The first time I smoked pot I was 12. I had been that kid in DARE, wide-eyed and receptive. I ran home to shame my mom for her cigarettes, my stepdad for his beer, my father for his marijuana. I was good and they were bad. The first time I got high I was 12. I had already lied to my parents, already smoked a cigarette (multiple), already kissed a boy. I had always been, up until 11, the Responsible One. I was the oldest. I was the girl. I got mostly As in school and had mostly perfect attendance and wanted my teachers to like me. Up until then. In 5th grade, something changed. My teachers were dicks. I got sick and missed a bunch of school and my teacher noted on my report card, frequently absent. Like I was some kind of delinquent. Looking back, that was the first crack in the wall. The first pull.
Sixth grade, and there was this new girl. Isn’t that how all the best stories begin? She had big bushy blonde hair. Mostly blonde. Sections of it were pink, green, dyed with Kool-Aid, it changed a lot. I don’t know how we even got to talking, how we even decided we had enough in common to become friends. I didn’t know much about her, other than that she came from nowhere and seemed to have nothing and hung out at an 8th grade boy’s house a lot. One day we were walking from the diner to volleyball practice at the grade school and she asked me if I wanted a drag of her cigarette and in that moment I wasn’t the girl who bitched at my mom every time her cigarette smoke entered the 5ft radius of where I was sitting. I was me. In the street with a couple of girls on my volleyball team. Fed up. I took a drag of the cigarette. The gates opened.
The first time I smoked pot, was with this same girl. Our friendship had stretched over to 7th grade, to the high school, to the arcade where we snuck out back with our guy friends. Smoking pot for the first time wasn’t like smoking a cigarette. It was More. I knew this would brand me different from the girls I started with on the volleyball team, from the girls I sometimes sat with in the gym who were starting to get the attention of the high school boys, from the girls who were on the honor roll with me. Inhaling the pot burned the back of my throat. The smell and the subsequent taste were pungent. It was dark and lovely outside and the friends I was with laughed at my cough and my expression. Later we ate hot pockets and I almost started to cry as I stood inside playing Mortal Kombat.
“I can’t feel my legs. They’re not there.”
“Yes, they are. Calm down.”
Smoking cigarettes was one thing, as almost everyone I grew up with smoked for a minute at some point in our high school career. Most of the boys would turn it into a habit that fit their farming, four-wheeler riding, baseball cap gripping personas. But pot was something else. Pot was my golden ticket to the other side. To the dark side. To getting noticed for the wrong things. To confounding my parents and teachers and peers. But you get good grades. But you want to go to college. A pot smoking teenager did not Go Places in the eyes of my town. A pot smoking teenager was headed for something worse.
It’s true, most, all of the crowd I smoked pot with as a junior-higher ended up in jail for meth later. All of them bear Facebook profile pictures with pockmarked faces and teeth that are forever damaged and a weight which seems either too high or too low for their body shape as I remember it. I never went that far, and I knew with that first hit that I never would. But at the time, no one believed me. No one ever trusted me, which is why I started smoking in the first place. I felt like it was just a matter of time. Everyone was just watching and waiting on me to screw up. To misstep. To Fuck Up. If this is the worst you can imagine then what happens when I become that person? Then you have to let go of me. Then you’re done worrying. I’ve taken your power from you.
One night we smoked and climbed a tree and lay in the grass in a body pile before eating ice cream. One night we ate candy in the woods and lit a fire and tried not to fall asleep under the moon. One night we made pavement angels in the street. One night we ran the bases at the little league diamond.
I mostly stopped with the pot in high school. College became my focus. Grades and money and shit to put on my resume overpowered my interest in delinquency. In exemplifying my lack of fucks. Whatever I had to do to achieve Escape.
But in college, my ability to light a hitter or breathe in from a bong would make me friends at parties, give me something to talk about with that guy in my lit theory class. It was my golden ticket that despite my paper grade and my comments or my demeanor in class that I wasn’t a straight and narrow. That I had a bit of personality, a bit of complexity, that there was more to me. Everyone could chug a beer, but pot was something else. So many people would comment on my interest in smoking. So often, “oh I just figured, I just thought, you didn’t seem like, that’s cool.”
Yeah yeah, I get it.
I got out, further, and have since smoked with PhD students from rich families, with well-known artists, with career-driven women with Masters degrees, with parents in their well-manicured backyards.
Real losers of society, you know. It kills me, sometimes, how some people are so tied to their stereotypes, their judgments, their assumptions. It’s all so relative. The world does not exist as you have organized it in your mind. That’s been my favorite part of my life…flipping people’s expectations. Giving them something to question. Surprising them. Making them uncomfortable. You’re not in a safe space. What will you do now?