After a long quarter of very hard work they were to be rewarded with a class party. The classroom voted and McDonalds won, beating out pizza by a landslide. Kate, who loves pizza and has never had McDonalds, was bitterly disappointed. She had no idea what to order, having been offered a cheeseburger or nuggets, and later confided to me that she was concerned that the burger would have "plastic" cheese and that nuggets were... she had no idea. Her kind teacher suggested she choose a salad which thrilled her, being shocked that you could find such things at a place like McDonalds.
Proudly I explained to Jack that Kate, when faced with McDonalds, chose salad. Smugly I knew, we had done everything right.
"Allyson, she can't order a salad. She cannot be the only child in the class who does not eat a Happy Meal. That's not right, in fact it's wrong. She has no idea what a Shamrock Shake is, she has never had a Big Mac, the Hamburgler is completely foreign to her. She is going to be a huge geek."
Attributed to lack of options, I was the parent chosen to pick up and deliver the reward to the 18 hungry children. The message on my phone read: 10 cheeseburgers 8 nuggets 2 Caesar salads 1 milk 10 Sprites 8 orange drinks.
Two things immediately stood out: one, Kate was not the lone salad eater, and two, didn't anyone want fries? Despite all the terrible things I think about McDonald, even I, sworn enemy of Ronald and all his processed food products, had to admit this: McDonalds makes really great fries. I responded:"Fries? Doesn't anyone want fries?". The teacher's answer, "Happy Meals".
I had no idea where to find a McDonalds in the city. It was pointed out to me that I pass the golden arches each and every morning on my way to school.
By 11:30 the woman behind the counter had a full days accumulation of special sauce on her never before pressed blue and white striped uniform. We had bibs at our house four years ago that were cleaner than what was presented to me on the chest of the woman who was to prepare the food for my child and her classmates.
Her heavy accent, both of her native land and her liberal use of McDonalds lingo, was made more difficult to understand when passing through her missing front tooth. Reading from my phone I presented my order.
"Boy or girl?"
"For those Happy Meals, do you want boy or girl?"
"There is a difference? Seriously? You have gender segregated Happy Meals?"
Dirty Shirt Lady looked as confused as I was. Did the nuggets come in male and female appropriate shapes? And what would those be? It isn't enough that I am only allowed to shop in one half of the Gap, that I am restricted to only the pink aisles at Target, and now I have to buy sex specific fast food?
Several years ago Jack's dad brought in a plate of steaks from the grill and pronounced one side of the plate "lady steaks". My general self found this deeply offensive, my non meat eating self found it hilarious. No one else seemed bothered, save Jack who was terrified I would chose this opportunity to make a statement on meat equality. I did not.
"Why on earth would you need to offer male and female food? Doesn't that seem just a bit odd to you? I have absolutely no idea who ordered what, how on earth can I decide who gets pink fries and who gets blue. You see the insanity, right?". It appeared that she did not, but she did gesture to the display case of Happy Meal toys, neatly sorted into blue and pink sections.
Stuffed animals: giraffes, tigers, pigs, lions, bears, all seemingly asexual to me. "Girl's please", and with that I ordered 18 girl Happy Meals for a classroom consisting of 10 boys and 8 girls, and I was convinced they would not notice.
Kate enjoyed her salad, as did Kate's teacher. Michael, the first to open his Happy Meal, immediately pulled out his tiny stuffed giraffe, and then just as quickly threw it back in and screamed, "this isn't mine, it's a girl meal!".
It is highly unlikely that I will be asked again to cater the classroom luncheon. Three trips to McDonalds, children forever scared and gender confused by the hasty selection of an all effeminate, yet seemingly neutral, cast of tiny stuffed animals, and one ridiculous argument with a soiled and wrinkled woman over missing soft drinks; smugly I knew, I had done everything right.