Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Just Because We Can

Once in a while I enjoy a good cigar. I guess I’ve been an occasional closet cigar smoker since my early twenties. My roommate and I would light up one on a particularly dreary Saturday night when our calendars had not presented us with a date. We would spend our empty evening mopeing around and listening to records. We liked the cigars on those evenings because it made our apartment smell like a rich man had been there. Rich men always smell like cigar smoke. At least they did in the 60’s. I love the smell of rich men.

A couple of times I enjoyed a cigar with my daughters. I considered it part of their education as women to learn to smoke a cigar. There is something very powerful in doing something traditionally male. Crossing the gender line safely puts you in forbidden territory and gives you ownership of a foreign land few women ever visit.

Then when I started going to Guatemala each summer I had access to Cuban cigars. Now that’s a trip to forbidden territory in quite a literal way-- it’s been illegal to bring a Cuban cigar into the US since the embargo in the early 60’s. For a few years I would buy one and smoke it there in the country before I came home because I was afraid I’d get arrested for smuggling if I brought it home. Then I got brave the last couple of years and just threw them into my suitcase. My recent trips through customs inspection have been uneventful, not to mention non-existent. I think they’re more worried about people taking hair gel and toothpaste onto planes nowadays than bringing illegal contraband into the country.

I smoked my last one yesterday by the campfire, enjoying the peace and quiet and the great weather. Kind of a celebration of Thanksgiving and autumn weather. I had intended to save it for when Castro dies but I got tired of waiting and I’m not really sure I will feel all that joyful when the old guy does pass on. So I went ahead and dispatched that last one. But I had to admit that I really don’t enjoy smoking cigars as much as I used to. Cigars really are pretty nasty. So, why have I done it all these years? Just because I can.

There’s a lot of meaningless things people do just because we can. And a lot of the things we do “just because we can” are really stupid and dangerous.

Wasn’t that the reason Bill Clinton gave for his risky relationship with Monica Lewinsky? He ended up explaining the whole debacle as something he did “just because I could.”

We’re about to enter the Christmas season. With the Thanksgiving turkey out of the way a lot of people turn to hard core shopping as their holiday hobby. We end up buying a bunch of things people don’t need, or in some cases, don’t even want. Why? Just because we can.

I’m going to a youth Christmas party this Friday. Everybody is supposed to bring a White Elephant gift. I asked for the definition of a white elephant gift and it’s something “less than $10” that is stupid, ugly or unwanted. The game is to pass it around, foisting it off on someone else who doesn’t want it either. Of course, I’m going to go with the flow and not make a big stink about it. But it just seems like a huge waste of money, a lapse of values and another one of those things we do ”just because we can.”

I’m not a person who enjoys shopping for the sport of it. Good thing, too, because we have reached the financial stage where we shouldn’t be buying a bunch of stuff we don’t need. A few Christmases ago, we stopped buying for our girls for Christmas. We found out that for what we were spending on our adult children we could pay for a year’s tuition in a private elementary school in Guatemala. It seemed so appropriate—now that we had put our own kids through school and were finished, why stop? That year we adopted a young boy in Guatemala and paid for his schooling. That was our gift to our kids that year. And every Christmas since they’ve received a new picture of Jorge and an update on his progress. I think he’ll be in the fourth grade this year.

Why do we do it? Just because we can.

1 comment:

vme said...

Somewhere out in cyberspace is a little note I wrote to congratulate you on the b'day - it was already late, and when I tried to edit it, there it went! Anyhow, same message, hope it was a good one, and many happy returns.

Re: your blog today - you continue to be full of surprises. Not that you & B. would fund scholarships for children in lieu of gifts for your grown girls (a good idea, by the way), but that you enjoy a good (is there such a thing???) cigar occasionally. Jane, you really are a hoot - keep it up.