I’d been staring at a blank Word document for more than fifteen minutes, too crippled with anxiety to begin this review. The annoying thing was my inability to pinpoint the reason for this anxiety. My deadlines were met, my bills are all paid, and I’m not on fire.
Then it hit me. About an hour ago, I tried to chew greasy, juice-filled bubble gum that is older than most of the people reading this. What I’m feeling isn’t anxiety. I’m just plain nauseous.
I don’t know exactly when they came out, nor when they were discontinued. Let’s pretend that these things aren’t important.
What is important is that they’re bubble gums based on different sodas. If you’re an old bat like me, you should remember these. As I recall, they weren’t often seen, making our experiences with them all the more special.
This was a different breed of gum. They seemed so extravagant, and still do today. Even if their gooey insides couldn’t have tasted exactly like the sodas they were based on, it was easy to trick ourselves into believing they did. After all, the wrapper said “7UP” right on it, with a picture of the damn can. The wrapper also said “big chunks,” and while being neither here nor there, I think we all liked that, too.
So, from my personal stock of terribly old food, I present three flavors of 1980s soda gum: 7UP, Cherry 7UP, and Dr Pepper. I’m most drawn to the Cherry 7UP, because it sounds delicious, and also because the wrapper’s color palette makes me want to, I don’t know, paint a wall.
Opening the gum was no small feat. It was a bittersweet thing that took a lot of psychological revving. My heart knew that I’d never again have the chance to open sealed packs of 1980s soda gum.
What, you thought that my reviews just effortlessly came to life, leaving no destruction in their collective wake? Wrong. I pay for everything I do with little pieces of my soul.
The gum is in shitty condition, with the different pieces in various states of decay.
Original 7UP got the worst of it; the inner goo is well on its way to dissolving the gum shell, leaving me with a sticky piece of I Don’t Want To Touch That. The piece of Cherry 7UP fared only a little better. Dr Pepper escaped the same fate, but it’s stale enough to crack the teeth of any animal, even one known for incredible tooth powers. Let’s say the hyena.
As you can see, 1980s soda gum patterned its formula after Freshen-Up. Instead of bursts of syrupy mouthwash, you’re meant to get bursts of brand name soda.
Though Dr Pepper may have been the safest to try, I recall hating that flavor as a kid. I was a late bloomer with Dr Pepper, after all. It wasn’t until the early ‘90s, when the vending machine at Wildwood’s Nassau Inn ran out of Coke, that I finally understood the Power of the Pep.
And I couldn’t try the 7UP because… well, look at it. There’s a difference between going all-in for a review, and signing my life away just so I can write that I chewed old gum. I admit that the torn piece of 7UP gum does have an odd beauty, but I think it’s a beauty best admired from afar.
That left the Cherry 7UP. Like it was ever a competition, anyway. I freakin’ loved that stuff as a kid. Even today, it didn’t taste bad, but I would only allow myself three brief chews. None of them made complete use of my chomping abilities. I just couldn’t take a chance on too much ancient gum juice finding its way to my stomach. Even with the tiny amount that got through, I’m barely five minutes away from throwing up a hell of a lot more than ancient gum juice. Hindsight is a bitch, and I shouldn’t have picked yesterday to try monkey’s guts.
If a song I like coming on the radio means “—“ much to me, and winning $1000 on a scratch-off card means “———-“ much to me, I’d say that this old soda gum at means “——“ much to me. This paragraph will forever keep me from citing this review on a Harper’s application.
A quick browse of total strangers’ Flickr accounts reminds me that ‘80s soda gum had other flavors, too. Flavors like RC Cola. That sounds gross. There’s a reason the “cola” side of the ICEE machine is always full.