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Up in Smoke

By Mink Stole | Posted 8/29/2001

My girlfriend has smoked the whole three years we've been going together, and while I didn't like it, I liked her, so much that I was able to put up with it. And eventually I pretty much got used to it. Or at least I thought I did. When we decided to get married, she moved in with me and now I can't stand it. She says she's not smoking any more than usual, but the air in our apartment is worse than Mexico City at rush hour. Even with the windows wide open all the time the whole place stinks, and I dread the winter when we have to shut ourselves in. I love her and I don't want her to ruin her health either, but when I try to talk about it she gets really irritated, which just makes her want another cigarette. How can I convince her to quit?

Choked on Smoke

Dear Choked:
In addition to the sensual gratification (the sucking, the blowing, etc.) and the addictive craving it soothes, a cigarette is solace in times of stress, a co-celebrant of good news, a sharer of quiet moments, and just plain all-around the most dependable pal a gal ever had. Men and jobs may come and go, but a cigarette will always be there for you. No wonder your ladyfriend goes nuts when you want her to give them up. You can bombard her with statistics, wallpaper the apartment with photos of cancerous lungs, beg her to consider your health and the health of your unborn children, but until she wants to quit for her own reasons, she's not going to. I tried to quit for years because I thought I should, and I succeeded finally only because I really wanted to.

Knowing why she smokes doesn't make it any more pleasant for you, though. A fair compromise would be no smoking in the house, or at least in the bedroom. That way she can smoke all she wants outside, and you can sleep on stink-free sheets. It'll still be her decision, but if she has to suffer some inconvenience to do it, she may choose to smoke a lot less. Don't give her a cigarettes-or-me ultimatum unless you're willing to lose. You may have to sacrifice some small personal pleasure in the bargain, but this is a great opportunity to hone those compromise-and-accommodate skills you're both going to need if your marriage is going to stand even that silly snowball in hell's chance of making it.

P.S.: If and when she does try to quit, you'll be going through it with her, so be prepared to cut her a whole lot of slack with those mood swings.

Why can't my boyfriend understand that when I have the flu or a cold and I don't want to have sex it's because I feel like crap and not because I'm a frigid bitch? A few days last week I was sick with a fever, but I still went to work every day and still made dinner. But then all I wanted to do was curl up with some Nyquil and a box of that extra-soft Kleenex with lotion in it. The first night my boyfriend brought me a cup of tea in bed, which I thought was so sweet--until I realized he expected me to have sex. Mink, my body ached from the skin in, but when I told him I just didn't have the energy, he kept trying to tickle and tease me until I had to almost yell at him to stop. Then he got sulky because I rejected him, and for the next two days, the whole time I was sick, he barely spoke to me, much less brought me any more tea. What can I say to make him understand that I love him even when I'm too sick to make love?

Too Sick for Sex

Dear Sick:
I didn't see that Mel Gibson movie, but if men could really read women's minds, it would shatter forever their most sacred delusion that women are equally fervent worshippers at the altar of the great high holy phallus. It isn't that gals don't love a hot, hard roll in the sack; we do. But we can also understand and appreciate other things about what Jane Austen might call an "affectionate attachment." This isn't to say either that men are just stupid dickheads; they simply need to be taught about delayed gratification.

Try this very simple analogy: Sometimes when we were kids our mothers let us eat everything we wanted, even dessert first; other times we had to eat our vegetables before we got Jell-O. It's like that with grownups in love. When you're well it's like he's at an all-you-can-eat buffet, but when you're sick he has to eat Brussels sprouts. Then, later when you're well, he can have his favorite dessert--sex! If that doesn't work, promise him a BJ later for every cup of tea he brings you now, and see if he can figure that out.

I know, of course, you shouldn't have to pay for TLC with sex, and normally I would be nattering on about what's wrong with your doing the cooking when you're sick and how it would be really great for him to take over the job. But your guy's ego may be just too fragile to take more than baby steps toward his own emotional enlightenment.

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