The Tale of Why I Refuse to Eat at Burger King. Or, How Practical Jokes Can Scar Your Children for Life.

There was a conversation recently between boyfriend and myself about fast food chains, and who made the best burgers and fries. When Burger King came up, I mentioned that I have never eaten at Burger King, and I refused to do so on moral principle. This brought strange looks from the boyfriend, and it prompted me to tell him the following story.

Birthdays growing up wavered between being a big deal, where you get to decide all the elements of your day and have lots of fun, and getting to chose what dinner you had on your birthday night. I’m assuming the wavering had to do with how much money my parents had at the moment. The year I turned 8 my parents were feeling generous. They asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday.

I had recently been not invited to a classmate’s birthday party at Chuck E Cheese, which was a great disappointment to me. I felt as if the whole school had gone, and everyone of my classmates described this place as some sort of childhood nirvana. You were nothing if you haven’t been to Chuck’s place. I, of course, was too cool to pretend to be impressed, and never responded to a single comment. But my heart burned with jealousy at the thought of endless pizza and arcade games. So of course, when my parents offered me the chance to decide on birthday celebrations, I immediately picked Chuck E Cheese.

For a few days I reveled in the fact that I was going to experience the best birthday ever. And of course I didn’t invite a single one of my classmates. This was going to be just for me. I put on my best outfit on my birthday, and was practically bouncing with excitement. We piled in the car and headed on the way. After a few minutes of driving we turned into a parking lot. It was a Burger King. Color me confused at this point.

Actually, let’s side track for a minute. Let me tell you a little about myself. I am highly emotional and sensitive. To the point that love songs bring me to tears sometimes. It’s a little ridiculous. I take everything personally. Part of this sensitive nature involves me having the inability to take a joke. I take everything seriously. I don’t understand most of the time that someone is even telling a joke. I’m slightly better at this now, and have adopted a biting sarcastic tone in my everyday life, although I suspect this is merely a defense. If I tell the joke first I don’t have to worry about not getting a joke and having my feelings hurt. So keep this in mind as we go to the next part of the story; I don’t get jokes.

Here we are, at the Burger King parking lot. There is no Chuck E Cheese in site. Just this burger joint.

So I turn to my parents and ask “Why are we stopping here?”

Step-dad looks at me and says ” Oh well, we know you aren’t picky, so we decided to come here instead. It’s cheaper and they have a play area.”

Well, okay. Remember the sensitive girl here? I’m completely devastated. But I have manners. We don’t complain when someone gives us a gift, no matter how much we hate it. I refuse to let them know I’m disapointed. I immediately paste a happy smile on my face.  I can feel the bubbles in the pit of my stomach. Not those happy excitement bubbles, those popped the second the words left Dad’s mouth. Now I’m just a ball of pure dread and detestation. Burger King? They have a ball pit.. and a slide. I’m not a baby. I’m 8 for goodness sake! What on earth am I going to do in a ball pit? And where is the pizza? And what am I going to tell my classmates? My brave face goes on. My voice cracks as I say “oh, okay.” and beg myself not to cry and seem ungrateful.

I start to open the car door to walk towards what I have decided is the worst birthday celebration of my life by this point. (Why yes, I am a drama queen)

And all of a sudden, my parents burst into laughter.

 “Hahahahahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” The memory of the sound of their mirth pounds into my brain to this day. I turned to them, confused.

“Just kidding!” Mom says, barely choking back her laughter.

“You should have seen your face!” Dad bellows out between guffaws.

 When they finally catch their breath and still their laughter, they explain that they were just playing a practical joke, and that we were actually going to Chuck E Cheese. I looked at them confused. And wondered why they were trying to break my heart and ruin my birthday. And why on earth they thought this was fun. When the tears, a mixture of relief and complete frustration/anger finally began to run freely down my face, my parents started laughing again. It probably took me a good 20 minutes to get out of the car once we actually arrived at Chuck E Cheese, much to my parents frustration.

 I may have played at Chuck E Cheese, and ate my weight in pizza. But the unbridled joy of my 8th birthday had effectively been squashed. I didn’t tell a single soul what I had done for my birthday. And I’ve never looked at Burger King, or my parents the same way since. I will never eat Burger King, and I will never let anyone plan my birthday celebrations for me.