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Vegetarian Cigarette Smoker: My Selective Morality

Dig this: I’m a vegetarian that enjoys a good, long, cigarette with my wine from time to time. Newport’s to be exact, a pack of Cools as an alternative. I’m a tree-hugging minimalist who eats clean and lives by vegan hair and body products. I listen to Tariq Nasheed as I consider myself pan-African and I urged everyone to support the NFL boycott, but I still enjoy an occasional cancerous smoke and casual sex with men who couch surf and because of that aren’t able to take me to their house for Netflix and chill (Click Here). Do I sound contradictory with low standards or just human?

All of my variances came to a head when my Louisiana shorty that I used to groove with (I wrote about him last week, see: Oxytocin. Louisiana. And Sex flipped the entire script on me. Before I met him, I was hooping every weekend, writing consistently, dodging club invites, and really focusing on self-development. Typical things we all do the first few months after getting out of a situation (see: The Side Chick’s Side of the Story Part 2 ) and on the path of becoming wholesome black girls and boys. Then here comes mister southern twang, smelling like potential felony convictions and sex, ready to knock me off of my pivot. He was a heavy leaf and cig blower, which was cool with me, I was satisfied with my declining desire to hit a blunt anytime it teetered my way, but my grandmother always told me, “if you hang around a barbershop long enough you’re bound to get your haircut.” Sure enough, it didn’t take long for me to start getting high right along with him and upping my cigarette count. He kept saying how much fun it was to bond with me in this way. It was what friends with benefits do our thing; a special vibe.

I’d meet him every night on the apartments front steps to blow down some trees and laugh at the moon. Sometimes we’d take the party to his crib, becoming intimate for the rest of the night, and staying up until the wee hours of the morning filling our lungs with no regard for next days duties. He’d kiss me on my forehead and send me on my way promising to repeat the same shenanigans the following night.

We became friends.

We’d Vent about our troubles over smokes and sex. It was a ritual. But there would be no story if I didn’t tell you that this man broke the ritual. Mr. Louisiana said he was falling into a depression and just wanted to be alone, he claimed to be dealing with some financial difficulties and needed breathing room, but somehow his version of alone included skipping out on our nights to play spades with the fellas, this made his breathing room seem like it included everyone, but me. Nevertheless, at this point I was accustomed to our liturgy so when the clock would strike our scheduled time, I’d slip on my floral slides, throw on a sports bra with some basketball shorts and sit on the front steps, light my cigarettes and wait for him to meet me. After indulging in my sins with him for so long I had graduated to smoking at least a pack a week. I didn’t realize the quantity until I was dragging alone.

As time progressed he managed to slow drip his way out of our stoop smoke sessions. He’d drop by for 10 minutes here and there, mumble an excuse, and be on his way to his side of the building. I finally asked him to break everything down to me. What was wrong? Was depression really the issue or an excuse? Was it me? Are you fucking someone else? I rambled off every insecurity, desperate to know why he was doing the infamous “slow-drip” on me after we had developed a friendship. Mr. Louisiana proceeded to drop bombs on Baghdad by advising me that he wanted to get his life together. He said it with such intensity it almost sounded like he was saying I was a part of whatever was making his life opposite of, “together.” This is where I was floored. He goes on to list all of the things he wants to change; “yeah man… a nigga need to eat better, I ain’t been getting no sleep… I need a new job… and I definitely gotta stop smoking.”

Here I am: “Soooo you’re quitting?” *Confused face*

Mr. Louisiana: “Yeah…”

Now, I should have been happy for him. I should’ve encouraged this journey, but instead I felt stupid because that was the same damn journey and path I was skipping on until he flew in with his backwoods accent and hood gusto knocking me off the yellow brick road. It wasn’t fair. Here he is trying to cleanse his life of toxic folks, after assisting me in becoming a whole smoker and slacker! My vagina practically smelt like Frankincense and Myrrh before I met him! I was aligning my chakras while milly rocking on the Whole Foods block before I met him. Now my hair smelt like chain smoking biker boys, I was sleep deprived from chilling on the stoop late nights with him, and to top it off I was confused. At that point all I could do was take a hit of my cigarette as he kissed me on the forehead and walked back to his apartment closing any chance of future ceremonies.

I couldn’t figure out why I had been so easily swayed by this man to completely switch paths, and why I hadn’t felt any guilt about it until he decided this was a path he no longer wanted to walk. So in my typical fashion I decided to do a little research and  I came across a Stanford University essay written by Albert Bandura called, Selective Activation and Disengagement of Moral Control. In his scholarly thesis he wrote, “people do not ordinarily engage in reprehensible conduct until they have justified it to themselves the morality of their actions. What is culpable can be made righteous through cognitive reconstrual.” Then he goes on to provide an example, “Adults behave much more aggressively when the act of assaulting a person is given a sanitized label than when it is called aggression.” Which is to say, all of our morals are dependent on public perception.

Most folks can be swayed in their opinions if they are provided enough reasoning to do so and I believe you can find enough reasoning to do almost anything. So when bruh told me that he was getting his life together, it didn’t hit me until then that maybe my life was falling a part. When he had gave our kick-it sessions fancy labels and the comforting titles of, “vibing,” and “building,” it gave what I once thought to be wrong, a now more sanitized label which made it more acceptable for me.

I was enjoying myself and every moment until he no longer was, when the titling switched to trigger words like, “life is falling a part,” or things that related to not-togetherness and irresponsibility, that quickly put what seemed pure under a different guise. At one point, Mr. Louisiana gave me the feeling that going against our free spirited way of things would have been nothing short of corny and rude. He persuaded me to enjoy lifes frivolities and that doing anything other would be uptight and ruin our chances of truly connecting. Its interesting how verbiage can dictate perception and influence morality. The moment Mr. Louisiana decided that what we were doing is considered destructive I immediately felt a since of shame wash over me and almost a bit of betrayal. I had hopped off my path in hopes of companionship, only to be more alone than I was before.

For at least another week I smoked alone, I even bought a vibrator and fucked myself, these were my desperate attempts at keeping the ritual alive. I felt like the old guy in the club that didn’t want to go home. I kept smoking. Once I ran out of cigarettes and my period started, my desire for the ritual had burned out and I decided to throw in the towel.

Now I’m back where I started; occasionally smoking a cigarette with wine that I barely drink.

Enough about me. What are your morals? And what are they built on?

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