Country singer Ronnie Dunn, of Brooks and Dunn, came out with an amazing song titled I Wish I Still Smoked Cigarettes. The sentiments expressed throughout the song brought me back to an era that started when I was 13, and fell deeply in love for the first time. Our relationship lasted from eighth grade through the middle of our sophomore year, when family pressures insisted that it end. Our breakup has remained the most excruciating experience of my entire life. It was an innocent love -- no more than sweet kisses. I miss what was never allowed to flourish, or die a natural death.
Ronnie Dunn's song conjured up so many feelings and memories I'd forgotten. Sometimes I, too, wish I still smoked cigarettes. They signified so many pleasant things, such as independence, and an exciting feeling of rebellion. A cigarette was something to look forward to at the end of dinner, when speaking on the phone and, of course, it was the pause that refreshed after making love.
I was 15 and a sophomore in high school when I lit my first cigarette, at my girlfriend's house. I can't recall which girlfriend -- but I remember being surrounded by a group of friends who were cheering me on. I should have realized after my first drag that cigarettes were not my friends. I crumbled to the floor, landed on my friend's white shag rug, and laid there an undetermined amount of time, waiting for the room to stop spinning. Then I stood up and took a second drag.
In all other aspects of my life I was not a follower. In fact, I was a nauseatingly good girl. I couldn't bear the thought of displeasing my loving, but strict, parents so I followed all the rules they laid down; and there were a great many; most of which began "Good girls do this, and bad girls do that." Unlike most girls my age, I did not rebel. In retrospect I now know that a little rebelling would have been more difficult on my parents, but healthier -- by far -- for me.
I had dates every Friday, Saturday and Sunday all through high school, and while that was great fun, I never experienced the kind of fun many of my girlfriends did. I was far too busy rejecting boys advances because good girls weren't permitted to have that kind of fun. My father said that a girl's reputation always arrived at a destination before she did, and it was that reputation by which she would be judged. I don't think a sullied reputation would have mattered very much to me had I a mind of my own back then, so I'm pretty sure I would do things differently today.
My mother used to hang up all the clothes I left piled on my bed and on my floor. My father told her not to pamper me, but she said, "Aww, Joe, she'll only be young once." She was wonderful, but he was right. I miss being spoiled.
I lived in New Jersey where the drinking age was 18. But, just across the river, in Staten Island, the drinking age was 17. Every Saturday night piles of kids from Jersey schools would drive to Staten Island and drink. I was never one of those kids. I miss never having gone with them.
Recently, my ex-husband handed me a package of photos he knew I'd wanted for a long while. The pictures were of me in my mid-20s and my children from between birth and four years of age. I was thrilled to have them, but as I sat there staring at this pretty young girl with long silky brown hair, huge dark eyes and drop-dead figure, tears welled up. I barely recognized or remembered her and, God knows, I never fully appreciated her back then.
Today my waist is thick, my breasts swing low and I'm losing my battle with arthritis, to stand erect. While a sense of humor does help most of the time, I do miss my lovely figure.
So, yes, I sometimes miss my youth. I don't dwell on it, and I'm not longing to go back in time, but periodically I do revisit days gone by. And while I sometimes wish I still smoked cigarettes, mostly I miss the bad things I never did.