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The plight of the perfect pick-me-up

Apparently, I need to be a good deal less fussy. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that, I’ll admit, but caffeine is a harsh mistress.

I am, it seems, in an ongoing battle to get my caffeine fix while adhering to an ongoing litany of reasons I shouldn’t. In the immortal words of SNL’s Roseanne Roseannadanna, “If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.” In short, if it isn’t my stomach, it’s my waistline.

All my life, I battled the drowsies every day around 3 p.m. In my 20s and 30s, I sucked down several large diet colas a day to beat back the afternoon droop. I gave up diet anything during my pregnancies, and never could get used to that aftertaste again. Meanwhile, I learned that too much carbonation was a bad thing anyway. Fine, I thought, petulantly. Be like that. It will take more than that to keep me from getting my caffeine fix, I scoffed.

About then I discovered lattes. It was something of a rediscovery, since I actually fell in love with café con leche in Spain several decades ago. That stuff will keep you awake for days. But you rarely found it hereabouts until the advent of the convenient coffee shop, bless their overzealous little hearts.

Once available, I went about happily sucking down whole milk lattes until I realized they were making me a whole lot chubbier. Fine, I said again, irritably this time. Be like that. Then I heard soy milk was fat free and was amazed to find it tasted good. So on I went, happily indulging in soy lattes, feeling thoroughly smug and fat-free. Well, it may be fat-free, but somehow my chubbiness didn’t notice. Then the other symptoms of caffeine addiction began to show their vicious, tawdry little faces. First, it beat up my stomach. But if I backed off for 24 hours, my head wanted to explode and fall off my shoulders. There is something enormously sobering about finding you must ingest something in order not to have a screaming headache.

Then, once, I threw myself into a serious diet and was faced with skim milk lattes. Let me add here that I loathe skim milk, or blue water, as I like to disdainfully call it. But skim milk was my only caloric option, it seemed. I switched to tea. Then the challenge became how strong I could brew my tea. I was up to three tea bags at a pop when I realized my teeth had begun to look like I chewed tobacco. Fetching.

OK. So we solved the indigestion issue, heavy caffeine headaches and the calorie count question, but now have to deal with stained teeth. I’m currently conducting a daily experiment, trying to determine the perfect number of tea bags to avoid yucky teeth, yet banish the mid-afternoon sinking spells. I may need to apply for a grant.

I am currently considering the possibility of just becoming a hermit. This would allow me to sleep in and nap every day, doing away with all need for caffeine.

I’m guessing that’s what happened to Rip Van Winkle.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer, who really would prefer a nap. Contact her at

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