That Time I Smoked a Hookah, or Where Have All My Morals Gone?

It would seem that during my time in Russia, I have become a woman of loose morals.

See, before I moved here, I had some general life rules. These included your garden variety rules like "don't do anything you wouldn't want to be blackmailed with," along with long-standing life rules such as: don't eat meat or fish; don't wear fur; don't smoke; don't get naked with your coworkers. Etc.

I'm sorry to say I have failed miserably.

Before we even got to Russia things were starting to go downhill. I purchased Furdinand, my Canada Goose coat with the coyote fur collar, and it was difficult at first, but once the temps dipped below freezing, I realized how wrong I'd been. Fur, my friends, is wonderful. It's soft and luxurious, warm and waterproof, and it comes in so many lovely varieties. Today I spotted two ladies walking ahead of me on my way home, and I started to develop serious fur envy.

At least a dozen small mammals were harmed in the making of this photo.
To be perfectly honest, the only thing keeping me from buying a fur is the cost. $5,000 on a coat I'll wear for one more season is insane. And yes, when I start really thinking about it and remember all the reasons I've always been against fur (the torture of live animals comes to mind), I know I could never actually bite the bullet and buy one. But if someone were to say, give me a fur, I can't promise you I'd turn it down. In fact, I can almost promise you I wouldn't.

Then there's fish. I'm very much against the fishing industry and what it does to our entire ecosystem. In a lot of ways, fishing is even worse than the meat industry. But that same shallow part of me that thinks maybe it's okay for a coyote to die just so I can be warm also decided that killing a trout is a lot less cruel than killing a cow. And so I've started to eat seafood occasionally. I don't even really like it. I just get so sick of the food here, and sometimes I'm so desperate for protein I'll go wild and order things like squid for lunch (albeit on a business lunch menu where there is no veggie option, and most of the time I end up giving it to John because it totally grosses me out). It's shameful, I know, but what can I say? I'm weak.

Last night I was invited out to dinner with some coworkers. We went to a hookah bar. If you know me at all, you know I'm not a smoker. It's terrible for you, it's a nasty habit, and it smells awful, and up until last night I had never taken a puff of anything, legal or otherwise. But now I can say that I have taken two small puffs of a hookah (mojito flavored, for the record), mostly because I felt like a total loser for not doing it. That's right, not only am I a coyote and fish killer, I'm also a total wimp when it comes to peer pressure. I'm also sorry to say that hookah smoke smells just as foul in your hair as cigarette smoke at the end of the night.

My ruin.
Next week I have agreed to go to a banya with my coworker and a few of her friends. Communal nudity is not my thing, even when it's with people I'll never have to see again. But getting beaten with birch branches and slathered in honey by some random Russian dude, wearing nothing but my birthday suit, while my coworker looks on, is crossing all kinds of lines.

At the end of the day, this is Russia. People here wear fur, they eat meat, they smoke hookahs, and they go to the banya, and it's just the way it is. When in Rome, right? I'm trying to tell myself that some rules are made to be broken every now and then. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (God willing) and I'd rather have a crazy story to tell than look back at this time of my life and say, "Gee, I wish I'd loosened up a little and tried that stupid hookah."

But I'm pretty sure my views on communal nudity aren't going to change any time soon.


  1. As far as accepting a fur given to you, I offered you my lovely midnight blue mink and you left it in Montana!! It's not too late to take it. Mom

  2. I am in love with every part of this post. I happily wear what was formerly my mother's fur and tell myself that because many animals died pitifully 30 years ago to make that jacket, the least I can do is actually wear it. Yes, rationalization. Hey, it's cold up here.

    Can't wait to hear your banya story!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts