By Katie Lambert
Illustration by Ciara Cordasco
The first time I smoked weed was with a man. I was scared. The second, convinced I was dying. Then, alternately aching for approval, hiding anxiety, or uncomfortable but pretending not to be.
Trying to get closer. Trying to get further away.
It took a long time to see that the problem was not the joint or the pipe or the vape or the bong (well, maybe the bong) but the men.
The first time I smoked weed with a woman was in New Orleans. I’d met her in my mythology class, a course that couldn’t keep even my book nerd attention. She stomped into the room late, little ankles in big boots, with a vintage necklace and unbrushed hair. One day she bought me a Diet Coke and then I was driving eight hours with her and a yappy Pomeranian to stay with her artist mother in a big, white-columned house. There were prah-LEENs, special-ordered jambalaya, and walks for fancy coffee. We strolled down to the Jazz Fest grounds with a Bloody Mary in a plastic cup you could buy right on the street. She rolled the most perfect joint you’ve ever seen in the middle of the crowd, drawing a nod of approval from her brother, fresh from rehab. Tiny, tight, tidy. It was sunny and I fell in love with Bruce Springsteen and we danced and yelled and ate crawfish with our bare hands as twilight struck.
The second time that mattered was with a woman I’d met through a boyfriend. I didn’t like him much, but I’d resolved to make her part of my world. She practiced yoga religiously and woke very early and exercised the most measured control over her life. She was strong and independent and held everyone at arm’s length, but when he and I split, I kept her. And when she invited me over for Girl Scout cookies and weed and girl time, I said yes, even though I barely ever smoked. I smoked too much and spent the next hour (hours?) staring at the ground, concentrating on each inhale and exhale of breath because I was quite sure that otherwise, my body would forget to do it on its own. When she asked if I was OK, I nodded carefully, slowly, silently. The next time I saw her, she cooked me butternut squash ravioli with sage and butter and offered to lend me a dress for a wedding.
The third, an invitation from a new friend, a writer whose style and vulnerability I liked, and who I’d finally met over queso. She wore highlighter and cat-eye liner at noon and firmly pushed me forward in my own writing endeavors. She hosted a weed dinner, catered by a cook found on Instagram, and attended by women I admired and wanted to like me. I wore yoga pants and a T-shirt and felt pale and dim among the tattoos and nose rings and beautiful fingernails and sharp minds until I remembered that I was one of them and sat down at the table, loading a chip with weed-infused cheese and jumping in instead of holding back.
I look at these imperfectly lovely, creative, fierce women and I’m smiling and buzzing and light, so light, because this is all that matters: these women, this moment, and the slow pull on the pipe is just a reminder to breathe.