Swallowing Gum

The Informant is 30 years old, happily married, and I know him through my affiliation with a gym off campus.

Him: My parents always told me not to swallow gum when I was little.

Me: Or else what?

Him: Well, they said that you can’t digest it. So after swallowing a bunch of gum, my tummy would just get full of it and get clogged and then I’d die.

Me: They said you’d die from swallowing too much gum?

Him: Yep. I was deathly afraid to chew it until I was like 17 or something. Until I realized that you don’t die from swallowing gum.

Me: Why did they tell you that?

Him: When I was little I wouldn’t chew gum, I’d just eat it like it was food. So I think that was their way of teaching me how to do it right. But instead it just scared me from ever having anything to do with it! Now I chew gum all of the time. And sometimes I swallow it, just ’cause.


I think it’s obvious that the Informant’s parents initially told him this story in order to discipline him so that he wouldn’t swallow gum. Unfortunately, the lesson was taken too strong to heart and it resulted in the Informant avoiding gum for about a decade. I think these methods of discipline are interesting in how they provide insight for how parents choose to discipline their children, and the ways in which they can backfire or effect the children’s psychology for years to come. It makes me wonder whether or not the Informant will pass down that lesson to his children. If anything, I think that lessons like that early on in the Informant’s life have led him into leading this sort of trickster lifestyle. Knowing the informant rather well, I can believe that he would try to fool people with small lies like “gum can kill you”, as a result of his learning that gum is basically harmless after believing for years that it is lethal.