Interview with Brenda

(by, 24 September 1995)

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***Interview with Brenda***

(Note: Brenda (not her real name) is an attractive 30 year old
woman who has been an acquaintance of mine for a very long
time. We were raised in the same neighborhood and know all the
same people. I approached her with the idea of doing an
interview, and she thought that it sounded like fun. What follows
is a transcription of that interview, recorded in my apartment.)

ME: So, Brenda, before we start - you know what the interview is
about, right?

BRENDA: Uh-huh. You're going to ask me all sorts of questions.
(nervous laugh.) You want to know all about how I feel about
smoking, right?

ME: Yes, I do. Have you ever talked about this before?

BRENDA: No, not really. Oh, maybe in passing, you know - how
lousy it is that smoking is so looked down on, that sort of thing.

ME: But never how you really feel about it?


ME: You understand, I don't want to take you by surprise, that
some of my questions might be kind of personal, don't you? You
don't mind, right?

BRENDA: Depends on the questions, I guess. (laughs)

ME: Okay, I won't get TOO nasty. (laughing) Let's start at the
beginning. Tell me your earliest memory, the first time you
thought about smoking and what it would be like.

BRENDA: (lights a cigarette) Okay, let's earliest
memory I guess was when I was about four. I think.

ME: Four?

BRENDA: Yeah, I think I was about four...I know that all of my
relatives smoked, my Mom, my Dad, all my aunts and
just seemed that that's what you did when you grew up.
Everybody did it and I started wondering when I would do it too. I
remember one of my aunts in particular...she always smoked
Salems, and she was always pretending that she was in a Salem
commercial. And later on, she made sure that my cousin smoked
Salems too. I can remember clearly, when my cousin first
smoked in front of us, how my aunt made such a big deal out of
it, and said how pretty she looked.

ME: Did she actually teach your cousin how to smoke?

BRENDA: I don't know. I think so. She sure did approve of it,
that's for sure. I remember watching that and being so jealous.

ME: You were jealous? Of your cousin?

BRENDA: Sure! Her Mom was paying so much attention to her,
and telling everybody how great it was that she smoked
now...and I remember my cousin looked like she really enjoyed
it. I was so jealous!

ME: How old was your cousin at the time?

BRENDA: I guess she was about fourteen.

ME: Wow. Okay, go back to what you were saying. About when
you were four.

BRENDA: (blows a long cloud of smoke) Okay. I remember one
time, when there were a lot of people over the house, I got it into
my head that I wanted to smoke, and I went from one aunt to the
next, and to my Mom, and practically begged each one in turn
for just one puff.

ME: This was around the time your cousin started smoking?

BRENDA: Yup. I made a real pain of myself....but nobody would
give in! They all told me I wouldn't like it. They laughed at me.

ME: How did that make you feel?

BRENDA: Pretty shitty. I wanted to smoke just like my cousin,
and I couldn't understand why nobody would let me. Well, after
they all left, I ended up sitting on the sofa next to my Mom, and I
was crying. She tried to comfort me, and I asked her why she
wouldn't let me smoke. Right then my Dad walked in and said,
'why don't you just let her try it, and then we'll be done with this
already?' So my Mom asked me if it was what I really wanted and
I said yes.

ME: What happened then?

BRENDA: This part is kind of fuzzy...I don't know if she let me
take a drag, or just blew smoke into my mouth....but whatever it
was, I remember that I coughed my head off, and ran into the
bathroom for water.

ME: Sounds like that should have ruined it for you.

BRENDA: Actually it did, for quite a while, but it was always
there, in the back of my mind. Sometimes I'd even dream about

ME: That's interesting. Do you remember any of the dreams?

BRENDA: Let me see...they were all basically the my
dream, I'd find a lit cigarette, and nobody would be around, so I'd
smoke it. In my dreams it always tasted so great and felt
so...good. (laughs) I remember that I used to hate to wake up
from those dreams.

ME: How old were you then?

BRENDA: Oh, I had those dreams all through growing up. They
didn't stop until I actually started smoking.

ME: And once you started, you never dreamed about smoking

BRENDA: For the most part. Oh, a couple of times, I tried to
quit, and the dreams came back, so I never could quit for very

ME: Tell me about when you actually started smoking..., when
was your first cigarette?

BRENDA: I smoked the first time when I was twelve. On July 9th.

ME: July 9th?

BRENDA: Yup. I promised myself that I'd never forget that day
and I haven't.

ME: How, exactly, did it happen?

BRENDA: I had made up my mind that I was going to at least try
it...and I had a plan all worked out. Every Friday, my Mom would
leave me home alone while she went to get her hair done. This
always took a few hours, so I stashed away one of her cigarettes
a few days before. Just to be sure that I had at least one when
the big day came.

ME: So you planned it ahead of time?

BRENDA: Of course I did. I'd been thinking about it for months!
Well the big day came, finally, and I remember laying in bed that
morning, and I was just so excited I could hardly stand it. I heard
her leave, and then I got up. I remember looking out the window
and watching as she drove off. I waited a few minutes to make
sure she didn't come right back, and then I got my cigarette out
from where I had hidden it.

ME: Go on.

BRENDA: Well, there wasn't a lighter around, so I had to use the
stove. I just stuck the tip of the cigarette into the flame and
turned it until it looked like it was lit. I knew that wasn't how you
normally would do it, but I didn't care, just so long as it got lit.

ME: And then?

BRENDA: Then I went in the bathroom with it, because I wanted
to see myself when I smoked. I stood in front of the mirror
holding the cigarette, and my heart started beating so fast...I
couldn't believe I was really going to smoke. Then I went like this
(demonstrates with her short little puff without

ME: So you didn't inhale your first puff?

BRENDA: No....I guess I was still remembering the time when I
was four....and I was a little cautious.

ME: So then what?

BRENDA: I took a few more puffs while I watched in the really got me excited to see myself smoking.

ME: What do you mean by excited? Do you mean sexually

BRENDA: No, I wouldn't say was more like seeing myself
grow up all at once. It was kind of neat.

ME: Okay. So you smoked the whole cigarette without inhaling,

BRENDA: I didn't say that! I knew how to inhale, I had watched
enough people smoking to know how you do it....and when there
was only a couple of puffs left in the cigarette, I tried inhaling,
just a little.

ME: Show me.

BRENDA: I went like this. (She put the cigarette to her lips, and
took a little puff; then opened her mouth wide and took a deep
breath; after a second, she blew the smoke out.) Just like that.

ME: And what was that like? Did you like it?

BRENDA: I loved it! It was really a rush! I was surprised at how
easy it was. It looked so much different from what I had been
doing! Now I knew I was really smoking, just like my cousin, and I
took a couple of more puffs on it, and put it in the toilet.

ME: Then what?

BRENDA: As soon as I finished that one, I searched the house
high and low to find another cigarette, because I really wanted to
try that again, and inhale every puff the next time. I was so

ME: So did you find one?

BRENDA: Nope. I about went crazy, but I didn't find another
cigarette in that house. So I made up my mind that by the NEXT
Friday, I'd have stashed away more than one.

ME: So that's how you spent your Fridays?

BRENDA: Yeah, the rest of the summer was like that...every
Friday, I'd smoke as soon as my mother left. As the summer
went on, I got better and better at it, and started wishing that I'd
have more chances to smoke.

ME: And did you?

BRENDA: Oh, yes. There was one Sunday morning when I went
to church early with my Dad, and on the way home, I saw what
looked like a pack of cigarettes lying in the street about a block
from my house. As soon as we got home, I told my father I was
going to go out for a walk....and all the way walking to where I'd
seen the pack, I kept telling myself not to get my hopes up, that
it was probably empty.

ME: Was it?

BRENDA: Nope. It was a pack of Kent 100's, and it was just
about full! I couldn't believe it. I put it in my pocket, and went into
the woods with it....when I got there, I lit up. It was great. I had
never smoked a 100 before, and now I had a whole pack full! I
remember that they were so good....I must have smoked four in
a row, and inhaled as deeply as I could on all of them.

ME: So you were an accomplished smoker by that time.


ME: When did you start smoking regularly?

BRENDA: It wasn't too long after that. Having that pack of Kents
really did the trick for me....I think I made it last 3 or 4 days, but
it was hard. I'd be sitting around the house, bored, and then I'd
get this thought, 'Gee...a cigarette would be good now!'  And off
I'd go into the woods where I stashed it. When that pack was
done, I stole some cigarettes from my Mom for a while, but it
wasn't long before I realized I'd have to start buying my own.

ME: How did you manage that?

BRENDA: It wasn't always easy, but I was lucky enough to live
near this diner? And they had a cigarette machine in the front
entrance. I'd go there 2 or 3 times a week and buy a pack from
the machine.

ME: Why didn't you buy them in a store like anyone else?

BRENDA: I was too embarrassed. I had always been very small
for my age...and I thought that they'd give me a hard time and I
didn't want that.

ME: Did your Mom finally find out?

BRENDA: Yes. It was a few months later, and we were sitting at
the breakfast table, just me and her. She lit a cigarette, and kind
of smiled at me....I knew something was up. So, I got up from the
table, because I was going to go out in the garage to
smoke....that had been my routine. But my Mom said, 'Brenda,
why don't you sit down and have a cigarette with me instead of
going out in the garage?'

ME: Wow. How did you handle that?

BRENDA: I was so embarrassed....I tried to lie about it, and said
'What?  Mom, I don't smoke!' But she just smiled at me and said,
' don't have to lie....I've known about it for quite a
while, and I'm not mad. I started when I was about your age too.
It's okay....go ahead...go get your cigarettes from the garage,
and have one with me. Okay?'

ME: What happened then?

BRENDA: Well.....I looked at her, and I said, 'Really, Mom? It's
okay?' and she said, 'Yes...go ahead, honey.' So I went and got
them from the garage, and when I came back in my Mom offered
me a light. We sat and smoked for about an hour, I guess...just
talking about it. I felt really relieved that I didn't have to hide
anymore, and I vowed to myself then and there that any
daughter I had would never have to go through that.

But you never had any children, is that right?

BRENDA: No. But.....(smiling) it's not too late yet.

Q. What do AOLer's spend most of their time doing?
A. Staring at the Windows hourglass... (formerly

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