Ask Hank 11: Shame, Guilt, and Glorious Vanity

A. Miller
I complained to a friend recently about the stresses I have at the day job and he looked at me as though I was nuts. “There is a reason they call it the rat race,” he said. While I suppose he’s right, he didn’t have to look so smug while he pointed out that my problems are not mine alone.

Tisk tisk.

So I returned to my computer on my back porch in the gorgeous cool summer weather of Denver and re-lit my pipe and got back to work. Apparently I don’t have it all that hard. Whatever.

If my problems seem sad and small, I can always turn to yours to cheer me up.

Dear Hank,

I’m a terrible person. I asked my friend if I could borrow a tin of tobacco and I took it home and loved it so much I smoked right through it. Then I filled the empty tin with a tobacco of lesser quality and returned it to him as though I had only smoked a few bowls. I’m filled with shame.

Is there a solution for shame?

No way I’m replacing the tobacco, just replace this hole in my heart,

Dear Kevin,

Thanks for writing. The solution for shame was invented a long time ago and is known as guilt. Actually guilt doesn’t actually get rid of shame per se, it’s sort of…. like the foul aftertaste of bad tobacco, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Guilt is a river that never dries out, but does occasionally flood.

If you feel terrible now, wait till the floodgates open.

My suggestion is to wallow in guilt until you feel your shame has been covered with sufficient penzance… er… penance, yeah, I meant penance. Then return to your normal life. If that doesn’t do it you could attempt to transfer your shame on to someone else. This is a surprisingly effective method (you’ll note it’s favored heavily by those ridden with shame). For this, just find someone you don’t like and make them feel terrible about a life-choice they’ve made. You’ll find this helps you forget the shame you’re carrying for a few minutes at least. Usually it’s best to focus this on something petty, such as, how on earth they ever chose *that* pair of pants. Or why are they still single?

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Something of that nature.

Passing your shame on to others will make you feel better about the weight of carrying your own.

Never ever replace that tin of tobacco or you might feel some relief,

Dear Hank,

Two years ago I paid off my house. I’m 37 and single and I consider this a significant feat of financial wisdom and stability. Last month I bought a second home, a small one bedroom cabin in the woods, and paid cash. I was thrilled with the freedom it offered me and looked forward to a vacation home.

This month I realized I’ve filled the cabin with so much tobacco it’s basically become a massive tobacco cellar, with no room to sleep. What should I do?

Please help,
Biggest Cellar Ever in Maine

Dear Biggest Cellar Ever in Maine,

Your problem is a terrible terrible rich-person problem. But lucky for you, I was rich once (for a few hours when I was 16 and had three whole tins of tobacco for like…. oh…. 4 or 5 days), so I know what to do.

1) Sell your primary home. You won’t be needing this anymore.
2) Drive to your cabin/cellar in the woods. Proceed to open every tin in the house and empty the contents on to the floor. This tobacco will now serve the purpose of both water and soap for you to bathe in. When you get tired you can pile some of it in a corner and use it as a bed. If you get cold, pile some on top of yourself. When you desire a smoke, grab a small bit from here and there and enjoy.
3) Take obscene numbers of pictures of yourself wading through tobacco and post it to social media with lines of self pity such as, “How will I ever get through all of this tobacco?” or “I know there is some 1Q in here somewhere, oh what on earth will I smoke until I find it?”
4) Rejoice in the fact that nicotine can be absorbed through the skin and your smoking will likely only ever supplement an ongoing nicotine buzz.
5) Never invite your friends to partake. I’m not entirely sure why I give this advice, but it’s my understanding the more you have of something the less you should ever feel the need to share it. More social media, rub it in other’s faces that you have so much tobacco you can barely move around your house.


That’s about as far as I’m able to take that.

If you don’t like the options I’ve laid out above, feel free to ship it all to me. The curse of a full vacation home can be overwhelming, hence why I’m starting a small company to aid just such situations. Check it out over at

For a nominal fee, I wont just give you advice, I’ll actually take the problem off of your hands.

Your friendly, sacrificial, always willing to help pipe-smoker,

Dear Hank,

I often question those who worry about appearing “manly”, whether choosing a pipe or fabric for a shirt. (For some reason, large checked flannel comes to mind.) My theory is that those who are concerned about such, and write about same, are feeling they are not some how “manly”. Now I am concerned about my concern: Am I a closet wuss??

Smokingly yours,
John M

Dear John M,

I assume this is in reference to some advice I offered in last month’s column. People worry about all sorts of ridiculous things, the mere existence of this column is proof of that. And are you a closet wuss? I’m afraid only you can answer that.

I can, however, strongly encourage you to find a closet in your house in which to smoke. A closet provides a nice hot-boxing effect in a small room. While most people don’t see the need for hot-boxing tobacco, I find it achieves two goals:

1) It dramatically shortens my lifespan.
2) I get a way bigger nicotine buzz.

Indoor smoking is dramatically underrated as a thing. But smoking in a tiny room inside of indoors, indoor-indoors (if you will), need I say more?

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Added bonus, if you keep your clothes hanging in the closet while you smoke, you’ll always have that fresh “recently smoked a pipe” smell on your favorite apparel.

Yes, I do smell nice don’t I?

Dear Hank,

I have seen a number of smoking lounges both at pipe shops and in my friend’s homes. Most feature leather couches, mood lighting, and a large television on a wall (usually pictured with a game of football airing). I wanted to do something a little different though.

I built my smoking lounge with a single leather chair facing a wall covered entirely with mirrors.

I’m writing to ask, which tobacco pairs best with vanity?

The fairest of them all,
Jake in Nashville

Dear Jake in Nashville,

Now it’s not every day people ask me this question. Which is odd, because I feel, if anyone should know vanity, it’s yours truly.

You have a couple of different options to go with here. I personally find my head expands slightly quicker than normal when partaking of the same tobacco Einstein smoked. Revelation is quite hard to come by these days but a match, such as that made by Sutliff or C&D’s Epiphany, seem to hit the spot for me.

I never came up with a theory related to relativity, but I did once decide I was relatively good looking. I think you can see the connection.

There is also the feeling of ridiculous superiority I feel when I buy a good rope tobacco and spend the almost-forever-long it takes me to prepare the bowl. That feeling of superiority is then heightened when I mess it up and end up having to dump the bowl out and start over again.

All of these are good tobaccos to pair with vanity. But nothing matches a pipe I’ve made myself and a tobacco I’ve blended myself. Then, oh vanity of vanities.

Eat, drink, and smoke, for tomorrow we may die,

I feel a little worn out from all the wisdom I just dropped. So for now, I’ll drop the microphone as well. See you next month.

3 Responses

  • Hank,
    Your view of vanity as constituting both appearance and intelligence is refreshing. But when I thought of a mirrored room with one leather chair I pictured a woman “lighting” my pipe and intelligence was not an issue.
    just sayin.