The Cactus Plant Flea Market box, a Happy Meal for...

The Cactus Plant Flea Market box, a Happy Meal for adults, available for a limited time at McDonald’s. Credit: Newsday/Scott Vogel

This month’s launch of McDonald’s newest menu item, the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box, marks the culmination of a yearslong effort by the hamburger chain to produce an adult Happy Meal, or as I’ve come to think of it, a Meal of Deep and Unrelenting Sadness. In saying this, I do not dispute the company’s stance that adulting is hard, or that threats like inflation, the end of democracy and/or armageddon might stir misty-eyed longing for days gone by, when, as McD’s puts it in a news release, “that little red box could turn a regular Tuesday into the best. day. ever.”

Yes, Tuesdays being what they are these days, any urge to combat midweek misery with a Happy Meal is understandable, or indeed anything that might take one back to one’s 6-year-old self, when life felt uncomplicated.

Before getting in line for Mickey D’s nostalgia ride, however, be advised that it can make for a rather pricey Tuesday, if not exactly the biggest. swindle. ever. In my neighborhood, the boxes were $11.29 (10-piece McNuggets) and $12.49 (Big Mac), both with fries and drink, which is two-plus bucks more than the combos cost alone.

Yes, you counter, but adult Happy Meal boxes, with their festive, asymmetric typography, are bigger than the kids’ — think hotels to houses in Monopoly — thereby setting the stage for a much larger toy. All true. Mine came with a 4-inch plastic Grimace figurine. Staring at that slow, sweet, purple yam of a creature from my youth, I instantly felt the years melt away. Continuing to stare, however, I noticed that the decades had been less than kind to him. Sadly, our beloved Grimace now possesses — spoiler alert — four eyes. He smiles but with the face of a skillet of fried eggs for the whole family. This discovery brought my own sentimental journey to a screeching halt.

That said, both the box and its four toy characters have proved wildly popular (someone on eBay is offering $24.99 for my Grimace, not that I’d ever part with it). Such is the frenzy I was forced to visit six Long Island McDonald’s — on the app — before finding one that hadn’t sold out of adult Happy Meals, the company having employed a strategy of creating demand through artificial scarcity, a hallmark of both the burger chain and its collaborator, Cactus Plant. Cactus Plant Flea Market, if you’re wondering, is a streetwear brand and the brainchild of Brooklyn designer Cynthia Lu, formerly Pharrell Williams’ stylist, the musician having become her champion, i.e., “Happy” meal ticket.

“I don’t feel like I’m living within the matrix of the social norm,” Williams once said, describing the experience of wearing CPFM’s clothes, hats, hoodies and the like.Unboxing my Cactus Plant in the dining room at McDonald’s, a company that sells more than a billion kids’ Happy Meals in 100 countries every year, I definitely kinda-sorta felt like I was living firmly within the matrix, and perhaps even “The Matrix.”

“Everyone remembers their first Happy Meal as a kid,” the company's release intones, summarily dismissing the existence of childhood pre-1979, when McDonald’s first sent its bliss boxes into the world, a gentler age when all Americans had to deal with were the Three Mile Island meltdown and hostage-taking in Iran. Anodyne and amnesiac, it’s a call to escape that we grown-ups are hearing a lot these days, a siren song of adult water balloon fights and bubble-blowing contests and coloring books. A voice that prescribes not a little red pill but a little red box where a big grimace awaits.

The Cactus Plant Flea Market Box is available at Long Island locations of McDonald’s while supplies last. For more information, visit mcdonalds.com.

This month’s launch of McDonald’s newest menu item, the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box, marks the culmination of a yearslong effort by the hamburger chain to produce an adult Happy Meal, or as I’ve come to think of it, a Meal of Deep and Unrelenting Sadness. In saying this, I do not dispute the company’s stance that adulting is hard, or that threats like inflation, the end of democracy and/or armageddon might stir misty-eyed longing for days gone by, when, as McD’s puts it in a news release, “that little red box could turn a regular Tuesday into the best. day. ever.”

Yes, Tuesdays being what they are these days, any urge to combat midweek misery with a Happy Meal is understandable, or indeed anything that might take one back to one’s 6-year-old self, when life felt uncomplicated.

Before getting in line for Mickey D’s nostalgia ride, however, be advised that it can make for a rather pricey Tuesday, if not exactly the biggest. swindle. ever. In my neighborhood, the boxes were $11.29 (10-piece McNuggets) and $12.49 (Big Mac), both with fries and drink, which is two-plus bucks more than the combos cost alone.

Yes, you counter, but adult Happy Meal boxes, with their festive, asymmetric typography, are bigger than the kids’ — think hotels to houses in Monopoly — thereby setting the stage for a much larger toy. All true. Mine came with a 4-inch plastic Grimace figurine. Staring at that slow, sweet, purple yam of a creature from my youth, I instantly felt the years melt away. Continuing to stare, however, I noticed that the decades had been less than kind to him. Sadly, our beloved Grimace now possesses — spoiler alert — four eyes. He smiles but with the face of a skillet of fried eggs for the whole family. This discovery brought my own sentimental journey to a screeching halt.

A four-eyed version of McDonald’s Grimace, one of the toys...

A four-eyed version of McDonald’s Grimace, one of the toys in its new Cactus Plant Flea Market box, a Happy Meal for adults. Credit: Newsday/Scott Vogel

That said, both the box and its four toy characters have proved wildly popular (someone on eBay is offering $24.99 for my Grimace, not that I’d ever part with it). Such is the frenzy I was forced to visit six Long Island McDonald’s — on the app — before finding one that hadn’t sold out of adult Happy Meals, the company having employed a strategy of creating demand through artificial scarcity, a hallmark of both the burger chain and its collaborator, Cactus Plant. Cactus Plant Flea Market, if you’re wondering, is a streetwear brand and the brainchild of Brooklyn designer Cynthia Lu, formerly Pharrell Williams’ stylist, the musician having become her champion, i.e., “Happy” meal ticket.

“I don’t feel like I’m living within the matrix of the social norm,” Williams once said, describing the experience of wearing CPFM’s clothes, hats, hoodies and the like.Unboxing my Cactus Plant in the dining room at McDonald’s, a company that sells more than a billion kids’ Happy Meals in 100 countries every year, I definitely kinda-sorta felt like I was living firmly within the matrix, and perhaps even “The Matrix.”

“Everyone remembers their first Happy Meal as a kid,” the company's release intones, summarily dismissing the existence of childhood pre-1979, when McDonald’s first sent its bliss boxes into the world, a gentler age when all Americans had to deal with were the Three Mile Island meltdown and hostage-taking in Iran. Anodyne and amnesiac, it’s a call to escape that we grown-ups are hearing a lot these days, a siren song of adult water balloon fights and bubble-blowing contests and coloring books. A voice that prescribes not a little red pill but a little red box where a big grimace awaits.

The Cactus Plant Flea Market Box is available at Long Island locations of McDonald’s while supplies last. For more information, visit mcdonalds.com.

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