• Rachel Lynn Clark

Chicken McNuggets and Valentine's Day Traditions

I had an established Valentine’s Day tradition with my ex.

First, a stop at The Steeping Room, our favorite tea and scones place in Austin, for a light dinner. Then, to the Alamo Drafthouse to see the collection of the previous year’s Academy Award nominated animated shorts. It was a humble tradition, but we loved it.

I remember Valentine’s Day 2018. Days after our breakup, unemployed, back in my childhood home. I sat in my room all day, mentally time-stamping all of the things I would be doing if we were still keeping to our annual tradition (the time when I would get home from work and start getting ready to go out, the time we’d arrive at our reservation a few minutes late as we always did, the time we’d get to the theater with enough time to order food and watch the pre-show, etc.). I felt hollow, like a Matryoshka doll, pieces of me taken away, the rest left to rattle around in my skull and remind me of what I was missing.

In 2019, I wanted to have a better experience. But I didn’t know where to start.

“I’m just a massive romantic who wants my life to be like a shojo anime,” my friend Ella (who, by the way, also blogs about her life in Japan) told me while we both lamented our lack of plans for the holiday. “I wanted to essentially take myself on a date.”

We both quickly agreed that it was too cold and dark outside to motivate either of us out for a romantic solo evening. Even though this winter has been much warmer than winters here usually are, it’s still cold. Not that there’s anywhere for me to go, anyway.

But even if I’m too far from the nearest big city to do something exciting and fun at a moment’s notice, surely, there was something fun I could do for the occasion?

Then, in a stroke of inspiration, I remembered something I’d seen on my way home from Beppu the previous weekend.

McDonald’s Japan carried a promotional set recently. The Grand Nugget Set, as it was so called, came with ten Chicken McNuggets and a “Grand” (re: super size) fry, of course served with a few dipping sauces. I decided to stop by on my way home from a trip to the mall and try it.

“To go?” The clerk at the counter asked me politely.

I shook my head. “For here.” She gave me a look of surprise that caught me off guard.

But once I got the food I understood. I got a large fry and ten nuggets, divided into two five-nugget boxes.

That’s weird, I thought, why didn’t they just give me all of the nuggets together?

Then I looked at the calendar and realized my mistake. The nuggets come in two boxes because the set is meant for two people. It’s a Valentine’s Day promotion, meant to be shared by a happy couple. And here I was, sitting in a Japanese McDonald’s, staring down my pre-portioned nuggets and fries by myself.

I was not daunted. I finished it all. My stomach was not happy about it, but dammit, I finished it.

“First of all show me one person who has gotten this special who isn't extremely single,” David, another ALT in my prefecture, said on Facebook (David's alter ego, Donatella Amarna, is the author of Le Tigre Russe, if you're interested in spy novels and great books in general). And honestly, I agree.

And even though David and I live at other ends of the prefecture we both resolved to devour the Grand Nugget Set solo. After all, with no other plans for the romantic holiday, why not?

So after work I went on a pilgrimage to the nearest McDonald's, nearly 40 minutes away by car. And of course when I got there, the Grand Nugget Set was already gone, replaced with some chicken sandwich or something that would certainly not mask my loneliness the way a metric ton of Chicken McNuggets would.

Did I get the same amount of nuggets outside of the set - which are, for some reason, almost double the price - because I was sad, lonely, and desperate? Definitely. Do I have any regrets? Definitely. But did I eat all of the nuggets and fries under my kotatsu while watching YouTube videos? You bet I did.

I can’t say this is an adequate replacement for my old tradition. But it was certainly an improvement over Valentine’s Day 2018. Is this my new foul bachelorette Valentine’s Day tradition? Honestly, I hope not.

Maybe next year I’ll have someone to celebrate with. We’ll see.

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