Coming Out — for Weed
I’m not sure why it’s so hard to say out loud. It’s not like it’s a secret to anyone who knows me. And still, owning your shit is tricky business. So here goes:
I smoke weed.
As I like to say, it’s my drug of choice. I suppose every mood altering chemical has it’s place and personality type. I’m definitely a “weed-guy.” I don’t drink alcohol, for instance. It’s not a moral stance. It’s simply that I don’t like the taste. Never have. I don’t drink beers. I don’t have wine. I don’t get rowdy and do shots. I don’t even like rum cake. Sometimes I’ll order a drink and have a sip just so people don’t presume I’m in recovery. It can be a bit awkward when you don’t drink. People aren’t sure if they can trust you.
To make matters worse, I don’t drink coffee. What can I say? I don’t like the taste of that either. I know I could train myself to it — start with lots of cream and sugar, or through any number of Starbucks concoctions — but I can’t see the benefit. I’m fine with water.
This makes me a true outlier — no coffee and no alcohol. I’m demographically Amish. Puritanism at this degree probably should not be trusted. There’s a small part of my smoking weed that permits me to feel normal, like all the rest of you hopped up on stimulants like caffeine or depressants like alcohol, I get my drug of choice.
You’d think after 40 years of weed use that I’d be a connoisseur. I’m not. I’m a weed hack. I don’t care that much. I’m just glad it’s legal. Now that I’m thinking about it, my smoking started with a lie. And it’s time I told my mom.
I was a freshman in high school — and reasonably straight, your basic rule-follower. Math club. Latin club. My parent’s best friends had a son who was a popular senior in my high school. When we’d visit them I’d drift back to his room and he’d show me his new puka shell necklace and play me songs on his record player, by bands I had never heard of. He introduced me to Heart. I can’t say how many times he played “Barracuda” and the opening guitar riff of “Crazy on You.” That’s how cool he was: that opening riff is still my favorite guitar opening.
He and I rarely spoke other than when my parents were visiting his parents and we were forced together. He obviously didn’t speak to me in public, at school. So it was unusual when he called. I was downstairs playing Super Pong when the phone rang. But I didn’t pick it up. I could hear footsteps walking down the hall above me and the basement door opened and my mom yelled down, “It’s Robert, for you!”
I raised the receiver incredulously. It was definitely odd he was calling. Maybe his parents put him up to it.
Robert said there was going to be a little party after the GHS football game that Friday night and he wanted to invite me. Was I going to the game?
I was going to the game. I was starting to take pictures of events for the school paper, “The Hurricane Herald,” so I was planning on going. He said there was going to be some marijuana smoking at the gathering — “you smoke weed, right?” he asked.
“Oh yeah,” I said, feigning hipness.
So here’s the thing. I had never smoked weed. I just wanted to appear cool. But I also didn’t want to get pressured into it. It seemed scary to me. I don’t know why but Robert dug in a bit.
“How often do you smoke?” he asked. God I hate lying, but I wanted to sound convincing. “Oh, once in a while,” I said. “Sometimes with my friends, down by the creek.”
“Well, you gotta smoke with us!”
“I might, yeah, I might. And if not tomorrow, certainly another time. But thanks for inviting me to the party! It will be fun firing it up with you guys.”
And as we said goodbye and he hung up, I heard the click of another extension hang up. And then the unmistakable footsteps of my mom walking back down the hall above me, from the kitchen to the bedroom.
I sat downstairs for awhile before coming up to slip right into bed. I thought I had made it: tucked in, lights out, door closed. I think I even did a silent prayer. It didn’t work. There was a light tap on my door and my mom walked into my darkened bedroom. She left the door ajar, so we were only illuminated a bit from the hall, as she sat at the foot of the bed. I was loathing every second of this.
There was a moment of small talk before she got to the point. “Have you ever smoked pot?” she asked me.
This was a quandary. I hadn’t, of course. But she had overheard my lie to Robert. I could take the honest path and explain I was being peer pressured to try weed by her friend’s kid, but it might sound defensive and convoluted — or I could keep with the lie. Why lie? Because I was convinced that she felt she had heard the truth on the phone, and by copping to it, I’d reinforce her sense that I was being transparent and honest. And I wanted her to trust me.
So there in the dark I confessed to her that I had tried weed, but said I wasn’t a fan. I told her that kids I knew in school smoked sometimes, but I usually tried to dodge participating. I think she was satisfied with my response. She said to be careful, gave me a kiss goodnight and left me alone. I was shaking.
I didn’t try marijuana for another year. I took some from my sister’s hidden stash. But I always felt I established a nice foundation of communication and honesty with my mom that evening.
In the last days of 1999, just before my first child was born and I became a father, at the end of the millennium and wondering about Y2K, my brother and I spent a few days in Amsterdam, just talking and walking the canals and stopping to eat, smoke a joint, play chess. Being a pot smoker in Amsterdam made me feel like I understood something about being gay in San Francisco. I could be myself. My interests weren’t stigmatized. I was among my people.