Small penis? Check. Fishy breath? Check. Receding hairline? Check. Pot belly? Check.
Okay, I have all the symptoms of the LeClair family curse. I know I’m one of them, so why do I feel so alienated from my kinfolk? Why do my parents and siblings frequently move without supplying any forwarding address? Why, at family gatherings, does my Uncle Verne (the convicted felon and life insurance salesman) laugh nervously and look around for somebody who can rescue him from having to talk to me? Why am I treated by my own flesh and blood with the sort of disdain verging on mild repulsion typically directed toward one of Aunt Felicia’s ginger-haired, tap-dancing love children? Is it because I’m a loutish, loud, insensitive, narcissistic boor who has a bad reputation for drinking all the good booze, borrowing and not returning large sums of money, and filching the silverware? No. No. A thousand times No… Although, come to think of it, those may be contributing factors.
No, my real crime, the reason I’m an outcast even within my own family is…I’m a smoker. That’s right. I can almost see the prim little shake of your head and the condescending sneer playing across your lips. What? Is there one of them still left? Haven’t they all been committed to high security psychiatric hospitals or rounded up and shot? Where are the police? Why did I get a speeding ticket on my way to the health spa when this…this…filthy deviant is walking freely amongst us, spreading second hand this and that all over town?
Well, yes, dear reader, I can tell you that we are still there. You may not notice us, but we are there. We are wearing smelly rain-soaked tweed jackets and hanging about the entrances to restaurants and office buildings. We are driving around town in our cars, with the windows rolled up, dropping ashes and burning holes in our nylons and pant legs. We are spending large amounts of our expendable incomes on breath fresheners and teeth-whitening treatments. We are sneaking into late night pharmacies to buy cartons of cancer sticks with the same sense of shame and humiliation felt by purchasers of venereal wart ointments and blow-up sex dolls. We are running about our bathrooms madly spraying cans of Lysol and flapping our hands about whenever our parents/wives/husbands/schoolteachers/bosses/yoga instructors unexpectedly knock on the door.
Furthermore, I can tell you that we are not about to go away, no matter how much you or my self-righteous family may wish it. I like smoking. I like people who smoke and swear. I do not like smarmy, pamphleteering little puritans. Besides, apart from the race track, greasy foods, weekend poker nights, bar hopping, the odd glass of five star brandy, and weekly visits to The Naughty Madame Turkish Baths, I have very few little habits and vices to act as diversions to help me unwind from my stressful search for a satisfactory part-time job.
And I am not alone. There are many others who feel the same way. We are not afraid to be who we are. We will not cave-in in the face of moral bullying. We will not listen to family practitioners, pharmacists, naturopaths, university researchers, cardiologists, oncologists or any other so-called “experts”. We will proudly be swayed by sexy magazine ads and Indy sponsorships. We will rent old Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall movies. We will play air guitar in front of our bathroom mirrors and pretend that we actually are Keith Richards, instead of just looking like him. Go ahead, raise the price of cigarettes. Make them ten dollars a pack. Twenty dollars a pack. A hundred. See if we care. Ostracize us. Humiliate us. We will never surrender. We are Smokers – hear us hack!