I’m considering starting a dating site for smokers:  Casual smokers, committed smokers, smokers trying to quite and ex-smokers who believe in the right to smoke. Not to glorify or glamorize smoking. Obviously I wouldn’t be that politically incorrect. Beside, what would my children think?

But this isn’t about smoking. It’s about the right to smoke. There are lots of reasons why we smoke-emphasis on we, although I hope I’d still do this if or when I quit. Smoking relaxes you. Soothes your anxiety. Makes you feel glamorous. Keeps your weight down. Provides a “prop” in social situations. Appeals to your inner Rebel. And, of course, the most obvious: We’re addicted. The thought of giving up our drug of choice is as potentially traumatic as losing our best friend.

Think about it: Who-or in this case, what, is always there for you? Who else can you depend on to hang out with you in the bathroom, keep you company when you’re watching television, be a dependable traveling companion and late night confidant when you can’t sleep. Who do you reach for when something terrible happens? When you’re anxious or lost and confused? The process of pulling out a cigarette, lighting and inhaling buys you time to gather your thoughts and think straight. Plus there just something comforting about sucking on a poison packed cylinder object on fire-that’s right, it’s on fire! No wonder the thought of losing your fix, not being able to scratch the itch, going through withdrawal, not being able to focus, talking on the phone without lighting up, giving up the perfect end to a perfect evening otherwise known as the after sex smoke, hyperventilating, and chewing on pencils puts the fear of God into the mind of almost every smokers which begs the question of why anyone would want to quit.

The idea of giving up our drug of choice is daunting. Actually terrifying. So much to lose, so little to gain, or so in seems-never mind the thousands of dollars, nasty odor, social ostracism and shortness of breath that we try to ignore with magic thinking. I love how people say, “You know you might feel better if you didn’t smoke,” as if announcing that Madame Curie is on Pierce Morgan tonight. Really? Wow! Never occurred to me. But one of the biggest obstacles not too often mentioned, is what to do with all that time? Have you ever noticed how often you take a cigarette break. The more you smoke, the more ritualized it becomes. It starts with the incomparable first drag followed by fresh morning coffee. At first its saved for special occasions: The phone rings and you arm yourself with a cigarette which seems strangely empowering as if you’re bigger, tougher, cooler, more articulate with that thing hanging out of your mouth. There are the Punctuation Mark Cigarettes, the ones that mark that time between tasks, and the Reward Cigarettes, maybe even two or three for finishing cleaning the bathroom or biting your tongue til its bloody instead of screaming at your kids. The Pacifier Cigarette does just that, the Hip Cigarette, a throwback, evokes mystery and the New and Improved Fuck You I’ll Smoke If I Want To Cigarette, the obvious backlash to being treated like vagrants, outcasts,criminals, which we may soon be if the strident, self righteous smoker-haters get their way. One would think that Madmen would make a difference, but apparently we can tell the difference between real programs and reality tv. One is fiction, the other is frighteningly familiar.

If I sound pissed it’s because I am pissed. And its getting worse, which is why I’m ramping up over the idea of This unique dating site is driven by a spirit of freedom and pro-choice. This is America Goddammit, although I’ve been meaning to check the stats on smoking related lung cancer in the rest of the world versus the US, where there has been such an all out campaign for enough years to do a scientific experiment. It’s not that I’m proud of being a smoker or think there’s anything truly defensible about it other than what I’ve included above, which you must agree is fairly compelling. I take no umbrage with people who don’t like being around smoke or smokers. But we need to be careful about the the distinction between anti-smoking and anti-smokers. The point is, we are adults. We know the risks. It’s our right to smoke and our problem if or when it compromises our health or kills us. We get to light up without accusations, shaming, and disdain. The anti-smokers lobby grows stonger every day. They have every right to their feelings. They are entitled to never smoke cigarette in their lifetime, although very often it’s self-rightous ex-smokers who are most judgmental. They quit and believe me it wasn’t easy. In a twisted way, the fact that we still smoke is an affront to their sacrifice. It’s irrational but it makes sense, like watching your best friend eat a hot fudge sundae in front of you when you’ve just suffered through eight years on Weight Watchers and are recovering from gastric bypass.

I would never ever in a million years encourage anyone to start smoking. I am, however, determined to remind anyone and everyone that its legal to smoke which means smokers have rights, too. I’m ready to take this one on. It will be good practice for my next political activism: The right to die. Not that they’re connected.

First it was restaurants. Then the workplace. Then all public buildings. Right now legislators are trying to criminalize smoking in cars. Soon it will be our homes-and our children will be turning us in-having been innundated with propoganda, especially since the famous (and unscientifically proven) second-hand smoking debates. In response, smokers are starting to organize and support one another. Misery loves company, especially in Minneapolis and other place where smokers are forced to huddle against wind gusts, blizzards, and freeze your ass of temperatures. We welcome our fellow addicts with open arms. Depending on where you live, you wouldn’t believe the camaraderie. Random exchange: “Can I bum a cigarette?” “Of course you can have a cigarette. Take a couple. Oh go ahead and take the pack I have another one in the car.” I realize this is the Midwest and there are two factors at play: We tend to be polite. A pack is relatively inexpensive compared to other places. A few years ago I was in Manthattan on business. I was standing outside the swanky WHotel-reached in my purse and realized I was out. I turned to a well-dressed woman next to me smoking Virginia Slims Ultra Lights. “Could I please bum a cigarette,? I asked, trying to modulate my on the brink of hysteria urgency, assuming she’d say, “Of course, dear,” and hand it over.” Instead she glared at me as if I was a bag lady and walked away. Full diclosure: I walked to the end of the block and bought two packs of marlboro lights. $11.00 each. I should have had them shellacked. will also give members a place to share smoking stories, starting, quitting, jonesing, cheating, slipping, and we’re back to square one. You can be anonymous to protect the innocent (that would be you) with the assurance that you’re landed in a safe, accepting, informative and entertaining site, that is unique in several ways:

1.  If you’re a smoker, you will likely feel relieved. I can count the times I’ve pre-empted a potential relationship by announcing that I smoke. I don’t mean proudly or arrogantly; my intention is to appear incredibly alluring,  but before moving to meeting in person, I drop the bomb, saying: There’s something you should know that will probably be a deal breaker.” I smoke. I used to wonder why people included the fact that they have herpes in dating profiles. Why would you want to advertise that? Now I get it.

2. If you’re trying to quit, this is the PERFECT place for you. I once met a man I was really interested in, but didn’t actually meet until he had stopped smoking, because I was a virgin non-smoker. First dates are anxiety provoking enough without chomping on gum and sitting on your hands while the potential girl/boyfriend takes a not very subtle smoking break. Smokers trying to quit are one of the best features of Gotalight. For some people, the Buddy System works; others need to crawl under a rock or rant and rave in the privacy of their home, but either way, you might find that perfect someone who “gets” how hard this is and is ready to cheer you on.

3. Non-smokers are also welcome at Gotalight as long as they don’t use it to harass those who are making a different choice. There’s always a place for heated debate, as long as no-one gets out of line. No bullies. No evangelists. No well-intended health care professionals with a hidden agenda to convert a potential match. Then again, many non-smokers are a-okay being with a smoker as long as he or she is considerate about when, where, and when to light up. But even dating-tolerant non-smokers are turned off by someone who reeks of smoke; men are especially sensitive to scent, so much so it can be an intimacy deal breaker. On the other hand…(there’s a cigarette…sorry, it just wrote itself), dating a non-smoker can be a real incentive to choose a healthier lifestyle. Not a judgment, just a fact. The perfect Smoker/Non-Smoker couple would ideally support one another in every way, whether one gives up drinking or starts exercising and eating better and the other throws away their pack. Partnership at its best.

4. Gotalight is being developed not just as a dating site but as a meeting place where the topic of smoking may be a conversation starter but opens the way for all sorts of interesting discussions about culture, politics, the economy and other ………

Blog in progress while I stare at the Marlboros who are starting back at me. I’m winning.

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