Even as a 4 year old child, I idolized my Father. They say that mimicry is the sincerest (and most annoying) form of flattery, so I tried my best to do everything my Father did. If his favorite television show was ‘Mash,’ I begged to stay up late to watch it with him. If he put butter in his oatmeal, I asked him to pass the butter dish to me when he was finished. If my Dad enjoyed black jellybeans, I flushed my red ones down the toilet. There was no limit to what I’d be willing to do or eat if it would classify me as a ‘Daddy’s Girl.’
The downside to all this hero worship was that I tried to mimic his vices as well. For example, my Father smoked cigars. This meant that I wanted to smoke cigars. Every time my Father busted out his cigar box, I would run to my room and put on my silk robe. I called it my ‘Moking Jacket. Then, I would sit at his feet and pretend to puff on a pencil. Or a marker. Or anything within easy reach that vaguely resembled a cigar.
One night as I leaned back and blew fake smoke rings with my pretend cigar, my Father asked me a question.
“V…do you want to smoke someday?”
I nodded my head happily and inhaled sharply on my pen just to prove to him how good I’d be at it when the time finally came for me to have a real cigar.
“Would you like to try my cigar right now?”
I stared at him suspiciously. I knew darn well I wasn’t allowed to touch a real cigar, so I immediately expected a joke. Tentatively, I asked, “Can I?”
“Sure!” my Father answered. “Don’t worry, you won’t get in trouble. Just take a puff.” Then, he held out the cigar for me so I could give it a shot.
Without missing a beat, I wrapped my lips around it and inhaled enthusiastically. However, I quickly learned that smoking a cigar was nothing like smoking a pencil. At first, I only coughed up my lung. After that, I turned green. The final act of the entire escapade ended up with me vomiting right on our living room floor.
My Father grabbed a towel from the kitchen to wipe up my mess. I sat on the floor next to him while he did it, shaking and crying. When he was finished, he looked at me and said, “Do you think smoking is fun?”
“Nooooo!” I sobbed.
“Then I don’t want to see even pretend to smoke. Ever again.”
I nodded and sniffed and crawled up into my Father’s lap for a hug. I promised him that I had learned my lesson.
And I did. In fact, I learned the lesson so well that I never tried to smoke anything ever again. I’ve never taken a puff of my friend’s cigarette while at the bar. I’ve never passed around a joint. A pipe full of crack is out of the question for me. Hell, I can’t even get to close to a campfire without feeling a little woozy.
Keep in mind that I have absolutely no moral qualms against doing any of this stuff. Nor do I fear a young death via a blackened lung. My experience with my Father and his cigar just scarred me so badly that I can’t bring myself to inhale hot air. Were it not for him, trust me, I’d be the biggest druggie in 5 counties right around now.
I see a lot of people nowadays who want to try to dissuade kids from smoking by appealing logically to them. Campaigns and pamphlets remind kids that SMOKING KILLS and motivational speakers imply that it’s morally wrong to toke up. The problem with all of these scar tactics is that they rarely work. Kids generally think they’re invincible, so threats of lung cancer fall on deaf ears. Furthermore, what is considered ‘morally right’ to teenagers is pretty much the opposite of whatever their parents want them to do.
So how does one talk their children out of lighting up?
The answer is simple: Scar them for life. Do it fast and do it young. It’s reasonably safe, it’s efficient, and no amount of peer pressure in the world can reverse the effects. Quit trying to control your children with your totally dorky attempts to ‘relate’ to them logically. The only real way to control your kids is by implanting a neurosis that will last them a lifetime.
This has been a public service announcement from V. More personal, anecdotal evidence will be provided next week when I tell you the story about how I inhaled some clovers as a little kid, got them stuck up my nose and therefore can’t bring myself to try cocaine. Goddammit.
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