Is Chewing Gum Ever Appropriate?

Chewing Gum

When I taught high school, I aimed to minimize classroom rules; rather, to maximize freedom subject to limited coercion, going along with Adam Smith’s notion of justice.  

Students were free in the playing field of the classroom, as long as they didn’t “commit fouls” by breaking the agreed upon rules.  Respect was assumed by discovering and deciding on what respect looked like.

There were no rules around chewing gum in my classroom.  But one day a student’s shoe found what must have been a triple wad of gum that was then tracked in a sticky path to the door.  The next day I brought this “foul” to the attention of all my classes who understood and agreed that “no chewing gum” was now one of the playing rules that year.  

The use of gum is a personal choice.  While it is never considered “proper” in social or professional context, it does have self-reported advantages for those who choose to indulge.  Among these are:

  • Freshens breathe, especially after consuming a pungent meal.
  • Enhances alertness and can even help with test performances.
  • Reduces anxiety.
  • Enhances mood.  
  • Represses appetite.
  • Sugarless and certain kinds of gum can help with dental health.

It's nice to know there are people who can use gum for a purpose, steadfast in remaining considerate of others. 

When Chewing Gum is Not a Good Thing

You read the advantages of chewing gum above.  However, the act has its disadvantages as well.  These occur when chewing gum is no longer private.

When other people become involved in your actions, etiquette guidelines become the rule of the day.  If your actions leave a negative impression, it is because you did not consider others in your presence.

In fact, other people in your vicinity may even consider your chewing an invasion of their space.  This happens when you:

  • Pop or smack your gum.
  • Blow bubbles.
  • Drop your gum.
  • Stick your gum on the bottom of chairs or tables.
  • Leave your gum on plates or in glasses.
  • Chew with your mouth open.

Unfortunately, chewing publicly can be construed as an indication of an undeveloped character as this quote exemplifies: “She wasn’t actually chewing gum, but her demeanor was very much that of a gum chewer.”  (Gail Honeyman)

Thus, it is a generally unspoken rule to avoid chewing gum in front of other people.  But for those observing someone who ignores this rule, the question becomes how can the situation be corrected?

The answer is relative and would be determined by the location, situation, and relationship to the offender.  If you do not know the person very well or if there is a high risk that if you point out a faux pas you will become the offender, it is best to say nothing.

But if you can point out the offense without offending the offender, it may be worth saving the person from unknown embarrassment.

Whether or not chewing gum is appropriate depends on its level of privacy.  If you can keep the act under wraps even when you are with other people, who would know if you are being appropriate or not?  But if your chewing habits are obvious to others, show consideration by refraining.

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