Amy Brenneman: It is such a minor gesture -- so specific and private -- that whenever a doctor asks me, "Do you smoke?" I answer no, of course not. One a day? Sometimes less; the pack can last me a month or more. When I was pregnant, then nursing, the urge and the cigarettes fell by the wayside, along with sushi, sauvignon blanc and sprinting. But both times, almost to the moment of weaning, my hands reached to the glove compartment for the old, crumbly pack.
I smoke the kind of cigarettes that remind everyone of college, and remind me of college too. "Oh my God, I haven't smelled one of those things for..." "Do they still MAKE those?" "I remember sitting on the steps of Stoughton Hall with you, smoking one of those ..." When not done up for Hollywood purposes, I still look the way I did in college -- more wrinkles and grey, but the same untamed curls and sloppy boho clothes. Seeing me and those cigs is comforting, I suppose.
But truthfully, smoking is not social for me. It's a punch of the clock, a signal to myself that a task is done. Driving home on a pitch-black road in Nevada after playing Clytemnestra with my travelling (and ambitious) theater company, I flick the butt out of the window and watch the red ash bounce off the inky tar. The only spark in an ancient, sleeping terrain.
Last night I drove the 101 after a 16-hour day listening to Dire Straits with the window down, smoking. It's not the smoking itself. I'm sure I'll stop someday, and maybe someday soon. Indonesia, I hear, is not exporting my brand anymore. But til then, it's my moment. The moment that's hard to come by, with kids and husband and workplace and friends. I dwell in an exquisite matrix of intimacies where I can lose myself often amid the needs of others. But then I find me again, lighting up in my Prius after another working day.
Smoking is bad. If you ever show this to my children, I'll deny it all. But finding myself? That's salvation.
|Amy Brenneman is an award-winning producer and actress, whose TV credits include "NYPD Blue," "Judging Amy" (which she also created and produced), and currently ABC's "Private Practice." She works with the non-profit groups Healthy Child Healthy World, The Feminist Majority, and the Cornerstone Theater Company, of which she's a founding member. She is mother to Charlotte and Bodhi and wife to filmmaker Brad Silberling. They live in the San Fernando Valley, the most hip place to be in all of Los Angeles.|