My father refused to let my mother smoke cigarettes because it was 'unladylike'

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by my mother, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

My mother wasn't a smoker—not exactly.

When my mother met my father, they were both smoking cigarettes. My father was a dedicated smoker. Cigarettes were a major part of his life. He would smoke at work, he would smoke at home, and he would even smoke when he was driving.

My mother just wanted to look cool. As a bonus, smoking cigarettes helped her stay skinny. She despised the way they tasted and smelled; she hated the way they made her feel. However, she thought the pros outweighed the cons, so she kept smoking.

My father refused to allow my mother to smoke cigarettes around him because it was "unladylike." My father thought that smoking was a man's habit. So, my mother had to sneak cigarettes when he wasn't around. She would go outside and hide behind the bushes so she could have a cigarette in peace.

Eventually, my father caught my mother smoking cigarettes. He was furious. He told her she needed to stop smoking and start behaving like a lady. My mother listened to my father and stopped smoking cigarettes. She never smoked again.

Although my father's intentions were good, I think he was wrong to tell my mother that she couldn't smoke cigarettes because it was "unladylike." Smoking is equally bad for everyone, and gender has nothing to do with it.

In the end, my mother quit smoking because she wanted to, not because my father made her.

She had three options:

My mother could have kept smoking openly, knowing that my father might end their relationship because of it.

She could have continued smoking in private, hoping he wouldn't notice the lingering scent of her cigarettes over the smell of his own cigarette habit.

Or she could have quit. For him? For herself? It doesn't matter. Quitting is quitting. She did it for her own reasons, even if her reasons included pleasing my father.

Is there really ever a poor reason to quit smoking?

My father's refusal to allow my mother to smoke cigarettes around him because it was "unladylike" was a turning point in their relationship. It made my mother angry, but it also motivated her to change. And that's a good thing.

She quit, and eventually, my father quit smoking, too. Neither of them has touched a cigarette since the 1960s.

It's a good thing my parents quit smoking. However, I think it's important to remember that my father's attempt to forbid my mother from smoking cigarettes was wrong. It wasn't his decision to make. My father should have respected my mother enough to trust her to make the right choice, which she did anyway.

Do you think it's ever appropriate for a man to forbid his partner from doing something because it's "unladylike"? I certainly don't, and neither does my mother.

I have a feeling this story would have turned out differently if it had happened in 2022 instead in the 1960s. She probably would have continued smoking just to spite him.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

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