When I was growing up, there was always one dude in the group who would be known as The Stoner. Didn’t matter which group: there was always one guy who had this role. He would bring weed to parties and impress everyone by rolling neat spliffs that were perfectly packed. A skill born of plenty of practice, and many many many nights spent high.
My first boyfriend was this guy. Except we were young, so even his best spliffs weren’t a patch on the ones that ‘The Stoners’ of 2020 can manage: the guys who’ve had two decades to practice, rather than only two years. Still, my first boyfriend was The Stoner in our early group, and he knew exactly how to crumble those weird blocks of plastic-padded brown stuff that have since been replaced by rocket-fuel skunk.
I know too much about weed, for someone who lives in a country where it’s illegal. But I refer members of the jury to the fact with which I began this post: when I was growing up, every group had a dude who was The Stoner. I’ve watched plenty of genial, affectionate men roll spliff after spliff after spliff in the corner at parties. I’ve fucked quite a lot of them, and I’ve fallen in love with a couple.
When I was with my first boyfriend, there was a running joke in our group that he had a ‘top 3’ in his life: me, his guitar and weed – not necessarily in that order.
Every now and then someone would ask him what the order was today. He’d turn to them with red-rimmed eyes and grin cheekily, looking up at the ceiling as if he was thinking hard about this question. Then he’d come out with the answer: guitar comes third, then me, then weed at the very top. If I’d done something especially romantic, like sucking his cock ten minutes before he was asked, I might get bumped up to first place.
We thought it was funny. It was funny.
We were seventeen, for fuck’s sake: of course I wouldn’t come first. I shouldn’t have come first. I had almost nothing in common with that boyfriend, just the same friendship group and a desperate need to have someone to make out with at drunken parties. I was the practice he was putting in for future girlfriends later – ones who gelled better with his character, and had the same dreams he did. Just as he was practice for me – someone who showed me that I could be loved, who gave me the confidence to look for more than just ‘any guy who’s willing.’ I wasn’t right for him, nor he for me. I didn’t even really like weed, for fuck’s sake: I had a strong preference for cigarettes and White Lightning. And don’t get me started on how awkward it was when he started playing his guitar – staring deeply into my eyes as he tried to get the chords right, while I stared back at him with a fixed smile that I desperately hoped looked encouraging. I was not his priority. Weed was his priority.
One of the biggest fights we ever had came after he accidentally got me to smuggle hash through customs on the way back from a day trip to France.
I almost put ‘accidentally’ in scare quotes there, but that wouldn’t be fair. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t deliberate. It’s just that after a day hopping over to Calais on the ferry, he lent me his leather jacket so we could smoke cigarettes on the chilly deck. I kept hold of the jacket when it was time to head home, and that’s how I came to saunter naïvely through customs with nothing to declare – oblivious to this lump of drugs nestled neatly in my coat pocket.
When we got home he asked for his jacket back so he could skin up, and as I watched him rifle through the pockets the penny slowly dropped: I was a drug smuggler! I could have been caught! Me! The girl who got As and was going to University and planned to be a lawyer someday! The girl who had only ever had one detention! I was a drug smuggler.
I stormed off home, and we didn’t speak until the next day, when I’d finally managed to stop shaking with panic. He was pretty annoyed with me, and vice versa. He couldn’t understand why I was so worried (Everything worked out fine!), and I couldn’t understand why he was so chilled (I could have been arrested!).
After that, the ‘top 3’ game stopped being quite so fun.
I have a complicated relationship with weed, and men. Sometimes this drug is a playful, sexy joy. I love watching a hot guy roll joints with precision as I stare lustfully at his hands. I have happy memories of lying topless in a tent with someone who stares dreamily at me before covering my mouth with his, then blowing thick clouds of sweet-smelling smoke into my eager lungs – fucking me with his eyes and mouth and a cloud of amnesia haze. I could reminisce about the guy who told me he used to smoke weed while he wanked: holding deep lungfuls of smoke down as he beat himself close to orgasm, then exhaling, pausing, inhaling and starting again.
But weed also symbolises something else for me, I think. The lack of confidence I have in my own hobbies. The way I, falling hopelessly in love, try to wrap myself in the pleasures that come from someone else’s life. Try out their hobbies, listen to their music, embrace their tastes. It doesn’t have to be weed, or guitar. Sometimes it’s nerdy card games or a particular TV show. Jangly indie bands whose lyrics imply depth but are desperately shallow when you see them written down. Terrifying gigs in echoey warehouses or food that makes me gag. Running – and I shit you not – the fucking Couch to 5k.
A little bit of this is good for any relationship, of course: it’s nice to try out the things your partner likes, because you get to see what’s happening in their head. Experience the stuff that brings them joy, and share in it with them. Even if it doesn’t bring you joy in quite the same way, the sharing itself is fun.
But I’m not sure I always do it for the ‘sharing.’ If it were sharing, it’d be reciprocal. For every indie gig, a punk one. For every dance night, some stand-up comedy. For every evening spent giggling and baked, a Sunday afternoon doing the crossword over a pint and a roast. It’s not that I’m lying by liking their hobbies, it’s that the choices I make too often leave my own needs at the bottom of the pile. It’s not selfless, the way I’d tell myself if I were having a high-horse day: it’s stupid. A lie. In my desperation to maintain my place, I swap out the real me for a watered-down copy: one who likes indie bands or echoey warehouses or running.
So I worry, sometimes, about weed, guitars, and the other things I’ve picked up from boys throughout the years. I forget that joining in with these things is a choice, and that choice is mine. I’m so needy and desperate to impress men that I abandon the things I love in favour of whichever one keeps me snuggled closest to a boy. Perhaps the reason I’m embracing this or that hobby, or passion, or song, or drug is because I worry what’ll happen if I don’t. If I can’t engage with a guy’s ‘top 3’, then maybe I’ll get bumped right down the list.
It’s not their fault, it’s mine. I need to make my own decisions, carve my own path, put my foot down and insist that we’re going for a fucking walk this Sunday, not sitting in a curtained room passing joints back-and-forth and tuning up guitars. Neediness turns to resentment when you forget that the choice to sit and smoke, or play, is actually your choice too.
It isn’t easy to resist, especially if the boy himself is incredibly compelling. If I like a guy who likes something, I’ll try to like it too. Because if they like it, and I like it, then perhaps they might like me. Except that’s fucked, because then what they like isn’t me, it’s a half-formed shadow-version of me, one who pretends to like weed and enjoy listening to badly-tuned guitar.
I’ve known a lot of guys who’ve liked me, guitars and weed.
Not necessarily in that order.