Friday, February 22, 2008

Up in Smoke

I went into the convenience store to pay for gas. Okay, I really paid at the pump with a credit card and went inside because I had a bad craving for a big, Chewy SweeTart. A craving so bad my skin itched. As I was digging around the shelves for some dextrose, maltodextrin crack, I found this.

Holy corn syrup Batman! Aren’t those candy cigarettes? They’re labeled candy sticks, but anyone over the age of 35 recognizes this red box as candy cigarettes. The sticks inside even had the red tips that are supposed to simulate the glow of burning tobacco. I thought they quit making those years ago because it made smoking seem cool to little kids. It sure made it cool to me when I was young. I posed and puffed with many a candy cigarette, making sure to hang the end with the red tip out of my mouth. Didn’t want to burn my lip, you know. At about age seven I yearned for a long, black cigarette holder and elbow length satin gloves for my dress up box. I thought they would look great with the fur collar my grandpa gave me and the satin pajamas Uncle D. sent me from Vietnam. I wanted to be Bette Davis. Heck, I thought I WAS Bette Davis. Never mind that I didn’t have big, round blue eyes. Living out in the middle of the sticks with no swimming pool didn’t stop me from believing I was Esther Williams for about two years either. Anyway, without the holder, I was relegated to perfecting my cigarette hold with pointer and middle man. Thumbkin was artfully arched to the side as I pursed my lips into a perfect “O” to blow imaginary smoke rings across our back porch. I was divine, dahling. Divine….and oh so full of myself.

Back then, no one batted an eye when kids pretended to smoke. All of the adults smoked, and no one (except the tobacco industry) knew yet just how bad smoking was for us. Daddy smoked. He puffed on Camels, keeping a pack in his shirt pocket at all times and politely flicking his ashes into the cuff of his pants if he was indoors and didn’t have an ashtray. I watched him, studying the hold, how he inhaled and exhaled, wanting to be ready for the day when I could light up the real thing. But then he quit when I was about ten, and I lost interest in it. I didn’t have a desire to smoke, even when I became a teenager. Even then it was pretty common for young people to smoke. We had a smoking section at our high school. Oh, I tried it a time or two when I was about eighteen, but I didn’t like it, for two reasons. One, I looked really stupid at it. Despite all of my candy cigarette practice, I looked like an idiot holding the real thing, and I knew it. I couldn’t inhale without coughing, and I couldn’t blow a smoke ring to save my life. Two, it made my mouth taste bad. I hate having bad breath, and immediately after the second time I tried smoking I was asked to slow dance by someone I really had the hots for. I knew if we got on the dance floor, he would probably kiss me, and he did. The whole time I kept thinking, “T. is kissing me! T. is kissing me! God, I must taste like an ashtray.” That put an end to my attempts at smoking.

I’m very glad I never started. Heart disease runs heavily in my family, and smoking is the last thing I need. I like being able to breathe well, and I’m healthier because I don’t smoke. We’re smarter now than we were back then. Parents didn’t know back then to be appalled at candy cigarettes. Not like we are today. I can’t believe I found these things on the shelf of my local convenience store. I’d be lying though, if I didn’t admit that a small part of me enjoyed buying the box for old time’s sake and holding that candy stick between my fingers. Just one though. I’m saving the rest for this weekend. I have What Ever Happened to Baby Jane stored in my DVR, dahling.


janjanmom said...

Now I'm craving a chewy sweet tart!!

While I totally dug candy cigs when I was a kid for all the same reasons as you...except Who is Bette Davis?...I never cared for the taste of the candy cigs!!

I also never smoked much...the only one of four sisters who did not make a habit of smoking. 3 out of 4 don't smoke now and that 4th one is trying real hard to quit.

hulagirlatheart said...

Who is Bette Davis???!!! Are you freakin' kidding me? I am not THAT much older than you. You just march yourself to Google Missy and find a little bio on Bette Davis. Who is Bette Davis..hrmp.

Mama Mia said...

I am NOT believing this!!! I know something janjanmom DOESN'T know....okay just give me a few minutes let this soak in...Since you don't know who Ms. Davis is I suppose the line "WHAT a DUMP!" means nothing to you? Whatever Happened to BabyJane....classic

Nekked Lizard Lady said...

Oh I have done that, bought a box of candy cigs at my age. Lots of memories of the old candy store in our small farm town. And yes, my dad also flicked his ashes in his pants cuff when an ashtray wasn't handy. I tried cigs when I was 16, make me sick, so I never did it again. So glad they made me sick.

Jason said...

You know, you are right! I, too smoked candy cigarettes as a child. Not even my super conservative Mormon parents said anything about it. Then I moved on to pretending like I was smoking crayons, all throughout the 4th grade, non-chalantly tapping imaginary ashes into my pencil box, and my teacher never said anything about it.

Fortunately, the crayons is where it stopped. Only once did I try real cigarettes, but I was too chicken to even inhale, so they just burned down to the butt while I laughed about being too afraid to inhale smoke into my lungs.

I thought EVERYONE knew who Bette Davis was. Obviously I'm closer to your age than janjan's.