‘Can I Still Eat Cheetos?’ And Other Questions I Have Before I Reach Middle Age

flickr / sekihan

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I am hyper sensitive when it comes to age. Not so much my own age, but how I interact with people of all different ages. To a fault, I do my best to “age down” or “age up” when in conversation with someone. I “relate” in an age-appropriate manner.

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I know it’s stupid, but I do it.

When my own kids would play with their fellow 3-year-old friends, I would make sure to change the octave in my voice to ensure it matches how most 3-year-olds want to be spoken to. Pile on the high pitchiness and up the silly.

“Are you boys having sooooo much fun? Aren’t you playing super well together? Super yaaaay.”

I never talked to my own kids that way, but felt the need to do so with others’ kids. I throw a lot of head nods with my 14-year-old son and his friends. And a few grunts. I am very cheery and upbeat with my 11-year-old daughter and her very cheery and upbeat friends. I talk about younger-skewing TV shows with my annoyingly young coworkers.

Mr. Robot was off the chain last night, mad dope yo.”

But I think it is time to throw out the age changing act. I am at the point in life where I must act age appropriate from here on out. I am middle-aged John who does middle-aged things, while dressed middle-aged appropriate in my middle-aged vehicle.

This week I had a rental car company “pick me up” while the family truckster was in for repairs. Dude behind the wheel was a senior in college with a beard I would kill for (I have an unhealthy jealousy of good beards). He may have been 5’7” and even though I have more than 20 years of life experience on him and I am an oft-intimidating 6’3”, 220 lbs, I felt like we were on equal footing.

Here I go again.

Aging down.

Just once I want to be the sage and wise elder where all look to me for life changing advice. I desire a “presence”.

He talked about his major in business and his potential internship. The logical conversation add-in from me should have been “I’ve been working for the same company for 20 years and here is all that I’ve learned.” Instead, I followed up with this:

“Do you tailgate a lot?”

Later that night as I replayed the conversation in my head for the 13th time, I decided it was time to embrace middle agedness. Time to leave the 20’s and 30’s behind. Act my age.

Stop trying to relate and put the burden on others to relate to me.

Before I can do this, though, I determined that I need a few important questions answered:

Am I Allowed To Wear A Team Jersey With A Player’s Name On The Back?

Is it creepy to see a 44-year-old man with the name of a 20-year-old man, I mean boy, on the back. It felt creepy as hell just typing that sentence. I think I know the answer.

Am I Allowed To Appreciate New Music Even If The Lyrics Are Aimed Towards A 16-Year-Old Girl?

Would you be seen with your dad if he knew all of the lyrics to a Meghan Trainor song?

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size 2
But I can shake it, shake it, like I’m supposed to do
‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places

Is My Current Hairstyle The One I Have To Stick With From Here To Eternity?

It’s weird when a 50-year-old man suddenly has a new doo, no? My hair has been generally the same since I turned 30 but I have done some poofing up top and ventured towards the pushed forward look here and there. That has to stop now, right? Time for a dad cut and forget about it.

Can I Drive With The Window Down?

You pull up slowly to a red light. The bass is pumping from the car on the right. You see a dude’s arm hanging outside the window. You expect a young, fresh and hip individual to appear. You don’t want to see an old gnarled hand, a receding hairline and Meghan Trainor playing on the radio.

Am I Allowed To Engage In Conversation With My Kids And Their Friends About Fellow Friends Or Classmates?

I’ve done this and it gets weird fast. Even an innocent question has the friends all like, “What’s up with your dad?” I am a nosy parent and I like to know what is going on with my kids’ circle of friends. But maybe I’m beyond that point now and dad is supposed to know nothing.

How Far Am I Allowed To Go On Social Media?

I have a Snapchat account.

I create snaps.

Should I be cut off?

My daughter used to send me “good night snaps” which were super cute. She has since stopped. She doesn’t acknowledge my presence on the app anymore.

Should I just hang on Facebook with all of the other old folk?

Should There Be A Moratorium On T-Shirts With Words On Them?

My kids hate my Riverbottom Nightmare Band t-shirt.

They actually hid my Kool-Aid vintage tee.

I have this t-shirt in my cart on Amazon. Funny, right?

The kids will walk out if they ever see me in it.

Can I Collect Baseball Cards And Pursue Autographs From Players?

Please assess the creepiness factor on a scale from 1-10 and be honest. I trust you, good readers, more than myself.

Do I Have To Designate A Chair Or Couch As “Dad’s Only” Now?

This seemed to be the rule growing up.

I can recall proceeding in fear and not touching the “Dad Chair” at friends’ houses. This seemed to be the rule and not an exception.

I wonder if that still applies today? If so, I will need to start scoping out potential dad only seating locations.

Do I Have To Give Up My Childish Food Behaviors?

No more tomatoes pushed to the side of my salad.

No more removal of every last annoying mini onion on my McDonald’s cheeseburger.

No more dry heaving at the sight and smell of mayo.

I will enjoy tomato soup with the rest of the family.

I will not eat my cereal dry because milk makes me physically ill ever since Patty H. threw up milk on my shoe in first grade.

John Markowski writes about fatherhood, sports, and the mundane. Lover of super specific details. Check out his publication, Mundane Alley.

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