduation Gift" (still the archetypical darkside story)...but until very recently I haven't been able to explain it to anyone else. Indeed, this post I'm typing right now is my first serious attempt to do so. It was always there, but it spent most of my history being subconscious, and most of the rest of my history being nonverbalizable.
So. Thoughts? Ideas? Anybody feel like telling me to go to hell?
Responses are not allowed!