Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Up in Smoke

While I have no statistical evidence, it seems that cigarette smoking is less common as one heads west across North America and as one ventures into more urban areas. I can't get much farther west where I live unless I go to Vancouver Island. I only know one person in my broad social circle who smokes. I suppose I take it for granted that people I'm in contact with in Vancouver will be nonsmokers.

Maybe that explains my failure to read the not-so-fine print in the online profile of someone who sent me a message of interest. We exchanged several messages and had two positive dates. It wasn't until I picked up Hal at the ferry terminal that I smelled smoke. Even before the hug, the scent hit me from his shirt. Turns out Hal is a smoker. It was stated in his profile--I later went back and read that he had indicated "Occasionally" beside the "Smoker?" line. How stupid that I missed that!

Should smoking be a big deal?

Fifteen years ago, I tried being flexible and I dated a smoker for a year and a half. I resented the fact that a cigarette was the first and last thing to touch his lips each day. I hated the interruptions during arguments when, due to the stress, my ex had to take a smoke break on the balcony. A warm embrace never felt so good with my head buried in his smoke-scented jacket or shirt. I never got used to riding in his car, trying to draw my breath from the air coming in through the rolled down window.
Compromise is necessary in any relationship, but being with a smoker simply made me feel badly about myself. I have honed a healthy lifestyle focused on regular, intense fitness and a vegetarian diet. I have heeded every directive ever given by a doctor. Being with a smoker didn't--and doesn't--jive with how I want to live.

With the third date altered at the moment of greeting, I found myself struggling to get through the long visit. There were many positive things about Hal and yet I started picking out the negatives--the louder than normal speaking voice, the style of his clothing, the nose from side profile--as if to give me more reason to end things beyond the fact that he smoked. I was also hard on myself. Had I read closely, a first date wouldn't have even occurred. I am certain of this because I reviewed this dilemma with another online messenger who contacted me at the same time as Hal. (When it rains, it pours. I know to expect an online drought next.) As much as I appreciated Chris' wit, his love for animals and his positive attitude about life, the smoking shut down any chance for a first date.

After Hal caught a later ferry home, I continued to question myself. Am I being too picky? The last four guys I've dated have all been interested in me and I've said no to each on the third or fourth date. Am I like the characters on Seinfeld, grasping for any reason to dismiss a budding relationship? When I'm single and seventy, will I look back and still think I made the right move in dumping a funny, attractive, caring man--who happened to be a smoker--when he clearly wanted a longterm relationship? I'm telling myself I'd have no regrets, but hindsight doesn't come after a day.

Coincidentally, when I reread Hal's profile to confirm that he had indeed stated he was a smoker, I clicked on one new profile. The guy included the following as part of his statement: Not particular on ethnicity although smokers (and yes even those "quitting") must EXIT here. The guy was far younger than I, yet much clearer on what he didn't want. I don't like sounding negative, mentioning what I don't want, but I see that being direct might make things much easier in the long run.

[Incidentally, the model in the first ad, Alan Landers, died of cancer at 68.]

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