Saturday, August 21, 2010

Happy Size Me: Five Days of McDonald's Happy Meals

I've been eating at that most Irishly-named of fast food restaurants for so long and with such frequency that my blood is infused with a tasty mixture of fry grease, special sauce, and shamrock shake--I'm single-handedly responsible for the rise in mosquito childhood obesity in my neighborhood. Growing up, McDonald's was two blocks away from my house, and while I'm sure I've dined beneath the golden arches more often than someone who didn't grow up with a McDonald's two blocks away from her house, I don't think that I've ever eaten there five days consecutively. (That isn't to say that I haven't eaten fast food for five days in a row or seven days or fourteen days, etc.) 


Because I'm all about imposing arbitrary food and behavioral restrictions on myself in the name nostalgia, I decided to eat a Happy Meal a day from Aug 16-Aug 20. I went into this thinking that it would be a small (albeit unhealthy) way of recapturing some of the joy of my youth. That didn't happen. Joy eludes me and also probably alludes me.


Happy Meal #1: August 16, 2010

The girl behind the cash register stared at me like I was the first adult sans child to ever order a Happy Meal in the history of McDonald’s.

I asked for a cheeseburger-Happy Meal and she said, “You mean the bigger one?”

I don’t know what she meant by "the bigger one" but I said, "uh, just a regular Happy Meal with a cheeseburger." Dumbfounded and no doubt questioning everything she’d ever held sacred, she pressed the buttons on her register and handed me my microscopic soda cup.

When my food was ready, a lady--a manager this time--asked me if the Happy Meal was for a boy or a girl. As a kid, I dreaded this question--I wanted the "boy" Happy Meal because the toy was always better, but felt obligated to get the "girl" Happy Meal because I didn’t want to be subversive.

Anyway, I said to this woman, "Let’s go with the boy Happy Meal," in a self-assured, jovial voice but for some reason refusing to use the first-person singular. When I got home, I was glad that I’d been able to find the strength to rage against stupid social mores and outdated gender constructs because I got a really sweet Wolverine toy with retractable adamantium/plastic claws. 

The food was delicious but small.

McHappy O' Meter

Happy Meal #2: August 17, 2010
I saw through the glass door that the same girl who’d been working the register yesterday was there again today. Fearing her blank but somehow still judgmental stare, I took two steps away from the building, thought about walking home, but then just went in. I had my heart set on one of those Lilliputian-sized cheeseburgers.

When the chick gave me my food, she asked if I wanted the toy. Not if I wanted a "boy" toy or a "girl" toy, but if I wanted a toy at all. The toy is the most essential part of the Happy Meal, right? Without the toy, it’s just a Tiny Unsatisfying Meal. 

It was such an unnecessary question, that I’m forced to believe that in her own, subtle way, she was trying to tell me that I was too old to be ordering Happy Meals for myself. I said, "Yeah, I’ll take the toy," and she drops a "girl" toy in the bag without first consulting me. 

The next time I go in there, I should ask her for a "boy" toy and see what happens. Or maybe I’ll ask for a "boy" toy and a "girl" toy and justify it by telling her that I’m a hermaphrodite (or the more colloquial, she-male). 

My fries were a little warmer than they were yesterday. 

McHappy O' Meter

Happy Meal #3: August 18, 2010
I went to an exotic McDonald’s today--the McDonald’s on the other end of town! The people were cooler there, less critical of my new lifestyle. And by “less critical,” I mean, totally indifferent. The woman at the register took my order without batting an eye. 

For my entrĂ©e, I chose the six-piece chicken McNuggets. 

The food was palatable, my soda cup was bigger, which was nice, and dunking the McNuggets into the BBQ sauce was entertaining. But not too long after eating, I became nauseated. I’m not blaming the food, but, yeah, I’m blaming the food. 

McHappy O' Meter

Happy Meal #4: August 19, 2010
Super Size Me, didn’t change my opinion of McDonald’s. If anything, it made me want a Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese--the most delicious and math intensive burger on the menu. But yesterday’s nausea has made me suspicious of the food. Nevertheless, I will soldier on. 

I’m back at my local McDonald’s today, but decided to go earlier so as not to run into that girl from days one and two of this experiment. And it works. She isn’t there and the lady who takes my order gladly gives me my "boy" Happy Meal. Well, maybe not "gladly," but definitely apathetically, and that’s just as good to me. 

McHappy O' Meter

Happy Meal #5: August 20, 2010
I headed over to McDonald’s at 10:30am--this is, of course, when they start serving lunch and fascistly refuse to sell anyone a sausage biscuit, even though it’s well within their power to do so. 

I cursed my horrible, horrible luck when I saw that my archnemesis--The Traditional Gender Role Enforcer--was behind the register again. 

For the first time, she asked me if the Happy Meal was for a boy or a girl. I raised an eyebrow and said "boy," wary of her new, seemingly progressive attitude. When I got home, I wasn’t at all surprised to see that she had slipped a "girl" toy into my Happy Meal. 

Truth be told, I admire how diabolically devoted this chick is to making sure that girls get girl toys, boys get boy toys, and adults feel weird for ordering Happy Meals. But I’m also royally pissed because the toy she gave me was this creepy Madame Alexander doll, which I’m probably going to have to bury in the backyard because it terrifies me.

McHappy O' Meter

Epilogue: I didn't gain or lose any weight; the pimple I had on my chin at the beginning of the week is still there--so Happy Meals have no magic, pimple-curing properties, despite what you may have thought; that Madame Alexander doll is still in my house and last night, right after blinking it's creepy doll eyes, assured me that it would be swallowing my soul within the next week or two. 



(note: I didn't subsist on an all-Happy Meal diet, I merely incorporated them into my regular feeding schedule. I feel like I should say "don't try this at home" or whatever. But it's your thing. Do what you wanna do. I can't tell you who to sock it to.)

35 comments:

Emily said...

I remember the toys in Happy Meals being awesome, like off the charts awesome.

This blog just killed all the beautiful, rose-tinted memories of my childhood trips to McDonalds...in a good way.

I'm also wondering how the hell those tiny meals used to fill me up?

Amber said...

Emily: I think that the toys actually were better back in olden days. And while I was doing this, I definitely wondered how I was ever able to get full. Like, when I was a kid, there'd be times when I wouldn't even finish all of my food, I was so full.

RAY J said...

lol awesome experiment!

What was the toy on day 3? Looks like the guy from Mulan...

Don't feel bad for ordering - when they had the Wizard of Oz mini Madame Alexander dolls I ate there soooo many times that month, getting the Happy Meals just to collect as many as I could - I was lucky that that promotion started the week we were on our honeymoon in Vegas and our hotel had a 24hr McDonald's in the lobby - nothing like walking in late at night and stopping by to pick up a quick meal!

I almost ordered one the other day - as the 10 piece chicken nugget meal is too big for me and pricey, while the 6 piece would be perfect, but opted to just eat hubby's fries from his meal instead.

And Super Size Me had the SAME effect on me too - unfortunately I watched it at like 2am and the nearby McDonalds in my college town was closed this one night for maintenance so we had to drive like 45 min just so I could get my fries and cheeseburger fix after watching the movie, lol...

Steve G. said...

Holy crap, this entire line of blogging makes me very, very happy in my loins! I'm happy that you did it. And that Wolverine toy does look quite BA. (That's slang for bad ass - I know, I'm so hip I can't see my own feet, just like Zaphod Beeblebox.)

My favorite McDonald's toys were the food that turned into little creatures. I would always fight with my sister over there. You can see a sample here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Changeables

Amber said...

Ray J: The toy on day 3 was from "The Last Airbender." I think the lady put The Mighty Kids Meal toy in my Happy Meal by mistake.

Steve: You are so cool right now for that Zaphod reference! And I looooved the Changeable/McRobot thingies. I wish I'd been wise enough to save mine.

Simon said...

I'll see you in hell, Madame Alexander.

The girl toys always suck. It's a good thing I was fairly androgynous as a wee lass.

Amber said...

Simon: I looked like a boy with a long pony tail when I was a kid, which actually made happy meal ordering even more awkward, I think.

Phoenix said...

Should have gone with the drive thru (if possible) when the super judgemental girl was there. Less face interaction time!

MJenks said...

I don't know if this is national or not, but my local McDonalds is promoting a tailgating special with McNuggets...something like 50 for $10. I'm all over that. I'm sure I'll love it, the kids will love, we'll all love it...for an hour or two.

It seems as though all the McDonalds have an overstock backlog on those damned Madame Alexander dolls. Toward the end of whatever toy giveaway they're trumpeting, it seems we always end up with one of those in the happy meals.

Or two. It seems I'm going to have to start ordering a happy meal "por uno nino, y por uno nina." Or I should just opt to find more healthy options for my kids.

Knitwear M. Groundhog said...

I have, as an adult, ordered a Happy Meal with impunity because I wanted the smaller serving. Nobody ever gave me flak about it...

Jess said...

I've never seen ANY of those toys in my kids' happy meals. We happened to go to Taco Bell today, and in my daughter's kid meal was an American Gladiator rock-climbing wall (cardboard, of course) and small Gladiator sticker people to put on the rock wall. Huh?

I thought AG was canceled back in the early 90s...


I couldn't eat Mickey D's every day. The smell gets to you after a while. Not to mention the grease.

SERENA said...

Well, after all that...I'm glad my nearest McD's is 45 mins away and that it cooks mostly italian food! lol

TbR said...

Oh crap, I need a quarter pounder now.

The toys definitely used to be more impressive. I also seem to remember that the boxes they came in had cutting giudes so you could make cut-out figures and a little stage or set or something. I don't think I ever actually went this far, because after McDonalds I usually just wanted to sleep, but I remember it.

Monster Girl said...

Now you've got this vegetarian really craving McDonalds chicken nuggets. DAMMIT

Barbara said...

This reminded me of a story I heard a few years back. This woman went to McDonalds and tried to order a happy meal and they wouldn't serve it to her because she didn't have a child with her. She tried to explain to the people that she was buying it to take home to her daughter, but they wouldn't budge! No happy meal for her! How ridiculous!

Amber said...

Phoenix: Wish I could have done the drive-thru, that would have made things a lot easier.

MJenks: I wish that promotion were national 'cause I'm pretty sure that I could eat infinity chick nuggets (approximately).

Knitwear: I've ordered happy meals before this with absolutely no problem. I actually think that this girl was new and confused.

Serena: Italian food at McDonalds! That's so cool. I saw a show once that was all about unconventional McDonalds restaurants and it made me way more excited than it probably should have.

TbR: The Happy Meal box was one thing that I really missed while I was doing this. It wasn't until the last day that they put the food in a box and not a bag. I do remember that those boxes had all kinds of cool things going on on them.

Monster Girl: I'm sure as a vegeterian you could eat the chicken nuggets because they're probably aren't really chicken...even if McDonalds is now trying to pretend that they are. I bet they're made from some synthetic compound.

Barbara: That's just preposterous. I blame Mayor McCheese and his ironfisted, totalitarian regime.

Sada said...

What kind of crazy toy distribution system does McDonald's have going these days? How did you finagle so many different toys?? When we were little it would be, like, Muppet Babies toys for WEEKS and you'd have to beg them to look through for a Gonzo because you already had two each of Kermit, Piggy, and Fozzie.

Christina In Wonderland said...

I was always a big kid, so Happy Meals never satisfied me, nor did the toys. But then again, we were always Burger King people anyway. Lol.

Amber said...

Sada: I know, right? The weirdest thing about this, in regard to the toys, was that I got a different one each day. And I went to the same McDonald's 4 out of the 5 days.

Christina: The BK kids meal is way more deliciouser than the Happy Meal.

rie said...

I never thought twice about ordering a "boy" toy when I was a kid...or now when I order happy meals on occasion. If I got a "girl" toy, I just tossed it at my sister without taking it out of the plastic wrap.

Margaret said...

We are on some bizarre wavelength.

I've had a McD's sausage mcmuffin (no egg) and a hashbrown for breakfast almost every day this week.

Boonie S said...

Sounds like you should have told the chick to burger off.

Have a nice day, Boonie

Cowbiscuits said...

i love happy meals! they don't make me too full plus you get a toy! x

Stephanie Ann said...

That doll seriously scares the bejeezus out of me. But the Wolverine is bitchin! I usually order my Happy Meals from the drive-thru so as to avoid the blank, soul crushing stares.

TabithaVenasse said...

Haha. We had to watch Super Size Me in one of my journalism classes in second year. Right after we finished it, the whole class went to McDonald's to order Big Mac's and extra large fries.

belleinthenorth said...

I became very sad when McDonald's moved from the boxed Happy Meal to the paper Happy Meal bag. I sure hope they're going back to box! It reminds me of being six!

I don't know why the girl at the counter would even bat an eye. My friends and me in high school went all the time and ordered Happy Meals. We were joyous when we pulled out the toys.

Danaconda said...

For the most part I think McDonalds is terrible. Reading this didn't change my view on the place, but I love the post. Your passive-aggressive battle with the cashier is too much; I guess when you work you gotta do your job to the max, right? Doesn't matter if you're in McDonalds or Wall Street. Oh wait...yeah it does. If you sleep on your back you might mysteriously find that doll standing on your chest and staring at you in the middle of the night.

Megs said...

I always wanted the boy toys too. You did prove without doubt that the toys for boys were way cooler.

Also, that doll thing is the creepiest thing I've ever seen and I swear to god it will haunt my dreams for the rest of my life. I'm pretty sure after it eats your soul, its going to eat ALL of the souls.

Another David said...

McDonald's never makes me happy. I always walk out feeling dirty and unsatisfied. Take that to mean whatever you want.

Katrina LB King said...

I saw your blog featured on 20sb and your description about the seven layers. ;) I know what you mean by that. I wrote a song about a seven layered sunset "rock bottom" you can listen to it here! http://www.myspace.com/uswiththekings

RenRexx said...

I like happy meals. i normally get the hamburger, and i just love getting my food in the box.....

reminds me of my childhood.....

Jen said...

I crave McDonalds fries on like a weekly basis. This week especially, I was suffering from some serious PMS and had to stop through the drive in. And sometimes you get awesome, totally crispy and hot PERFECT McD's fries. The french fries that dreams are made of. Sometimes you get soggy, left in the warmer too long barely cooked ones. So I feel your frie pain.

Also, I was at a garage sale recently and had to restrain myself from buying a gigantic bin of old school McDonalds happy meal toys from the 80's. Seriously. I sat and played with them for like 10 minutes before my bf finally dragged me away, threatening to break up with me if I brought more shit into the house. (Well not really, but you know..there was a menacing glare in his eyes that I took for a dealbreaker)

Heather Taylor said...

What the HELL is wrong with those toys? They're all over the place! Madame Alexander dolls, cars, puppies. There is no cute theme like Disney or Ty Beanie Babies. This is just laziness Mickey D's. I am not amused.

Laser Pegs said...

Such a nice collections/information about kids next door toys, here I have got more about different type of toys and gifts for the kids like robot building sets, kids building toys, kids building kit, kids toys on line and many more...

619shepard said...

So it makes me sad that "girl" toys are always so much less cool. Shows just how much we value being girly.

Also, tangentially related a creepy doll song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVtR7azLVcI