Sunday, April 17, 2011
I don't know exactly when I started enjoying chewing on gum, but I do know the precise moment when I stopped. I brought home my first girlfriend, for real, and after a few moments of very pleasant conversation with my father, he proceeded to ask, "Why would a pretty girl like you want to chomp on your gum like that? It makes you look like a cow." I had heard my father's objections to overt mastication before, but since they were primarily directed at me, they tended to bounce off in the same way his pronouncements about how beards meant that you were trying to hide something. Since I never brought home a girlfriend with a beard, that was never a concern of mine. When I was in college and grew my own set of whiskers, I told him that they were hiding the fact that I had lost interest in shaving. But the gum thing stuck with me, if you'll pardon the pun. When friends are passing around sticks in a friendly way, they will offer one to me, and I politely decline. I can see my father standing in the kitchen, looking at my girlfriend with quiet disdain and all that sugar-free goodness just disappears. Maybe it was simply the end of the line for a bubble-gum junkie. My younger brother and I used to horde packs of Bubble Yum, the first soft bubble gum. Eventually, to thin out the stock, we went on binges, stuffing as many pieces as we could cram in our adolescent mouths. It was a hint of things to come in my stunt-eating career. Still, as I crammed another chunk of pink sugar into my drooling maw, I never flinched. My father's disapproval was the last thing on my mind. The record was ten pieces, and I would not be denied. Not until I was a senior in high school, anyway. These days, my wife and son enjoy their icy mint jaw massage, while I abstain. Probably the best thing to come of this trauma was the fact that I can spot a gum chewer in my class from across the room. The kids in my classes hate that. They have to spit it out in the garbage, but at least I don't compare them to livestock.