You’re Not the Boss of Me.

My chin resting on my hands, it was taking all my strength to stay awake through another boring freshman science lecture.  There was a tap on my arm and as I moved, I nearly didn’t catch the tightly folded triangular note that came skipping across my desk.  The familiar bubble letters spelled out “Shelly” signifying that I was the intended recipient.  In a stealth-like maneuver, I put my hands under my desk and unfolded the note as quietly as I could.  I never took my eyes off the teacher as I slid the looseleaf sheet up onto my notebook.

“I can’t get no… SATISFACTION!”

This was our code.  I turned to glance at my friend who was eagerly awaiting my response.  I nodded as she put two fingers to her lips to take a drag off an imaginary cigarette.

Smoking in my garage had become our favorite after school activity.  I could only steal one or two cigarettes at a time from my mom, but my friend could get entire packs from her grandmother’s cartons.  She would light one and hand it to me, then light one for herself.  We would stand there and talk, using wild hand gestures and pausing mid-sentence for a puff.  We’d find ways to busy our hands so that our Marlboros could dangle from our lips as we continued to chat.  It wasn’t that we were trying to look cool, we were cool and smoking was just proving the point.

That afternoon, my mother pulled into the driveway, arriving home early from work.  We threw our smokes to the dirt floor and stubbed them out with our sneakers.  I scooped them up and we hurried into the house where I deposited them into the toilet and flushed.  As I breezed past my mother on her way in, I made up some story about showing my friend something on my bike in the garage but needing to pee.

Later that evening, my mother stood in the doorway to my bedroom as I sat on my bed studying.

“Who was smoking in my house?” she asked.

“You?” I offered, staring at the page of my textbook.

“I don’t smoke Marlboros and that’s what I found floating in the toilet,” she sounded so smug.

“Oh, then that was me. And I smoked in the garage.”  I looked up from my book, daring her to try to discipline me.

“That is not OK.  You cannot smoke, you are FOURTEEN.”

“I have an idea,” I said, my voice dripping with false sincerity.  “You can go downstairs, quit smoking, then come up here and tell me again that it’s not OK for me to do.  But until then, leave me alone.”

She turned and walked away, never bringing up the subject again.

I loved the taste of those cigarettes.  Acrid and bitter, with just a  hint of defiance and a smattering of teenage victory.

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45 Responses to “You’re Not the Boss of Me.”

  1. carrie says:

    “and a smattering of teenage victory” I LOVED that line. And it’s so true. I was a teenage smoker too and it was the one thing I did that my parents could not prevent (they were both smokers). I’ve quit now (4 years clean! lol) But yes, the stuff we do as teens to assert ourselves!

    • Good for you for quitting! I officially quit 14 years ago, but there have been a few relapses in the last 2 years. I think we all had those moments of doing something our parents hated just to piss them off!

  2. You were a bold teenager – you totally came out with it. I always took the “I don’t know what you’re talking about crazy lady!” approach. Great post!

  3. This is so good!!!!! Love love loved it. That last line was my fav.

  4. Christie says:

    Love these lines: “Acrid and bitter, with just a hint of defiance and a smattering of teenage victory.” “It wasn’t that we were trying to look cool, we were cool and smoking was just proving the point.” Isn’t that just how every teenager feels? Well done!

  5. christina says:

    i used to steal packs of Benson and hedges (gag) from my dad’s carton. 😀

    • My mom for a long time smoked More Menthol Lights 100s. Then she switched to some weird off brand. She always knew what I took, so sometimes I had to resort to stealing half smoked ones from the ashtray. So revolting to think of that now!!

  6. I love cigarettes….I know I shouldn’t but my inner teenager loves smoking and listening to Sinead O’Connor too loud. You did such a great job here. What’s more boring than high school science class? I love how you can channel your inner teenager’s voice. Brillz.

    • I love them too. I still miss it and crave it so much, but I feel terrible when I smoke so I really, really try not to. I have a few friends who do and I take a drag now and again. If I buy a pack I’m done for.

      I think I’m stuck in a teenager mentality sometimes (so not a good thing). That voice my come out a little too easily :)

  7. I never understood the attraction to smoking. To me, even as a teen, they stunk too much! I guess I was just too much of a nerdie goodie-goodie. I’m fairly certain I missed out on a TON of fun! 😉
    Love how you put your mother in her place!

    • My mom and I had a very odd relationship!

      I don’t like the smell of cigarettes on others, but I do enjoy the flavor. I really never got over it either and miss it quite a bit. It’s good you’ve never been interested. I wish I could say the same for myself!

  8. Wow, Michelle, I’m impressed at your nerve. Of course your argument made perfect sense, but I wouldn’t have had the strength to confront my hypocritical parent like that. Some great details here: the bubble letters, the Stones lyrics, and the excellent final line among them.

  9. Robbie K says:

    My favorite line- It wasn’t that we were trying to look cool, we were cool and smoking was just proving the point.

    Such a ballsy move but I imagine you knew how your mom would respond?

    • I don’t know if I knew what she’d do. I do know that every time she’d ever tried to punish me I just didn’t listen and eventually she gave up. I think I just exhausted her!

  10. I wish I was as brave (or is it wise?) as you were at that age!
    This was a great story, and it was well told.

    • I don’t know what you call it. I knew I could get away with an awful lot and I pushed hard. This wasn’t the first or last of the arguments stemming directly from me having issues with authority!

  11. So, so good. I love your writing and look forward to reading your work every week. Thank you for outdoing yourself every time!

    I didn’t have an ounce of your sass and I only showed defiance in secret,sneaky ways. I would have lied, lied, lied about the cigarettes. You were a gutsy teen!

  12. You took me back in time with your story. Nicely done. Loved the dialogue. Ellen

  13. IASoupMama says:

    Oh, dear… I’m thinking ahead ten years to when my kids hit their teens and I’m afraid. Very afraid.

    I so enjoyed you calling your mom out on this! Woot!

  14. Joe says:

    I never smoked, but both my parent did. Sometimes they would light a cigarette at the table as soon as they finished their meals; I’d pick up my plate and leave. I could see them both seething, but they never said a word. They both eventually quit after smoking killed my mother’s father at a young age.

    • A big joke in my house was that my cat was gray but started out white. If you moved pictures you could see our yellow walls started out white. Terrible smokers, my family. It never bothered me as a kid and even if it had they’d have kept doing it. Even though I’ve been known to steal a few puffs here and there, I’d never want my son to know about it. Times really have changed.

  15. Larks says:

    Go fourteen year old you! And nicely detailed piece.

  16. I love the way you write. I still smoke. As I hack up a lung every morning, spit yellow phlegm balls, and stink like an ashtray, somewhere, fourteen year old girls are cheering for me.
    Awesome post.

  17. that last line just slays it. great. great. post.

  18. First of all, favorite line: It wasn’t that we were trying to look cool, we were cool and smoking was just proving the point.

    Secondly, you NAILED 14-year-old girl

  19. Kianwi says:

    I really enjoyed this. I was the opposite of rebellious as a kid, so I loved how I was still able to relate to this story though the details.

  20. I just loved the close on this post! The whole thing was so well done!

  21. Cindy says:

    Great last line. So few victories over parents as teenagers. I hid my smoking too from my mother – AS A GROWN UP.

    • I didn’t mean to get caught, but once I did there wasn’t much I could do about it. By 16 I was so tired of hiding it I just told her I was going to smoke in the house and it made my life so much easier. I will never know why she didn’t fight with me – I get that you need to pick your battles, but I’d think this would be one any parent would pick!

      I really think it comes down to respect. I didn’t respect my mother, so I flaunted my power over her. I think I *should* have hidden it.

  22. Pure awesome! Love this post and sass.

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