I am going to start frequenting McDonald’s again, very soon. I haven’t been to one in years. Actually, it’s been decades since I’ve felt any kind of warmth towards the oppressive and insidious fast-food chain. Yet, already, I know I am going to love it.
It’s true, I used to hate it.
But times change. People grow up and gain new perspective.
They have a baby, in fact, and find themselves in a sea of hip cappuccino bars and pocket-sized restaurants with leaky washrooms, unable to find a single sympathetic or welcoming face peering up from a second-hand book about Nietzsche, or the latest issue of McSweeney’s. It’s amazing: young trendy people are most likely to support public breastfeeding, however, they are the least likely to actually want a woman to sit beside them and breastfeed.
My hatred of all things Ronald wasn’t always the way. As a child, McDonald’s was a second home. That, and Ponderosa, with its all-you-can-eat salad bar. The story goes that I was once a skinny little kid with very picky tastes. The Big Mac, as it turned out, saved my soul and fattened me up to the relief of my parents. From then on, it was a Big Mac and large fries for me every Friday night, at least until I became a teenager.
That’s when I began to hear things about anti-foaming chemicals in the Chicken McNuggets, and how the 100% pure beef patties were processed by a company actually given the name 100% Pure Beef Inc. It was then I began to seek sustenance elsewhere. Amazing: as a teenager, I would smoke cigarettes and raid my parents’ liquor cabinet on a weekly basis. I would often get in at 4:00 AM and get up at 6:00 AM for work. I would, in essence, punish my body on a regular basis, yet I was squeamish and morally outraged over the quality of the meats at MacDonald’s.
It wasn’t just that though. To me, McDonald’s was a family restaurant. And to me, family meant two things: boring and predictable. I couldn’t understand it. Why didn’t my parents ever do anything fun or spontaneous? Why did they watch so much TV? Why did they go to bed earlier and were always worried about money and were obsessed with buying things? Why couldn’t they be more like Robin Williams character in Dead Poets’ Society, and a little less like that hardass father in the same movie who stops his son from becoming a theatre actor and living out his dream? Why were my parents so boring?
It took becoming a parent to figure this out. The answer to why my parents – through my jaded teenage-eyes – were never very spontaneous, I could have learned by looking into any mirror.
I have a six-month old, and I haven’t done anything spontaneous in six months.
That’s not true. We did something on the spur of the moment about two months ago. And on that dark we learned about the dark side of spontaneity. We went for a walk on a cloudy Sunday and strayed a little too far from home. We soon found ourselves in Greek town in the pouring rain. Of course, all the cafes were full, so our only choice was a little sushi restaurant.
At the start, everything was fine. It was just like the old days when Lisa and I would sample sushi and grimace (well me, anyway) when any adult with a child would venture into the establishment. Ava, at first, was behaving so well (“She is so cool!” I thought), we ordered the buffet special. You know, the one with the strict rules about having to pay regular price for any un-eaten items and not being about to take anything home in a doggy bag?
Right after we ordered, the melt-down occurred.
We spent the next twenty minutes, taking turns walking Ava to the bathroom and back between trying to stuff our mouths with as much sushi as our chopsticks could carry. In a blink of an eye, we had become THOSE people with the screaming kid in a cool hip restaurant. The exact kind, as a young hip twenty-something, I would looked at with cold unwelcoming eyes and thought: why don’t you act your age and quit trying to relive your youth!
It was that during that afternoon that I finally understood who my parents were being “boring” for. Before we had Ava, whenever I was posed with the question “what would you do if you had only six months to live?”, my immediate response was to travel the world and have as much fun as possible. Now, however, six-months into parenthood, my response is to simply work my butt off in order make sure our kid has a secure future, and during the downtime, do whatever she wants to do, even if it means spending my last few days on earth going to Mcdonald’s, Ponderosa, and just about any Chinese restaurant.