Is there a self-righteous, sassy stage of addiction? If there is, that’s what I’m in right now. I’m better than all those regular coffee and crack addicts. I, too, have a pack-a-day habit, but it’s not to something boring like cigarettes – it’s to something more diverse with many flavors, textures and incarnations. I am addicted to gum, and yes, I chew a 17-piece pack a day.
It all started freshman year. I had a habit of snacking while I studied, so I decided that instead of consuming needless calories in the name of boredom and masking my deeper emotional issues, I would chew. Rather than rabidly shoving food in my mouth, I began to stuff in piece after piece of gum until my mouth was so over-powered with fruitilicious flavor or numbed by cinnamon spice that I could no longer taste.
My addiction quickly spiraled out of control. I developed a strong fear that my roommate secretly despised me because of the smell emanating from my trash. I would empty it, but once that smell seeps into the trash can’s plastic, it doesn’t leave. This is especially pleasant when many different flavors of gum mingle within the can, resulting in a bizarre mix of cinnamon, mint and wildberry. Once, I tried to rid the can of its mutt scent by spraying Tropical Breeze air freshener down into it, but this only added to the smell, so that now the flavors were warring on a tropical island rather than in Rochester. While I suppose this was an upgrade, I couldn’t help but wonder if my roommate thought of strangling me with an errant wad while I slept.
That is, when I did sleep. The habit soon began to affect my sleeping patterns. I saved an AOL Instant Messenger conversation about my dilemma.
Me: But, see, I can’t go to bed now, my gum still has flavor.
Katie: You’re going to have to wait then.
Me: That’s right! It’s only the 20th piece or so I’ve had tonight, and I respect each and every piece.
K: It’s nice that you have respect.
Me: That’s a lie though, I really don’t. I usually just chew for about five minutes and then switch to the next piece because I’m bored with the last. See, gum is like women. You get the initial excitement from that titillating flavor in the beginning of the chew, and then you need to look for the next wench to spice up your life. So you open up your mouth, take out your woman and throw her into the trash, on top of all the other women you’ve spit out in the last 20 minutes – one would guess.
K: One would.
Alas, how many nights did I stay up into the wee hours of the morning just to wring out those last morsels of flavor? Far too many a moon passed with my taste buds deadened from over-stimulation and my jaw sore from overuse. After one of my friends told me that my habit could give me temporomandibular joint syndrome, which could in turn give me tinnitus – which sometimes causes people to commit suicide to escape the ringing – I resolved to break it.
I decided to associate gum-chewing with a negative feeling, like disgust. To do so, I bought three packs of different types of gum. The rules were as such – I would chew a piece of gum for two minutes, after which time I must exchange that piece for another, until all 36 pieces were chewed. Never was I permitted to enjoy the full flavors of any given piece of gum.
Unfortunately, this little experiment ended up working on my roommate, not me. She was so disgusted by the smell that she contemplated not chewing gum ever again. I, on the other hand, managed to worsen my addiction. I had bought several new flavors of gum, hoping they would be unpleasant. They weren’t. Now, rather than having three regular favors that I rotated amongst, I had six. My Flex account was not pleased.
Two years have since passed, and I have submitted to this addiction for life. That’s where my sass comes in. I’m sick of being embarrassed when I buy gum at the Corner Store and the Common Market. I rotate between the two places every other day so that they don’t think I have a pack-a-day habit. But I’m sick of pretending. So this is to all of you who work at these fine gum-distributing establishments and to the world at large – I have a pack-a-day habit, and that’s the way it is. One day, I will be broke and jawless because of it, but that’s my life choice, and I would appreciate if you would respect it!
Kaminsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.