The exact moment when you grow up happens somewhere between the time you realize that having a washer and dryer represents the ultimate in extravagance and the day you begin checking the fat content on any snack products you buy.
Becoming an adult has nothing to do with voting, driving, purchasing alcohol legally, or even getting married and having children. Instead, adulthood sets in on the day you learn that eating no longer means finding something that tastes good and stuffing it into your face until your hunger has subsided.
During college I ate french fries with every meal and would often follow up dinner with a trip to Taco Bell or late night stops at the diner. The pizza delivery man knew me by name and my roommate and I would actually complain that we had to meet him at the gate to our dorm complex because school rules banned him from coming upstairs.
Thankfully, we could take the elevator back up because by sophomore year I could barely walk the stairs to our fourth floor room. No one tells you that eating only from the "fast" food group while in college leads to an adult life full of careful choices, grueling exercise and tasteless low fat snacks.
They never warn you in class that while you might start out dreaming of being John F. Kennedy or Neil Armstrong, that in reality you'll end up being Cathy from the comic strip. My bathing suits didn't fit, finding suitable clothes became impossible and Irving never returns my phone calls.
So I've traded my sack of tacos for low fat granola bars and midnight snacks for late night treadmill time. Shopping no longer means stopping at 7-11 for a two gallon Slurpie and an assortment of Hostess products.
Instead, I spend hours reading nutritional information and debating over which type of low-fat cookie to buy. All of this has brought me back to the neighborhood of my pre-college weight and I can once again walk up a few flights of stairs without stopping for a nap.
Unfortunately, while falling out of shape took about six months, returning to it takes years. And even after months of exercise and an improved diet I still find myself below where I started.
My adult life has become dominated by exercise and food products sold in the magical green "healthy" box. I miss the days where raw cookie dough and vanilla frosting constituted a meal and the innocent time when I could eat candy without spending an hour rationalizing my decision. Children live in a land of chocolate with roads paved with bacon and houses molded from cheesecake. Grown-up land has all these things, but I now live across the street in a prune house with a cottage cheese-filled swimming pool. It's not lost innocence I'd like returned from my youth, it's a box of Count Chocula and an endless array of drive through delicacies.
This column is taken from Daniel B. Kline's new book, Easy Answers to Every Problem, which comes out soon and can be ordered at bn.com. Daniel B. Kline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.