Gum: The Devil’s Chew Thing

12 Jul

I don’t like to get on my high horse in these situations, but chewing gum is a subject I feel quite strongly about. I don’t want to make too fine a point of it, but suffice it to say, I hate it and would gladly lay down my life to stop its manufacture.

I grew up a kid in America so, yeah, I experimented with gum. But the more I learned about the lives it’s destroyed, the more grateful I am that I’ve not touched a piece of it since my teens.

In my day, gum came in many guises, deviously designed to appeal to all sub-groups of the culture. Children whose parents didn’t love them were given gum with hard shells. Gumballs were dispensed for a coin from machines or kids broke their teeth on Chicklets. This company even went so far as offering gum geared specifically towards infants with their “Tiny Size”; children under 5 didn’t bother even chewing these, but just ate them as their suppers.

Slightly more up-market gum could be found in flat sticks. Wrigley’s (I believe in naming and shaming) was the brainbox behind this travesty. Many adults fell prey to stick gum, especially because its tastes were distinctly grown up: mint varieties, cinnamon and Juicy Fruit, with its “fascinating artificial flavor” of soggy cardboard. Sadly, the invention of Fruit Stripe gum, with a cute rainbow-striped zebra as its logo, attempted to turn children on to stick gum as well. No one was safe.

As with all things, adult gum eventually became “sexed up” with the discovery of Freshen-up, a small square of gum marketed as an aphrodisiac: the initial bite down sent forth a gush of gluey goo which gummed up one’s molars and was very unpleasant to swallow. How this made it past the Christian Right I will never know.

And, of course, there was bubble gum. Bazooka Joe gum, a pink rectangle of the hardest substance known to man, was sold in individual pieces, each of which was accompanied by a comic featuring an evil little shit with an eye patch who enticed children into “joining his gang.”  Violence was also a theme with the selling of Hubba Bubba, a softer cube that encouraged young people to engage in “gum fights.” Another cube-shaped bubble gum was Bubblicious, which contained granules of what most assumed was sugar (I’ve never seen this verified in print) and was marketed using words like blast, blowout, and bomb. Clearly the act of gum bubble blowing must give rise to a hitherto untapped source of human brutality, because god knows, I’ve never seen someone do it without my instinctively slapping their face.

These days, you’ll find many more variations and I don’t doubt new brands are cropping up each minute. I do my best to avert my eyes at the shops but I know those dastards continue to develop new sizes, shapes and colors; one afternoon, I swear I saw nicotine flavoured gum behind the counter at the chemist’s. Have we sunk so low as a society? It truly makes my heart ache. If consumers would just stop to think of all of the harm gum has done—the broken dreams, the lost fortunes, the families torn asunder—I know they would resist its lure and we could shut down gum factories once and for all.

I don’t cry often, you know that. But when I do, it’s usually because of gum.

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