I can remember in elementary school there being a kid who ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every single day for lunch. Literally.
This was the late 80s. Now, just over 20 years later, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is borderline illegal to bring to school. It’s practically contraband.
I know you must be wondering what the heck I’m talking about. So, let me explain.
A few weeks ago I packed my pre-school son a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for his brown bag lunch. That day at lunch time I got a stern, yet awkward email from school. It stated:
[Your son] has a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich for lunch today. Because of the number of students in his class with severe peanut allergies (prescribed EpiPens), we had to alter his normal lunch procedures. In order to ensure that no other student is exposed to the Peanut Butter, [Your son] has to sit away from the class, next to the teacher, and cannot start eating his sandwich until the teacher has served all of the other students and is sitting next to him. He does not appear to be bothered by the wait, but we wanted to make you aware of the changes we have to make to accommodate his lunch.
My first thought was WTF! My son is an outcast because of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
I decided not to respond to the email and instead just let it go since it was not really that big of a deal. Although now I have this lingering feeling that this may be a trend spreading across the country.
A trend that is indicative of an emerging new normal in our society.
A normal that makes it okay to inconvenience or offend in the name of accommodating the exception. A normal where the exception becomes the rule even when the exception is not the rule. A normal where normal is not normal anymore.
Obviously, phasing out the peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the American lunch menu is not a one to one correlation to a referendum on a new normal. Yet, I still believe the rise and fall of the American peanut as a staple in our diet presents us with a tremendous amount of symbolism.
Every generation experiences changing norms. Normal always has and will always be a moving target. While the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is not something I’m personally willing to stand up and fight for, there are other norms that I won’t compromise.
With that said, the Peanut Butter and Jelly Manifesto is simple:
It is up to each family to recognize what things they do, say, and believe that are becoming unacceptable in our evolving society. Then, they must decide to either adopt the new normal or stand up and fight for the values they’re not willing to compromise.