Smoking Ladies

Damon Runyon

We claim to be able to read a lady’s character and to tell something of her life and habits by the way she smokes a cigarette. So many ladies smoke cigarettes nowadays that we have a field almost as wide as that of the palmists and the handwriting sharks and astrologers.

We have one great advantage in our racket, too. We do not have to use tools or props of any kind, not even teacups. All we require is an unobstructed view of our subject and her cigarette smoking. We work almost as well at long range as we do close up. However, we occasionally like to examine a cigarette butt discarded by a lady smoker as it invariably presents evidence of value to us in character analysis.

For instance, there is the general state of the butt. If the end that has been in the mouth is discolored by lipstick and is wet and frayed as if it had been chewed on, we know that the smoker is an untidy person and quite nervous. The chewing indicates the nerves. If the end is as dry and spotless as when the cigarette came out of the original package, she is bound to be a lady of neatness and nice disposition. An unsullied cigarette butt is the mark of orderliness and calm.

The manner in which a cigarette butt has been extinguished is also important. If it has been tossed aside still burning, it is proof that the smoker is careless and thoughtless and not at all a person to be trusted around a keg of dynamite. If the butt has been squdged down in an ash tray or elsewhere, we have not only messiness again, but petulance.

It is significant, we think, that the most squdged down cigarette butts are usually found in ash trays on tables at which married couples have sat, though we are inclined to discount the yarn that a head waiter in a high-toned New York juke makes a good thing of tipping off society news-gatherers to matrimonial rifts whenever he finds more than twenty squdgers on the lady’s side of the table. That could happen when she was only trying to argue the guy out of a new spring outfit.

A cigarette butt that has been extinguished by a lady smoker by deftly knocking off the live ember without frazzling up the rest of the butt, indicates neatness combined with great consideration for others. She does not want the butt to smoulder away to an ash giving off fumes that her neighbors might find unpleasant.

If we were viewing a lady cigarette smoker with reference to her desirability as a matrimonial prospect, we would not hesitate to nab one as thoughtful as this without asking any questions, though of course we would hurdle the Statue of Liberty getting away from one that extinguished her butts by tossing them into the used coffee cups or glasses of water.

An extremely short cigarette butt discarded by a lady smoker argues that she is either of economical, if not parsimonious, nature or is quite absent-minded. She smokes them close as a matter of saving or permits her thoughts to wander while she is smoking until the ember burns her fingers. Absent-mindedness is not a grievous fault, to be sure, yet going back to contemplation of the lady as a matrimonial prospect, it is something to be considered. She is the kind that would be sure to forget to cook dinner now and then.

A cigarette butt that shows that only a couple of whiffs have been taken by the lady smoker before discarding suggests a spendthrift streak, but it can also mean a propensity to sudden bursts of anger. The lady may have hurled the butt from her as a gesture of ire over something said to her. Under some circumstances it could be a plate.

The profligacy of throwing away a briefly smoked cigarette is not in itself important because cigarettes are cheap, but it indicates a lack of appreciation of a good thing that might conceivably extend to a husband and home life. A cigarette butt discarded by a lady that discloses a two-third smoking of the whole cigarette is proof of that recognition of values that we like to find in a lady.

It might be suggested that our theories based on the examination of discarded cigarette butts would fall flat if the cigarettes were smoked in holders but you must remember that we do not depend entirely on the butts for our character analysis. They are just incidental. It is the manner of smoking that is our open book and the holders are as much of a tip-off as the naked cigarettes.

Only two out of every twenty lady cigarette smokers know how to smoke a naked cigarette with that degree of artistry that leaves you unaware that they are smoking at all, and only one in fifty knows how to smoke a cigarette in a holder without giving the impression that she is practicing fencing. The holderees are a plumb cinch for us.

When we see a lady smoking a cigarette in a holder and keeping the holder gripped between her teeth while carrying on a conversation, we know she is strong on social-conscience stuff. If she lets a little of the smoke roll out of her nostrils while she talks we are fairly certain that she is literarily inclined. If she waves the holder around like Di Maggio missing a third strike, we will bet she is against Roosevelt.