Rebel Without a Cause

My left hand on the steering wheel, I shifted gears with my right then reached past the gear shift and pushed in the cigarette lighter. I could feel my little sister watching me from the passenger seat, but I didn’t look over at her and risk losing my nerve. I opened the glove box at her knees and pulled out a pilfered pack of Marlboro Lights 100’s, from which I shook one cigarette.

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I stuck the smoke between my lips as the lighter popped.

What are you doing?” my sister asked, incredulous.

Steering with one hand, I lit the cigarette.

“Smoking,” I answered, exhaling smoke to emphasize my point.

“Do Mom and Dad know?” she asked. She was eleven and concerned about our parents’ approval. I was sixteen and pretending unconcern.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“I swiped these from the freezer,” I added. I had been cadging smokes from my parents’ stash in the freezer for the past year. I’d tried buying my own. There was one cashier at the 7-11 near the high school who wouldn’t card for cigarettes, but when I went in there, I got so nervous, I ordered unfiltered Camels. Although I felt kind of like a badass when I smoked those, they burned my throat and left bits of tobacco on my tongue. It was less unpleasant to just take a pack from whichever parent had more on the door of the freezer.

The strange thing about me and smoking back then was that I didn’t even like it. Even though I’d grown up with two smokers from before I was born, those first several cigarettes left me feeling lightheaded and nauseated. I really had to work to start smoking.

It wasn’t peer pressure that started me smoking. My peer group were so anti-smoking, I made a point of keeping it a secret from both my parents and my friends. Before I got my driver’s license, I would only smoke after my parents were in bed or when I would walk alone after dark to the park across the street from our house. Once I was legal to drive alone, I traded my late-night walks for late-night drives, blasting Gin Blossoms and Tori Amos and puffing away behind the wheel.

I only had one friend who smoked. One night, she picked me up at my house and we drove around the block to the park. We sat in the car and smoked and shared a half-can of beer and then worried that we were too wasted to drive back to my house safely.

Ah, yes. We were rebels.

I quit smoking when I was 21, and those days are far, far behind me now.

When I was a teenager, I was lucky enough to have smoker parents from whom I could steal cigarettes to feel like a rebel. With the life I lead now, what will my kids be forced to steal from me? I’d best keep a close eye on my cod liver oil capsules and my homemade deodorant.

Written for this week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop.

9 Replies to “Rebel Without a Cause”

  1. That ending line absolutely killed it in an awesome way. Loved this post, as my foray with the cancer sticks was very similar. I think my younger brother saw me buying cigarettes once and he only kept it a secret because it was so puzzling to him.


    1. My little sister ended up taking up smoking in high school like I did, but she had a much harder time quitting than I did. I worry that I might have played a part in setting her on that road.


  2. Some might consider this tame…..HOWEVER… weren’t just “smoking”…you were actually breaking the norm established by all of your friends – this is a shout out…something’s wrong and I need some help (or attention)…..(got the tee shirt too here)….I’m so glad you stopped! Thanks for sharing


  3. LOVED this!!! I remember one time, just one time, trying a cigarette. I don’t even know where I got it from, but I smoked it outside my car after I got off of work. I was sixteen at the time. I of course hated it…because like you said, smoking is something you have to try hard to actually like. I didn’t smoke the whole thing, but then I was so paranoid that my breath smelled like smoke and that my parents would find me out. When I got home, I went straight upstairs to brush my teeth. Not suspicious at all.

    And the ending made me laugh. I’m in the same boat as you. My husband and I don’t have any real unhealthy vices that my kids can mooch off of…unless you count Oreos and stashes of Kit Kats 🙂


    1. For the ending, I also considered that they might steal from the bag of refined sugar I have for growing crystals for chemistry experiments (turns out the unrefined stuff just makes weird cloudy billows of…something. Bacteria, maybe?), but that was way too difficult to explain in a brief way.

      And I love that you went straight up to brush your teeth! It’s funny the things that we come up with to try to disguise our misdeeds.


    1. Especially when I put tea tree oil in it. I’m pretty sure that’s the gateway essential oil.


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