The “communists” at my college were hypocrites, or, How sometimes a cigarette tastes oh-so-good

Dear Web Journal,

Every liberal arts college has them: that group of kids that are kinda artsy and maybe a little dirty and give you that “I hate authority because my old man used to make me mow the lawn. I don’t like mowing the lawn” attitude. When these kids get to college they don Che Guevara t-shirts and spout out other people’s manifestos, maybe print up some of their own. They hang around on the green talking shit about the Man and Capitalism and smoke their cigarettes. That’s right. Cigarettes. And I’m not talking hand rolled either. I mean “Nothing more archetypal of Capitalism than Marlboro Reds or Virginia Slims and other such products of the Devil Himself Philip Morris USA.” Being the discerning observationalist that I am, I never quite understood how the two philosophies went together. But really, what else can you expect from kids who, for the most part, can’t drink legally yet? A Soviet flag and dirty jeans a Karl Marx makes you not.

I never really smoked until I moved to Ireland. And even then, as it does now, “smoking” only meant socially. There was that pack of Camels I had senior year of college. The summer prior I worked in the mail room and they were sent as a promo to someone who no longer attended the school. Even if we’d had a forwarding address, the postage didn’t allow for it. So, my first pack. I smoked most of it one balmy night when I was depressed about the way the things I cared most about weren’t turning out. It was sickening, but I felt justified. And then there were the occasional few when I was younger, including my first that I split with a friend, behind a portable in 6th grade, during break time at a Girl Scout event we were at. That’s right, Girl Scouts. I’m adding that detail so you think I’m a bad ass because only a bad ass smokes behind a portable at a Girl Scout event. Bam. I didn’t pick it up after that because, let’s be honest, I was underage and illegal things make me nervous. But also I was afraid I’d become addicted. Good thing I’ve since discovered I don’t have an addictive personality. Ha.

There are, in my opinion, two very nice things about cigarettes. I don’t mind doing things on my own. I’m very good at it. But sometimes, say, during a set change at a show or while waiting for someone, you can only pretend to text message or tie and re-tie your shoe for so long before feeling somewhat self-conscious. For example, if I wanted to hang out in a field, by myself, while other people chatted away with each other, some might think me weird or “eccentric.” But if I’m out in a field smoking a cigarette, well, then, who’s to question the naturalness of my act? Instead of weird and aimless, I’m doing something. I’m a normal member of society and oh-thank-god for that.

Okay, okay, time to be realistic here. Everyone knows that the more salient point to cigarettes is HOW FUCKING COOL YOU LOOK SMOKING THEM! I mean, who doesn’t want to look like that kick ass Joe Camel or Marlboro Man? Or maybe I can be like Marlboro Man with breasts. Kind of like … Mrs. Marlboro Man. Except that suggests some sort of marriage bond and ew! gross! he probably has rotten breath and yellow stained fingers and teeth. (On that note, thank god I didn’t pick the camel. Who wants “My hubby’s hung like a, er, camel” to be literal? Especially after I managed to re-instate myself into normal society simply by smoking a cigarette in that field.) 

Anyway, I just had a cigarette. Parliament Light, and lo, it was good. The nice thing about not being a real smoker is how quick the nicotine works and how much longer it stays with you. I think I might have another. But first I need to re-hang my totally awesome Soviet flag from my window … dang thing keeps falling down.

Love, Rachael

5 responses to “The “communists” at my college were hypocrites, or, How sometimes a cigarette tastes oh-so-good”

  1. E. Tan All Your Cookies says:

    yay ms gilkey!

    i just finished this semester. finals week usually equals an insane amout of cigarettes and ice cream. nicotine is flowing through me body!

    it’s summer!!!! let’s go dance all night and smoke cigarettes. that sounds like so much fun!!!

  2. lisa t. says:

    i just finished my semester too– an excuse for my short, semi-literate, and snappy comments in the last three weeks. maybe i should take up smoking.

    am planning find you both for a night of cancer sticks, dancing and…denouncing “the man”?

    what a fun post.

  3. hey rachael. i really dug your voice in this. best–bw

  4. Rachael says:

    Hey guys,

    Thanks for your comments! lisa t., I think I speak for both E. Tan All Your Cookies and I when I say, “Dancin’, smokin’ and denouncin’? You’re on!”

  5. Beth W says:

    Dear Rachael,

    I really like how you open and close your post like a letter. Cigarettes and all of the stuff attached are hugely complicated. I worked on this project a few years ago that tries to counteract tobacco funding for the arts. You hit on a lot of the ideas addressed in that campaign.

    Good job! Beth