BECOMING A SMOKER

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After the application interview at the small girls’ college I eventually attended, I was offered a post-interview lunch in the college dining room. It was the spring of 1948. What I noticed at once was that the attractive well-dressed girls who seemed the most sophisticated stayed on after the meal for coffee and a cigarette.  I therefore devoted the whole of July and August to learning how to drink coffee.  My practice sessions took place, with the help of milk and saccharin, at the Horn & Hardart Automat on 57th Street during the lunch hour of my summer job.  I needed the extras because black coffee tasted terrible to my virgin tongue, and I chose milk because it had fewer calories than cream, saccharin because it had no calories at all.  [When I later reached Europe for the first time in the summer of 1950, Europeans I met all asked why saccharin, the wartime sweetener, now that sugar was available again.  Having gone hungry for five years, they just didn’t understand American calorie-counting.]

But what good was coffee for my image without its necessary accompaniment?  Although somewhat timid at seventeen about crossing this bright line into adulthood without a parental imprimatur, before Thanksgiving I had already dared enter the drugstore near campus to buy a pack of Chesterfields, my mother’s brand.  (A cardboard book of matches came free with every pack, paid for by the advertising on its cover.)  Imagine!  No hassle. No questions.  That’s what college girls did. I walked out finally feeling like a “real” college girl myself.

Learning what to do with what I had bought was another matter. It required some help from my new boyfriend. The girl across the hall with whom I shared a bathroom was not a smoker. The new boyfriend was not a regular smoker either, but knew that when you held the struck match to the tip you had to pull in your breath at the same time, possibly two or three times, until the end of the cigarette that was not in your mouth caught fire and glowed. Only when you were sure the cigarette was lit could you then shake out the match and drop it into the ashtray.

So that’s what I did until the end of the academic year — after meals in the dining room and sometimes on the train going home for a visit, because it looked good and train rides were boring. I also lit up on dates when cigarettes were offered. But I couldn’t really understand what the fuss was about, or why it was considered so sophisticated. Pulling unpleasant-tasting smoke into your mouth and then blowing it out again wasn’t anything I would have missed if cigarettes had vanished from my life.  It even burned the tongue a bit. The boyfriend did explain that I would have to inhale to understand what was so good about it.  But I couldn’t make myself open the back of my throat, and he didn’t care what I did about inhaling.  (He was more concerned with another thing I couldn’t make myself do.)

My mother, on the other hand, was absolutely thrilled and bought me several ceramic ashtrays for my room at home and my room at college.  Like mother, like daughter at last!  (Not really, but she was still hoping.)  I have no idea why she didn’t tell me I was doing it wrong, but she didn’t.  She cared much more about appearances than what was really going on.

So the teaching job fell to Ginny, my second-year suite-mate until Christmas.  (The room arrangement I had that year, in a more desirable dorm than my Freshman residence, was called a suite  because each of two girls had her own room with its own door, linked by a shared bathroom in between the two rooms.)  Ginny was asked to leave after our first semester together because she went to no classes, did no schoolwork, skipped most meals, slept for most of every day, and stayed up most of every night smoking, eating cookies, and reading novels not on any course reading list.  Although from an extremely wealthy family, she had a terrible home life, including a father who was liable to descend the curved staircase into the living room drunk and stark naked whenever she was there with a friend — which she told me about, since she had practically no other day-to day life to share. But I guess the college couldn’t concern itself about that, especially as they probably didn’t know about it.  However, when Ginny set out to do something, she did a terrific job.  As in teaching me really to smoke — and thereby hooking me for twenty years.

Armed with several packages of Chesterfields and a glass from the dining room, she sat me down on my bed, filled the glass with water from the bathroom sink, told me to light up a cigarette, pull in a mouthful of smoke, and immediately take a swallow of water before blowing the smoke out again.  Eureka! The water forced the smoke down into my lungs — the thing I had never been able to do before!  When I at last blew out the smoke, it was dilute…and looked like everyone else’s exhalations!  I also felt a trifle dizzy.  Ginny explained that was why I was sitting on the bed.  She urged me to continue. Encouraged, I did.  Puff by puff, swallow by swallow, I sank deep and then deeper into expertise.  After three or four cigarettes, I was also very full of water as well as even more dizzy. But by hanging on to the walls, I was able to make it to the toilet and then back to the bed, where I intended to finish the pack, as if it were a box of chocolates that needed to be gone by tomorrow so I could start dieting again.  By the fifth cigarette, I no longer needed the water.  By the fourteenth or fifteenth cigarette, I lay down on my pillow, triumphant — head spinning from lack of oxygen — and was out like a light.

In the morning, there was a foul taste in my mouth.  Ginny was asleep, exhausted by her labors with me.  I brushed my teeth, “borrowed” a swig of her mouthwash, and made my way down to breakfast in the building at the bottom of the campus hill.  Never mind orange juice, eggs or cereal: I craved coffee and a cigarette!  I was a smoker  — all too soon a confirmed smoker — at last!

And thus began my twenty years of exquisite pleasures and pains. The pleasures at first were multiple.  A whole new world of hitherto unfelt needs!  Shopping expeditions galore!  A lighter — but what kind?  The cheap and reliable Zippo, seen in the hands of movie tough guys, and also movie soldiers and sailors — with its one-thumb flip-up top and dependably sturdy flare of flame, even on a windy day?  It showed you were a no-nonsense sort of girl.  Or a more elegant and expensive number, almost akin to jewelry — such as a small gold-plated lighter with vertical ridging that looked wonderfully feminine when extracted from an envelope purse, but often failed to do its job without strong-thumbed masculine assistance on the striking mechanism?  And for either choice, the essential lighter fluid — right up there at the top of the grocery list!

Alternatively, there was the lowly matchbook or matchbox  — made less lowly by the social distinction of the restaurant, hotel or cafe from which it was pinched.  Some of us, including me, kept collections of such classy matchbooks and matchboxes in open bowls as a final decorative touch to the room.  Although if you did that, you couldn’t actually use the matches (except perhaps once in a while to light a romantic candle) because when they were all gone, you’d have to throw the prestigious cover or box away.

[And while I’m on the subject of lighting up, let me mention the big no-no:   lighting your cigarette from the kitchen stove at home.  Try that — and hair as well as cigarette might catch fire. Sometimes, though, in the absence of a match or lighter fluid for your lighter…. Besides, I could always truthfully say I learned this risky maneuver from my mother.]  

What about cigarette cases — to keep tobacco crumbs out of your pockets and purses?  They ran the gamut from gold-initialed leather ones that held a whole pack, ten cigarettes on each side, to gold or silver monogrammed ones, which held fewer and I thought better suited to men.  Not everyone coveted a cigarette holder, but I did.  They came in black, red or tortoiseshell, with a gold or silver tip opposite the mouthpiece end.  The tip unscrewed so that you could insert or remove the crystal filter that was supposed to keep twenty cigarettes worth of tar from your lungs.  However, possession of a cigarette holder required that you also possess boxes of crystal filters, packages of pipe cleaners, a tin container of cleaning fluid.  The upkeep involved in smoking stylishly could be imposing!

Other pleasures? Becoming an active contributor to the blue smoke in which college seminars were conducted.  My Shakespeare professor, who I adored, went through three Lucky Strikes in a ninety-minute session, and it certainly behooved the eleven of us sitting around the conference table with him to do likewise.  I even switched from Chesterfields to Luckies just for him, although I don’t believe he was actually aware of my conversion. They were supposed to taste “toasted.”  Belief is everything in such matters.  Maybe the tobacco was toasted — to make it more carcinogenic as well as “tastier.”  Who really knew?

After college, smoking was of course an important element in courtship rituals.  The man offering the woman one from his jacket pocket or cigarette case before taking one himself.  Or leaning protectively over her to light her cigarette in a breeze. And by the time matters progressed to the bedroom — lovemaking or sex or whatever you wanted to call it just wasn’t complete without an ashtray on the naked stomach of the man afterwards, and both lovers smoking happily together, united in the afterglow of passion spent and clouds of fragrant nicotine.

If you had no one to smoke with in the bedroom, cigarettes were nevertheless a great assist in acquiring such a someone.  At cocktail parties — the necessary bane of the single girl’s existence — you didn’t have to stand forlorn against a wall, doing nothing and hoping someone would come over to speak to you.  You were doing something.  You were smoking.  Evening bag in one hand, cigarette in another, you could inhale, coolly survey the room, and exhale dramatically, perhaps sardonically.  Even better, evening bag under one arm, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other, you were already fully, and attractively, occupied. How could you possibly be expected to work the room?  Alternatively, if you saw someone with potential, you could put out the cigarette somewhere, take a fresh one from your bag, and approach.  Did he by any chance have a match?  Then you lowered your head over the proffered flame, looked up smolderingly from beneath your eyelashes, and hoped the cigarette was not the only thing that ignited.

It worked in reverse too.  The man who, perhaps inadvertently, became my second husband was sitting on East Hampton Main Beach in the summer of 1963 on a towel not too far away from mine when he felt the need to smoke and leaned over to ask if I had a match.  Did I ever have a match!  At the ripe age of thirty-two, what was I on that beach for anyway, if not to offer attractive single men matches?

You could smoke at work, in elevators, in the balconies of movie theaters, in restaurants, in bars, on the street (often leaving accidental cigarette burns in the clothing of people you passed). You could smoke at the zoo, in the playground while watching your tots in the sandbox. I even smoked while nursing my long-awaited first child:  it made the happiness of it complete.  When a bit of ash fell on his downy head, I brushed it off tenderly.  The pediatrician said nothing.

It’s true the fingers between which you held your cigarettes turned yellow (unless you went on using a holder, despite the advent of filter tips).  Your teeth became yellow.  Even if you had teeth without cavities, as I did, you could develop gum disease from heavy smoking. Which I did.  [There were partial gingevectomies and deep scaling. The periodontist used to joke that when my teeth fell out because my gums were shot, they’d be in perfect condition.]  You and your clothing smelled of nicotine, despite heavy applications of Arpege.  Some people developed a smoker’s cough, although I didn’t, except when I had bad colds.  I moved on from Luckies to KIng Size Kents, with the “Micronite” filter tip that allegedly “refined away hot flavor, refined away hot taste.” My consumption mounted as the filters removed some of the poison.  I went from a pack a day, to thirty a day, to finally burning two packs a day, although I probably only really smoked thirty.  I had to put some out halfway through to hurry off somewhere; I left others burning themselves out in ashtrays while I took showers or washed dishes.  When out to dinner, sometimes the waiter came with the entree while you were smoking after the appetizer, and you then either had to extinguish the cigarette you had just begun or leave it in the ashtray while you attacked your lamb chops.  Some people even took puffs between bites, but I never did that.  However, I did hurry through dinner so as to be able to smoke again — and never mind dessert.  It was a great way to stay slender.

[More tomorrow.]

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SMOKING

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As I was driving into town yesterday, I had to stop for a red light behind a dark BMW.  Although the temperature was below freezing, the window on the driver’s side was open. I knew this because from out the window snaked a woman’s gloveless left hand with a cigarette gracefully lodged between the second and third fingers. She then raised her left thumb to replace the the second finger while she tapped ash with the second finger into the road.  The light changed, she drove on, I turned left and realized it was a long time since I had seen anything like that, and even longer since I had done it myself.

Nobody I know smokes anymore.  Nobody I know knows anyone who smokes anymore, if they ever did.  My children, who are in their mid-forties, don’t smoke, and neither do any of their friends.  My grandchildren are all under eight but almost certainly never will.  [That is, they won’t smoke a cigarette with tobacco in it. Other exotic substances I can’t speak to.  And won’t be around to find out about.]

The last time Bill and I were in Europe, five years ago, there was still plenty of smoking going on.  So I don’t know what the situation is over there by now, or in South America, or in Africa, or the Far East.  I understand that the American tobacco giants, like Philip Morris, are still doing very well — but they must be doing it by selling overseas, because there sure isn’t much puffing going on around here.  It’s not allowed in public buildings, most office buildings, most offices, theaters, movie theaters, restaurants, bars — nor in many homes.  You can’t even do it in the office bathroom. When all this prohibition first went into effect, there used to be huddles of cold, wet unhappy smokers hunched together near the doorways of buildings, snatching their nicotine fix in the rain, sleet or snow.  I don’t work in a big city anymore, but I bet those huddles are much smaller than they were ten years ago, if they still exist at all.  According to the latest estimate from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), in 2012 just 18% of adult Americans smoked.

This is truly remarkable, because I grew up in a world where almost all adults smoked.  I mean, that’s what they did.  As far as I could tell, if you were an adult, you smoked.  [And if you smoked, maybe that was enough to make you an adult.  A lot of kids thought so.]  Although I have read some statistics that in 1964, the percentage of Americans smoking was 42%, that couldn’t have been true in the urban Northeast.  Just about anyone you asked on the street could give you a light, if you needed one.  Learning to smoke was a rite of passage; twelve- and thirteen-year-old boys shared a ciggie after school, trying hard not to cough so as not to look like a novice.  All right, nuns didn’t smoke, and very prissy ladies apparently didn’t (except maybe once in a rare while), and people with lung diseases weren’t supposed to, but sometimes did anyway. In any large business organization, you could count on the fingers of one hand the number of people in your department or group who didn’t smoke.

Indeed, years before I was born Lucky Strike was advertising, “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet,” and women who were trying to keep their figures did just that — as did the fat ones, to get their figures back.  There was “Marlboro Country,” with a manly cowboy smoking a Marlboro cigarette on the billboard or the ad page.  Word even had it that the light brown illustration of a camel in profile on the package of equally manly Camel cigarettes was intended to suggest a male scrotum and always erect appendage — yours, I suppose, if you inhaled a sufficient number of Camels.

In the space of less than one long life, all that has changed.  It’s partly the effect of tobacco taxes, which in my time have driven the price of smoking through the roof.  In 1952, the year I emerged from college, a pack of Chesterfields cost 20 cents — less, of course, when bought by the carton of ten. Now?  It depends where you live (and therefore what the combined federal and state taxes amount to).  The cheapest state in which to smoke is Kentucky, which in 2013 dropped its state tax on tobacco by 26%, making a pack of cigarettes $4.96.  The most expensive is New York.  As of July 1, 2010, New Yorkers began paying the highest cigarette tax in the country when the state tax increased from $2.75 per pack to $4.35 per pack. In New York City, which levies its own municipal taxes, the total combined state and local tax on cigarettes increased to $5.85 per pack.  According to the New York Post, this pushed the price for one pack of cigarettes up to $14.50 at some New York City stores.  Sneaking ciggies is certainly no longer an affordable after-school act of daring for little boys anymore.

There are also the warnings that Congress eventually required on each cigarette package and cigarette ad.  [Although I must ask.  “Smoking may be hazardous to your health?”  Is that really going to stop a teen-ager who believes he or she will live forever?]  In addition, tobacco companies can no longer recruit smokers on campus by hiring young folks to distribute free three- and five-cigarette welcome packs to incoming freshmen, as they were doing when I went to school.  There’s also the hassle of having to ask for cigarettes to be brought up from behind the counter if you want to buy them.  Time was that you could just take what you wanted off any grocery shelf, drugstore shelf, or supermarket shelf in the country and bring them to the counter yourself.  And not have to worry about any minimum age requirement, either. Cigarettes also used to be in vending machines everywhere — in the subway, lobbies of movie theaters, restaurants, coffee houses.  Also at newsstands, in tobacco shops.  (Tobacco shops?  Are there such things anymore — except as expensively exotic places to shop where the very rich congregate?)  I haven’t seen a cigarette vending machine in years.  All this is the result of the right of citizens to breathe clean air finally trumping the right of individuals to smoke wherever and whenever they want.

But probably the main reason that cigarette smoking is dying out in the United States is not that it’s become so societally difficult and economically very expensive to smoke.  I think it’s because it’s no longer so smart/’cool/whatever to start.  And if you don’t start, you don’t have to stop.  The fact is:  once you’re really a regular smoker — and by that I mean not just one or two, once in a while  — stopping is extraordinarily hard.

I used to work for a law firm that represented Philip Morris in the Northeast.  We had all the “scientific” jargon down pat.  So I could tell you that nicotine isn’t really “addictive.”  Why not? Because it doesn’t require you to ingest more and more and more of it to reach the same level of satiety, as is the case with “addictive” substances.  (Think heroin, for instance. As time goes on and your body becomes used to it, you need more and more to “feel” it.)  In legal parlance, nicotine is just “habit forming.”  That means once you reach a level of satiety — by smoking ten, twenty, thirty, forty cigarettes a day, whatever your individual requirement may be — then that’s all you ever need to feel satisfied. More and you begin to feel sick.  (But woe is you if you don’t get your daily fix.)

For a smoker, that’s a distinction without a difference.  Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked.  Even after you’ve become sick, and have been warned, and are being treated, you’re still hooked — physically and psychologically, and may go on sneaking cigarettes until you die.  So it could be that we have much less smoking in the United States than we used to, not just because of the factors I’ve identified above, which discourage the young from starting  — especially now that there are newer excitements, like “body art” and piercing and doing drugs, as well as that old and reliable standby, getting drunk.   But also because the confirmed smokers of my generation and just afterwards have now got old and/or sick, and are dying out — either from age alone, or lung cancer, or emphysema, or heart disease, or some other smoking-related ultimately fatal condition.  And anyone younger who’s seen a friend or family member slowly and painfully dying from inability to pull enough air into the lungs, or from chemotherapy and radiation that fails, is not going to say yes to smoking. Or if already smoking, is going to make renewed and determined efforts to stop, however hard that may be.

But I digress.  In 1931 when I was born, my mother and father both smoked.  (I was a nicotine baby!)  My mother brought the habit with her from Russia; at eighteen, when she arrived on Ellis Island, she was already smoking papyrossi, with long white cardboard mouthpieces built into each cigarette that doubled its length between the fingers.  By the time I came along, however, her brand of choice was Chesterfields — then short, and without filters.  I remember her tapping each one on the table, to pack the tobacco more firmly in its paper tube, before putting it in her lipsticked mouth to light it. (And then daintily removing a tobacco crumb from her tongue.) Once a pack was opened, it always left more crumbs at the bottom of her pocketbooks.  She would shake them out periodically over the kitchen sink.  Her possessions were always as clean as her home, inside as well as out.

I also remember that ashtrays and ceramic cigarette boxes were an important decorative element at our house.  For show, she had several very beautiful hand-painted but rather small ashtrays from France and Italy — and for everyday use, other larger industrial glass ones with indentations in them, where she could leave her cigarette burning while she went to do something else that required two hands. She carried these bigger ones around with her from room to room;  they were less aesthetically pleasing but more serviceable than those kept in the living room for company to use.

My father smoked Lucky Strikes. They came in a dark green package with a red circle outlined in gold and white in the center.  I don’t know when he began.  I do know he stopped when Lucky Strike Green went to war.  (That was the advertising jingle you heard on the radio:  “Lucky Strike Green Has Gone to War!”)  The green coloring for the packages was advertised as having been requisitioned for military use late in 1941 or early in 1942.  Lucky Strikes, when you could get them, then began to be sold in a white package.  They still had their red circle, now rimmed in green, black and white.  But they became very scarce, even in their new package, and my father took their near disappearance as an opportunity to stop smoking.  He never talked about whether he found stopping difficult or not.  Based on my own experience twenty-eight years later, I think he must have been a very light smoker.  He was also a man who did what he decided he had to do.

My mother survived the war with whatever unknown brands the local drugstore at the corner was able to procure.  She pronounced them terrible, but continued her smoking.  She never went beyond twenty a day; usually it was fifteen or sixteen.  When the war was over, she abandoned Chesterfields for Parliaments.  They were long, had tips which allegedly “filtered” the smoke, and came in an elegant white package.  She continued to smoke for almost all of her life.  Eventually, in their sixties and seventies, my father complained;  as a result, she had to smoke in the bathroom with the window open so he didn’t know (although of course he did; he could smell it) — but she went on smoking until she was 79.  At that point she managed to quit all by herself because, she said, she didn’t want to die.  Luckily, she escaped every disease then known to be directly related to smoking, and passed away ten years later of colon cancer, probably induced by extremely poor and roughage-free diet choices but now also alleged to be smoking-related.  She might as well have gone on smoking until the end; after my father’s death when she was 81, she wouldn’t have had to hide in the bathroom and exhale out the window.

Well!  When I went off to college in 1948, all of that was still ahead.  Our recently deceased president had smoked — with a long jaunty cigarette holder from Alfred Dunhill clamped between his teeth.  Everyone in the movies was smoking.  Catch the black-and-white film classics from the forties and fifties on television and you’ll see it:  Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford — all  romantically wreathed in smoke, all dramatically drawing poisonous tar into their lungs.  Was there a movie hero in that period who didn’t place two cigarettes between his own lips by moonlight (preferably on an ocean liner), light both between cupped palms, and then tenderly insert one between the moist parted lips of the heroine?

Clearly, one of the first things I was going to have to learn when I got to campus was how to light up myself.

[More tomorrow.]

WHAT NEXT?

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[Written yesterday. Equally applicable today.]

More godawful weather. Can’t go out. Can’t concentrate. Can’t keep pacing.  All that so-called wisdom and calm that’s supposed to come with age just wasn’t able to make it to our house today.  [Got snowed in somewhere else, I guess.]

So here I sit.

Home of The Getting Old Blog

Home of The Getting Old Blog

Would I be better off in the tropics?  Which tropics?  I don’t like hot and sweaty either.  And they do say nothing of scientific, intellectual or creative value comes from steamy equatorial countries.  [Note: There will be no defense of that statement if anyone comes forth to challenge it. I’m just putting it out there as part of the cranky internal dialogue going on in my office on this fourteenth or fifteenth or sixteenth really and truly crappy day in a row.]

Pilates was cancelled.  The last Princeton concert of the Brentano String Quartet before they decamp for Yale, and for which we had free tickets, was cancelled.  Getting up bright and early in the morning was cancelled.  [After looking out the window and pulling down the shade again, we both went back to bed with the cats. ]

Now it’s afternoon and I’m wearing two sweaters and my new knee-high UGGS, but no makeup because if I’m not going out and no one is able to come here to see me, I can just put on a lot of moisturizer to protect my elderly skin from the drying effects of the indoor heat and leave it at that. Of course Bill can see, since he’s already inside, but he knows very well what my face looks like naked and seems not to mind, or not to mind once in a while.  Like now. And the cats certainly don’t care.  They don’t make the same value judgments we do. As a matter of fact, after chasing each other up and down the stairs four or five times, they’re not making any judgments at all. They’ve just collapsed in the bedroom on top of our duvet and are now asleep again. Smart cats.

So what am I going to write about for the blog on this truly yucky afternoon?  If I don’t do a piece every morning — in special circumstances like today, every afternoon — I will use up my small backlog of pre-prepared posts and freak out.  Why that should happen when there’s no backlog I can’t explain, as there is nobody at all except me, myself and I who is holding me to this rigorous daily schedule.  But I do. And it does.  [At least until such time as I decide to make a public announcement that I’m cutting back to two pieces a week, or one a week, or something like that.]  Perhaps it’s because I’ve had too much legal education late in life, which gave me notions about implied contractual obligations, such as satisfying the “entitlements” of one’s followers established by one’s “course of dealing” with them.

If I swivel my desk chair and look the other way, maybe I’ll get some ideas.

Other side of "Getting Old" home base

Other Side of “Getting Old” Home Base

Well yes, that was helpful.  I could write about:

1.  The old photograph on top of the vertical bookstand at the right near the window.  It was taken in Russia, probably just before the outbreak of World War I, and shows my paternal grandfather, my father, and an uncle I never knew existed until I was middle-aged, so there’s sort of a story about the uncle;

2.  The period of my life when I was fat:  the why, the how, the when, and other aspects of this topic — about which there are several manuscripts on the bottom shelves of the bookcases, and also several books about being fat by other people on the shelf just above the bottom one on the right;

3.  The Guatemala chicken at the very top of the bookcase and what in the world were we thinking of when we bought it for I don’t remember how many quetzals;

4.  The ten-session group therapy program for overweight women I tried to launch last fall before beginning this blog — that cost me close to $500 for five consecutive ad insertions in the local newspaper (tear sheets  of which are in a folder also on the bottom right shelf), but produced not a single telephone call;

5.  Smoking: Where and how I learned to do it (in college, with difficulty), how much I smoked (up to two packs a day), how long I smoked (twenty years), why I stopped (to live to see my babies grow up) and when (on June 6, 1969), what it was like to stop (extraordinarily difficult), and why stopping remains, after so many years, what I still consider one of the hardest things I ever did;

6.  Our last three trips abroad — to France, Greece and Portugal, the third of which was nearly five years ago, and the only three for which I have photographs on the computer, because the hard drive of my old computer died while Apple was transferring its data to my new one, so that the pictures of earlier trips Bill and I made together exist only in prints mounted in albums, which I would have to re-photograph in order to upload them here — and yes, I might do that when I get really desperate for material, but not yet;

7. Where we might travel next (before it’s too late), a thing we discuss almost daily when we’re cooped up together like this because of snow and ice:  France again, where we still have two friends?  Japan, where we know a former neighbor and a new “virtual” friend from this blog? England, home of both actual old friends and new “virtual” ones? Israel, where Bill has a niece and I know a woman who was in college with me sixty-four years ago? Of course, all of that is merely speculative daydreaming, unless Bill can get himself out of his favorite chair and start going to the gym fairly regularly so that travel abroad won’t just be taking taxis to restaurants and expensive shops to buy things.  [Hear that, Bill?];

8.  Exercise — haha! what’s that? — for those who are, ah,  “old.”  Patti, my Pilates instructor, is especially gung-ho on this one; she even gave me some written material about the benefits of Pilates she prepared for some other presentation but assured me I could feel free to use for the blog. She hasn’t actually ever read the blog, so her material may not be funny enough, but I suppose I could tinker with it, based on recent experience with what Pilates people call “The Reformer” and I call “The Torquemada”;

9. Personal maintenance, an endlessly fruitful subject for ladies who are getting old.  [Probably not so interesting, though, to any men who might stumble upon this blog.]  Could be broken down into separate posts:

  •  hair, hairdressers and fooling the public;
  •  eyes, God willing;
  • skin and your options, none of them good;
  • makeup, otherwise known as “putting on your face”;
  • feet, footwear and pain;
  • undergarments (Spanx or not?);
  • toenails (yellowing) and pedicures (what color polish?);
  • what to wear at the beach if you must go (a burqua?) — and must you go at all.

Oh, I’ve written 1045 words already, and haven’t even begun!  I guess that’s it for today.  Please do cast votes (in the form of a “Comment” below) for any subject identified above that especially strikes your fancy.  Or even ones I haven’t thought of yet.

Now I’m going downstairs to sit by the fire.  It’s a gas fire, but it’s powered by electricity.  So I’d better take advantage of it while the power lasts.  Who knows when a tree may topple a wire and leave us in the cold and dark?

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See you tomorrow.

I hope.