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The Straight Dope

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Many years ago--34 to be exact--I was a young man of 20 going with a girl with whom I had, by the standards of the 50s, a passionate relationship. That meant we necked a lot in parked cars. One night as we were kissing, I noticed that my chewing gum, which I had had in my mouth for some time, suddenly disintegrated into many tiny pieces. I was forced to spit them out since all cohesiveness was gone. In the weeks that followed I noted the recurrence of this phenomenon several times, always while similarly engaged. I later broke up with this girl and I don't remember if it ever happened with successor girlfriends. Maybe I stopped chewing gum while kissing, I don't know.

Several years ago, I read an article in Playboy in which the author described how the same thing had happened to him as a young man. He wrote about the incident as if it had been a phenomenon exclusive to himself, but I knew exactly what he had experienced. My guess is that "disintegrating gum syndrome" is probably caused by a hormonal change in my saliva stemming from sexual arousal. I wonder (a) if Cecil has ever heard of this and if so, (b) does he know the cause, and (c) how common is it? --J.M., Bedford, Texas

Cecil's natural reaction, on receiving letters of this kind, is to assume that the writer is nuts. Cecil assumes this because nine times out of ten the writer is nuts. Remind me to show you the one about the cows and the barbed wire someday. However, vaguely recalling having seen something similar once, I rummaged through the files and came upon the following dusty missive from M. Wichorek of Chicago: "An acquaintance of mine recently told me that if a person chews gum while engaging in sex, the gum will dissolve in the chewer's mouth due to some extraordinary secretion of . . ."

You get the picture. Needless to say, anytime you get the same question twice from different parts of the country, you have to figure something is up. (Or else the Teeming Millions are conspiring against you, a possibility Cecil refuses to even consider.) Not that I'm necessarily eager to do anything about it. It took two years and countless heartfelt pleas before I caved in and answered the one about why asparagus makes your p-- well, you remember. Right now I am holding out against an avalanche of maniacs demanding to know about "piss shiver," a mystery that for now I am content to leave unplumbed.

Still, there are some questions that cry out for an answer. Having conducted an informal survey, I would say that the incidence of disintegrating gum syndrome is blessedly low. However, J.M., not that I want to point any fingers, this is probably because most people do not chew gum while making out. (Incidentally, if I might ask, what kind of desperate bimbo were you going out with who not only let you chew gum and spit out the pieces while smooching, but put up with a repeat performance?)

Being devotees of the scientific method, Mrs. Adams and I next retired to the laboratory for a round of experiments. She helped herself to a wad of Big League Chew (she's always been a little butch), while I chose Wrigley's Doublemint--hoping, of course, to double my pleasure. We thereupon commenced a rigorous program of research. I am not at liberty to disclose the details of this, owing to considerations of marital harmony; suffice it to say that we were thorough. End result: not a godblessit thing (apart from the usual). I am totally bummed. Obviously we lack, how do you say, chemistry. (In our defense, I must say that chewing gum during a clinch puts a distinct damper on your ardor.)

In the interest of thoroughness, I have also made a few discreet inquiries, all to no avail. Disintegrating gum syndrome, it appears, is a phenomenon unknown to science. (During sex, that is. I've heard some claim they've had chewing gum disintegrate on them because of some mysterious property of their tooth fillings.) I am thus obliged to throw the matter up to the Teeming Millions, ever willing to give their all in the pursuit of knowledge. Reports from the field are now being gratefully accepted. An anxious world awaits the results.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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