One might assume that only a man can truly appreciate the merits of a quality cigar. Cigars, after all, are a traditional staple in the male-bonding ritual. But after being introduced to one of the most elegant families in the cigar world, for example, you see how men like Arturo Fuente have honed their craft alongside the strong women in their lives. “Behind every man is an even stronger woman” and the cigar game is no exception.
True, the social context of cigar smoking has traditionally been male centric, whether it's a circle of classy men taking a reprieve from a busy party, or a group of pals celebrating their friend's newborn child. But as a “lady of the leaf,” it has been amazing to see more women taking part in this classic pastime, in addition to the world of Cosmopolitans and Brunch, women have developed an appreciation for one of the truly finer things in life: a quality cigar.
My own appreciation goes back to childhood. I was a tomboy, who relished in the ambiance of my family celebrations. It was customary to see my dad, brother, uncles and cousins wind down the night by gathering over a fire and a box of Cubans. It was also very common for the women in my family to join. It was like watching the elders of a Native American tribe congregate as they passed the peace pipe and exchanged tokens of wisdom. The cigar was more than just a delicacy; it was a tradition, and remains that way in our family.
I guess this is why I feel so at home in a smoky lounge. The enjoyment now lies in meeting people from all walks of life, coming together for the ritual. Sometimes, the men are surprised to see a woman feel so at home. Some are curious as to why. The curiosity is understandable, and in its own way, welcoming. But nothing is greater than when I'm treated as a true patron, asked about my favorite sticks and given excellent recommendations. It's like showing up to a foreign country where the locals already know they can speak to you in their native tongue.
An increasing number of women are penetrating this traditionally male-dominated world, even venturing out to create “Ladies Only” smoke clubs and social events. Of course, there have been some well-known “Smokin' Ladies” that have laid out the red carpet: Linda Evangelista, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone and several other Hollywood ladies. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to open the cover of a cigar magazine and rather than looking at a picture of a beautiful cigar model (who doesn't actually smoke), seeing an even prettier Jessica Padron lighting up a stick. An authentic female cigar lover- there is nothing better in my opinion.
Now, for the newer ladies, let's clear a couple misconceptions. First of all, if a woman walks into a cigar shop alone, she will always be welcomed and helped! Sure, I've had to put up with a Freudian joke or two, but that comes with the territory of breaking down walls. At the end of the day, you'll mostly encounter men with as much class as the ritual itself. We all start somewhere, so don't feel like you have to know exactly what you're looking for. Don't be afraid to ask questions; it shows you have a genuine interest in the craft, and that you're not taking it lightly.
Now guys, in case you think I'm totally oblivious…one word of caution if you happen to meet a single, attractive cigar smoker: don't blow it! Avoid the cheesy phallic jokes and sexual innuendos (unless, of course, you want to be accused of the same oral fixation). Instead, try some classic Humphrey Bogart moves like writing your number on the cigar band of a stick you buy her on your way out. Or, ask her what kind of cigars she prefers, how often she hangs out there, what is her favorite pairing, etc. Things to strike up a good conversation will get you a lot farther.
However, if you are trying to get your lady to join the cigar world with you…ease her into it. Create a date night where she picks dinner and you choose dessert. Start her off with an Acid or Tatiana and let her decide from there. But ladies, if you don't want to join the party at least let your man enjoy his smoking time! This is a sophisticated ritual, not a night out at some sleazy club. Or if you really want to make him smile, visit your local cigar spot, grab him a new stick and meet him at home in your birthday suit (just a suggestion).
Now, for the gentlemen that perhaps view their local cigar lounge as a place to relax in a nag-free, spouse-free zone, don't fret: this is not a “battle of the sexes conversation,” nor some movement to infiltrate your “happy place.” Rather, you can think of it as the fairer sex developing a better understanding and appreciation for something you love, cherish, and relish in. I believe that we will see more “ladies nights” events at our local shops… or dare we say “couples nights” too? It could be fun…right (this is where you nod in affirmation, fellas).
The majority of the women I have met who are true cigar lovers are actually out smoking in their groups for the same reasons: to talk about their spouse, get a break from the kids or vent about work, etc. And why not find this in a more sophisticated venue? Be glad that the women of your life are abandoning the book clubs, luncheons, and bars. Welcome them into the lounge, and show them what the ritual is all about.