Just in case you couldn’t tell, I have ANXIETY. Capital “A,” full of cortisol, stomach-achy, unadulterated anxiety.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling whimsical, I call it “anxietitties,” but I digress…
As a young person, my anxiety didn’t really manifest in the same ways that it does now with anxiety sweats, feeling overwhelmed in social situations, and insomnia. When I was younger, I chewed on anything to manage the anxiety. I chewed on pencils and pens, my fingernails and cuticles, and the insides of my cheeks (granted, I still chew on my cheeks and fingernails, but it has calmed down somewhat).
One (arguably) healthier way that I learned to appease this oral impulse was by chewing gum. I figured anything would be better than tearing my body to shreds and putting dirty pencils in my mouth, so I just started compulsively chewing gum. And when I say compulsively, I mean compulsively. I always had gum on me and was glad to take any gum offered to me. Every trip to Wawa or the grocery store with my mom involved me picking up some new gum to try or one of my old favorites. Since I started getting crowns put on my teeth, I’ve pretty much stopped chewing gum altogether, so I forget about my history with it.
However, recently, I’ve been getting my smell and taste back bit by bit after having COVID in FEBRUARY, and I find myself occasionally catching whiffs of gum that I used to chew and craving gum. Weird, right? So I thought this was the perfect time to write all about it!
As a child, I loved any kind I could get ahold of. Hubba Bubba, Bubble Tape (which is also Hubba Bubba, but y’know), Fruit Stripes, Chiclets, OUCH! Bandaids (which is apparently also Hubba Bubba?), Sidewalk chalk, Yardstick gum, bubble beeper, you name it (images provided below to give you nostalgia and make you feel old)!
You know how people joke about how Fruit Stripes gum would only last for a few minutes? Yeah, I wasn’t too shy to just pop more and more until however many packs I had were done. If a new type of gum came out, I was the first one to try it. Back when sweet and sour Trident came out, I just had to taste it and obsessively chew my packs. When Hubba Bubba Max came out, I had to try every single flavor (and the watermelon-strawberry remains my favorite bubblegum to date).
But as I got older, I started to gravitate more towards sugar-free gum for a few reasons. First of all, I didn’t want to keep putting so much sugar in my body and all over my teeth. Besides that, sugar-free gum generally came in packs with more pieces than gum with sugar and lasted way longer, so it wasn’t as much money or trips to the store to stock up. Plus, I wanted my breath to smell good, and most peppermint gum is sugar free!
In my mind, my gum consumption really peaked in high school. Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can you get more gum-obsessed than what you already said?! Well, as a child, I would enjoy chewing gum and blow through it quickly, but I could get by without it. In high school, I legitimately made sure that my purse and locker were both stocked with gum at all times. As soon as one wad of gum lost flavor, I threw it out and popped another, often chewing 2 or 3 pieces at a time. I would chew 2-3 packs every single day. Fun fact: people often tease me because when I talk about gum, it sounds like I’m talking about cigarettes.
I became known as “the girl with the gum.” Everyone knew that I had gum and would ask if they could have some. Usually, since I had so much on me, I could dole it out liberally. One birthday, a friend actually bought me a twelve-pack of fruity stride gum, so I kept that in my locker for emergencies.
Just like when I was a child, I became a gum connoisseur, only this time with sugar-free gum. I knew that Eclipse didn’t keep its flavor very long. I knew that Extra and 5 gum lasted longer, but just came in packs that had too few pieces. Trident lasted longer than all of them and had packs that came with 18 sticks of gum. These sticks weren’t too big either, so you could get away with 2 or 3 pieces at a time without looking or sounding like a cow chewing on cud. My personal favorite was the Minty Sweet Twist. I loved that it wasn’t too minty to bear and had a hint of sweetness while still being sugar free.
Obviously, our house was stocked with gum. Besides the kitchen cabinets, I had plenty in my room: on my bureau, in old purses, and backpacks and luggage. This is one of the main reasons I had to close my bedroom door back when we had our dog Dixie. She LOVED our chewing gum and the xylitol (the alcohol sugar substitute in most sugar-free gum) was terrible for her. When we had people over, we had to make sure that all purses were elevated where she couldn’t reach them because somehow the dog could open zipped purses. She would do anything to get to the gum! We had more than one incident where we were calling puppy poison control to make sure she hadn’t had enough to cause an adverse reaction.
I don’t remember exactly when this gum obsession stopped, but I don’t feel like I chewed much gum in college. I still probably kept some on me for a while, but eventually, I probably just stopped buying it. Sometimes I would still use it when I went out (you know, I became a social gum chewer), but now, I can’t even remember the last time I chewed a piece of gum. With all of the dental work that I’ve had done, I usually have some sort of temporary cap in my mouth that I can’t use to chew gum. But even with my crowns, I’m still hesitant to chew gum as I’m afraid I’ll hurt the crown in some way.
Still, as I get my smell back and start to smell sweet things and crave that watermelon-strawberry Hubba Bubba Max, I may have to treat myself to a pack…and then brush my teeth immediately after.
Anyone else remember all of the fun and colorful 90s gum options? Or was anyone else known as the gum person at their school? I’d love to read all your gum-related memories.