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GUEST COLUMN

Age brings wisdom and an earlier bedtime

A wave of shame swept over me as I finished ordering my tall decaf skim iced caramel macchiato at Starbucks the other day. Perhaps the only way to make my order less manly would have been to request it served in a pink glass and humming an Elton John song as the barista made it.

Once a proud drinker of straight coffee with full caffeine and no flavors, whipped cream or other ridiculous alterations, stomach problems, the need to occasionally sleep and generally getting older forced me to start placing this hopelessly wimpy order. At least I was not wearing Crocs while ordering or sporting an outfit that matched my five-year-old's, but it was the type of coffee order I would have teased someone else about.

Never exactly James Dean or even z-grade Dean knockoff, Luke Perry, getting married and becoming a father has made me even less macho. I now go to bed by 10:30 most nights, consider midnight impossibly late and am more likely to know the name of Spongebob's friends than the name of a hip, young band.

In my earlier days I worked at a rock magazine, stayed out late going to concerts, drank coffee by the pot and didn't consider staying up for Conan (in his pre Tonight Show 12:30 time slot) abnormal. Now, I run a toy store, go to approximately four concerts a year, take Prevacid, drink water by the bottle and am lucky to make it through the 8:30 replay of "The Colbert Report."

While I'm only 35, I find myself no longer able to keep up with the way my young staff members live. They're wearing hip clothes and the latest sneakers and I'm wearing, well, clothes and buying new Dr. Scholl's inserts for my decidedly untrendy sneakers.

Forget learning about new music, I can't learn the names of all the energy drinks available. I'm aware of Monster and Red Bull, but the rest sound like they're from a factory that just pumps out high sugar, high caffeine beverages giving them random, aggressive sounding names.

Drinking a Caffeine Free Diet Coke in front of my younger staff makes me feel like I'm my grandfather keeping a secret stash of Moxie in the basement, except Moxie at least had some gritty street cred. Much like Moxie, Diet Coke tastes terrible, nothing like an actual Coke. It was created for overweight, middle-aged women, one of which, I have apparently become.

The most adventurous part of my day today involved a trip to Target where I bought kitty litter and looked at, but did not purchase, a new crock pot. I'm window shopping for slow cookers while contemplating the merits of various methods of dealing with cat waste. My younger self would punch me in the mouth and my younger self wasn't that tough to begin with.

While I don't want to go back to being a teenager, I would like to find a little more fun in my everyday routine. Perhaps I will guzzle some Crunk!!! (yes, the three exclamation points are part of the title), down some Amp or maybe even quaff a Hype. It's more likely though, that, I will cave in and buy the crock pot.

- Daniel B. Kline's work appears in more than 100 papers weekly. He can be reached at dan@notastep.com

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