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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Drag

One topic always seems to lead to another on Sundries, and today, I pounce on my earlier fascination with the price of a (half-pack) carton of cigarettes.

Did you know that in Germany, packs of cigarettes come in 19 instead of 20? 11 eggs to a carton, and 11 roses too. That's because, if my mother is to be believed, even numbers are bad luck.

"Or maybe they're just cheap", my father always mumbles under his breath.

As I'm a non-smoker, living in America is absolute heaven. This is the most anti-smoking country I've ever lived in, which permeates not just the lifestyle, but the psyche. In Britain, fat people are seen as somewhat morally suspect. In America, the same huffily raised eyebrows are directed towards smokers.

In fact, I can always tell the foreigners on South Beach because they're smoking.

But you know, that's also true of celebrities. My mother spotted Lindsay Lohan this week, shouting at some poor assistant in a shop, a scene which had gathered a small crowd outside.

I wondered if poor said salesclerk had stopped her from smoking. The days of the glamourous Hollywood starlet taking a provocative drag from her 'rettes are definitely over. No one could ever call this scene anything but gross.

A hoodie and a Marlboro Red. Council Estate 101.



She's been called an "American classic", but Jen Aniston looks anything but classical as she dangles a cigarette down the street.



The list of royalty who smoke is endless, but none more famous than Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Her smoking habits caused one Danish sociologist to accuse her of "encouraging" Danish women to smoke, given the dramatic increase in women smoking in Denmark in the 1970s (after she had ascended to the throne).

It's hard to imagine Danes wanting to look like this -- at a gala dinner, may I add.



Kate Hudson is a pretty woman (not as much as her mother Goldie Hawn was, though), but smoking lowers any woman's prettiness quotient even when wearing sexy outfits.



Black roots seem to plague smokers, I note. The combo makes poor Tara Reid look wasted even if she wasn't (though I'm sure she was).



Ladette queen, Lily Allen, adds her own special unkempt-looking twist. Black nails.



Just before you start to think, ole Vic is quite the scold, isn't she, I actually have a confession to make -- spurred on by the sight of Allen's black nails.

After my gap year teaching English abroad (including in smoking mecca, Japan), I came back to University only to find myself the sole person in my college who didn't smoke. I wanted to be strong. I genuinely didn't like the taste, smell, look of smoking else I would've done so earlier.

I held strong for a term, and then the inevitable happened. My 19 year-old self decided to play pseudo-intellectual.

I dyed my fair hair black, cutting it short whilst I was at it. I donned black turtle-necked sweaters, and leggings. I had a wide-assortment of high-thighed boots, and hob-nailed Doc Martens which would've been the envy of Lily Allen.

And yes, I started to smoke.

Well, not "regular" Sobranie Black Russians, like my grandmother. Nor the filterless Player's Cut my granddad was partial to (both died of cancer, by the way).



No. I had to be different, you know. Though like everyone trying to be different, the effect is always startlingly boring.

I went inside a noted tobacconists in Oxford, one who had probably purveyed cigarettes to every undergraduate there from Oscar Wilde to Boris Johnson, and asked for a special shipment of Indonesian clove cigarettes.

Within a week, they had arrived and soon most people knew I was coming by the scent of this sickly sweet, vaguely marijuana smelling herbal non-cancer sticks.

My Michel Foucault transformation was complete.

(I gave it up the term after that, once I realised I looked like a ridiculous freshers cliché. Never did lose the yen for high-thighed boots, though)

The thing with smoking is that when it's done right, it looks the height of metallic sophistication.

I'm convinced that my grandparent's generation was hooked on cigarettes by the sight of Paul Henreid's debonaire gesture of lighting two cigs at once, and handing the other to Bette Davis.

I mean, who doesn't love this scene? WHO doesn't want to mimic it?



But in the cold harsh light of reality, a couple doing that usually looks utterly low-rent.

Never mind.

In their minds' eye, they are chic and they feel life's precious moments are enhanced by a slow, deep drag of that sensuous cigarette, masking whatever imperfections they have in a billow of smoke.

You know, I was no different.

I may have been just a 19 year-old trying to look helplessly cool with my Indonesian cloves dressed in a riot of monochromes, but in my mind's eye I was Isabella Rossellini in liger-striped D & G and the world was my glorious ashtray.



Why does reality have to be such a drag.

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4 Comments:

  • This sweet, charming post is the tabac I roll and light up (like Bogie in Maltese Falcon!) that makes me smile when I read it...ah...you make me miss being in love, you ol' mosher!

    I haven't seen this Sundries since Pre-Palin! Gonna blog Carnivale again? :)

    By Blogger Ron, at Sat Jan 03, 02:52:00 am GMT-5  

  • I haven't seen this Sundries since Pre-Palin! Gonna blog Carnivale again?

    'Tabac and Roll' is a great name for a tobacconists, Ron. ;)

    The Palin Days made Sundries a little hard going in terms of whimsy and moxie, I agree. I was too busy keeping people's hopes from flagging to attempt something nostalgic (with one exception, Bolivian Eyes, if you recall).

    As I settle into the more usual Sundries tone, it'll perk up. And yes, I hope to do carnaval this year!

    I missed it sadly last year, tho' we watched it at home, of course. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Jan 03, 11:52:00 am GMT-5  

  • I may have been just a 19 year-old trying to look helplessly cool with my Indonesian cloves dressed in a riot of monochromes, but in my mind's eye I was Isabella Rossellini in liger-striped D & G and the world was my glorious ashtray.

    Speaking of Althouse and all, what would be terribly fun would be for you to don such a persona and tend blog at an after hours online pub-the one like the you depicted on Sundries a few weeks ago.

    No one but you could tend blog with such rapid fire aplomb and wit as yourself. Of course, you'd need a more vocal clientele than here now. In fact, Sundries would probably change irrevocably if you pulled it off. And I kind of like Sundries as the kind of place to slink back to on Sunday mornings after a rough night (nods to the Man in Black).

    By Blogger chickenlittle, at Sat Jan 03, 03:04:00 pm GMT-5  

  • If I remember correctly, anti-smoking attitudes in the '20s and '30s focused on sexuality... namely that a man smoking cigarettes was a little light in the loafers.

    I'm not sure what their view on pipes were, though.

    By Anonymous alcibiades, at Sat Jan 03, 03:56:00 pm GMT-5  

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