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Spit Your Gum Out March 7, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.

My mother, God bless her sweet heart, is a neurotic of the first order.  She’ll be the first one to admit it, and probably upon reading this will add to the list of things that make her want to snap off someone’s head and take a crap down his neck.

I mention Ma’s neuroses because today is my inaugural People’s Choice Monday, and Jenn from R.I. was wondering about the likelihood of passing on our own wackadoo tendencies to our children.  I’m sad to report that it’s probably pretty likely that some of your OCD is going to rub off on them, Jenn.  Then you’ll spend hours trying to wipe it off using exactly nine wipes, and if you mess up you’ll have to start over.  Trust me though, it could be worse.

For instance, it occurred to me while compiling an abridged list of my mother’s neuroses, I realize that most of them involve repetitive sound or movement.  I believe, once you see this list, you’ll understand why I’m able to sit quiet and still for long stretches of time.  I’ve been conditioned to.  There were things in our house that, God help you, you just didn’t do unless you felt like seeing her go insane with rage.  It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point to know that I’d been known to poke Teh Crazy from time to time.  Yes, I was that kind of kid.

The French Resistance of candy.

There were things that weren’t ever going to happen in her house that, for some reason, we felt compelled to try to get away with.  I’d be a rich woman if I had a gold ingot for every time I attempted to enjoy a nice stick of Juicy Fruit and was told, “Spit your gum out.”  I don’t know what preternatural senses she possesses that allow her to know when we had gum in our mouths, but she always knew.  Swear to God, we could have one tiny contraband Chicklet tucked way away up behind a back molar in the nether reaches of our mouths, and she’d still tell us to spit our gum out the second we walked in the door.  Without looking up, even.   It’s not like we popped it or snapped it or made any noise with it at all.  Lips firmly clamped, jaws moving slowly…”spit your gum out.”

“What was I doing wrong?  I had my mouth closed!  I didn’t make any noise!”

“I don’t care.  Spit it out.”

It was uncanny.  And that is the tip of the insanity iceberg.  (We’re not going to get anywhere near the icy depths today.  You have to acclimate.)

Should you decide to have dinner with the madre, for the love of Aretha and all the Motown saints, don’t hit your fork to your teeth.  And I mean, ever.  One of us would do it by accident at the dinner table and we’d both freeze, waiting for the admonishment that was certain to follow.  Mealtimes were absolutely fraught with ways to raise Ma’s hackles.  Don’t smack your lips.  Don’t chew with your mouth open.  Don’t slurp your soup or gulp your drink.

It’s not exactly a bad thing.  I mean, we grew up with good enough table manners.  To her credit, she could take us anywhere without embarrassment, and while forgetting to put your napkin in your lap or resting your elbows on the table was corrected in a sort of off-handed way, making any kind of noise would call down her wrath.  “Don’t make me tell you to close your mouth one more time,” she’d hiss through clenched teeth, and when she hissed at you through clenched teeth, you knew you were a cocaine heartbeat away from disaster.

The worst times were when we’d have friends over to dinner.   We’d be sitting there “enjoying” some nice Shake-n-Baked chicken parts or American chop suey and every minute that ticked by would add to our agony.  You see, we knew that inevitably our unsuspecting friend would hit her fork to her teeth, and Sistah and I were just on pins and needles waiting for it to happen.  Nothing made our bowels turn to water faster than realizing a couple of bites in that we’d invited the kind of person who uses his teeth to scrape the food off the fork home to sup.  We actually feared for the lives of people like that.  We were sure that if we ever used our teeth to remove food from a fork that she’d use that fork to open our jugular and leave us to bleed while she finished her meal in blessed silence.

We had lip-smackers eat with us, and open-mouth-chewers, but it wasn’t very often.  Not because we only hung out with kids with really, really good table manners but because I just don’t remember having friends for dinner a lot.  I don’t think the stress was worth it.  It was also mostly unwarranted as well.  I want the record to show that my mother never EVER said one word to a friend to embarrass us.  Ever.  I don’t believe it even crossed her mind to correct someone that wasn’t family at the dinner table, but we didn’t know that, and that uncertainty was enough to put us off our canned peas and London broil.

Now, if we found ourselves wondering what it looked like to see a grown woman’s head spin all the way around, and we were feeling like living dangerously that day, all we had to do was bite a chip.  You know how the potato chips at the top of the bag are really big?  And your first instinct is to put the chip in your mouth and bite off a piece of it?

Oh HELL no.  Not in our house.  You could unhinge your jaw like a python and shove the whole chip in at once, or you could break the chip and put the pieces in your gob, but you did.  not.  bite.  a.  chip.

What’s more, when eating popcorn, you must put the kernel in your mouth, close your lips and then your teeth.  Most of you probably close your teeth and lips together, or even close your teeth and bite that corn before your lips have fully connected.  I think it goes without saying that we learned to eat popcorn silently lest we wind up having to figure out how to dislodge a popcorn bowl from our throats.

Do you see the level of crazy I was dealing with here?

I mention these things not because they are shortcomings of my mother’s, but because–you guessed it–I’m exactly the same way.  I hate noisy eaters.  I don’t care if my kids eat with their feet on the table.  Hell, I don’t give a shit if they use utensils at all, but if they insist on hitting their teeth with their forks, I will go apeshit eventually.

You think I’m exaggerating, but I swear to you I once asked Larry if I could get him a smaller fork since clearly the one he had didn’t fit between his teeth.  Yes, friends, not only do I have her neuroses, I’ve garnished them with a sweet coating of sarcasm that drips down the side and puddles in luscious, sticky pools on the plate.

Chips are the bane of my existence.  They are my Kryptonite.  A bag of fucking Doritos in the wrong hands can make my brain flop and twitch in my head.  Come to that, I can only imagine what it would be like to be hooked up to a blood pressure cuff and a heart monitor when seated next to a stranger eating popcorn in a movie theater.  I’m willing to bet by the end of the film I’m in stroke territory.

I have screamed at my kids for chewing chips with their mouth open.


My kids aren’t afraid of me, though.  Not enough to chew those sunofabitching Doritos with their mouths closed, anyway.

And gum?  Fuck gum, okay?  If they never made another stick I’d throw a parade with my mother as Grand Marshal.  My eyes start to throb when I hear someone grinding away at it like a goddamn camel, and if they snap or pop it…just this…

Thanks to National Geographic for summing it up so neatly for me.

I have no idea how that particular set of neuroses settled into my psyche.  I don’t know if some of it’s just hard-wired and we’re just more sensitive to things than other people or if it’s simply a case of me thinking it’s annoying because I’ve spent my whole life being told it’s annoying.  I have no clue at all, so I can’t help you out with that.

And lest you think that Ma and I are walking around everyday wound up tighter than a couple of nine-day clocks, I assure you that we each have an extensive list of things that don’t bother us in the least.  In fact, we’re both fairly laid back much of the time and I’ve been led to believe that we can be quite a great deal of fun to be around.  Especially if we’ve had a couple of cocktails.

Just spit the gum out and no one gets hurt.



1. Pippa Posey Peanut Butter Pants - March 7, 2011

Definitely in the DNA Poops. My best guess is it comes from the “Nellie Quahlie” side of the primordial swamp…if you catch my drift. Just reading your descriptions of teeth on forks, popcorn in movie theaters and snapping gum made my ass tense up and look around for someone to snarl at and hiss…stop it! If there’s a parade I’ll even volunteer to pick up the horse shit when it’s over – that’s how much I hate gum chewers. I have to go lay down now. Sensory overload…feeling faint.

2. Sistah - March 7, 2011

True story: I had a my friend Julie over one time when I was about 8 years old. We were having lunch and much to my horror I noticed that she slurped her soup. So, in a panic, I suggested to Julie that we dine al fresco even though it was 45 degrees outside and there was no place to sit on our porch. And that, my friends, is the kind of panic Ma’s crazy could bring.

3. Yorkie - March 7, 2011

I’m with you on the noisy eater thing. I absolutely cannot STAND hearing people chew their food like fucking livestock. I really try to be gentle with Maxman when he does it because I don’t want him to associate mealtimes with tension and needing to be perfect (that way lies eating disorders), so I’ll say quite firmly, “MAXPLEASESHUTYOURMOUTHWHENYOUCHEWWWWWWWWW!”

My biggest one, like you, is popcorn. It really is the reason I’ve stopped going to movies, mainly (that and having to sit next to total strangers who always reek of something unpleasant). My FIL is the WORST popcorn eater, and the thing is, he LOVES it. He makes it every single night when we’re visiting and can eat massive troughs of it. You actually cannot hear the telly when he’s crunching, and if that didn’t chap your nips, he’s the kind that talks along with the movie, misses key dialog, and then says (in his delightful southern accent), “Who’s thayat guy? What’d he saya? Roll that ba-yack a bit…no, futher…rot there-ya…” I usually give up about 20 minutes in and leave the room because in addition to shovelling mittfuls of popcorn into his mouth and talking, little bits of popcorn dandruff rain down onto his shirt and onto my sofa. He chews with with mouth open and sounds like a horse with a particularly mealy oat bag.

He does make good popcorn, though.

4. Cindy in Happy Valley - March 7, 2011

I just spent lunch,taking bites out of my chips….in your honor.

5. Jenn in RI - March 8, 2011

Thanks for making me the star of your inaugural PEOPLE’S CHOICE MONDAY! I capitalized it because it is very important! 😀
I read it dutifully 9 times, smiling gleefully at my name (although it is linked to wackadoo neuroses!). Thanks for the excitement. I will treasure it.

6. DeltaDawn - March 10, 2011

ZOMG poops – you’re describing me and my family – thought I was one of the very few cursed with outrageous hatred for chewing with one’s mouth open. It’s one of the reasons I don’t have kids – it would take to long for them to learn and one of us wouldn’t make it! Twin sis has same problem and is raising a boy. My dad could make any food crunch in his moutha nd he had the most annoying, rhythmic, chomping thing he did – ack! Husband HATES gum – comes awful close to ripping it out of fellow cracking, poppin passengers’ mouths on airplanes. Thanks for this!

7. Boo Kitty - March 18, 2011

Oh shit I am turning into my mother! Nanc nearly thrashed me several times until I broke these horrible habits listed within this fine piece. Found myself throwing a whole pack of gum out the window a few days ago because I couldn’t handle the smacking. Now every time I roll the window down Mea screams don’t throw my stuff. Oh and I had to give a good flick upside the head of a nine year old for chewing with her mouth open. To top it all off the chip thing really sends me over the edge and therefore chippies are for special occasions only! Wow how scary and thanks for bringning this to my attention as I will have nightmares this evening and probably for several weeks. xoxo

8. Anne Frank Never Flew Coach | askpoopsplease - July 19, 2013

[…] I may have mentioned my neurosis about hearing people chew with their mouths open. Especially chips. And now this Chinese kid was crunching handfuls of the fuckers, and I was growing increasingly homicidal as the minutes ticked by. My iPod battery was running low since my efforts with the aforementioned shitty wifi service, so I removed myself from the immediate vicinity of the chips and hit the recharging center. I plugged in the Pod and BOOM. Well, not “boom,” exactly. More of a “PFFFFFTPT”. My plug blew. […]

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