When I was a young child, every adult that lived in my household smoked cigarettes.
I distinctly remember being bullied, and made fun of, because my clothes smelled like cigarette smoke no matter how thoroughly they were washed. Peers of mine that I wanted to be friends with were actually told by their parents that they were not allowed to play with me, or befriend me, because of how… thoroughly I smelled like cigarette smoke. They made sure to let me know this. I knew that I smelled like cigarette smoke because I could smell it on my clothes even after they had been washed. This continued to persist well into high school, although I did manage to make some friends who would associate with me during lunch and while we were on campus together. (I think by that point, people just assumed that I was the one smoking and that was why I smelled like cigarette smoke, rather than the smell being secondhand as a result of the adults that I was living with smoking in the house. I didn’t realize that, or even think about it, until well after I had graduated high school, but it would not surprise me if a large swath of the student body had just begun to assume that I was the one smoking at that point or speculated that I had just picked up the habit myself.)
One of the memories that stands out in my mind was me, as a young child, asking my mother — who was one of the household members that smoked the most — if she would “stop smoking so (that) I could have friends”. It pains me to think about that, let alone the fact that as a young child I felt like I had to ask her this one small thing, something that was, comparatively speaking, reasonable. It wasn’t as though I was asking her for extravagant material possessions. I was just asking her if she would stop smoking so that I could stop going to school smelling like cigarette smoke. Unsurprisingly, her response to me was to refuse, and then to tell me that she too was bullied at school, and to try to console me about being bullied… when she could have helped mitigate the fact I was being bullied, and that students were being told by their parents not to associate with me or to be my friend, because my clothes reeked of the stench of cigarette smoke.
My mother was diagnosed with a metastatic brain tumor at the age of fifty-nine stemming from lung cancer, likely brought about from decades of smoking. She died at the age of sixty, a year out from initial diagnosis.