Father Tony

Motown Helps When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

Filed By Father Tony | August 20, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: diana ross, how to quit smoking, stop in the name of love

Dear Father Tony,

I'm involved with a smoker. He is funny and brilliant and we are great together, but I am not dealing well with the cigarettes. He wants us to live together and I do too. He promises that he will quit smoking forever on the first day of 2010. I don't know if he can do it, and I don't know if I can handle it if he doesn't. Love is a bargain, and I have a few bad habits of my own, but I am afraid I am getting into something I will regret.

Coin Tosser

Dear CT,


No, you should not move in with him. You should begin to search for a new love because if this one will not surrender his cigarettes on your behalf today, he most certainly will not do so on the first day of 2010. Or, if he does, he will resume smoking on the second day of 2010 and through the haze of his shame he will look at you sheepishly and he will wordlessly beg for your acceptance of his weakness, and this you will grant him because you will be addicted to him just as he is to his smoke, and you will both begin a new year of nurturing the elephant in the room - the only creature in this world known to grow more robust by dint of secondary smoke or the hollow carbohydrates of failed diets.

It is said that lovers must brook change or own up to the fallacy of their professed love. You know, that "for better or worse" thing? I agree with that promise, and love does grow stronger and deeper when illness and reversals of fortune are overcome together by courageous and devoted couples. But there is also the matter of unacceptable behavior and its enabling. This smoking, your tolerance for which you now question, straddles the firebreak between the two forests of human frailty and unacceptable misbehavior. I have an idea that the things you love about this man far outweigh the one habit that you detest. And in a world beset with loneliness and grief who am I to counsel you against fastening him with a lifelong lung-squeezing embrace? On the other hand, if you cannot imagine being relegated every fifteen minutes to the role of secondary spouse whenever he receives an urgent call from his first spouse, the next cigarette, you should not enter the tent of this bigamist. Also, you should know that washing the stale scent of smoke out of this man's clothing and out of your bedding and furnishings will be like constantly encountering the skin scent or the despised fragrance of your lover's paramour who, unseen, will taunt you in the sanctuary of your own home even as you kiss your lover's neck, laced as it is with your rival. Do you really want to end up like Diane Ross, singing

Baby, baby
I'm aware of where you go
Each time you leave my door
I watch you walk down the street
Knowing your other love you'll meet
But this time before you run to her
Leaving me alone and hurt
(think it o-o-o-over) after I've been good to you.
(think it o-o-o-over) after I've been sweet to you.

Stop! in the name of love
Before you break my heart .

Won't his many good qualities become slippery stepping stones in the wide river separating The Land of What You Deserve and The Land of What You Get?

I remember the someday-promise I made to myself when I smoked that last Gauloises, whose sweet flavor is wonderfully associated with La RĂ©sistance and Jean Paul Sartre and the bistro life that is my birthright, and whose package is a soft, almost suede periwinkle blue, a suitable tint for the sad young dreams of any lost generation, for the color of the eyes of young men curious to know if you have cried, for the anthems of liberty stretched mournfully through the sighing folds of an accordion. I made myself that someday-promise that if I should give it up now, surely God will reward me by letting me know the time of my death sufficiently in advance of its arrival, giving me enough time, perhaps a month or two, in which to enjoy those Gauloises once again and to see that lovely package on the nightstand of my deathbed. After the passage of seasons of deprivation, I began to temper this consolation with the image of my friends lined up to say goodbye one last time. I saw them wince with each grimaced kiss as they encountered the stench of those cigarettes within the suffocating azured haze of my sunset. Is that really how I wanted to play that scene? Now I rehearse my final departure with the herbal lavendar of Provence rather the Turkish lavendar of Gauloises. All the same, I retain among my papers, safe from the fading sunlight, one empty pack of them.

Almost any excess pursued by a man will hobble a relationship. Food, booze, drug, TV, work, gambling, God and even you yourself can become his frightening obsession. If a problem interest like nicotine or donuts or slot machines or church should develop after you are in a relationship, you are obliged to work at its out sorting. But when a man up fronts his weakness before you move in, you ought to think twice and respect yourself thrice, for, as Diana's mother told her, you can't hurry love. No, you just have to wait. She said love don't come e-easy. It's a game of give and take.


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Smokey Robinson's first Motown hit was, appropriately enough, "You Better Shop Around" ...

... and I wonder if Smokey's mama and Diana's mama compared notes over a backyard fence now lost somewhere in Detroit.

This post is gay beyond the realm of faggotry *giggles*.

If he's fine with second-hand smoking-caused death and a lifetime of awful smoker breath/scent/ stained teeth/yellowed nails, go ahead. Don't expect the man to change.

My cousing started smoking, like her parents did all their lives. She saw her father die an early, slow, painful death with lung cancer. She has not quit smoking despite this event.

Dear Lucrece,
You're so right. I don't think I could have possibly been any gayer in this post. What is left for me?

Why, Father Tony, we all know what's next, of course --- Get into your Diana drag and post the video!

Rick Elliott | August 21, 2009 1:52 AM

Tony, you are eloquent in this article. Much of your response deserves a hazy portrait of contemplation tucked inside a fictional body. I delight in your word portrait. Thanks!
I too am a former smoker--two times former. The first ended in an episode of "lost time" in which I gassed up my car and don't remember it. I left Meridian, MS and the next thing I recalled was crossing into Louisiana, some hour or so later. Perched firmly in the passenger sea was a package of Kools. The second withdrawal took six years to commence.
I will have to ground your image of Gauloises: a year or so I succumbed to the temptation of a Kool and suffered such spasms of coughing--even to the point of throwing up--Kools no longer have any allure.

beachcomberT | August 21, 2009 10:19 AM

Father Tony, must romance be crucified on a cross of Marlboros? Isn't there room for negotiation here? If the would-be partner is willing to do his smoking only outdoors and commit to a smoking cessation program now (not 2010), wouldn't that be a good-faith gesture? And how about Coin? He acknowledges he has bad habits. Which one will he give up if Boyfriend reforms?
My partner smoked for 20 years before he finally quit cold-turkey on New Years 2000. (Too late, he has serious COPD problems now). Most smokers try to stop several times before they finally succeed. They do it when they decide for themselves to do it, not because a partner nagged or guilt-tripped them into doing it.

I think it too simple to reply a simple yes/no on these questions. Men of a certain age, ahem, have told me time and time again: "I was too picky." Romantic notions fill our gay heads with perfection, goodness knows the folks that sell us stuff agree. Aren't you in the traditon of 'look beyond the bread you eat....'! Who is this man? What does he believe in? What is his story? His beauty? His potential?

Does he smoke...? I don't see the comparison.

If you can't reason with them using logic, dazzle them with Art.

Your response has a faint aroma of Kerouac about it.

I mate for life loves me, is patient beyonds words, indulges my spending money on fresh flowers every week, and tells me that my few exta pounds are my issue-he loves me for who I am.
And by the way....he smokes, out on the patio.
To give up a love for something like this says more about the write than the person.
Dear Father...I disagree with you on this one.

Romance aside, I'm not sure I'd let myself enter into a one-sided smoking relationship in the first place. It does stink. But if I fell anyway then we would try to work things out I guess. But it seems like built in trouble.

Oh and I loved singing along with the Motown hits, my original home town.

I would agree with the good Father that this man's existing vice is part of the contract you make when you insinuate yourself into his life. If he is ready to quit smoking, then hooray. But if, like most, he finds that it takes multiple cessation attempts before he quits for good, then accommodations must be made.

I'm reminded of Maya Angelou's warning to the too-picky singles among us:

"I arrived at the conclusion that if a man came along who seemed to me to be honest and sincere, who wanted to make me laugh and succeeded in doing so, a man who had a lilting spirit-if such a man came along who had a respect for other human beings, then if he was Swedish, African, or a Japanese sumo wrestler, I would certainly give him my attention, and I would not struggle too hard if he caught me in a web of charm."

If his web of charm includes a cigarette, perhaps moving into a place with a nice outside porch would be best.

Oh my God, are you serious? Give up a true love because he/she smokes? I can't even imagine it. Wow. What a terrible, terrible loss. Good luck finding a real love again. They just aren't that common. Lots of half assed loves, sorta loves, temporary loves, but the real thing?

Oh wait. I guess you haven't found it yet, else you'd not even be discussing this.

So yeah, ditch this guy. He's not the one. Carry on with your search. If you'd found it, you'd never let it go voluntarily or over something as stupid as smoking.