I don’t know if people still do this, but when I was little, I used to look under the table at the diner , Mom’s Lunch, to see if there were a lot of wads of chewing gum stuck under the table. Each table was dotted with pieces of gum. I never understood why people just didn’t put their gum in a napkin or get up and throw it away. Or swallow it. That’s what I did. To this day, it surprises me that I would swallow gum. But, yet, I would look.
My mom never told me not to swallow gum. She told me to quit cracking my knuckles. I was going to get arthritis. And sitting on concrete was going to give me hemorroids. I had no idea what hemorroids were, but I was going to have to sit on a donut shaped rubber ring like Grandma if I kept sitting on the cold concrete. Hell, I didn’t want to carry something like that around. It looked like a life-saving thing someone would throw at you if you fell overboard.
I wondered if swallowing gum made something happen to you. I did look it up in the World Book Encyclopedia one time. It told how gum was made, but not what would happen if you swallowed it. I had to find out. I was NOT going to carry around a rubber donut ring to sit on when I got older. So, I set out to ask people. I would ask my mom, but I knew she would lie.
“Why are you asking me that, Vickie? Are you swallowing gum?………………Yes, you are, I can tell by the look on your face…………………Yes, you are……………….Well, I’ll tell you what happens to little kids who swallow gum…….It stays in your stomach and when you swallow water, it blocks the water from going through and you won’t be able to ever pee again. It will make your stomach bloat up like those little babies you see in the National Geographic from Biafra.”
I just stared at her. What a liar. Even though I was little, I knew she was lying. I already swallowed plenty of gum and was always able to pee. And I was pretty sure those babies from Biafra didn’t have swollen stomachs because they couldn’t pee. I knew that because I always had to sit at the table and finish my dinner food or I “would just have to sit there and think about all the children in Biafra that were starving.”
If I had the internet when I was little, I would have found out the easy way. The Mayo Clinic website would have given me the answer in a second:
“Although chewing gum is designed to be chewed and not swallowed, it generally isn’t harmful if swallowed. Folklore suggests that swallowed gum sits in your stomach for seven years before it can be digested. But this isn’t true. If you swallow gum, it’s true that your body can’t digest it. But the gum doesn’t stay in your stomach. It progresses relatively intact through your digestive system and is excreted in your stool.
On rare occasions, large amounts of swallowed gum combined with constipation have caused intestinal blockage in children. It’s for this reason that frequent swallowing of chewing gum should be discouraged, especially in children.”
Take that, Mom. But, the thought of carrying a donut butt pillow was on my mind. I was a frequent swallower. I had to stop swallowing my gum. In fact, I decided that day to quit chewing gum. I was never going to chew gum ever ever again.
Well, that lasted about 2 days. I never did swallow my gum again. But, it did find its way into my hair when I was in junior high. Oh, what a silly girl I was.
One day several of my best friends and neighborhood dwellers were sitting on my front porch, listening to my portable radio. There was a commercial between songs that said that if you got gum stuck in your hair, you could easier get it out by applying peanut butter to the gum.
Without hesitation, I took the gum out of my chomping mouth and put it in my hair. Oh, I didn’t just put it at the end of my long hair. I put it in my hair by the side of my forehead. My friends were aghast. Aghast, I tell ya. So was I.
“I CAN NOT believe you did that!!” My bestest friend, Ramaine, yelled.
I ran into the house as quick as I could and reappeared on the front porch with a jar of Jif peanut butter. What else could I do? If my mom ended up cutting my hair, I was going to look like Twiggy again. I had short short hair forever and it took me a long time to talk my mom into letting me grow my hair longer. Dammit. Now I was going to have short hair again.
So, I stuck my two fingers in the jar of peanut butter and globbed some on top of the Juicy Fruit gum entwined in my hair. And it worked! The oil in the peanut butter somehow disentegrated the adhesiveness in the gum and the gum easily came out of my hair. Well, sort of. But I didn’t have to have it cut out of my hair. Of course, I had to immediately wash my hair, but, I was so happy that my mother, the butcher, didn’t have to go all scissor happy on my hair.
That incident was my “Be spontaneous” moment.
Fast forward many years and you will see a chewing gum-less group of fourth graders. I won’t allow gum in my classroom. “Why?” They ask each year. I usually make up a story about a little girl who didn’t have much and wore a new skirt that day, sat in gum, and cried all day. I added more to the story, but it usually stopped the questions as to why I didn’t allow gum. Or something else would come streaming out of my mouth:
” What if you decide to put it in your hair one day? Then we have to find peanut butter to get it out, and it would just waste a lot of class time.”
They just look at me.
“Why would anyone do that, Ms. Mendenhall?”
“I am sure there has been someone somewhere who has put gum in their hair on purpose.”
“But that would be…..stupid.”
“Or spontaneous.” They don’t know what spontaneous means.
So, the little girl who swallowed gum and then placed it in her hair, grew up to be a gum Nazi.