Nairobi CBD has five designated smoking zones which typically are not women friendly. (Hahaha sounds funny). Yes smoking rarely pays homage to gender or financial muscles. Not even to that slim lady in dripping dreadlocks in the heart of Majengo Slums to the swanky and sophisticated corporate woman who chairs boardroom meetings where her gender is normally outnumbered by her male counterparts in dark suits and well-trimmed beards.
Nairobi’s public smoking zones are perforated, congested and stuffy. No woman who spends her money in the spa would swing her hips inside a smoking zone filled beyond capacity with all the usual suspects who walk in unbuttoned shirts revealing their over-hairy chests. These female smokers park their cars in the middle of nowhere and puff, if not from balconies of their homes or from open air areas of pricey restaurants, where they cross their high healed legs, wearing dark leggings and skirts flagging up at their waistline and smoke as they view Nairobi’s beautiful landscape. And they never forget their menthol chewing gums meant to kill the smell.
With that in mind, I asked myself; who dates these women. I decided to do a simple research by asking eleven guys via my Whatsapp if they would consider dating a lady who smokes and that said if they would also opt for a marriage with her. Nine of them responded with an affirmative NO, emphasizing how they would not stand such a girlfriend while two said that was not an issue that would affect their relationship. I wasn’t surprised by the nature of the responses. We are still a reserved society that treats female smoking as an extreme taboo. It’s sort of ‘unfair’ to the female gender because the same apprehension is not replicated to their male counterparts. I personally detest the whole idea of smoking. In fact I can’t think of any of my close friends who smoke, male or female.
Having said that, the two gentlemen who were of the view that smoking for ladies is not such a bad idea represent a crop of society that is gradually accepting that female smoking is cool and trendy. Making it to the infamous list that has many of our borrowed Western cultures. Our grandmothers didn’t smoke. At least not for the two I know of. It was a man’s affair. But the Y generation will have none of that. They will colour their addiction with words like it’s just a shisha escapade, which is still smoking at the end of the day.
Why I’m also writing about female smoking this week is out of an encounter with a lady who walked to the office and happened to speak to me. At least I could smell her breath. It was very confusing. For a lady to be smelling cigar is a big deal to me. In fact it’s unacceptable. It’s simply not right. This lady was smelling cigar at 10am on a dull Monday. That tells me she is an addict. After further digging here and there I found out she is married to a white guy. Again I wasn’t surprised. Some women will do anything to appear ‘cool’ and to appease the mzungu guy.
I remember formerly working with a colleague who used to smoke. She carried this demeanor of a very innocent lady. She was a Muslim by faith. She was petite in size, very young, with a flawless skin and sweet eyes. She had eyes that could easily lure you to fall in love and ‘forget your people’. Anyway, she would sneak out of the office at 11am, walk down stairs hide somewhere and puff. She would then comeback looking pale, chewing and putting on a naughty smile heading straight to the dispenser to get some water. She would smoke at least thrice between 8am – 5pm. It happened for so long until we came to a point of accepting it was no more of a big deal. Initially, she used to keep it as a top secret. But anytime you would go to her desk, you’d smell cigar and ignore it not imagining such a beautiful lass would smoke. Not even her lips would leak anything to imply she smokes. By the way, how do ladies manage not to have those dry and dark lips smokers usually have? Overtime, she gave up on the baggage and decided to let the cat out of the bag. That smoking was part of her life.
The first time I had a close shave with a female smoker happened back in 2009 when I convinced my very good friend Kelvin Muteru to accompany me to downtown Nairobi to meet a former primary school desk mate whom I hadn’t met in like 10 years. I didn’t like the idea of meeting her alone. I was new in Nairobi and quite naive as well, then in my maiden days in college. It was an emotional encounter meeting a desk mate after 10 long and eventful years. Surprisingly, she hadn’t changed much. She still had the same complexion, personality, smile and laughter. But she had dreadlocks and her eyes were unusually red. Her lips didn’t say a thing about her smoking addiction, neither were her teeth.
Kelvin and I were dead broke only surviving through our parents pocket money which was not much especially for me. After exchanging pleasantries and the usual talk of how have you been , she reached to her pocket and unleashed a cigar. She called the waiter and asked for a lighter. She lit her cigar, pulled a humongous puff and let it on our faces. Burying Kelvin and I with a bluish, toxic flame that lazily wafted in the air. We both looked at each other, confused and in awe. Our eyes wide open and our foreheads full of visible blood veins. Have you ever heard of baptism with fire! That was one. Nobody saw it coming. That she smokes!!!
The conversation was never the same again. If my mum would only imagine where I was and in accompany of whom! God bless our parents I do not recall what we discussed post the ‘baptismal’ but I fondly remember her saying smoking was a normal thing that shouldn’t raise our hairs. We were very brief with her for obvious reasons. The more we hanged on at the joint the more costly it became. Soon after we got back to school, all my friends had gotten wind of my ‘smoky friends’ courtesy of one, Kelvin.
Bottom line: Smoking is extremely hazardous for either gender. Let it go if it’s a hobby before it develops to a habit.