At 8 years old, I hadn’t yet become a challenge (as in my teenage years), so it was customary to make an outing to lunch and a movie on a special day.
Mama wasn’t rich, but she budgeted well and read the local newspapers to find out about free activities in the community. I had no idea we were poor, until my cravings for name-brand clothing and high-priced hairdos where a “thing” for me.
I wanted to fit in and be accepted. So I begged for bubble gum Nikes and cool Starter jackets. I wanted the stamp of approval.
It all began further back, when I was a young girl, untainted by the emotional fallacies of feeling my value was tied to the hottest clothes and gadgets.
I watched cartoons and ate cereal in the morning like the kids in my neighborhood. I was the master at Hide and Seek and adored playing Chinese jump rope and Double Dutch with all the girls at school.
There was one exception, and it made me different. It made me stand out. I was teased constantly. Questioned. Prodded. I hated it. Mom tried to console me, saying I was just like some really cool people, including Michael Jackson.
I was a vegetarian. And my life’s goal was to eat at McDonald’s. I wanted to eat like other kids.
One sunny day, mom and I were headed out for a special outing, and she did it! She turned into the McDonald’s drive-through. My eyes grew wide, my posture went upright. All I could think about was having a Happy Meal.
My mother gladly ordered a Happy Meal cheeseburger — without the patty. It took about 15 minutes to get the cashier to understand we wanted a cheeseburger without the burger. Finally, I got my treat and gobbled up every bit. I played with my plastic figure. And for once, I was normal, like the other kids.
I’m 36 years old now. A lot of my friends who grew up on McDonald’s have issue with health, but don’t see the connection. Mom was right, the food was garbage.
Well, I do love the fries, which I’ve found out are made with a special GMO brand potatoes patented only for McDonald’s. They are made with chemicals to ensure a certain look and taste.
I’m a healthy woman now, and I love it. Most people assume I’m 10 years younger than what I am. Swanky.
I’ve leaned the importance of eating healthy, and not eating pop culture foods. I have my treats here and there, but overall, I don’t worry about being different. I don’t worry about people saying strange things like, “You ain’t black, you don’t eat meat.” Or, “What is that you’re eating … eeeew?”
I don’t watch much TV anymore, but when I do, sometimes I catch a cool, bright fast food commercial, where family members laugh and giggle in slow motion with mouthfuls of greasy deliciousness.
I don’t feel uncomfortable about being healthy, and every now and then, when I’m questioned or teased, I have a great response.
“Eeew, what are you eating?”
“I’m eating a delicious kale salad, with beets.”
“Eeeew, that look gross. You a vegetarian?”
“Yep, just like Michael Jackson.”