Can weed be a social drug? I asked myself this the other day as I sat alone outside, checking my email over and over while smoking a joint. It was daytime, but it was Saturday, so I wasn’t being irresponsibly chill. However, I had some plans on which I was considering flaking in favor of being alone, taking a bath, and trying to read The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao again.
I say “trying to read” because getting high and cracking open this Junot Diaz book has made me feel dumb, regret never learning Spanish, think “this book must have been hard to write,” fall asleep, and wake up to realize that I am so old that I now fall asleep while trying to read books. But it was still a more appealing post-joint activity than leaving my house and talking to people.
Leaving your house and talking to people may be the difference between smoking pot a lot and smoking pot too much. Even Thurgood Jenkins preferred people to weed (though just barely). His exact words were that he loved pussy more than weed, but I think it’s fair to infer that he really meant he preferred people. Though a small percentage of the world probably wishes this weren’t the case, you can’t have genitalia without people attached.
In fact, a vocal subsection of America is made up of people with genital relationships to stoners. And these unions may be the heaviest of the stoner’s interpersonal connections. Love is a big trunk filled with the scrolls of ancient fights, feelings about the music of Ben Folds, insecurities collected from previous relationships, and (this increases every year after you turn 25) little wheels that turn in a constant loop of partnership status evaluation. In these disorganized storage facilities of our relationships, the discovery of a forgotten dime bag is rarely a pleasant surprise. Just try following the rabbit hole of message boards relating to the topic “I’m dating a stoner.” The body of the message is hardly ever, “Lucky me.”
More often, the message is an incredibly detailed account of husbands coughing so loud that it wakes the neighbors, wives who stare into—instead of at—the television screen, boyfriends who hand you emergency grocery lists consisting only of Nutella and honey roasted peanuts, and girlfriends who are made so insecure by their THC-inspired paranoia that they will not allow you to stare at them naked in the way that you would like (probingly, like sober people do). One commenter blamed marijuana for her husband accusing her 11-year-old child of stealing from the supermarket. These board members shuffle along in a dystopian stoner fantasy of broken promises, a decidedly skunky smell steeped in the carpet, and a husband who showers, mouth hanging open, really really liking the shower so much so that he feels like he has never showered before in his life. And they don’t even get to be high.
Weed is a question of focus. When the walls of a stoner's mind begin to look as if there were an interesting experimental film being projected onto them, staring into someone else’s face may become comparatively boring. Weed’s distractibility, its inappropriate amusement, and its dangling ends of elusive thoughts are dangerous sharp metal objects to introduce to your love life’s biodome, especially if your partner already gives you side-eye when he or she sees you flushing your bong with XXX Orange Poison. “What are you escaping from? Me?” they’ll ask. “No,” you’ll tell them. “I just want to watch Entourage in a state where maybe I can enjoy it.”
But when you decide upon the person with whom you will share your couch, you will be forever reminded that weed is much more than just a 23-minute weekly escape. It is an entire vacation house with a sick kitchen and a magical fridge stocked with endless amounts of fascinating Wikipedia articles and documentaries from 1985. Yet when your beau borrows the key and sticks it in the lock of your mind, the security alarm is activated. It’s deafening. Perhaps there are lasers shooting across the floor. “Who is paying your cable bill?” an official-sounding voice announces. “Was he supposed to pay it? Were you supposed to pay it? Does anyone know what happened with that, or even where it is?” And your boyfriend or girlfriend or wife or husband flees the house and gets in the car; they throw the key at you and say, “What the hell were you talking about? That house is terrible! I thought I was going to die!” Then, they will watch through a dark and smudgy window as you return to the sofa, perfectly content, to stick your face into a Costco cereal bag.
When potheads fall in love, you’d think that they’d both be comfortable cohabitating in this shared vacation house of the mind. But the fact that pot is still lowering its body, millimeters at a time, into the chilly swimming pool of legality means that each person’s personal acceptance of marijuana use is fluid and subject to reconsideration. There will be times when, overbaked and sad, you will wish the person next to you would just win the entire Mortal Kombat tournament so that there would be nothing left to do but talk to you.
But that’s part of the sometimes frustrating work that goes into any relationship: There is a house to which only you have the right key. The kind of person who stares into—not at—the television instead of talking to you once in a while might still be the same kind of person if they’re not using marijuana. That’s just how their eyes work. Their carpet might still smell skunky—some carpets are that way. And if your partner isn’t leaving the house to buy some goddamn groceries once in a while, he or she might need to revisit the old-school veteran stoner adages to “meet the need” and “be cool” —or you might just be married to a deeply lazy person, in which case you have my sympathies.
But for many of us, marijuana helps maintain a private and necessary corner of our psyches, a place where we condition ourselves to be more functionally social people when we’re not stoned. It facilitates an understanding of ourselves that makes us better people to hang out with, on dates or just friendly-style. Spending some time sweeping that brain corner can usher us into a dark movie theater and spit us out into daylight with some new accessories in our spiritual backpack: things to discuss, a slightly altered sense of self, or just a recipe for cookies to pass along to a friend. (Or me. Go ahead—I care).
Psychological isolation from the person you love is crazy-unpleasant, whether it’s drug-induced or (can I posit that this is more common?) just inherent. But maybe we get into trouble when we don’t allow the people we love to have their own experiences, even when they’re sitting next to us when they’re having them. Maybe eradicating the stranger in our significant others is nothing to aspire to. Without individual, private imagination space, we’d have nothing to talk about after you finally win Mortal Kombat and the final intimidating voiceover declares “FINISH HIMMMM!”
Weed is a padlock on a door we could otherwise secure with the metal chain of sarcastic commentary or the propped-up chair of passive-aggressive notes. We sit in there, watching the visualizer morph, slowly considering the crap inside our heads until we get our brains neat. Maybe we’re keeping our brains neat because we love you. Sorry about the injuries you sustained when you dodged those lasers, though. It’s not for everybody.
Enter High Minded, where Tess Lynch revisits previously forgotten epiphanies, drags her lazy, leaden body on adventures and—whoa. I think this pudding's texture might improve if I added a handful of popcorn and some, like, canned blueberries. Look for a new column every other Friday at GOOD. Collage, as always, by Beth Hoeckel.