REAL LIVES: MAN'S WORLD

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Indy Lifestyle Online
BY THE time you read this I will have made a big decision about smoking.

The official story is this: I don't smoke. I gave up three and a half years ago, after being hypnotised in a weird suburb west of London. My wife gave up then too, but she has since gone back, joining what I call the roll-up generation - people of a certain age who have tried to quit smoking several times and now roll their own, a habit which seems vaguely healthier because it's less enjoyable. Roll-ups are the smoker's methadone. I have never been tempted by this, not least because I can't roll a cigarette to save my life.

This is the real story: I sometimes smoke. About two years ago I overcame whatever post-hypnotic suggestion was planted in my brain and put a cigarette to my lips at a party. While this gave me no immediate desire to go back to smoking full time, it certainly started a slow leak in my resolve. Slowly but surely I became a devotee of the charming practice of cadging fags off people at parties, lovely store-bought fags, nothing like the pinched little joints typically favoured by the people of my generation.

There is an ambivalence among smokers regarding people who cadge fags. At first they're only too happy to indulge you, glad of the company on the long trip to the cancer ward, but they quickly become protective of their evening's supply. If you're going to live by cadged fags alone, you have to become adept at spreading the burden around the party, taking what is offered, and easing the odd cigarette out of packets left carelessly lying in people's handbags. It requires a certain boldness, so it helps if you're drunk.

I knew this would lead back to genuine smoking eventually, but I would cross that bridge when I came to it. I have now reached the bridge. Last week I went out with friends who lodged loud objections to my relentless butt-pinching. I realised that in their eyes I was both a shameless cheapskate and a very heavy smoker. Soon after, these so-called friends of mine did a heartless thing. They invited me to a party.

I knew then that going to the party would mean either not smoking at all, or buying my very own fags, something I have not done in three and a half years. If I choose the latter option it will not be possible to continue with the pretence that I don't smoke.

This all happened last night. At the time of writing I am still wondering what to do, but in my heart I know the decision is already made.

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