Peer Pressure or Jumping Off a Bridge

peer pressure smoking cigarette nicoteineToday’s NaBloPoMo prompt is.

“Tell us about a time you bent to peer pressure”

I can’t think of any better example than the first time I smoked a cigarette.

“Peer pressure, the influence that a peer group, observers or individual exerts that encourages others to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors to conform the group norms.”

That is in no way copied from this Wikipedia page. Oh alright, you got me.

I pride myself on being a head strong person, at least I am now. Although there was a time when I was a shy, demure; wouldn’t say boo to a goose type of kid. The goose would surely attack you if you startled it, and I’m not sure if scaring fowl into attacking you had ever been a pastime for British children but never-the-less; at this time of my life I was in no position to entertain the idea.

Well let’s just put goose scaring to one side for a moment and get back to how peer pressure got me to try my first taste of nicotine and at that time, my first taste of conceived coolness and rebellion.

First, imagine if you will that as a child I was not the sun-kissed bronzed Adonis, fair of cheek and pure of heart that you may know me as. Yes, alright I know there’s very little imagination required for that image.

At school, I was a short, weedy looking, nerdy ginger kid with glasses. I always did my homework and my report card that never said anything worse than ‘easily distracted’.

I wouldn’t say I was brutally bullied, not compared to what others may have suffered, but I was certainly the butt of a fair amount of jokes and insults, and by the last year of school my ego and self-confidence had plummeted, as many people in a similar position may recognise.

This isn’t intended as a woe-is-me post, I am only telling you these things to give some context to what is to follow.

There was a place where the bad kids, the smokers and the kisser’s hung out, as every school does. These were the cool kids, the rude kids, the kids who weren’t as morbidly afraid of detention as I was. Kids who ordinarily I would not have the courage to walk closely by let alone stand with them for any prolonged period, and quite honestly if it wasn’t for a mate I was hanging around with, I would have been nowhere near there at that point either.

Despite the rather large and what will end up to be a disappointingly misleading pre-amble, the actual event was fairly… ummm well, uneventful. My mate walked up to them, he had spoken to them before, which is something I probably held with a little too much awe at the time. They recognized him spoke to him, and better still they didn’t immediately expel me from the group.

Had I been accepted? I was stood with them and they weren’t taking the piss out of me, or if they were it was way above my head.

Suddenly there was a cigarette being held out in front of me. It wasn’t just a cigarette though; it was the golden doorway to a land where people would think I was cool. After all, I had always assumed that i was right at the back of the queue when they were dishing out cool and popularity. This was my chance to change all that.

I took the cigarette, held it to my lips and inhaled. I didn’t cough, or splutter as many a teen film would have you believe was mandatory for all first time smokers. I do remember the taste though. The smell of cigarettes which had been relatively alluring up until now was in my mouth and the taste was much worse than I expected.

snoopy woodchuck joe coolAlthough this taste was mitigated by the comments I was getting from the other kids. Comments like being a rebel, and the bad boy etc. Comments which wouldn’t hold their weight now were fluffing my ego and for the first time in my life I felt confident. I had that awful taste of cigarettes in my mouth for the rest of the afternoon, as a little reminder that for a brief period at list I stood with the cool kids and survived.

This peer pressure wasn’t verbal, they never asked me to smoke, they certainly didn’t physically make me, yet the result was I did something I wouldn’t have done normally and in this case it wasn’t good. Especially, as this one incident started me off on a smoking habit that continued for the next ten years. It cost me huge amounts of money, and added about 10 years on to my age from a health perspective.

Though taking the event for what it was, it was a highlight of my younger years. My first day of rebelliousness, the first day I didn’t do everything that was expected of me.

Of course, this wasn’t the only time I bent to peer pressure, there are many similar stories but we can save those for another day.

So, there you go. That’s the time I bowed to peer pressure and smoked. The day that a short, weedy looking, nerdy ginger kid with glasses, that always did his homework tasted, even if only for a few minutes what it was like to be cool and rebellious.

I’d like to know about times that you caved in to peer pressure. What effect did it have on your life for better or for worse?

Jim Franklin

Jim Franklin

Jim Franklin is a freelance writer, living in Derby UK with his wife. When time allows he likes nothing more than losing himself in a multi-hour gaming session. He likes most games and will play anything but prefers MMO's, and sandbox RPG's.

8 thoughts on “Peer Pressure or Jumping Off a Bridge

  • January 7, 2014 at 4:24 am
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    Did you continue to smoke? Did you ever feel like one of the cool kids?

    Reply
    • Jim Franklin
      January 7, 2014 at 4:40 am
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      On and off, yes. Once I moved out and went to college I smoked more and more until I was on about 20 a day. I quit about 8 years ago.

      Generally no, I never felt like one of the cool kids. Even before the insults and comments started, I was always quiet and never naughty which is so often a requirement for being cool at school.

      Reply
      • January 7, 2014 at 9:49 pm
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        Hopefully, you are happy with who you are and can leave behind the bullies.

        Reply
        • Jim Franklin
          January 8, 2014 at 6:09 pm
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          Generally yeah. Weird kind of ambivalence. Wished it hadn’t happened, obviously but I wouldn’t be me otherwise and to paraphrase the ninth doctor ‘I’m fantastic!’ 🙂

          Reply
  • January 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm
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    Hi! Long time no communicate through the power of the telecommunication Gods!

    Great post. It got me thinking about my own experiences with peer pressure. And at first I was like: Nup. Never did it. Never caved to peer pressure. I tried my first cigarette when I wanted to (I was 30), started drinking when I wanted to (I was 18), and was never pushed into anything.

    Largely because in order to be peer pressured, you need some “peers” in the equations. And as someone who was the victim of bullying every day for 12 years, there wasn’t a lot happening.

    But then I thought… No, wait. I do have a story. Ha! In your face, independent self-will!

    I was 12. And I had no friends (as always), but had just started at a new school and was hopefuly that maybe, maybe this time would be different. (Spoiler: It wasn’t.) I accidentally got on the wrong side of the popular girls, which, I can assure you, was not a place I wanted to be. I made the ultimate mistake of being inappropriately honest on my first day, and that was that.

    So, a few weeks later, the popular-ist of the popular girls came up to me at lunch and sat beside me and said: “You know, the only reason no one likes you is because your hair is all… Well, it’s not very stylish, is it? I’m sure if you cut your hair, you’d have lots of friends.”

    So that weekend, I begged Mum to take me to get a haircut. And I had my long hair cropped into a short bob. Not because I wanted to, but because that was what ALL the cool kids were doing.

    The end of the story is that I went to school on Monday and was the laughing stock because I’d gone and cut my hair — it had been a set up all along. And from that hideous and soul-scarring moment, I learned an important lesson about peer pressure, and didn’t succumb to it again.

    Reply
    • Jim Franklin
      January 7, 2014 at 8:27 pm
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      Hey, it’s good to hear (technically read) from you. I thought you might have become insanely famous and forgotten all about me. 🙂

      I’ve never really considered bullying to be a form of peer pressure before now, but it fits all the criteria.

      Peers, albeit ones we don’t want want in this case, peer pressure you into thinking less of yourself.

      It sucks, that crap like this happens all over the world but in my case (and I’d like to think in your case too) it worked out for the best.

      After all, the most attractive and vibrant flowers are the ones you cover in ‘shit’ while they’re growing. 🙂

      Reply
      • January 12, 2014 at 9:48 am
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        Nie. I usually say the strongest blade is forged in fire. But your analogy is strikingly… naturist. 🙂

        Not insanely famous, just insanely busy. My life exploded into a million trillion pieces in September-October, and I’m just starting to be able to clean up the splatter and get back to “normal”, whatever that is. 🙂

        Reply
        • Jim Franklin
          January 13, 2014 at 7:48 am
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          My life kinda exploded too, in a good way. I was made redundant, got married, lost weight, learned to drive, got job and got promoted within 6 weeks.

          I’ve probably said it before but I have difficulty dealing with change. Even good change.

          Normal? Isn’t it the French translation of ‘No Sickness’? Doesn’t sound familiar anyway.

          Reply

So what do you think?

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