Diaries of a cigarette girl: Part 1


Guest writer Chelsea regales us with her first forays into the wild world of booze in this multipart series.

As a teenager I was shy, awkward, and lonely. I devoted most of my free time to solitary pursuits: writing to my pen pals, listening to records in my room, watching my favorite Japanese soap operas. Socializing was not my strong suit and I was rarely invited to the parties and high school dances where most kids experience an assortment of Firsts: first date, first kiss, first swig of beer, first bitter puff of someone’s cigarette. Hearing my peers talk of their typical adolescent antics was like listening to stories from another time and place, completely foreign and without context. Needless to say, I did not drink, ever.

My initiation into the world of alcohol (and adulthood) came with a crash just after my 18th birthday, when I found myself working as a cigarette girl in San Francisco. I’m not sure exactly what prompted me to take the job, which requires charm, beauty, aggressive sales skills, and the ability to become the life of the party—i.e. not me. Disillusioned with my current minimum-wage retail job, a newspaper ad called out to me: “Become a CANDY GIRL and make $$$! Sell candy and novelties at concerts and nightclubs in the SF Bay Area. 18+”. I had a romantic vision of pretty girls in brightly colored costumes, serenely carrying bundles of licorice ropes and light-up roses up and down the aisles of concert venues, partially compiled from memories and partially from my own imagination. Besides my naive notion that you could serenely sell anything, it also didn’t occur to me that most of my work would be done in bars.

The interview was quick and easy. One other prospective Puff and I met at the Peachy’s Puffs office with the co-owner of the company, a friendly, joke-cracking guy who was a little on the sleazy side, but not quite old enough to qualify as a Dirty Old Man. As he gave us the rundown on the job, telling us about the bars and clubs we would be spending our nights in, I wondered when the subject of age would come up. I was barely 18 and assumed I would be working in all-ages venues, the only places I had seen Puffs before. But it never came up, and I was granted the position. The owner congratulated us, “You two are going to make adorable Puffs!”

To be continued…

Peachy’s Puff image courtesy of Peachy’s Puffs.