It’s me, a clumsy oaf betrayed by Juicy Fruit in 1985

Jeremy Hooper
3 min readJan 18, 2024

Jeremy Hooper

It seems admittedly naive, in retrospect. That a chewing gum could so markedly increase athletic prowess. But it was the mid eighties. Greed was good. Communism was bad. A naturally and artificially flavored stick of softened candy could turn a nobody into an Olympic wakeboarder.

Except it was all lies — both trickle down economics and the promise that the taste the taste the taste is gonna moo-ooo-oove ya. The middle class evaporated right alongside the idea that an impulse aisle purchase could replace years of competitive training.

My own personal fallacy began when I spotted a canoodling couple amid a crowded train station. These two were hard to miss, since they simply wouldn’t stop kissing, right there in front of God and everybody. I had to know this duo’s secret to long lasting freshness, so I asked them. Through an inviting stream of cinnamon-y vapor, they uttered the two words I’d come to regret learning: Big Red.

Though it isn’t really fair to blame Big Red itself, as that product’s promises were indeed spot-on. With that gum, it was true, then and now, that your fresh breath goes on and on while you chew it. You really could stay close a little longer, hold tight a little longer, and yes, like these smooching strangers, kiss a little longer — so much so that you risked missing your 11:40 connection to Chicago. I was instantly sold on the power of chewing gum to change lives.

My theory was further emboldened when I met a pair of gum-chomping twins who said they knew how to double my pleasure and double my fun.

I of course was like, “um, a threesome?” But they said “no, silly — let’s chew a piece of Doublemint gum, and then have a threesome.” Both the snack and the ménage were amazing. Another gum-based claim proven true!

But here’s where the plot gets sticky, so to speak. It just so happened that a few days later, a group of toothy, well coifed coeds had invited me to pile into their jeeps for a day at the lake. They told me they’d scored some good stuff, so I assumed they meant PBR and cocaine. Because again — the eighties. Turns out they meant Juicy Fruit.

They assured that it alone would be enough to turn me, an uncoordinated novice, into a high-lying, high-fiving, outdoorsy daredevil whose slow motion jumps were impressive enough to hold a viewer’s attention in-between segments of Benson.

So I took a sniff. I pulled it out. I waited for the taste to move me as I popped it in my mouth.

And then I promptly sprained both of my ankles and broke four of my fingers. It hurt, yes. Though it was the betrayal that felt even worse. How was I supposed to know that what was good for mildly altering breath so that one could crowd into an elevator without disgusting one’s coworkers would not also allow one to negotiate the Alps in a neon colored snowsuit? How could I realize that the taste would not, in fact, move and/or get right through me in a superpowering way?

Speaking of, what even is the much ballyhooed taste anyway? Banana? Citrus? It was as indecipherable as it was ineffective at turning a group of overly enthusiastic friends into a band of competitive cyclists. But I digress.

I went to the press to blow the whistle on this false advertising, but my tale got lost behind another story. Iran-Contra or something or other. As the decade progressed, televangelist fraud and savings and loans scandals dominated the headlines, plus Bubble Tape became a thing, so interest in my chewing gum-based anti-doping scandal just never took hold. Thus I’ll never know how many other mulleted young people risked life and limb and Mountain Dew endorsement deals on a false promise. That keeps me awake at night. That, and the earworm of the jingle itself.

Gen Z talks a lot about never owning a home or being able to pay for increasingly unaffordable education or ever even considering many outdoor activities due to climate change. And yet most don’t even realize the biggest hit to the American dream to come out of the twentieth century: the misbegotten promise that we’re all just one cellophane wrapped stick away from extreme sport glory. Fucking Reagan.



Jeremy Hooper

Recycled politico who ✍️ hahas for adults (@mcsweeneys, @newyorker @weeklyhumorist, @pointsincase, @frazzledhumor) & future adults (PBs) | Rep UTA