There are certain milestones every new couple experiences: seeing each other’s apartments, that first kiss, understanding each other’s coffee preferences — but, personally, “first fast-food date” is right up there with discovering my date’s taste in music.
I recently got into a debate over milkshake preferences with a guy I’ve been dating. He told me he had never had a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake before, in all its limited availability glory, and I hounded him about going to get one. He finally gave in with a resigned, “Okay. We can go to McDonald’s.” And, being the McFan that I am, I obviously took him up on this.
I get a ton of shit for loving McDonald’s. Apparently, liking the fast-food chain is something I should have grown out of along with Beanie Babies and Pokémon, but you can’t really beat the Big Mac meal or the Hot Fudge Sundaes (with extra peanuts) that come in those strange, little baggies. And, on emotionally needy occasions, you’re more likely to stumble upon a McDonald’s than you are someone to hug you.
So when my date suggested we go, I jumped at the chance — also, because it was the end of March and the final days of Shamrock Shake Season. When I told my friends where we were going, they thought he was being cheap and careless. When he told his coworkers, they were surprised he would take such a nice, super-amazing, fun girl like me to such a dump.
“I told them that you really like it here,” he insisted after we sat down across from each other in a booth. (Oh, yes. We didn’t just grab and go. We sat down!) We split chicken nuggets, fries, and two unnaturally green milkshakes. He looked hesitant when he took sips of his.
This was not our first date. We had previously made an attempt at being fancy and impressive and ate pasta and drank cocktails. We had seen each other before, attractively (and dimly) lit by tea-candles before we made the jump to harsh, fluorescent lighting. The fact that he was sitting here, uncomfortably drinking an overly-sweet, fake mint milkshake showed me he was still making an effort. After all, if you’re going to meet a date at a fast-food restaurant when you don’t actually want to eat at a fast-food restaurant, clearly you’re there for that person.
Sure, the environment was hardly ideal for romance — a homeless man sat in the far corner while two burly, old guys played chess nearby — but the entire restaurant was pretty empty. I assume this is because people don’t usually have McDonald’s for dinner anymore, and if they do, they do it alone, drowning in their isolated shame. We practically had the place to ourselves, and with no waiter coming around every so often to check in on us, our conversation flowed, I didn’t have to worry about the drink menu, and I didn’t have to worry about mispronouncing some obscure food item. I also didn’t have to worry about being on a time limit, as we had already ordered and paid and no one was rushing us out the door. They weren’t even rushing the homeless guy or the chess players out, either!
On top of that, we got more than enough food for the both of us for under $20. Dating is expensive enough when you try to be impressive — which is something of a waste if you don’t hit it off — and the longer we sat there, the more my date offered to get us fries, an apple pie, or cookies, just so we could stay longer talking, heart health be damned. For a date, that’s all that and a side of fries.