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imagesI have this serious pet peeve about gum chewing. People who chomp, chew, blow bubbles, or — worst of all — crack gum in my presence: Beware.

I get this trait from my mom. My mother, an easy-going person for the most part, made it very clear when I was a child that there were three things she would not stand for in our house. Loud gum chewing was one; hair twirling, twisting or curling around a finger was the second; and declaring that something is “so fun,” which is, apparently, grammatically incorrect, marked the third offense.

In other words, living with my mom was so much fun.

At college, friends who chose to live with me in our sorority house were sorely disappointed to find out that, by winning the house lottery, they would have to forfeit the right to chew gum for an entire scholastic year.

Living with me was so much fun!

I’d like to say that I have mellowed over time, but I haven’t.  On public transportation, like a subway or plane, if I am faced with a gum-chewer, I manage to remain calm on the outside, but, inside, I am stewing and boiling and brimming over with white-hot hatred. In the time that it takes to get from 42nd street to Union Square on the downtown Lexington Ave Express, I have imagine-wished all sorts of calamities to befall this classless cow, this masticating marauder, this guileless, clueless, tongue-brandishing stranger, all because of her affinity for Orbit Mist.

By the time I step from the train onto the platform, my brain is screaming obscenities and I’m shaking like a leaf in a hurricane, barely holding on.

So, imagine my surprise when my 10-year-old son, Andrew, came home from school the other day fuming.

“Mom, you know that girl I told you about, the one who chews gum in class? The one who drives me crazy with her… mdtah, mdtah, mdtah?” With dead-on accuracy, he imitated an incredibly annoying, class A offender.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Well, today, our teacher moved our seats in class and now SHE’S SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO ME! ARGH!”

“Okay, calm down,” I advised. He was clutching his skull, as if the memory was still sharp enough to hurt. Which I’m sure it was, actually.

I tried to blow it off, but I was secretly worried. How would this sensitive child now score on the upcoming state tests, his concentration completely blown by bubbles?

Could I call the teacher?

And say what? That the Gerstenblatts are extremely unreasonable freaks?

“Mom, that’s not all.” Andrew admitted. “She also plays with her hair.”

I did the only thing I could do in this cruel, gum-supporting, lock-twisting world we live in. I looked at Andrew, a glorious dark-haired, brown-eyed, and olive-skinned person who looks nothing like me, and hugged him close.

He is, after all, clearly my child.