Nothing better than smoking Nutrasweet in a prairie while dressed as an Amish. What it’s like to date someone who vapes.
A couple years ago I dated someone who vaped. I was unfamiliar/neutral/leaning negative about electronic cigarettes and atomizers, except for a friend’s boyfriend who used them compulsively. A mutual friend seethed behind his back: “I would dump him for that alone!”
I don’t smoke, and don’t hang out with or date smokers (though in Europe, there is always an exception). It’s 2016. I don’t need to explain why. Vaping, I knew roughly what it was, that it provided a healthy alternative to cigarettes, and that it was growing really quickly in popularity. The journalist in me was tempted to include in this article some statistics giving validation to this trend, but ultimately I chose to omit those substantiating figures.
I was dug this guy from the moment I met him. Really great looking was the least of it. Super-smart, interesting, engaging, a great listener he was across the table at the gastropub when, after a half hour, he pulled from his pocket a brushed-metallic red box about half the size of a deck of cards. “Don’t worry,” he said with nonchalance as he sucked in great metric quantities of air into his barrel chest. “No one will notice,” he said, puffing that air out with a chin cocked over his shoulder.
Um, asshole, I thought. I notice.
That is how dating is, right? You ignore the bad stuff because there is good stuff, and you hope that there is not a whole lot more bad stuff and the good stuff will be enough, because nobody’s perfect.
There was a lot of good stuff, and we dated for half a year.
All the while he vaped.
At restaurants and bars, he’d methodically remove from his pockets one of his atomizers (which I imagined, bitterly, he must have carefully coordinated with his outfit that day), along with a small plastic bottle and little dime bags of the various parts of this ritual, spread them out on the dinner table or bar, and while we chatted by candle light, he’d ritualistically prepare his drug of choice.
Throughout our relationship, whether out or at home, on the couch or in bed, he’d casually suck on his metal, angular pipe, and cock his head back in luxuriating arrogance and a puff of artifice would spout gallantly from his puckered lips.
The plume dissipated quickly. The very faint odor was saccharine and phony. Nutrasweet.
Under all the pomp was the unspoken message was: Oh this looks alarming. But it is safe! It is not unhealthy and in fact it saves lives because it helps people stop smoking. You are stunned and disgusted. Oh, but ignorant onlooker. You are wrong.
One evening while walking along the East River I fantasized I’d rip that offending device from his hands and toss it into the black water.
While acting on that impulse would likely have ended the relationship, it wouldn’t have stopped the vaping. This educated, professional man spent his vacations attending vaping conferences. That is right. Adults interested in sucking fake tobacco-flavored steam out of electronic doohickies would gather in a Marriott ballroom in Durham or Milwaukee and talk about sucking fake tobacco-flavored steam out of electronic doohickies.
He tweeted about vaping. He celebrated when legislation allowing vaping in public was passed. Before he met my family, I said: “I’m worried about one thing. The smoking.”
“Smoking? I don’t smoke!” he said he exaggerated, faux confusion. “Oh, you mean the vaping? Don’t worry. I never do it around my older relatives or kids. Just my immediate family and friends.”
Because older people and kids deserve to be spared this embarrassment, and the rest of us don’t? I stewed to myself. Because that is how dating is, right?
Chatting in a heightened frenzy of enthusiasm when federal public health officials conceded vaping was a safe alternative to cigarettes, this man addressed my seething silence. “I know you hate it,” he said, matter-of-fact.
“It makes me think of college kids bragging about their bongs,” I said, not hiding my pent-up ire.
“Well,” he said. “It is just part of who I am.”
That, I knew. And that is why I had nothing more to say. Because that is how dating is, right?