Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Too cool for cigarettes: "Cynthia's Friend"

Hello, and welcome to our third story with the word "friend" in the title! In this gem, new-kid-in-town Cynthia is faced with the age-old question: unpopularity or lung cancer?

On a side note, this is also the first of my stories to be written on a typewriter. Yes, I was in third grade, but I was serious, people. Conveniently, my grandfather owned a store that sold used office furniture, so my sister and I were soon outfitted with not only typewriters, but metal typewriter stands and wheeled desk chairs as well. Wheeee! But back to the ethical dilemmas . . .

Cynthia's Friend

"Nancy, can my friend, Sara Blakes, come for dinner?" Cynthia asked.

I believe Nancy is the housekeeper. There are actually several upcoming stories that feature housekeepers. (Thanks, Harriet the Spy and/or any number of television shows from the '70s and '80s.) I never at any point in time had a housekeeper myself, but they seemed cool.

"Does Jhonny have a friend?" Nancy asked. "He's not done a thing since we been moved. I think he misses all his friends."

"Since we been moved?"
Sweet Jesus, tell me that is not Ebonics! I'm really, really hoping not, as I grew up in a neighborhood that was about 50% black (and, oddly enough, about 25% ultra-Orthodox Jew), and—especially in elementary school—I had a ton of black and biracial friends. It hadn't really occurred to me at this point that someone's race would be a factor in, well, ANYTHING. Plus, a large number of the TV housekeepers were white (or those housekeepers with starring roles, anyway—thanks, media). And when they were black, I was always sensing sexual tension between them and the white characters. Like when I would watch Gimme a Break, I was always waiting for Nell Carter and the dad to hook up. Tony and Angela were making out, so clearly Nell and her employer were next. (Mr. Belvedere, on the other hand, definitely did not have genitalia. You cannot convince me otherwise.) However, it's hard to argue with "since we been moved." Yikes.

"He'll get over it" Was the answer "Besides . . . he has Spot."
"I know." Nancy admitted. "Just go along and get your friend. Can't stop it anyhow."
"Oh, Nancy, thanks! So much!" And she ran outside.
"Sara, you can! You can come to dinner! Thanks for waiting! Oh, thanks!"
"No problem." Sara was just too cool, thought Cynthia. Too cool!
"Hey," continued Sara "you got a cigarette?" Cynthia was stunned.

As am I, since they are, after all, nine.

"A cigarette?" asked Cynthia.
"Yeah. You got one?"
"You smoke?"
"Yeah." she said. "So?"
"Well," Be strong, she told herself. "I--don't."
"Well, you aren't good enough to be my friend."

Because smoking makes you eeeeeeeeevil.

[in a puff of cigarette smoke!] Sara Blakes was gone forever.

I also like to picture her riding off into the sunset with the Marlboro Man. Possibly atop Joe Camel.

"Oh, Nancy, forget Sara. She smoked." Cynthia told her.
"Check next door. There's a girl-Elizabeth."

I appreciate that Nancy doesn't take advantage of this obvious opportunity for an anti-smoking sermon. She's pretty much like, "Whatevs, you crazy (possible smoker) third graders! Can't stop it anyhow."

"Okay." And she went next door.
"Hello." a tall, thin, girl asked when she knocked.
"Are you Elizabeth?"
"Yeah. You can call me Liz." she said. "You move in next door?"
"Great! Hey, don't look so sad. I know what moving's like. Leavin' friends. Findin' new ones. It's hard. It is. I moved in last year."
"Really? Hey, you want to come to dinner?"

Shouldn't she, like, check Liz's fingers for nicotine stains first or something?

"Sure." Liz said. "What's your name?"

"Cynthia. I'll be right back."

Oh man! She invites her over before she even introduces herself? I fear for Cynthia when she starts dating.

She ran into the kitchen.
"Nancy, can Liz come to dinner?"
"Oh, Nancy, thanks! Thanks-so much."


Ahhh . . . third grade really was a simpler time, wasn't it? Do you remember how much anti-smoking, -drinking, and -drugging propaganda they used to throw at us? I have a hilarious anti-drug poster I drew (in crayon, thank you) of me and my siblings sticking our tongues out at drugs. Nyah nyah, drugs! Unfortunately, I just moved and I have no freaking clue which box it's in. Or if it would fit in my scanner anyway. I have to admit, though, I have never—to this day!—taken even a drag on a cigarette. So some of that crap must have sunk in.

NEXT TIME: Fourth grade in the hizzy! Although I'm not quite sure where to start . . .


Linley said...

Yes, I blame Nancy Reagan every time I beat myself up over taking...Advil.

Thanks for my pill phobia, Mrs. Reagan. Thanks for that.

btw, we totally made "Just Say No" boxer shorts in Home Ec.

BadKat said...

I still have my “Smoke Free Class of 2000” shirt that my school gave us Kindergarten. And of course, being educated in the late 80s/early 90s meant that all of the adults were terrified that we would all become crack addicts. So the anti-smoking/drugs crusades were well thought out. Although I see that their efforts were futile, judging by how many people I went to school with that have traveled down the chemical dependency trail.

Mr. Belvedere was the king of “a very special episode”. I’ll bet they had at least one smoking/drug episode. He may have lacked sex organs, but he could teach a good lesson!

Krista said...

What about the housekeeper/housekeepee sexual tension on "I'll Fly Away"? That shit was intense! Am I the only one who remembers that show?

And Saders, I had no idea that you were also in the Never Smoked A Cigarette, Not Ever Club. I think we are the only two members.

zanne said...

Another great story. I remember all the special episodes on all my favorite shows growing up, where the characters were introduced to cigarettes or drugs or whatever. I was in 6th grade when my best friend at the time gave me a cigarette to try. She was one of the "bad kids."

Sada said...

Maybe we can get Linley to make us some club boxer shorts!

I loved I'll Fly Away! Though at least in terms of that show, it made sense that the housekeeper was black. On Gimme a Break the premise was that Nell Carter was the dead wife's friend . . . and then to help raise the kids, she becomes the housekeeper? That's just awkward.

Also, the Belv was out of control with the lesson teaching! They had whole episodes about how no one could function properly without his advice. Ridiculous.

Sada said...

The Diff'rent Strokes Very Special Episodes freaked me out the most. The anti-hitchhiking episode where Kimberly and Arnold are held prisoner by some guy who wants to, like, stroke Kimberly's hair or something? (I'm SURE he didn't want to actually have sex with her...) The one where some creepy dude shows Arnold and Dudley a video of sexy naked mice and then touches Dudley in bad places? The one where Sam gets KIDNAPPED? (But by a family who just wants a new son, not by anyone who wants to chop him into little pieces.) Scared the bejesus out of me! Although, looking back, I guess they really toned down the scariness, didn't they?

goovie said...

hee! this was awesome. it reminds me of the "show" my best friend and i used to put on every day in second grade, in the car on the way home from school. the show was called cigarettes and cigars, and it was about two girls who discovered the evil world of cigarettes, moved on to the evil world of cigars, and finally both died of lung cancer. the rockin' theme song went, "cigarettes and cigaaaaars! are very bad for youuuuuu!"

clearly all of that propaganda worked, tho, because i'm also in never smoked a cigarette, not ever club.

Sada said...

I love that theme song.

Laura @ Hungry and Frozen said...

Hee another hilarious story :) I remember carefully making an anti-smoking sign for my bedroom when I was about 9 (I don't know what kind of illicit happenings I thought were gonna go down in there, but boy was I prepared!)

Genie said...

omg Sea Wees! I love/d those little baby ones. I mostly loved their tails.

Genie said...

I also think that our crazy asthma and allergies prevented us from smoking (says author's sister who shares her genetic code and who has also never take a drag of a cigarette).

Deathycat said...

I like the part where Cynthia thinks to herself "Stay strong." ^_^ They did hammer that stuff into our heads. What kept me from smoking was the allergic reaction I had to it. :p