Cigars can help pave the way to lasting friendships.
By The Cigar Guys, Alex Lukoff and Tony Wilson
While having breakfast in Bel Air one morning, I overheard an interesting conversation. Two young men were chatting over their quiche and eggs Florentine and seemed to be getting along rather well considering they had just met. They compared their day-to-day routines, which were eerily similar, as well as current fields of interest and hobbies in which they were engaged. There was no hint of a competition, even though one was clearly ahead of the other in regard to his work, and the junior persisted with genuine interest and insight, asking for clarification and offering his own experiences as counterpoint. Eventually they finished chatting, bid each other farewell, and then these two 9-year-olds followed their fathers to their respective cars before going their separate ways.
As adults, it’s rare that we strike up any type of meaningful conversation with a stranger when we’re out and about, but we could. Most of the time we’re content to bond primarily with those in our inner circles, based on shared hobbies and opinions. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to a very limited worldview.
Being a regular at your favorite cigar lounge, however, presents unique opportunities for new friendships, with people you may never meet elsewhere. The hobby of cigar smoking cuts across every cultural and socioeconomic group and allows you to challenge your own ideas with very different people. It may be true that when the weight of the world gets you down you want to go where everybody knows your name, but getting hammered while watching a game at a bar is a very different experience than you might enjoy while sharing a smoke and an exchange of ideas or friendly debate with fellow cigar smokers at a cigar lounge.
When we were children, being a best friend was as easy as living next door. Eventually, as early as our first days in school, we started censoring our friendships when we began to differentiate between “friend-friends” and school friends. From that point on, the latter type of friendships tended to lose a certain depth. We can spend most of our waking hours with our work friends and learn that a similar schedule does not a deep relationship make. The more you’ve experienced in your life, the more nuanced the edges of your relationship puzzle. There’s a depth to the friendships made with the enthusiasm of youth that most of our adult acquaintanceships simply can’t match.
Scrolling through the contact listings of an iPhone is always an exercise in nostalgia, seeing names and numbers for people who are now out of touch, who stopped smoking cigars, moved or died. Many of seem to be from a lifetime ago, while there are others we may chat with every six months or so just to keep in touch.
There’s comfort to be had with someone you’ve known for 10 years, even if you don’t know their middle name, especially if cigars were shared. I was recently reminded of a vendor I smoked cigars with way back in the aughts, while scrolling through a vendor list. I came across his name, and although we hadn’t talked in six years, I called him up. We began our conversation by updating each other on our current humidors—it was an easy and natural first step—and it was great to talk with him again. And what of one of his competitors, who had asked me incredulously why I wanted to use two vendors for the event I was planning? I bet he doesn’t even know the difference between a candela and a maduro.
Cigars Can Lead to Friends
Calling up a cigar acquaintance is always easier than a business acquaintance, and turning one to the other is one of the key reasons that many people get into cigars in the first place. The value of a shared hobby such as cigar smoking cannot be overlooked, as it provides an excuse to tell someone you were thinking about them— where you last smoked together, for example— or to have a cigar, of course. The leeway for an excuse to get together with an old cigar-smoking friend is so much wider than calling someone up to awkwardly discuss what may have happened since he was Captain of the swim team back in high school. “So, do you still swim?”
Guys have a tendency to reach a conversational stalemate if there’s no obvious commonality, which is what makes the transition from professional relationship to personal relationship so challenging. Working with people noticeably older or younger than you is always an interesting dynamic, because you probably spend your weekends differently than the 24-year-old IT manager. That’s what makes a company golf tournament so interesting; you can always spot the guys who don’t usually wear polo shirts, but no one passes up the excuse to drive tiny carts around on the grass. But once your coworkers see you smoking on the course, you’ll notice that no one looks at you quite the same after they learn you’re a cigar smoker. By opening up and sharing this one piece of your individuality, you give them the ability to humanize you, to see you as more than your job, but as the type of person who goes against the grain. In my opinion, that’s really the key to any relationship: seeing someone for what makes them different, not what they may have in common with you.
Most friendships develop gradually based on similarities—your enjoyment of the same places, same ideas, same smokes. Eventually, though, you may be faced with the arrival of a new class of friendship that doesn’t follow the same rules. These are the “couple friends.”
When out with your spouse, running into someone he or she knows and you don’t is awkward enough, but when that person is with his or her spouse, you may be in for a wild ride, especially if a meal ends up being involved. If the men know each other, their spouses who don’t will often end up joking together and telling stories over the meal. But when it’s the ladies’ show, there’s a risk the dinner table will resemble an arena in which two lions are glaring at each other over a steak while their mates chatter away. In either case, it’s highly advised to have an activity planned for the group afterward. Even if it’s just walking, it’s easier for guys to get along when the scenery is changing. Just look at how men and women speak among themselves; women tend to stand squarely facing each other, engaged in conversation, whereas two men will often stand at an angle while surveying the world around them.
By sharing your passion for cigars during the previously described scenario, however, you give other people an opportunity to feel like they know you. This makes bridging the gap to friendship much easier. Mention to your wife’s friend’s husband that you were out smoking a cigar on the patio over the weekend, and odds are good that you’ll notice his attitude changes. Suddenly, you’re not just another stranger being foisted upon him, you’re a cigar smoker.
Cigar smokers are an easy bunch to bond with because we believe that the most defining point of the cigar lifestyle is making, taking and spending time. Oddly, the idea of doing something for pleasure’s sake alone is anathema to many people. At nearly every event we arrange, someone eventually asks the same question about smoking cigars: “So, what’s the point?”
We always give the same answer: To enjoy the flavor. To relax. To just slow down and enjoy a talk with the person with whom you are smoking. And to make friends, of course!
The Cigar Guys, Alex Lukoff and Tony Wilson, are national providers of live cigar rollers, cigar bars, and Cigar 101 classes for events and parties. Visit them online at TheCigarGuys.net or phone them at 800-610-6717.