I have a childhood gripe to share. It's Chuck E Cheese.
Growing up I was inundated with references to this palace of childhood joy. TV shows mostly, from Full House to the Disney Afternoon, would spout the name of Chuck E Cheese like some freaking holy grail. So much so that looking back I wonder if Chuck E Cheese had paid product placements in all those shows.
Example dialogue involving Chuck E Cheese:
"Where are we going for my friend's birthday party?" "Chuck E Cheese!"
"You are a sad child and I need to make up for faulty parenting? Let's go to Chuck E Cheese!"
"Can we go to Chuck E Cheese? PLEEEEASE?????"
"I'm running away from home! You'll find me at Chuck E Cheese from now on."
And on it goes. Chuck E Cheese, Chuck E Cheese, Chuck E Cheese. Everywhere. I had heard so much about it that it became a pillar of everything that is fun in my mind. "If only I could go to Chuck E Cheese," I would think, "I would be happy for the rest of my life!"
I never went. I don't know if it's because my parents hated me (although if that's the case, they did a remarkable job of acting the opposite, despite my rampant middle-child syndrome) or I lived in a suburb that had an imitation Chuck E Cheese. It was called Wonderland until Canada's Wonderland sued them and they changed the name to Castle Fun Park (for me, it will always be Wonderland).
Excruciatingly slowly, I got older. I forgot about Chuck E Cheese and only went to Wonderland with groups of friends so we could pretend to play games and practice flirting with boys.
That's when one of my younger cousins had a birthday party at ... you guessed it, Chuck E Cheese. The child in me welled up once again, I was going to finally visit this land of enchantment and legal underage gambling! Childhood dreams were finally coming true!
All I remember from that visit was sitting with my family around a picnic table in the middle of one of the game rooms. We ate cake and I looked around me. It was sad. It was just a bigger, older, crappier version of Wonderland (and that is saying something). Everything was kind of dirty looking, I didn't get to play any of the games, and I was a preteen hanging out with my family in public.
Chuck E Cheese was lame! Childhood TV lied to me! Life is the worst!
PS: I googled Chuck E Cheese while writing this and it turns out they're still in operation. WEIRD how something so disappointing can force itself to continue to exist.