Claire Mutchnik

There are things I don’t have to worry about when I smoke alone. I don’t have to say, “Jeez, windy day,” when I can’t get my lighter to work. I don’t have to mimic the smoking pace of my smoking partner — so as to seem neither too gluttonous nor overly indulgent in each puff. And rather than make small talk, I can enjoy the solace and therapy of being one with his thoughts and his cigarette.

Yet, this trio can be a bad optic. Smoking a cigarette alone is one step down from drinking alone, and while I’d like to tell myself I’m a social smoker, I could never lie to you like that. Instead, I much prefer the opposite: full-fledged transparency, via an honest, chronological order of my thoughts. And while we’re making confessions, I must disclose to you that I am smoking a cigarette as I write this essay, with the hopes that this may, as a result, be genuine, while also confirming your suspicions.

You wanna know who doesn’t get enough respect today? Fall Out Boy. You could’ve probably guessed by the title, but I have some positive thoughts about Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, and the other Fall Out bois.

In keeping with transparency, it’s hard to pretend I’m not wearing my proverbial rose-colored glasses in my perception of Fall Out Boy. Their new music has fallen off — some shit about a Phoenix?— but the 12-year-old in you, dear reader, can’t help but remember when “Thnks fr th Mmrs” was played at every birthday party, disco bowling alley, ice skating rink, and middle school dance, only for you to look back, now sincerely, thnkng Fall Out Boy fr th mmrs.

Some Fall Out Boy trivial pursuit: in the late 2000s, they promoted a concert tour with a game called “Fall Out Boy Trail.” You go to Yale, connect the dots. The game, based on the highly acclaimed and over-played “Oregon Trail,” requires you to survive a cross-country road trip with the 4-man band. At the time, the first winner received a VIP pass for the tour; today, the game lives on in the depths of the Internet, with nothing but pride and nostalgia for rewards.

The band has its flaws. Patrick Stump was arrested for driving without a license, and the music video got “A Little Less Sixteen Candles,” involves Pete Wentz as a love-struck vampire. Nonetheless, the music, if nothing else, reminds me of a time when I didn’t smoke, a time when I wasn’t proactively confirming my cause of death. A sobering, harsh thought but a reasonable one to have halfway into a cigarette.

I tend to think about a certain opinion piece I read, a piece written by a Yale student and published by the News. Whenever I think about it, I am always a small effort away from re-reading the article, but I appreciate its time and agenda much more in my memory. The author’s point was that Yale students, in their infinite wisdom and constant tension, should reach the conclusion that smoking cigarettes reward the partaker in a litany of immediate ways: primarily, increased tranquility in the day-to-day. And while I agree with the author’s point, I do believe that other possibilities were overlooked, namely increased focus and a long-standing social network. As I said, no one prefers to smoke alone — despite its occasional perks — and everyone loves someone loose with their cigarettes.

My mom pops into my head from time to time. I’ve mentioned my Catholic School upbringing in enough essays that it would be fair to accuse me of being dependent on it as a story-telling device. Yet, while god has long been indirect with his repudiation for mankind’s taste for tobacco, my mother was far more explicit. “There are two things I won’t tolerate: cigarettes and tattoos.” And while I remain full of smoke and unmarked, my sister is the opposite, making us one of us a good kid and one of us a deviant. Of course, my enrollment and my sister’s graduation from college has tempered her spirits, and her indifference (for better, not worse), has allowed me to reek of cigarettes at every family holiday dinner.

There is a sub-category of cigarettes called “100s,” offered by many major brands. 100s are a few dollars more expensive, but slightly longer than the standard cigarette. And when I smoke 100s, I have time to think one more thought. In recent months, this time has been allotted to stupid bullshit. Classics include my romantic life, how unexcited I am to eat food in the dining halls, the merits of wicker candles, my plans to learn a musical instrument, the realization that I never will, the validity of the E.U. as a democratic project, the comparative debate between Moleskins and spiral notebooks, how much I hate it when people put Post-Its in their readings, the frisbee as a part of collegiate culture — the list goes on, devolving deeper into stupidity and oblivion.

In recent weeks, however, I’m beginning to accept the reality that I will no longer be able to smoke cigarettes from Oct.1 until Feb.12. In some summer legislation, Governor Ned Lamont opted to raise the legal age for tobacco products from 18 to 21. The idea of passing the legislation without my testimony feels like a personal affront and is arguably undemocratic, from my misguided, nicotine-fueled perspective.

Why a personal affront? It reads tongue-in-cheek, but I write literally on the matter. A personal affront. Because the state and the country are taking a political stance that they believe properly reflects the stance of the nation: that 18-20 year-olds no longer possess the competence with which to dissuade ourselves from the vices of tobacco products. I would say this is condescending and belittling. I would make the same arguments regarding the consumption of alcohol — that it is unfair that an 18-year-old may be asked to give their life for their fellow citizens and decide the political fate of the union, and therefore should not be discriminated against by any law based on their age. I would make those arguments, but I’m less sure of them. Instead, I ask the candid question: why now? Why did the state and the nation allow me to inhale an addictive drug for two years only to rip it away from me, even if only briefly? Were our parents’ generation under the impression that D.A.R.E. and the montage of after-school specials were sufficient in preventing the next generation not to make their same mistakes? And do they really think they can attempt or are justified in attempting to put the cat back in the bag?

This is hardly a civil complaint and far from a manifesto. It is simply what I think about when I smoke cigarettes. And while I don’t intend to stop thinking for the next 5 months, I will soon have to do so free of smoke.

Nick Tabio | nick.tabio@yale.edu .