You’ll Never Be Normal Again: My Terrifying Trip to Dairy Queen

by Mrs. Money Mustache

Once again I am making an unauthorized post on MMM, as he is currently out in the wilderness, far from the Internet.  Beware, as this post has not been edited by my better half.  Improper paragraph formatting and poor grammar may lie ahead.  Sorry honey.

You’ll never be normal again” is the slogan on the t-shirts at TwinFreaks Crossfit.  I really like this saying as it implies that you’ve gone beyond Normal into the territory of the Totally Awesome and that this Awesomeness has been triggered by some kind of monumental discovery.

I’m not even close to awesome, but to some extent I was beginning to feel normal in my own little world.  In my every day life I’m surrounded by like minded friends.  Over time, the people that I am close to have ended up being people with similar values and outlook on life that I have found.  Of course, I still run into many that follow a more conventional path, but I only see bits and pieces of these different lifestyles.

And then there’s the Mustachians.  They just keep coming out of the woodwork and are some of the most motivating and inspiring folks I’ve met.  When you’re surrounded by Mustachians every day in comments and in the forum, you kind of start believing that maybe you’re not all that different.  In fact, you might have a long way to go before you’re even close to being as Awesome as everyone else.

My Terrifying Trip to Dairy Queen was my reality check.  I am different and in fact, I might be downright weird.

Location: My hometown of Ottawa, Canada.

My parents suggest an outing to the movie theater to watch a 3D movie with little MM.  The movie theater is a 30 minute walk away.  We drive.  No big deal.  I’m relaxed about the whole thing.

We get to the movie early and lo and behold, it’s quite empty.  A nice surprise for a big city like Ottawa!  I cringe through a bunch of ads and movie trivia as people start filing in with their giant bags of overpriced popcorn.  I’m not even thinking about how anti-mustachian this scene is, because I am enjoying it from a different perspective.  I can’t remember the last time I was at a super fancy movie theater like this one about to watch a 3D movie.  My parents are footing the bill, which is a bonus (incidentally, the cost of the tickets is $52.96 CAD for three adults and one child), and all the Neon and Glamor of this night out is making me feel a bit dizzy and hazy.  It’s like being at a movie theater for the first time and it seems pretty cool and futuristic.  This feeling of experiencing things from a new perspective is one of the huge bonuses of a low-key lifestyle, by the way.

After the movie, we watch the credits and are rewarded by a little bonus scene at the end.  This is an MMM family tradition.  Almost everyone has left the theater and little MM comments that they “all totally missed out”.  They sure did.  I guess they’re on to the next big thing… and so are we, apparently.

My Dad is getting antsy.  He has a secret evil plan in the works: A surprise trip to Dairy Queen!! The following ridiculous quotes ensue:

– it’s “on the way”
– you always NEED ice cream after a movie, right?
– you only live once
– yeah, there might be a closer one, but this is the one we always go to

We drive and drive and drive (Google maps shows the trip as 4.2 km in the opposite direction of the house with an estimated 11 minute drive time one way).  The entire time I am sitting there nearly hyperventilating with every extra minute of driving.  My heart is racing and I am getting all stressed out.  What is wrong with me?  This isn’t normal.  People go to Dairy Queen sometimes.  I’ve even taken my kid to Dairy Queen once or twice.  Why am I suddenly freaking out?

I suppose I had reached some kind of threshold and my happy haze of the night had finally worn off.  This little detour wasn’t part of the original plan.  It’s like buying a magazine by the check out line at the grocery store, except that instead of buying it while you’re there, you drive 4.2 km to the next grocery store to buy it.  It’s an impulse purchase and it was being presented as some kind of special treat to my child.  But wait, we already had our special treat: The Movie!!  Duh.

But wait, there’s more.

We finally arrive and I look around.  We managed to secure the last spot in a dingy, cramped parking lot.  Our headlights illuminate the 50-something couple eating their ice creams in the car parked in front of us.  They are staring at us like silent Canadians caught eating ice cream in headlights.  It’s eerie.

We line up to order.  There’s a machine that generously takes your coins in exchange for watching the coin take a roller coaster ride into the DQ abyss.  The grandparents happily hand little MM a few coins to pass the time.  It’s a long wait but we persevere.  With ice creams and their assorted disposable accompaniments in hand, we proceed to the parking lot to find a seat on the curb.  We choose a well lit location next to a giant truck that smells like gasoline, since all the other good curb spots are taken.  We eat our ice creams without a word.  Little MM is full.  I finish his cup and am surprised to find the ice cream tastes like crap.  Is this fun?  Is this what I’m missing out on?  This sucks.  Maybe everyone realizes it too, so we decide to head home.

As we’re driving home, my Dad turns to me and says: “I just need to make one more stop.”

Are you experiencing anti-mustachian anxiety as well?  Tell us your story!



  • C40 July 30, 2012, 10:42 am

    I have similar experiences when I go hang out with my family, or with spendy friends..

    I’m always resistant when they want to go watch a movie. I don’t really see the point of doing that. We have to travel a long way to see eachother and don’t get much time, so I wish we’d do something together (sitting in a dark room watching a movie doesn’t count). I guess we do stuff together nearly all day long, and it can be instense, so it’s not so bad.

    Most recently, when we were together in a small town, we decided to go have Dairy Queen. It was within a mile, so we walked there. The DQ was in bad shape. As we walked in I noticed many dirty tables. When ordering, I noticed the back area was dirty also. Dirty floor, grimy looking grill, etc. The kids working there looked disheveled – shirts not tucked in, grease stains on them, etc. Someone was ordering from the drive through, and their voice came over a speaker for all to hear – so loud that it was almost hard to order at the counter.

    As we were preparing to leave, half a softball team of girls came in. One of them ordered a banana split. There was a commotion and I turned to see the teenage boy who had been making the split had slipped and fell while putting ice cream into the container. He was laying out on his back on the floor. He had dropped the bowl on the ground. The ice cream machine lever was still down and ice cream continued pumping out of the machine, building up in the bottom reseviour, and spilling down the front of the machine. All the other employees were standing around laughing or yelling “oh my god!!!!”. I stood and watched this state continue for at least 4-5 seconds. I had a very strong urge to walk around the counter, shut off the ice cream, and help the kid up.

    It will be a long time before I go to a Dairy queen again – and after that, probably the same for my family.

    The other funny thing about this trip was that while our family was in this small town, we found many places of business that were in big need of good management. This DQ… The golf course… the gas station… etc.. We had a whole conversation about how we could turn this town around!

  • Brave New Life July 30, 2012, 4:24 pm

    I have this experience every single time my parents or my in-laws visit.

    Fortunately, they’ve all come to realize that my wife and I have grown so different from them, and they’ve all accepted that my wife will play along with the non-MMM life for a week or two, and I won’t. I’ll hang out and play games at home all night (afterall, I do like them), but I won’t go out for $50 BBQ when we could cook a better version at home for a fraction of the price.

    I don’t know… I guess I don’t mind standing out. I don’t push my agenda on anyone, I just stay consistent with my values.

    Good article, by the way. You sounded so much like MMM that I wouldn’t have noticed had you not stated it up front.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 30, 2012, 4:45 pm

      Great point, Brave!

      Many beginner Mustachians are afraid to stand up for their new values among Standard Consumer family members. Eventually, they will lose this fear and begin a cheerful revolution. It really works – if you are confident and honest about your own beliefs, others will have a VERY hard time challenging them.

      In fact, since the typical Consumer got that way by being a natural follower rather than a leader, they may end up following YOU if you lead by example well enough, and for a long enough time. Standing out from the crowd is a great thing, and I personally wouldn’t want it any other way!

  • Brooke July 31, 2012, 11:51 am

    I can’t handle the peer pressure in social situations that leads to exhorbitant overspending. Its really very hard to stand up to, especially when you are on the mustachian path to financial independence! Right now everyone I know is having social events from engagement parties, to weddings and baby showers and it all feels like an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, like this is a good excuse for everyone to sign up for the most gauche exhorbitantly overpriced registries – spoil me, buy things for me that I would never afford on my own…and well, I certainly couldn’t afford these things either so why are you asking? Very hard to decline (and I do decline!) because you’re looked on poorly even though you have your priorities straight. The big thing right now in my social circle is everyone asking for expensive electronics if “everyone pitches in its just $40 bucks each, no big deal right?” And the same group pitch in idea for renting luxury hotel suites at $350 a pop as if it ain’t no big thang. Many of you have mentioned in this string that this spending coercion is manipulative and I think that is about right! Sorry but I’d rather pay for my car maintenance, thank you. Same folks in this ex. just had a car die because they weren’t getting their maintenance done and had to put down on a brand new car and then they complain about being tight on money. Just plain irresponsibility. Grr.

  • Jason August 1, 2012, 7:30 am

    A few things –

    1. I read the title you’ll never be normal again and DQ and figured that you got food poisoning. (Which could be a logical conclusion to eating out at DQ).

    2. My angst gets high anytime buying ice cream out. Locally we can get ice cream in the store for $2.50 a half gallon. ($1.99 for store brand). Ice cream truck that stalks us in our neighborhood charges $3.00 an ice cream sandwich. Our local ice cream shop (not a chain store) runs us $12 for a family of four. We do go out to get ice cream as a treat, but it is truly a treat and maybe twice a summer.

    3. I just got back from my parents house and had the same kind of angst, but not about ice cream. My sisters kids and mine were there for four days, one of which we had a family reunion. All my parents wanted to do the other three days were go places and spend money on the kids. The kids did not care, as long as they were out having fun. (My parents live on Lake Ontario and have a 120 acre farm in their back yard!) We convinced them to stay at home and we had a blast, swimming, skipping stones, running up and down hills, playing outdoors, etc. No need to spend $50 to do to a movie, or $100 to go to an amusement park.

    That’s it, I’m out.

  • FreeUrChains August 1, 2012, 8:12 am

    Brave was a Fantastic movie to inspire Freedom, Independence, True Love, Happiness, Spending Time with Family and Friends, and spending time with the hobbies you love. Working and Consuming prevents all of this from ever happening, and you become stuck in an endless cycle. Just remember the freedom you had in College. 3 hrs of work, exercising, socializing, persuing your hobbies and intergrating them with what you were studying, walking/biking everywhere, meeting new people and trying new activities all the time. Etc.

    This is how the real world should be, and it is one difficult goal to accomplish, but FI is possible and so is changing your fate.

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple August 2, 2012, 8:57 pm

    I had one of these self inflicted days last weekend. It was really stupid. But a relative gave us a $25 gift card to Walmart for the new baby. I should have used it on line or given it away. I should have. But no, we drove 40 miles to Walmart. Sat in an hour’s traffic each way. Dodged people in the store to get a couple of items. And man, I can’t believe I wasted 3 hours of my life.

    I have a 3.5 weeks old infant. I’m barely sleeping, why would I waste 3 hours?? I could have been cooking dinner, playing, or napping!

  • Chad August 7, 2012, 2:25 am

    I have been a long time reader, probably whenever you first got featured on lifehacker. Glad to know that it is possible to retire just by being frugal and not having to start a business.

    This is probably one of the most impactful articles that I have read on your site. When I go out now, I just cant contemplate randomly spending money anymore.

  • Heidi August 7, 2012, 3:38 pm

    This is hilarious. A few weeks ago, I heard my 5 year old lean over to his sister while playing and say, “Did you know there is store called Burger King? And one called Dairy Queen?” They both started laughing and repeating these names for the next 10 minutes. Apparently the only Kings and Queens they know exist in fairy tales. Though we did see the Queen of Norway walk into a building last year. I don’t think that was impressive.

  • c hefferan August 7, 2012, 9:14 pm

    Yeesh. I love this blog and read it frequently but the only thing that comes to mind after reading this post is the word “chill’. Calm down and have a good time with your family and stop worrying.

    • Tom August 8, 2012, 11:41 am

      I agree, I happen to like reading Mustachian, but I thought “chill” also. That’s a bit too high anxiety for me, and I was under the impression that the Mustache’s enjoy life…but that article really threw me off, considering it was a “little” thing that the kid probably loved to be treated to.
      After all, don’t we just about do anything for our kids well being? I think the grandparents wisely sense a necessary treat, only if occasional, but jeez…I happen to LOVE DQ Blizzards. But I guess Mississippi DQ ice cream tastes better, maybe b/c its blazing hot all summer long.

    • Matt (Semper Fi) August 15, 2016, 3:48 pm

      Think we need to cut her some slack. Hell, I say a lot of things tongue-in-cheek. My message usually gets across loud and clear, but I like to slightly “embellish” the details, haha. Usually makes for a more interesting story. I’d be willing to bet that Mrs. MM was a tad tongue-in-cheek when she wrote that, but I know what she is trying to convey. Great article, ma’am.

  • Kate August 14, 2012, 11:13 am

    We have just returned from a “family vacation” which was attended by about 15 people. A place is chosen and a house is rented for a week. This divided by the family’s work out to be cheaper than getting a small cramped motel/hotel room. We than divide the meals up and make most of the dinners and meals for the group. Again, to Mustachian the cost vs quality is amazing compared to eating out. Of course, this can be a opition for some if they so decide. Many outdoor activities are open for everyone to enjoy and get unplugged. Certainly some can’t seem to unplug for a week. This by the way is the only time I may watch tv as I’m just not into paying for cable. I see some like the fast food track, pop tarts, fruit loops and the list goes on of crap. Does it occur that most kids love junk if given the choice to eat and than when dinner arrives are not hungry? It certainly comes down to choices for everyone. Be outside enjoying nature or plugged into tv, computers or cell phones.

  • John August 14, 2012, 3:43 pm

    I think the key to knowing whether or not to go to Dairy Queen (or purchase any discretionary item for that matter) is to look at the budget (and maybe your waistline). Is the money in there? If not, it’s a no-go.

    • PtboEliz May 22, 2014, 1:17 pm

      I wouldn’t follow that logic myself. I would ask whether there was enough ‘bang’ for the purchase – value, a gained efficiency and/or some effort of mine which is the kind of bonus that makes something a happy experience for me. I think this is more what MMM is getting at when he writes that he doesn’t bother with a budget because it always works out that his family buys whatever they want and they still don’t spend over $25K annually. Empty spending has no appeal no matter how much extra money you have kicking around.

  • Jay August 24, 2012, 8:47 am

    I had KFC the other evening because my beautiful pregnant fiancer wanted it… I had MMM anxiety because I dropped 20$ on food and it was the grossest thing I have ever eaten in my life… KFC…seriously, gross and anxiety inducing, for me!

  • Oelsen August 29, 2012, 7:07 pm

    So far down, I doubt anyone will read it, but I have to write it.
    A wtf-terrifying moment was months ago when we had grand parents visiting and we were so glad they finally left town we decided somehow this moment “needs something” and we went to Burger King. My gf ordered something like a burger and I was curious to try out their desert. Well, both were disappointed. My gf ranted along the way home that she’s still hungry and I just could not accept that a global company can produce a desert that isn’t even sweet and had the consistence and smell of cardboard. I decided I will never again set a foot in a fast food restaurant. The other moment was when I saw this Mercedes in my local Mall: 66’000 Swiss Francs. W-T-F.

  • Unplugged May 17, 2014, 2:05 am

    Great comments on this post! It’s shocking to see how far people will go to consume things for a ” special” time. We recently had a family portrait done with three generations of family members. We went to a downtown studio that has every restaurant imaginable walking distance away. But nope, had to pile into three seperate cars at 5 pm to drive to the outskirts of town. It took us 35 min to drive there. I wish gas was $8/ liter so this kind of fucktardery would disappear. Also had my parents buy $100 worth of Chinese delivery on our lady night of visiting them in Ontario. The food was poor quality, and just all deep fried nondescript shit. Could have just made rice, ordered egg rolls and a couple $10 specials and maybe had a little dessert after. Throwing money away does not equal pleasure!

  • Shelby Kauth December 7, 2014, 9:46 pm

    I have similar issues with my parents, except I still live at home. I haven’t managed to get a job yet, but I’m trying to get then to let me bike to my community college. I have to buy what they tell me to, and tv is like getting to read a chapter of ten books each week, except with pictures and sound instead of the writing I understand so well. I have to drive my siblings to school fifteen miles away every day, and I’m trying to figure out a way to stay out there, where the only places open before ten are McDonald’s and the big box supermarket. I guess they don’t want kids skipping school to go to the library. I keep trying to get them to buy that $75 parking permit so the car only makes one round trip each day instead of two, and I’m so afraid they’ll get a fourth gas guzzler instead of a reasonable car this time around.

  • BMG September 7, 2015, 4:06 pm

    Hilarious. I can relate 100%. It’s funny what the social standards of fun are.

  • Larabeth January 24, 2016, 5:44 am

    Ugh, I feel your pain on this one! We recently went out to eat as a “treat” (I had a meal planned but consumerism won that round) and it was a disaster!

    The service was bad, the food was mediocre, the servings were puny, and we spent way too much!!! By the end of the meal I joked that I could have cooked 5 nutritious, tasty meals for that price and we wouldn’t have had to deal with the terrible service.

    The good thing is, ever since then my fiancee has been perfectly content with eating at home. I think that experience may have pushed him over the edge and into the realm of food-related Mustachianism which has been a big hurdle!!

  • Be October 7, 2016, 7:32 am

    I am just a tiny peach fuzz mustachian at this stage but my husband loves that over priced popcorn…He’s a movie buff so I try to steer him toward the reduced price days at the cinema but he’s still reeling from my move toward frugality so I’m hoping time will soften the blow.

  • Ruth January 18, 2017, 2:43 pm

    How about…. “let’s just go for a drive” No destination, no purpose except to waste gas. EEK!

  • Garrett July 22, 2017, 8:18 am

    Avengers is a great flick ;) Glad that was the movie you and the grandparents chose to go to and take lil MMM to.
    (It was easy to figure out which movie it was, as Marvel movies are generally the only ones that do the scene after the credits, and Avengers was the movie released in 2012)

    Also, I completely agree with everything you said here.

  • Mark Schreiner December 7, 2017, 10:47 pm

    Two more complainy/funny stories:

    The day of our daughter’s birth (the happiest day of my life, most emotional, and most draining, and I was not even the mother or the baby), an in-law phoned in the demand that I leave the side of my baby and wife to go to the store to buy flowers and balloons “to celebrate the occasion”.

    One time, we drove two cars >1 hour to get to the birthday person’s favorite restaurant. Ten minutes before we arrived, we had to stop so that the birthday person could buy and eat a pre-meal snack.


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