Yeah, I Smoke—So Shoot Me


I’ve been a closet smoker for the past seven years. “Smoker” might not even be the right term. Every night after work, I’ll have 1-2 cigarettes before my roommate gets home, hop in the shower, and discretely hide this silly addiction from everyone I know. I may have hundreds of Facebook friends and a large family that, despite my chosen profession, loves me very much, but despite all these wonderful people in my life, I can count on two hands the number of people that know I smoke.

In fairness to real addictions, this is more of a habit. I’ve gone months without smoking during the past seven years.  I’ve run a marathon and have a much larger, more dependent addiction to caffeine than nicotine. Still, I keep this nasty little habit secreted away.

I have a friend who is starting at Gibson this year. Smartest person AND best writer I know. Republican. Great guy. 0% asshole. He smokes. And yet, despite having a much brighter career ahead of him than me, he treats his habit the opposite. He can count on two hands the number of people who DON’T know he smokes. (His mom and dad, basically.)

At my firm, quite a few secretaries and two (as Matthew Richardson hilariously put it) Dirty Old-Man Partners smoke openly. At any point during the workday, the building’s back loading dock is populated with a couple hourly employees or guys with their name on the door having a smoke break.  Afterwards, they re-enter the office—confidently—and resume whatever it is they do without anyone blinking an even slightly allergic eye.  There’s no shame. None of them douse themselves in a courtesy cloud of Febreze in an effort to smell less offensive. No one seems to asperse them in judgment and/or patronizing concerns for their health.

So, I definitely didn’t think it would’ve been that big of a deal when one night I broke down and…smoked where I eat, so to speak. It was almost 9:00 PM, and the office was empty with exception to the three guys I was working late with on a ridiculous client fire drill. Wanting a break that didn’t include eating any of the florescent-orange, iridescent pizza one of the partners’ secretaries (a smoker, btw) ordered for us before leaving for the night, I headed out to my car for a quick smoke.

Given my erstwhile mention of how much I appreciate my habit remaining just between me, myself and I, I removed my suit jacket and dress shirt and put them in my car to keep the evidence off me as best I could. I stood in my undershirt in a corner of the deserted parking garage.  No big deal. Til a female senior associate pulled in to fetch a file she forgot—her face immediately aghast through her Volvo window as if she caught me committing sexual assault.

She got out and shrilled, “I didn’t know you smoked!”

“I don’t. Normally. It’s just been a stressful night, and this seemed more satisfyingly destructive than cold pizza.”

Infuriated at how embarrassed I felt, put the cigarette out, tried more downplaying and prayed for the elevator to come so she could get on.

The next day, almost in perfectly timed increments, people would approach me to recite the same line I heard last night.

“I didn’t know you smoked.”

The most vexatious part is that it’s always a statement asked as a question.

I quickly realized that the senior associate from the night before must have went into the office (after leaving me to stew in smoke and shame) and sent out a mass email of McCarthyism-like proportions to every person in the firm whose opinion I value.

Like any office rumor, my smoking was highly shocking and compelling—and all anyone can talk about. I hate it. Even more, I hate how much I hate it.  Why can’t I just not care?  I did nothing illegal or elicit.  And I know I would never call someone out like that.

I get that it’s no longer cool or acceptable to smoke, but why the hell can’t people just mind their own damn business? FML.

Guest posts at Bitter Lawyer are often filed under the name of Bitter Contributor. You too can become a contributor, though we are fairly picky. Find out how.

28 Comments

  1. Bitter Overseas

    March 31, 2010 at 5:45 am

    It’s really not that big a deal. Tons of people smoke. Wait, you’re talking about cigarettes, right?

  2. JR Ewing

    March 31, 2010 at 6:36 am

    Get your story straight.  Was she an associate or a partner?

  3. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 8:05 am

    aaahhhhhh, you’d be embarrassed because smoking is a sign of weakness.  idiot.

  4. J

    March 31, 2010 at 8:50 am

    You just need to say “huh, I didn’t know you cared.”

  5. Son of Guano

    March 31, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Smoking is for losers, fat people, tippling secretaries and eurotrash. In LA, we detest smokers. Its illegal to smoke on the beach or in outdoor malls. We got cigarettes out of airplanes, offices and restaraunts.  Even New Jersey cut it from restaraunts.  Its a smelly weakness. Women that smoke taste disgusting. Their clothes carry a stale smell.  I can’t believe that there was a day when some oaf could light up at dinner next to a couple in the middle of dinner.  Or some 2 scotch businessman with a waistline swelling over his wellworn belt could light up in first class, ruining the air for the rest of us.  People in your firm are astonished that someone with half a brain smokes. Can you imagine a cow smoking? A dolphin? Any sentient thing with a brain? And I don’t want to pay for your friggin lung cancer or support your kids when you die at age 40. So your undressing in the parking lot to hide a smell and you think other people are weird? Moron.

  6. Content Associate

    March 31, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Kind of a lame story…

  7. Fellow Smoker

    March 31, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I’d like to tell Bitter Contributor to stand tall for his addiction – it’s your body and your choice to smoke.  Being so embarassed about something you’re making a conscious choice to do only reflects low self-confidence. 
    Regarding Mr. LA-I-Hate-Smokers up there, yeah you’ve gotten us off the beaches and out of the restaurants but you’ll only completely stop us when you pry the Bics out of our smelly, yellow, nicotine-stained fingers.  I am a courteous smoker, I don’t smoke around anyone while they are eating and I will get up and move to avoid getting second-hand all over my non-smoker friends.
    Finally, I’m not fat, a secretary, a loser, OR eurotrash, just someone who likes to have a smoke after certain choice activities (work, lunch, sex, etc.).

  8. Luke

    March 31, 2010 at 11:01 am

    My God.  No wonder people at your firm are surprised you smoke.  You sound like the most up-tight prissy person in existence.  1-2 cigarettes is hardly anything to be ashamed of.  You’re guilt tripping yourself to a massive level for something that realistically is no big deal at all.  Post up proudly outside your building and light a cigarette. The reason it was such a “big deal”… was because you were so obviously freaked out and trying to hide it – removing articles of clothing cowering in a dark corner.  Hell, I’d lay into you too (even though I smoke 3-4 cigarettes a day).  “Don’t you know smoking gives you CANCER?”

  9. Son of Guano

    March 31, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Fellow smoker:  moving to avoid the impact of your smoke is about as effective as peeing in a pool and thinking yourself considerate because you did it 10 feet away.

  10. Alma Federer

    March 31, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Ugh.  I would NEVER marry, let alone date, a smoker.  I agree with Son of Guano that it is lower class.  Lose the smoking or lose me, I say.

  11. Craig

    March 31, 2010 at 11:54 am

    I think Luke hit the nail on the head.  It is far weirder that you are so embarrassed and clandestine about your habit than the actual habit itself.

  12. IPOrainmaker

    March 31, 2010 at 11:57 am

    i’m not a smoker but that last analogy was worse than a TRUTH ad.
    this guy needs a couple cigarettes a day just to help deal with the stress of the seven years of effort he’s put into “not smoking.” if this guy ever fell into crack his internal dilemma would kill him before the rocks did.

  13. IPOrainmaker

    March 31, 2010 at 11:58 am

    damn, people post quickly.  i was trying to refer to son of guano’s post.

  14. BL1Y

    March 31, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Alma, best reason to take up smoking I’ve ever heard.

  15. Sienna

    March 31, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    I started smoking in college (drinking/smoking).

    I quit cold turkey last year. I started smoking light cigarettes then switched to Capris. It took me 5 years to finally quit. Don’t listen to the people on this board telling you how disgusting and weak you are. They’re probably closet drinkers/druggies. I smoked openly. I didn’t care who saw me smoke. People can be so judgmental. The girl/guy who writes that they would never date a smoker probably smokes crack behind closed doors. They’re so fucking perfect. Good luck to you! I know it’s a hard habit to break.

  16. Friend

    March 31, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Alma please don’t say those words, you will make every male light up

  17. BL1Y

    March 31, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Sienna: I think the general consensus is that he’s not weak for smoking, but weak for hiding it.

  18. Sienna

    April 1, 2010 at 2:33 am

    BL1Y: Thanks for clearing that up!  =)

  19. Anonymous

    April 1, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Sienna, now that you’ve quit smoking, if you are having difficulties figuring out what to do with your lips, I have some ideas.

  20. IPOrainmaker

    April 1, 2010 at 5:15 am

    now that we’re all being honest with each other, i’ll admit i’ve been known to have a cigarette with a drink now and again.  and when i’m drinking, i definitely try and keep it under 2 packs.

  21. Son go Guano

    April 1, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Maybe they couldn’t determine the source of that disgusting odor before.  Now they know: its like catching the secret flatulentist.  And now you are known as not only as the Source of the odor that’s been wafting thru the firm at times, but as weird (like those oddballs that smell their fingers while they are talking to you). And weak. And stupid.

  22. Sienna

    April 1, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Sorry cockman. I only munch on carpet!

  23. Anonymous

    April 2, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    The poster “Sienna” either looks like Sienna Miller (wow), or, more likely, like a Toyota Sienna.  If she’s interested only in women (and carpet munching), chances are far more likely she looks like the latter.

  24. KStart

    April 2, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Wow.  I love the pissiness of the nonsmokers on the board.  I never smoked in restaurants, don’t in my own home or car, and only have 1-2 a day.  Even if I was a pack a day, the judgment of “lower class” is just pathetic.  Great literary figures smoke, I know a marathoner that has a smoke a day.  Sure it is not good for you, but why slam it with this label?  I am positive that I could fish around your life and come up with something “low class.”
    But outside, there is this little known process called “diffusion.” My smoke does little to those over 15-20 feet (look it up) because of this amazing “diffusion.”
    Oh, and by the way, people in my office didn’t know for years that I smoked.  They were so surprised, “But I don’t smell it.” Yeah, not everyone smells like an ashtray.

  25. Sienna

    April 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    LOL Anonymous…I have no comment.

  26. Anon

    April 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    What kind of lawyer doesn’t know the difference between ‘elicit’ and ‘illicit’?

  27. g21in45

    April 9, 2010 at 9:24 am

    “must have gone” not “must have went” – duh.

  28. ButtBoy

    April 9, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I love when people start parsing each other’s posts.  It’s just a web site, not a freakin’ S-1.  To the original smoker, stand tall. A couple cigs a day won’t hurt you, and you’re being considerate and not hurting else either.  Pay no mind to the hysterical, unhinged rantings of people at your law firm or on this site.  They are simply overworked and underlaid, and are relieving this pressure by focusing their weltschmerz on you.

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