Seventeen

“Your cousins said they couldn’t believe how much you’ve changed,” my mom told me two weeks ago as we drove to Chautauqua.

Well, yeah.

Papa died in May of 2011. That was the last time I had seen the only two cousins I have on my mom’s side.

Senior in high school. Seventeen. Tightly wound. Homebody. Impressionable. Judgmental. Narcissistic. Steady boyfriend with military ideals. Clean, if that makes sense.

Cigarette smoke floated up to my window from the front porch and I silently cursed the headache-inducing smell, along with my cousins’ useless nicotine addictions.

They saw a different Emily last month.

Junior in college. Nineteen (nearly 20!). Explorative. More –– but not completely –– open-minded. Independent. Still tightly wound, but knows now how to let go.

Short, boyish hair. Navel piercing. Tattoo (a new addition!). Bigger thighs (a big thank-you goes out to those damn squats in weight room freshman year).

And I don’t mind the cigarette smoke anymore.

I wouldn’t be who I am now if I had stayed in that militaristic relationship.

So I’m glad 17-year-old Emily is gone. This 19-year-old Emily has seen more of the world and, as a result, is closer to her older brothers and cousins than she ever thought she’d be.

Going somewhere? Didn’t think so

Have I ever expressed my extreme dislike for cigarettes?

…no?

Here we go.

Welcome to St. Bonaventure University, a beautiful campus with mountain views and historic buildings.

Friars walk around in their habits, smiling lazily as students scurry to class. You might even spot Sister Margaret if you’re lucky.

Oh, you’ll smell fresh air, sure. But you sure as hell will smell cigarette smoke, too.

Walk out of Shay/Loughlen Hall and smokers are hanging out on the stoop. Walk to class and find smoke from a cigarette in front of you trailing back to your nostrils. Try not to breathe as you walk through the midday clusterfuck in front of Plassmann Hall.

One thing I learned during my freshman year at SBU is that I despise  – no, loathe – the foul emissions from cigarettes.

My next door neighbor was the door to the staircase leading to the emergency exit. Smoke would float up through my window and fill my room from kids standing on the back stoop. My R.D. yelled at the smokers and forbade them from doing so again. As soon as he left his post halfway through the second semester, they assumed their post once again. It pissed me off but I didn’t have the balls to tell them to knock it off. (That’s unlike me, I know, but I don’t want to commonly be known as a snitch.)

The stench gives me a headache. I increased my self-prescribed dosage of pain relievers just to get through classes and homework.

Smoking, to me, is an instant turn-off. Gorgeous girls aren’t so gorgeous anymore when they pull out the stick and take a puff. For guys, it’s the same. They’re on their way to that scratchy, chain-smoker voice. Tell me an attractive girl is still attractive when she starts talking and sounds like this, if not a little more extreme:

You can’t. Estelle’s not attractive. Hilarious, but not attractive.

And could someone please tell me why why WHY so many people in my generation are even smoking in the first place? These commercials scare the absolute shit out of me*:

The health risks are now apparent.

When you do drugs, you get high. When you drink, you get drunk. When you smoke cigarettes… question mark?

There are mounds of evidence that suggest a child who grows up in a smoking family is more likely to pick up the habit and carry it into adulthood. I am very fortunate to have grown up in a non-smoking family. Any temptation I may have had to pick up the pack of cigarettes on the kitchen table never existed. My parents made it hard for us to even consider   smoking cigarettes.

…not that I could afford it if I wanted to. How other college students can support their habit is beyond me. I’m working my ass off just to keep my head above water.

It’s terrible to stereotype, but I do. I think differently of people after discovering that he/she smokes. Sometimes I can get  past it, but other times I really, really can’t.

I can’t wait to go back to school and have a headache every day.

*I couldn’t find any of the ones I actually see on TV, but I feel this Australian one is effective enough.