My smoking fetish had not yet risen above the surface in a tangible way in the summer of 1997, but having one year of college down and working at a summer job that allowed me a fair amount of observation time of young cuties in traffic during the peak years of young female smoking in the past generation, the fetish monster inside me was screaming to burst out at this point. One of the moments that led to my epiphany came on August 28, 1997, one year to the day after my epic life-changing “State Fair Girls” sighting at the Minnesota State Fair. This sighting was nowhere near as consequential as that, but the context was at least a little bit similar.
I worked that summer at a rural electric co-op in southern Minnesota and during my last week there, the entire office went to see a minor-league baseball game featuring the now-defunct Southern Minny Stars. We got to the game and I sat amidst my coworkers, and I was subconsciously scanning the crowd for girls smoking. Sure enough, amidst a cluster of girls, a relatively nondescript 18ish blonde sitting in the bleachers behind home plate was smoking a cigarette. But she would merely be an appetizer for what was to come.
As the innings plodded on and the game got boring after dark, my eyes began to again scan the crowd, aggressively looking for smokers. Way off on the sidelines at the edge of the bleachers along the third baseline stood a very attractive early-to-mid 20s mother, a long-haired brunette with a perky smile and at least two kids running around in close proximity that I assumed were both hers. She seemed to be immersed in a small cluster of guys and girls….and she was smoking a cigarette. Maybe some of the others in her group were smoking, but I didn’t notice. It was this girl who had a certain undefinable “it factor” that kept my eyes focused on her like a laser as she smoked, and I could tell just how much she loved it by her deep drags and the look of pleasure on her face as she exhaled amidst the pleasant company of her friend group. I kept looking her way for the next half hour or so, and she didn’t disappoint, smoking three cigarettes over the course of the rest of the game. I didn’t fully appreciate this then as I would have two years later when my fetish was out of the proverbial closet, but it was undeniably a formative moment on the stepping stone that got me to where I was two years later.