This scene takes place at a McDonald’s sometime in 1986, Niagara Falls Blvd, Niagara Falls, NY:
Young Matt: Ma. Ma. Ma. Mom. Mom. Hey, ma? Ma? Mom? Hey? Mom? Ma?
Mom: [Whispering] I’m going to destroy you.
Young Matt: Huh? Hey, ma! Mom! Guess what! Guess what, mom. Mom? Guess what.
Mom: WWHHHHAAAATTTT? …God dammit…
Young Matt: Ma, I want a Big Mac.
Mom: [Clenched-teeth momspeak] You’re getting a Happy Meal.
Young Matt: Um… but I want a Big Mac. I’m too old for a Happy Meal. I’m hungry and I want a Big Mac because I’m having a Big Mac Attack, ma, and I want one.
Mom: [Tightly gripping the leash harness that is attached to my younger brother as he is drawn to the Mayor McCheese slide across the restaurant] I. Said. No.
Young Matt: MA! I WANT ONE! C’mon, ma! Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a ses…
Young Matt: WHY?
Mom: Because I said so.
Young Matt: Your FACE. [I probably didn’t say that, but I should’ve].
Mom: Fine, Mr. Bigboy. You want a Big Mac? FINE. GET ONE. But you better eat the whole damn thing and don’t you DARE ask me to buy you that He-Man guy that you wanted because YOU’RE A BIG BOY who is getting a Big Mac.
Young Matt: YAY! I’m getting a Big Mac! Big Mac Attack! Big Mac Attack! Um… can I still get the toy from the Happy Meal?
In reality, I remember throwing a long, drawn-out tantrum before my mother finally relented and bought me a Big Mac. I also remember forcing myself to eat the entire processed burger while my mother stared at me though tearing eyes, forehead veins bulging, although it didn’t taste as good as I had expected. I also remember going to the toy store afterwards and throwing another tantrum about the He-Man guy that she wouldn’t buy me. I really liked He-Man.
I thought of this moment from my childhood because I still become overwhelmed with gotta-have-it feelings when I see something that appeals to me. Something I can’t afford, but want so badly. It’s not because I need it, but because it’s flashy and new and shiny and smells like plastic and metal and electronic-ness or made out of special fabric or the skin of baby elephants. I just WANT it. In my hands. In my house. Available to me whenever I want to use it or look at it or touch it.
I had a ferocious inability to control my spending when I was younger. The little money I made would immediately burn a hole in my pocket and magically turn into CDs or finance my nightlife. When I couldn’t get by on the minimum wage jobs I was working in college, I opened up a line of credit. Big mistake. From that point, up until a few years ago, I was regularly making purchases on credit. Sure, some of the stuff absolutely had to be bought – furniture and apartment furnishings, etc. But I always wanted the NICE stuff from the NICE places. I bought a lot of stuff that I didn’t need and really have no use for. Looking in my basement, I have way too many old football and hockey jerseys that saw only one season of use. And those things aren’t cheap.
In some ways, I think I’ve completely turned myself around from those bad spending habits. In fact, before my unemployment, I hadn’t used a credit card in a couple of years. I had made a big dent in my debt and was finally starting to SAVE money. Of course, the unemployment fairy tapped me on the nose and the debt has again begun to mount.
There is a major difference in my mindset now. The feelings of gotta-have-it still bubble to the surface, but they’re quickly met with nausea and nervousness. In fact, whenever I make a big purchase, I feel like I’m going to throw up. Groceries cost HOW MUCH? The car needs gas AGAIN? This cable bill is RIDICULOUS!
This was a bad week for me, spending-wise. With the release of The Beatles Remasters on Wednesday, I felt drawn to the music shop. I bought 5 albums, and really wanted to get a couple more. I picked up a nice raincoat from malljob (you know, for all those times I’m outside in the rain), and I’m bidding on a throwback football jersey to add to my collection.
Do I need The Beatles remasters? Uh, no. I haven’t bought a CD in years. Besides, I’m sure I could get them online in a somewhat-illegal fashion for FREE. The raincoat? I mean, c’mon. This is a no brainer. I have an umbrella. That should work just fine. The football jersey? I have plenty already. I’ll only wear it a couple times this season to a game or two. Not smart, Matt. Not smart. A moment of weakness, indeed. I have that nauseous feeling, my heart is pounding and my facial pores are giving birth to stress-zits.
You see, Mom? You should’ve stuck to your guns and not bought me that Big Mac. You should’ve smacked me on the face and locked me up in Hamburglar jail. You also should’ve taught me that Big Macs are bad for you. Then maybe I wouldn’t have eaten at McDonald’s all through college (twice a day during the Monopoly game) and gotten fat. Even though I crave a good McNugget every now and then, it’s not often you’ll catch me eating that crap anymore (unless I’m on a road trip).
You really should’ve given me that He-Man guy, though. He was the one who smelled like a skunk. I needed him for the collection, Ma. Castle Greyskull needed him.
I wonder if I can find him on Ebay…