Sunday, 21 September 2008

A guilty secret...

...I am utterly mesmerised by watching my male friends light up. And yes, I have to admit, whether I fancy a man or not, I find it incredibly sexy.

Damn. Probably not something I should have let them know.

Before we move on, no, *I* don't smoke. It doesn't appeal to me, except for the idea of being able to gesture and pose with some kind of coolness and authority. Liquorice cigarettes in a holder would work just fine for me. I'm not keen on how my clothes or hair smell after I've been in a roomful of it, and yes, I DO worry about the health implications for my friends who smoke.

End mandatory disclaimer.

What has always really interested me is why it's so hypnotically sexy, and my interest was further piqued by the fact that Ari, who hates smoking like I hate Edward, the Oratory choirmaster, finds it sexy as well - and she can't explain it either, despite being one of the most articulate people I've ever met.

Things that make you go hmmmm.

First, let me narrow the definition of lighting up: cigarette, not pipe. The latter is lovely in its own way, as a calming ritual, and the smell of pipe smoke brings
to mind affectionate, avuncular figures who smelled of Imperial leather and sandalwood.

With the definition out of the way, let's look at the obvious reason: there's a whole Humphrey Bogart/classic leading man association - tough, male, capable, smouldering, just plain hot. But that's only the tip of the iceberg.

Going a bit deeper, part of it is that I love watching people's hands. Hands perform so many actions, punctuate our words, mark out our territory, hold someone close, heal through touch. In the darkest night that words won't penetrate, a hand on a shoulder or a hug often can.

Watching a man's hands as he lights up not only allows one the aesthetic pleasure of looking at the shape of his hands, but more importantly, it allows you the pleasure of watching how his hands move when he's not consciously directing them: for example, I have a friend who is so controlled that his speaking gestures are staccato, but when you watch him light up, his hands flow much more, indicating a more sensual, relaxed worldview beneath what he perceives to be the required Catholic uptightness.

And that's really the crux of it all. When a man lights a cigarette, he withdraws from being in relationship with you and moves back into relationship with himself. The mask drops, and suddenly,
in the matchlight, you catch a breathtaking glimpse of the beauty of the man behind the defences - the vulnerability, the grief, the gentleness. If you're lucky, the glimpse lasts through the first couple of drags as he slowly refocuses and comes back into relationship with you.

I've been moved to tears by that moment: the sudden relaxation of a face perpetually tense; the glimpse of a grief that won't be verbalised; the sight of the young boy he once was; the wound that won't heal. I've been hard put not to somehow acknowledge what I've seen, but it would feel intrusive to do so, as they're not revealing it to me, they're simply allowing themselves to be.

It's sexy because it momentarily opens the curtain on the window to their soul.

So, boys, don't mind me.

Keep lighting up.


Ariel said...

Having now pondered this for awhile...

I think it also has to do with watching a man very closely engaged with physical objects. That's kind of hot anyway, or it can be; I mean, I find it hot when my boyfriend is fiddling with his pieces while playing a board game. With lighting up, there's a kind of bonus dimension, in that he's engaged with something you know is going in his mouth. Moreover, it's not going to his mouth because he's hungry or whatever; it's going there to provide a purely sensual satisfaction. I suppose it's not just hands and mouth involved either, but breathing too. Then there's also the look of bliss on his face when he first inhales. There are probably all sorts of metaphors for sex lurking in there.


Irim said...

Oh my god, ABSOLUTELY, and beautifully put. But I find that THAT bit only holds for me when I seriously fancy a guy, and I was looking for why *I* found it sexy across the board.

When I fancy a man, I'm watching those hands extrapolating how he would touch a woman and thinking, "Yeah, I bet he'd be really good..." and the whole sensual satisfaction/bliss on the first inhale TOTALLY plays into it.

I mean, watching a guy I really fancy run his fingers round the rim of a glass gets me all hot and bothered. Intelligent conversation can become very difficult...

But by then, I've seen the look I'm talking about in my entry, and have fallen for him because of that. So that's what I was going for.

Ok, off to take a cold shower...


Ariel said...

I think watching men one fancies doing pretty much anything is enough to get one hot and bothered. :-)

Point taken. I'd imagine that we're encountering some degree of individual variation here, because I don't think I find lighting up as universally sexy as you seem to do; there are plenty of men who will never be sexy for me and that's just that, no matter how many cigarettes he lights up in front of me. I mean, I'll notice that some guy I'd never thought twice about lights up and suddenly I'm aware that he is, in fact, male, but it certainly doesn't work for all men, and I don't think it would be sufficient to raise my interest for the rest of the evening unless I was already attracted on some level.


Irim said...

No, lighting up doesn't automatically make me fancy a man either - but the actual ACT is sexy, and I can't resist watching it. I think it's the glimpse into the underlying personality that I find so fascinating, and the moment of 'there he really is' just IS sexy for me. It's weird, but it's not person dependent.

The man himself doesn't become sex on a stick just because he lights up - which is what it sounds like you're thinking I'm thinking (did that make sense?).

Like you said, it can make you suddenly aware that he IS a male, even if you'd never date him.

If he is, to abbreviate a recent quote of yours about a certain gentleman, 'the hottest thing to grace [specific location deleted] in like, ever' - then, fja, watching him light up is enough to take one's breath away - on all sorts of levels.


Ariel said...

I didn't mean to imply that I thought lighting up made men sex on a stick for you! I'm sorry if I did. I was trying to say, I find it sexy too, but I don't think I'm quite as fascinated by it as you are. This might just mean that I'm less happy to tolerate smoking in my presence than you are.

It *does* provide a glimpse into the private individual; I definitely agree with you there. Actually, what you say reminds me of this article I remember reading somewhere years and years ago about how actors often use smoking as a way to express aspects of their character's personality and current state.

There aren't a lot of other gestures that reveal so much of oneself that are done in public rather than private - am I correct that this is the source of a lot of the fascination for you? If so, could there be a correlation with your more general propensity for always going deep in your connections with other people? To put that another way, your automatic level of interaction with people is deeper than that of most people, and you are constantly frustrated by the failure of the rest of us to engage you at that level with complete openness; so would it then make sense that you would be drawn to revealing non-verbal gestures?


Irim said...

I think I knew you didn't; I wanted to clarify for the reading public, small as it may be.

[There aren't a lot of other gestures that reveal so much of oneself that are done in public rather than private - am I correct that this is the source of a lot of the fascination for you?]

This whole paragraph is absolutely spot know me very well indeed.