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The Chimney Stack Will Puff No More

25 Feb

Quitting Smoking Is Hard You Guys… and Cancer.

That's hot.

So I’ve been a smoker for the past five or six years of my life. I started young, four years old, when I reached in an ashtray at a restaurant (back in the day when they still had those) and took a puff of some old woman’s used cigarette. My mom slapped me silly, but I obviously didn’t learn because I became a regular smoker when I was either fourteen or fifteen. I started out on about half a pack a week and kept it there for a few years mostly because of high school and fear of my parents. When I hit college, joined roller derby, and got into a tight punk rock scene, my occasional smoking habit almost overnight became crippling. I’ve been up to at least a pack a day for the past year and a half, and at the ripe age of twenty-something, I’m already feeling the bad effects.

I’m quitting as of two hours ago, spurred by chest pains, wheezing, and the realization that a $400 paycheck is almost 1/4 of the way spent after a week.


In keeping with my “blog” writing, I feel like it’s important (to me) to make a list of why I smoke and why it’s so hard to quit. It’s not even for the more obvious reasons such as stress (although that’s there too), but read on.

Why I Smoke(d)/How to Use These Reasons to Quit:

1. I have an addictive personality.

I also am addicted to spoons full of sugar and getting vaccinated.

Why: I should have known better than to start in the first place. Just like Facebook and eating gummy snacks, I get a taste of something I like and I want MORE. Even with more illicit drugs that are not physically addicting, I would become emotionally dependent. I start to use my (formerly) social habits as a more personal crutch of support. “Two tests and three art projects due tomorrow? Lemme just smoke/drink (substance of choice) for (unnecessary) amount of time and then I’ll be more motivated/inspired/calmed/stoned/nic-buzzed (pick three) than before and I’ll do more in less time!” Not really. I usually just end up whittling away a few hours taking “breaks” every ten minutes and then falling asleep or watching TV.

Manipulate To My Advantage By: Finding other things to get addicted to. I used to be addicted to skateboarding; the cruel catch-22 is that I can’t skate nearly on the level I used to because I smoke, and I smoke now because I can’t skate that well anymore. I mull around at my old spots cruising around on my board with a cigarette dangling out of my mouth instead of charging at it and pushing myself. Land a half-cab? Smoke a cigarette. Used to, I’d land something, get stoked, and work on it for another hour until I had it down. I should probably get back into *this* habit, along with lots of other activities I used to enjoy, such as vandalism, computer hacking, urban spelunking (going into locked/out of the way places), NERF guns, hipster stalking, photography, etc. In a way, I lost my lifestyle because of smoking. My friend and I joke that before we leave the house, we smoke a couple. We smoke two more on the way. We smoke on the way in. On the way out. Two more in the car to the next place… I don’t have time in between driving and smoking to do what I usually plan on doing. I also take three hours to go get coffee.

And another two hours to drink it.

I re-kindled my love for skateboarding today (the same day I chose to quit) thanks to me finally finding a copy of a magazine I used to enjoy that Barnes and Nobles stopped carrying. I read the whole thing cover to cover and nearly cried out of my lost love for the sport/hobby/lifestyle that saved my life on more than one occasion during my harder years. I realized that any skating I do now is strictly to get out of my house so I can go smoke. Two weekends ago, I went with a friend out onto a golf-course and we bombed and carved the golf-cart roads. For four hours. No cigarettes, nothing. It was a return to that almost profound feeling of freedom and unbridled exploration; that’s what I want back. So. The plan is to go out and skate every single damn time I’m sitting inside craving. Even at two in the morning.

2. I want(ed) to be cool. I’m still cool, I guess.

He'd be the ultimate cool if he was smoking.

Why: Yes. No matter how much I was told “smoking isn’t cool” growing up, IT IS. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN AND WILL ALWAYS BE WHAT THE COOL KIDS ARE DOING. People treat you differently. I look like a fifteen year old boy, unless I have a cigarette hanging out of my mouth and I’m not giggling with delight at breaking the law. Smoking completes my “image.” Which is lame, yes, but I still think like a middle schooler. What I said earlier about losing my lifestyle? Yeah. Band practices don’t go well cause we have to have smoke breaks every twenty minutes. Being in/around punk music is what got me into smoking in the first place. It’s an association game. I think “punk show” = “place to smoke lots of cigarettes and not look out of place.” Of course, now I think “church”= “place to go outside on the playground during the praying parts and smoke lots of cigarettes and get lots of bad looks.” I like the attention. What I don’t like is realizing that I had just as much fun at shows and at after-parties when I wasn’t smoking, and really? NO ONE THOUGHT LESS OF ME. But my mind rationalizes this into Smoker-Language: “We are going to a Hangouts show tonight. We used to not smoke at their shows at all and mosh around and get in fights. Now we smoke because WE HAVE TO. WE ARE THERE AND WE HAVE TO. So we’ll stand off to the side and smoke a pack and a half in an hour and have a ‘good time.'” It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there. The smoker’s brain won’t let one remember that stuff can be just as enjoyable without a cigarette or twenty. It automatically snaps into making the equation: social situation = smoking. And that’s the danger.

Manipulate To My Advantage By: Really, there’s no easy way around the social associations with smoking. I can’t give up small bars and derby bouts, nor can I avoid my friends who are almost all smokers. However, I can take the pompous douchebag route. For example: at the skatepark, inevitably some sixteen year old kid will offer me a cigarette because he wants to look cool and wants everyone to know he smokes (just like I used to do). I can say “No thanks man. I just quit after five years and I feel FANTASTIC. You, however, are going to have tumors within tumors in every pore and cell in your body. And you look like Justin Bieber.” While some might say “Wait, you smoked. You’ll have tumors inside of tumors too. And YOU look like Justin Bieber.” To which I reply, “I am superior because I quit. I’m better than you, stick your head in doo doo. And I do NOT look like Justin Bieber. At least not since I shaved my head into a mohawk.” Honestly, it’s about realizing and remembering that I am not a smoker. It isn’t a persona, it is a habit, like licking my lips like a crackhead. I am also not a crackhead. And I will probably have really chapped lips in the first couple of weeks now that I’m quitting.

3. Being gay is stressful, two reasons rolled into one.

Why: My main rationalization for smoking outside of social settings (which with my job and school and family life are less frequent than they used to be) is stress. There is a mental habit involved in smoking that contributes to stress; it isn’t physical at all. Ties into the “emotional crutch” part about having an addictive personality. Except this is conditioning through outside influences. See that chick smoking on TV? She’s probably in a stressful situation. Smokers get sold on the fact that smoking relieves stress. Being stressed = needing a cigarette; in reality it’s a very strong “want.” So like clockwork every day at my job, I have smoke breaks after the “peak” hours which happen about five times a day, six or seven on Mondays. Most of the time I get halfway through my cancer stick and realize I wasn’t actually that stressed. I just thought I was so I could have an excuse. The mental habit caused by smoking is what makes it really hard to quit; another aspect of this for me personally is the “oral fixation.” Make all the gay jokes you want, but that’s where queer comes into the factor. There is scientific support (that I’m too lazy to Google) to back up the idea that gay people, in proportion to our respective population, are more likely to be smokers.

Pictured: Typical Gay Mouth.

I know myself that I am a very mouth-oriented person. I chew on everything, including but not limited to my lips/lip rings (when I have them in, I got them for the purpose of messing with them and because I look incredibly hot with a labret), cheeks, pens, paper clips, straws, cups, glasses, gum, my girlfriend (cough)… This has led to not only a bad case of TMJ that I get to wear a mouthguard at night for, but also a reliance on smoking as another oral fixation. One time I found a NERF dart in my car. First thing I did? Stuck it in my mouth like a cigarette and reached for the lighter. I kid you not. I felt ridiculous. Just like I do when I catch myself holding a sucker or pen like a cigarette, puffing on a BIC ballpoint like it’s seen the end of a BIC lighter. So being gay and using my mouth as my main sexual expression made me a smoker. There’s all sorts of subconscious connections I could make but I’ll spare you that. I will point you to a favorite blog of mine that looks at this specific topic:

Manipulate To My Advantage By: Well, simpler than #2. Buy lots and lots of suckers. And candy. And toothpicks. So I can get cavities and look like a country hick all day. But I kinda feel like all of these options are at least tastier than cigarettes. Even toothpicks. I’d rather chomp on a wood splinter than have cigarette/coffee/Adderall aftertaste. And have more sex. That’s something at least one other person in my life will fully support (and it’s not my mom).

So follow along and wait in rapt anticipation for updated posts which will probably include lots more capital letters and a lot less coherency.

That's me.


Rainbows and Glitter, Ties and Skirts

22 Feb

The Queer Look: Why and How People Outside the Gender Norm Express Themselves Through Style

Born This Way, Bitch.

As a flaming queer, I am often asked by less in-the-know people (such as my parents), “Why do you have to look so… gay?” This is a question I have been asked in many forms on many occasions throughout my relatively long existence as a queermosexual. After sitting through three back-to-back classes in which we discussed either the gay lifestyle, civil rights, and/or feminism, today the thought occurred to me to address the topic in writing, something that I am particularly fond of as an English major:

Why do gay people look gay?

Broadly speaking, of course. There are many in our community who choose to live a less “visible” lifestyle, which is perfectly respectable. At the other end, there are those of us who are at our happiest when we are openly and fabulously throwing all convention and moderation regarding personal style to the wind. Both decisions are of personal choice, and both stem from the same main cause, with a complete contrast in implementation.

It is first important to realize that there are prevalent stereotypes regarding the LGBT community and our choices in style. Lesbians always have short hair and wear flannel, gay men wear glitter and feather boas, transwomen wear nothing but dresses and makeup, and so on. These stereotypes, as I will discuss, are both hindering and useful at the same time.


All images via LGBTQ Tumblr.

First, let’s discuss those of us who chose to fly under the gaydar. Without calling specific attention to those who are not completely “out” to either themselves or anyone else (a topic for another article), many in the queer community do, in fact, subscribe to more socially “acceptable” patterns of dress. There are several different reasons for this that I can identify:

  1. Social Mobility or Necessity. Personally, I don’t see it as a disagreeable reason for not wanting to “look” queer. There are many of us who see modern society as relatively adverse to queer expression, and this puts them in a situation of compromise, so to speak. In order to progress, or at times simply get by (professionally, socially, politically, with family, etc.), there has to be a degree of give-and-take. It is important to remember that many of those who do conform to a relatively normal pattern are not compromising their identity. At times, this particular reason for conforming to the gender norms can seem somewhat pandering, but it is often born out of necessity. As long as they know who they are, what does it matter what others think they are?
  2. Integration. On the PFLAG website and in many of their publications, the organization has outlined “The Five Stages of Coming Out.” The last stage is what they call “integration.” I have had several discussions with LGBT advisors and professionals who describe this as the stage in a person’s life when they are so comfortable with their identity that they no longer see it necessary to “explore” it anymore; they decide to merge back in with the mainstream society rather than express themselves in a way that makes them more visible. This relates in a large part back to the first reason, with a much larger emphasis on having confidence and security in one’s own identity, rather than taking on a more conforming look out of necessity. I have a very dear friend who has expressed this very same sentiment in a rather profound way: “I’m tired of being the big flaming queer who happens to be ____ and ____ and ____. I’d rather be everything else and just happen to be gay. I just want to be me and do what I like to do.” Paraphrasing, of course.
  3. Insecurity. In the context of the last two topics, this is probably the “worst.” It’s ok to be insecure; I’m sure many people live their entire lives not being completely comfortable with who they are. I blame other people for this. Never, EVER hold someone’s insecurities about their sexuality against them or pressure them to be “more out.” I’ve had this thrown in my face several times, people who say I’m not “gay enough” or that I need to make a statement with myself. The catch is, I’m actually pretty comfortable just being me (I’m getting old and integrated, I guess), but I know that there are some of us out there who are really scared, sometimes terrified, of being impacted negatively just because they look a certain way. I’ve read and participated in many discussions in which someone admits to being very insecure and wanting to “fit in,” and they have been encouraged to “play it safe,” as long as they realize they need to work on their own perceptions of themselves. Ultimately, I see that as the best answer anyone can give another queer dealing with insecurities regarding themselves and the way others see them. It’s ok to not be gay to other people, but you need to at least come to terms with yourself.
  4. They identify best with their expression. Sometimes, a lesbian actually sees herself a “traditional” woman with dresses and makeup and heels. This kind of expression (also upcoming in another post) brings about terms of gender identity such as butch, femme, bois, twink, bear… In terms of fitting the “social acceptance” threshold, many gay people already “fit” by appearance simply because they chose to be a feminine woman or a masculine man. Just because a person is gay does not mean that they instantly take on appearances of the opposite biological sex.

Now for the piece de resistance:


All images via LGBTQ Tumblr.

Raging, Flaming Queermosexuals.

I’ll go ahead and spill a few personal details about myself. I am an out queer woman (I hesitate to say lesbian, another topic for another post). My motto, if you will, is “If you don’t ask, I won’t tell… but you’ve probably figured it out already.” I am very conscious about the way I look; the hair products lining my full-wall mirror are a testament to this. When I was in high school, a couple of years after I came out (I was out to myself at 12, out to the whole school at 14 or 15), I actually laid in bed one night and decided that I wanted to look more queer. Seriously. I went and cut my hair off the next week, bought my first skinny jeans, and started wearing ties and vests with my Converse. I’ve pretty much kept this up for years. So why? Well, I’ll just go ahead and give my personal reasons, with the assumption that they more or less apply to the greater community.

  1. I want other queers to know I’m here. Remember what I said about queer stereotypes surrounding style? Well, they’ve helped me meet most of the people I’m friends with now. For example, I showed up to my first class at the university I transferred to wearing a particularly gay outfit: A slim-fit shirt for the band Iwrestledabear once that proclaims in large shining rainbow block letters “Metal Just Got Gay,” a really nice beanie, dark-wash skinny jeans that are one size too big for me, and some $75 Lakai Limited Edition skate shoes. Another queer girl a few rows down from me approached me after class, introduced herself, and then asked “Are you gay?” Instant friend. Didn’t have to beat around the bush or spend time trying to figure out “How do I let her know?” Let’s face it, even with people we think are gay, it’s awkward to straight-up say “Heyyyy… I’m gay too.” It’s a lot easier when we have identification, things that readily pronounce “I AM A QUEER.” It’s a way of at least lowering, if not removing, a barrier of communication between ourselves.Indeed.
  2. I want to fit in. Queers can be extremely cliquey. In light of the first point, some of them might not otherwise consider me as a possible friend. If I look like them, hey, I’ve got to be one of them. I generally tend to find friends in people who dress similar to me. It’s a sort of “tribal” identification. As a metalhead/computer geek/skateboarder/English major/queer, I operate on the basis that birds of a feather flock together, and eventually the way I dress will bring up a conversation with someone with similar interests. I just need to advertise. Back in my hipster days, when I wanted to hang out/date the cute gay hipster girls, I dressed a little differently. So they would like me more, and so I would be in their circle. It’s basic sociology, and it doesn’t apply just to gay people; everyone who’s ever been in middle and high school knows this.
  1. I want straight people to not assume I’m straight. This has a deeper meaning for me than just “flaunting” my gayness in front of church people every Sunday. When I have discussions about the particular subject of discrimination, I always advocate this point. I often say, “Even the most bigoted, homophobic people know someone gay. They just need to know that they know them.” I feel like my gender expression and my unique place in society (I am a high school teacher. Well, soon… anyways) allows me to be an example for others, that I am a person and that I have every right to be treated as such. I don’t want special privileges because I’m queer; I just want to be me. Style is really one of the first things people judge other people by; the way I dress is my own communication to others, especially straight people, that A.) I don’t want to date your son/nephew/boss’ grandson, and B.) I will probably be a little sensitive to your remarks that “I’m so pretty, it’s a shame I can’t find a boyfriend.” (a fairly common occurrence). There is a certain, strange empowerment I feel when someone addresses me as “Sir,” then realizes my boobs and profusely apologizes; I tell them “Either way works for me.” It means I’m doing a good job not being typical. It also shows something deeper: that people judge me based on what they see, realize otherwise, and try to correct themselves. As an overall fabulous person, I love going to get my hair cut.  My hairdresser is an adorable young woman, a few years older than me, who is very straight, and very giggly. Every time I come in with my alternative-lifestyle haircut in need of repair, I am accompanied by my guyfriend, who I’m really close with. My hairdresser NEVER asks me if he’s my boyfriend (my grandma does though, generation gap I guess), but usually does ask me what I think of Pink/Ellen/Ellen Page/Gaga/Other Gay Icons, cuts my hair shorter and dyes it fabulously, and sends me on my way. It saves us both the awkwardness of her asking if he’s my boyfriend, and me hem-hawing around the question so as not to appear creepy. Coming out to acquaintances/new people, no matter how seasoned you are as a queer, is almost always awkward, especially so for people of the same gender. There’s sometimes that fear straight people have that we’re after them. If we can show them that we are US, not lurking behind a comfortable mask of straightness, and that we aren’t interested in them, maybe we can help alleviate some of the fear and stigma. But back to the “straight assumption” and how I personally choose to portray myself as “alternative.” I’ve had this work to my advantage so many times with straight people that I’ve just kept it up. They see me and most of the time assume I’m queer because of my short hair and charmingly androgynous looks. Then they don’t ask me personal questions that a straight girl wouldn’t think twice about hesitating to answer, but that I would find overwhelmingly awkward and hard to answer without seeming “weird.” This doesn’t mean I don’t get bad, disapproving looks or remarks, but I feel like the shock value of being queer is lessened when people already see me, adjusted and happy, in my natural habitat.
  2. I’m incredibly attractive. But not in a dress. Enough said.This is also me.

So, in short, queers are queers. Some of us chose not to be as flamboyant or visible, while some of us chose to wear rainbows and glitter in excess. It all comes down to personal choices, social influence, and the means of how we reconcile the two.