Criteria to be my mate in life: Must smoke and drink. There were no two ways about it. It was a decision I never once wavered on. I mean, I smoked, and I enjoyed my parties with my drinks. Well, actually, I think I just enjoyed being inebriated at social functions.
How would a man who neither smokes nor drinks, understand and accept me that way? Worse, what would we do?
So obviously, my husband fitted the bill quite nicely, as a heavy smoker and an even heavier drinker. That’s not the same as saying that I liked that completely but at least when we were dating, there wasn’t a question of, “Do we go out for ice-cream or wine?” He would never have opted for ice-cream and me, I would’ve wanted the ice-cream first, followed by the wine.
When we were dating, we were once the top 20 spenders at Denise The Wine Shop. I’m really not proud of that at all, just thinking of all the money we had wasted. But that was how it went: we would have Aston’s at the old Denise at Serangoon Gardens (now some oyster bar…), and one bottle a night would turn into at least two. Or three, or four. Do the math – it just means we each had a bottle or two each. In one night. Every night.
And do you smoke more or less when you drink? It’s not an original story, but true as all the rest go.
We tried to drink less and we succeeded from time to time. But there was really no good reason not to, especially when you just get merrier with the drinks. Conversation was good too. We talked about everything, and we argued about our faith and religious convictions. Good, sound arguments even though we may be drunk. There is always a point before you swing to stupid drunkenness when alcohol actually sharpens your wit and thoughts. There was also always a point for me when that after-work-drink actually made my vision come in high-def. Maybe it was alcoholism.
We drank and smoked right up to the day we joyfully moved into our rented flat with grand plans for all the parties we would have, only to discover I was pregnant. I smoked my last stick while nervously waiting for the pregnancy kit results. I knew it would be the last cigarette I would have for a long, long time and though I was already pukish with every cigarette I had (without knowing that the reason was because I was five weeks pregnant), I needed to make it through that last stick. Just in case. And yup, it was the last stick I had for the next 11 months or so.
By that time, I didn’t need to smoke anymore. The only craving I had was from the memory of how I had enjoyed it. So I asked my husband, “Do you want to quit smoking?”
He looked at me like I must be mad – and it was a look I fully comprehend without any need for explanation. So I picked up smoking again. Choked on my first inhalation – the menthol was too cold for me since I had stopped for almost a year. But I retrained myself to smoke. Why? To be the partner for my husband that I wanted him to be for me – a fellow smoker.
Of course, I had a cut-off date for my last cigarette before we tried to conceive for Emma. It was a conscious plan that was mindfully adhered to. Same story after – wash, rinse, repeat.
“Do you want to quit smoking?”
Friends and family nagged and chided us – mostly me – for why I got back into the habit when I had already practically quit!
Who would understand why besides smokers?
Again, it was a decision I don’t regret. Why should my husband have to smoke alone till death do us part when part of the reasons why we could fit together was because we had both enjoyed smoking?
Still, those have now become the good old days, and you always know you’re getting on in years when you think about the “good old days”.
A health scare and the full realisation that we have very young children have changed the way we make our decisions.
I used to think dying would be okay, because whatever I want to do here on earth could surely be done in Heaven and way better, more meaningfully and more completely. But since my heart was ripped out from my chest when I unknowingly fell in love when my firstborn arrived, what I’ve thought since then: I don’t have the luxury to die anymore.
Providing for the children aside, I hope never to break their little hearts with sudden parental deaths. Well, if it’s time to go, then there’s nothing we can do, but what we can do is to live a little bit more responsibly.
As of January 5 this year, Augz and I have officially quit smoking. Actually, we still do when we travel but it’s nothing like how we used to chain smoke. On two occasions so far, a beautiful day spent with friends over alcohol had ended up with some smokes but again, nothing like it used to be.
Is it enough? For now, it is.
These days, we are living healthier, exercising more… (I’m running! The last time I ran was when I was coerced to CJC by a very handsome young leader! I had agreed without realising I was nodding. Smitten, I was.) Our lifestyle has changed – we consciously try to go to bed earlier. If it sounds like we’re getting old, I will say this: we’re not.
Nothing’s really that different.
These are evolving choices we make as we grow up, and realise that we have used up some 36 years of our life on earth, and that the number of years left are dwindling day by day, heartbeat by heartbeat. We are realising now that “forever young” is only the title to a song, a notion for the coming-of-agers, or a state of being that does not include how the body starts acting quite differently from expectations and demands.
And the truth is, with children or no, I – and my husband – love life. We love our time here on earth, we love being able to chase thrills and experience fragments of life as it happens. There is so much left to do, eat, drink, play, write, love, look forward to, dote on, tame, try, be. And as age catches on, it becomes quite clear that these things are transient, and that someday we’ll have to bid goodbye to all of it. Hence, we try to hang on for a little longer.
So for now, the plan is clear. If we reach our 50-60s, that’s when we start living like our 20s again. We’ll see how many years we’ll have from then to do that. And then we’ll go out with a blast. With plenty of parties like every single one could be our last.