Almost two months ago, I found myself doing one of the boldest, most life-changing actions in which I had ever partaken: I found myself down on one knee during the mid-day joust at the St. Louis Renaissance Faire in a full kilt, asking my girlfriend to marry me. The silly girl said yes, luckily enough for me. Naturally, this gave me pause to stop and reflect upon the many aspects of our relationship, but the one that I would specifically like to share with you is, without surprise, relating to pipes.
I remember that pipes used to be a point of slight contention between me and my fiance’ when we first started going out. Lauren came from a family that smoked cigarettes heavily and had come to despise them. Perhaps because of the success of the anti-tobacco propaganda, she had come to associate all tobacco products with cigarettes, as a lot of people do. Thus, because of the negative impact that cigarettes had on her family, she was concerned when she found out about my love for pipes.
Her fear concerned me as well, as I didn’t want to give up pipes, though I didn’t want to cause her grief. Naturally, smoking my pipes would have been the one to go if it had to, but I took this as an opportunity for discussion. I talked with her about the medical differences between pipes and cigarettes and let her know exactly why I love pipes as much as I do. I discussed at great length the joy that pipes bring into my life, the simple pleasure found in a quiet moment of reflection, and so on.
After hearing the differences, including the fact that pipes are smoked less frequently (typically) than cigarettes and are usually not inhaled into the lunges, she completely changed her tunes. She encouraged my hobby and has done her best to learn more about pipes because she knows how much they are a part of my life. There is little more touching to me than when I light up a blend around her and I see her pause, sniff the air, and identify it as an English or a Virginia.
Recently, Lauren did something that revealed her radical change in opinion of pipes.
We were attending a staff holiday party for the pub where we work and were both having a great time. It was a cold evening in December, but the heating lamps and fire pits made the back patio quite pleasant. Since the majority of the staff and friends of the staff were cigarette smokers, the majority of people spent their time on the patio, drinking and smoking and having a good time.
Along with my bottle of mead, one of my favorite drinks, I brought my IMP meerschaum and a bowl’s worth of Boswell’s Christmas Cookie.
When I pulled my pipe out, Phoebe, a server at the pub, said in her too-adorable British accent, “That looks like a whale bone!”
I kind of agree with her. It is a freehand design with a plateau-style finish at the top, which will look absolutely fantastic once it starts to color further. It was a present from my brother two Christmases ago and it has been my go-to meerschaum ever since.
Once I settled in by one of the heating lamps, with Lauren by my side, I lit up and relaxed. I truly adore Boswell’s Christmas Cookie, as you might have noticed with how frequently I have mentioned it. To me, it is absolutely the perfect aromatic, with nothing too overwhelming, but still perfectly light and sweet. It both tastes and smells like an oatmeal raisin cookie.
Once I had been puffing for a little while, I asked Lauren how it smelled. Being someone who is still allowed and able to smoke indoors, I find her opinion on the aroma of a given tobacco to be one of the biggest factors of when I choose to smoke what. There are certain ‘baccies that I reserve strictly for smoking indoors, as I know that she will like them. Mac Baren’s Honey and Chocolate comes to mind.
She heartily approved of the room note — who wouldn’t?
A couple of minutes later, as I slowly exhaled a wisp of smoke, I looked over to her and smiled. She smiled back and then made a strange face.
It looked like she was trying to suck on a straw that wasn’t there. I cocked an eyebrow, channeling Spock.
I couldn’t believe it. Surely, she didn’t mean…
“You want to try?” I asked hesitantly. I felt like a child approaching a deer, not wanting to move too eagerly for fear of disturbing it.
Astonished, I handed her my pipe, which she delicately held by the stem like she had seen me do in an attempt to not get grime on the meerschaum itself.
She took the slightest of puffs and let it drift out of her mouth. It was gorgeous.
Smiling as a trail of smoke still drifted from her lips, she took another puff and handed the pipe back to me.
This continued through the evening, with me taking five puffs or so and then handing it back to her.
I cannot express how much this event meant to me. It felt like she had finally fully embraced a part of me that I had always been slightly afraid would offend her. It wasn’t until a year-and-a-half into our relationship that she saw me actually smoke for the first time.
Since that night, Lauren has treated my pipes like an extension of who I am, showing them respect and deep interest. She has even spontaneously suggested that I smoke a pipe. I’m not sure if it was because she thought I was stressed, but I think it was just because she knows how much I enjoy it.
It is amazing how much of a difference the acceptance and encouragement of my loved ones make in my ability to enjoy my pipes. I have never been one whose actions have been dictated by the whims of others, but those who get close enough to me to earn the title “loved ones” are people that I work hard at making happy.
This Spring, we both attended the Chicago Pipe Show and had an amazing time. We met fantastic people from all over the world, saw some of the most stunning pipes, and got to visit with friends over tobacco, gin-and-tonics, and laughter. While there, Lauren decided that she wanted to acquire a pipe for herself. I had purchased her a beautiful meerschaum pipe a month or so before, as I knew that it would be one that she loved — and she did — but she had found herself overcome with the same itch that assaults me every time Nick releases an update of pipes.
After browsing for some time, she decided that she had four criteria for a new pipe: she want it to be small, have bamboo, be black, and have a sandblasted finish. This was fairly specific, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to find one.
While waiting for a chance to speak with Hiroyuki Tokutomi, I spied a pipe on the table from the Tokutomi Pipe Company that fit all of the qualities that Lauren requested. It was perfect and I snapped it up before anyone else had the chance.
Calling Lauren down from her room to the show floor, I presented her new pipe and watched her face light up. She carried the pipe around with her for the rest of the show, bragging about it to anyone that she could, and breaking it in with a bowl of McClelland’s Dominican Glory Maduro.
I know that Lauren’s initial resistance to my pipes was out of concern for my health. Now, after she has learned more about pipes, she sees them for what they are and embraces them for how happy they make me (not that they make me happier than her, of course!).
That’s the thing about loved ones. They are happy if you are happy. That’s why they are loved ones.