I've over the years grown used to the painful 'looks' that I've received when confessing to being a smoker (unless of course, they were simply gas). Full confession of my cigar addiction only added insult to injury as sniffing often ensued to see if my garments or person carried residue of the offending taint of the devil's weed. Being a Curmudgeon however, their mostly unvoiced but palpable scorn was little more than a source of silent amusement to me. (Though I have to admit that from time to time you could hear me muttering sarcastic imprecations about the marital status of such people's parents.) Strangely, few if any of those condemning me had in fact ever witnessed me carrying out my 'filthy little habit', and I found their antipathy without basis since they only had my word to go by (and we all know how suspect that can be). Though branded in their eyes however, I found that carrying the stigmata of my scarlet letter ('C' for Cigar) has in fact for me been a badge of honor.
Instead of the sweet odor of my favorite Dominican tobacco, I found myself reveling in stench of the superiority which was wafted in my direction like an exotic perfume (OK, more like that old-people perfume that your aunt used to wear that made you gag a little bit.) from those looking down their wrinkled nose at me. (This was a face I was told never to make as a child, since it was not only impolite, but your face might get stuck that way.) I met their smug derision and raised them some innocuous unconcern and unmindful dismissal. I smiled innocently (well, kind of) and gave back as good as I got while being profiled with the common stereotypes of history. Without regard to my actual character (something which of course, we all know I lack), I was now lumped in with evil oil barons who hated the planet, uncaring corporate captains who treated their employees as chattel to be abused and expended for no better reason than profit, and bankers who gleefully raped and pillaged an unsuspecting public in the name of dividends. (I was also sometimes compared to professional power brokers and fat cat politicians in Washington DC, but always refuted such comparisons vehemently. One has to have limits to the insults one will tolerate, after all.)
As time passed and the do-gooders continued to exert a strangle hold on what they at least considered polite behavior, I quietly accepted segregation from my fellow man and the rest of 'polite society' through banishment to sidewalks at pubs (except in NYC, where even that's impossible), hastily constructed patios at restaurants, and secluded and unobtrusive outdoor corners at public gatherings. I blithely conceded that my place during breaks at work was near the 'butt bucket' in the parking lot, conveniently near the dumpster where the rest of what was deemed as trash was kept. I even grudgingly acquiesced to a further degraded status, as many cigarette smokers looked askance at my particular form of tobacco addiction (perhaps much as I do now when contemplating the 'spit bottle' often carried by those enjoying a pinch).
Carrying a visible cigar in my pocket in public often made me the target of sidelong glances and whispered conversations until I began to wonder if open possession could be the tobacco equivalent of a loaded gun, and as such required some form of an open or concealed carry permit. Not that I ever drew my 'weapon' from its cellophane holster in such places mind you, for on top of municipal and state legislation that prohibits such behavior in 'public'; I exercised a behavior that seemed unknown to many of those whose poorly guarded contempt I experienced .... common courtesy.
Though those surrounding me didn't know it, my 'pocket rocket' was in fact there for the specific purpose of partaking of some quiet reflection after experiencing their often condescending company, enjoying a little bit of much-needed stress relief from their subtle aversion, and removing the bitter taste of their derision from my palate. I often wondered how many of them would react if they knew that that which they so detested was the cathartic tonic that I required for their barely concealed contemptuousness. I couldn't help but find it quietly amusing that I achieved therapeutic benefits from that which they found unhealthy even by second-hand exposure.
Well for those of you who hope that my latest attempts at a healthier lifestyle might find me seeing the error of my ways, let me disappoint you now by saying that a package containing three boxes of Dominican delectation arrived only recently from North Carolina. This means that once again all three of my humidors are fully charged and loaded to capacity (and maybe even a bit beyond). I therefore expect to be enjoying both them and the disparagement that goes with them for some time to come. Having greatly reduced, if not all but abandoned many of the other bad habits that I've accumulated over the years, I can certainly find no compelling reason to forsake this one.
As a writer after all (or at least somebody who'd like to be one), I am supposed to be someone riddled with insecurity, depression, and a need to expose my troubled soul through the written word. This would hardly be possible without some censurable pleasures to feel .... well, guilty about. Furthermore, as at least a self-described Curmudgeon, it would hardly be fitting if I allowed the dictates of a society which I hold in almost as much disdain as it does me, to dictate my behavior.
So profile me as an 'evil smoker' if you will. Stigmatize me if you choose, for not only a 'tobacco habit', but one even more foul smelling than its cigarette counterparts. (Though just for the record, I'd like to say that a good cigar or pipe tobacco has a far better aroma than any cigarette that I've ever exposed my olfactory sense to.) Segregate me from the company of my fellow man while partaking of my sinful pleasure if you choose to. None of this will persuade me into changing my ways or prevent me from the enjoyment I experience in my evil custom. Come to think of it, my antipathy for your aversion to one of life's truly enjoyable, but apparently guilty pleasures makes the smoke smell all the sweeter.