Society loves labels. People, trends, brands, conditions…. everything has a label, and with each label comes a set of expectations and generalizations.
Since I was born between the years of 1965 and 1979, I am part of the group of people labeled “Generation X”. Therefore, by definition, I’m an individualist, a slacker, a la “Reality Bites”, or so it has been declared.
Many of my coworkers, as well as most, if not all, of my nieces and nephews, are “Generation Y”, also referred to as “Millenials”, so they are tech savvy, impatient, not as career focused as many feel they should be, but are also well-traveled and very worldly.
My three older siblings are all “Baby Boomers”. Baby Boomers are often also referred to as the “Sandwich Generation,” because they are mid-life adults who are sandwiched between aging parents and growing children, all of whom depend on the adults who are sandwiched in between the older and younger generations.
So, with all that being said, what is the opposite of a sandwich?
A la carte?
Whatever you’d call it, that’s what I am, I suppose. I’m the un-sandwich. As someone who has no parents, and no kids, I’m just out there, exposed, no other generations wrapped around me, or sandwiching me.
What does that make me? What do you call the people like me who are parentless and childless? (If there even are any others like me out there…). I wonder how many people have the same status as I do? Sometimes I think there must not be very many people with these same circumstances. I don’t think I know anyone personally who is “unsandwiched” like me. I do know a fair amount of people, and many friends my age don’t have kids. I know a few people who have no living parents, but most of those people are much older than I am. But I don’t know anyone who has neither parents or kids… am I alone? Or am I just a rarity?
Maybe that’s why there’s not a name for un-sandwiched people like myself. There are so few of us, perhaps we aren’t even worth labeling.
Then I think there must be others out there. Much like one who ponders the existence of life on other planets… I wonder if there are other “unsandwiched” (a la carte?) people out there like me…
Being an “island” generation seems a bit lonely when you think about it initially. If you had told me 15 years ago that I’d be in this scenario, parentless, and childless, I probably wouldn’t have believed it, and I probably wouldn’t have been too happy about my future. I’d always imagined that by this point in my life, late 30s, I’d have (several) kids or at least still have a parent.
If someone had told my former self that I’d be parentless and childless throughout my 30s, (which, by the way, is not by choice, for the most part, but that’s for another post!) I’d have probably thought I’d be lonely too. But I’d have thought wrong.
I’m surrounded by an abundance of other wonderful people, from my husband to my sister (and best friend), to my eight nieces and nephews, and my great nephew…. from my in-laws in Baltimore to my favorite Aunt in DC. Extended family, friends, and neighbors. Even coworkers and facebook friends can brighten my days and bring many smiles and laughs.
At times, after making time for work, spouse, house, friends, family, hobbies, and general upkeep in life…. it’s almost hard to imagine having any time for anything more, or anyone else in life. It’s taken me a long time to feel settled, and comfortable. It wasn’t easy, and I’m still figuring a lot of things out. But I have a better idea of who I am, or at least who I want to be. There are still loose ends, and unresolved issues, some of which are significant, like having kids. Yes, believe it or not, we are still open to the idea of having kids, much to the confusion of many, who seem to think that, just because I’m in my late 30s, and I’m not beating down the door of the nearest fertility clinic, I must “not want kids, period”. But we haven’t ultimately determined that. We haven’t tried not to be parents. It just hasn’t happened for us. And, for all we know, maybe it’s not supposed to happen, for whatever reason.
Are there lonely days? Absolutely. But doesn’t everyone have lonely days, no matter who you have or don’t have in your life? You can feel lonely in a room full of people, even in a house full of people. I know many women who are married, and/or have children, and/or have one or both parents, yet they feel alone much of the time. Being ‘alone’ is often a state of mind, as much as it is a state of being. No matter who you might feel you’re missing in life, a spouse, a significant other, kids, parents, siblings, or friends…. it’s up to you to create the life you want, to have your best life, with or without those people. Even if you are fortunate to have many of those special people in your life now, they may not be there forever, so enjoy every moment you have with them while you can.
Some of the worst days for me are certain holidays, especially ones like Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. On those tough days, it seems like every single person on the planet is spending the day doting on their parents, and being doted on by their children, and it can be very lonely. I used to allow both of these days, and lots of similar “greeting card days” make me feel really lonely, but now with the passage of time, and with a concerted effort to adjust my attitude about them, I now try to treat them much like any other day. And, I approach those would-be sad days like I now approach anniversaries of my parents’ passing, as a day to remember the good times and honor them with happy memories instead of being depressed about my situation.
So how should we label those of us who are “unsandwiched” by parents or kids? Not that labels are necessary, or even good, but if society is going to give us a label eventually, (once our group grows large enough to command a label, as more people in my generation continue to forego having kids), then we might as well have some input into the label and what characteristics get slapped on us.
I prefer “filet mignon” to “chopped liver” any day, so when determining a label for folks like me (if there are any others like me out there), maybe we could go with something a bit more enticing than “chopped liver” and skip anything related to sandwiches, which are rather bland.
Instead of just a plain piece of meat, or a breadless sandwich, I think we should be labeled after some sort of Mexican food (a personal fave, so I’m biased) – spicy and a little unpredictable, like the lives we lead, with no kids and no parents.
With no parents and no kids, we’re more free to go where we want to go and do what we want to do, or at least more so than those who are responsible for young kids or aging parents. There is a degree of freedom that accompanies un-sandwiched adults like me.
We don’t have to be a certain person for our parents.
We don’t have to be a certain way for our kids. We can just…..be! Whomever we want to be.
Even without kids or parents around, life can be very full. You can have the whole enchilada, with sour cream and guacamole on top! In fact, maybe instead of a bland sandwich generation, we can be the enchilada generation, with a fun mix of flavorful ingredients, wrapped in a light flour tortilla, (of friends & family) without the weight of processed grains and a heavy crust….
Or maybe we should just forget about having a label, and just go on living a zesty, fun-filled life!
Thanks for stopping by. If you liked this post, you might also like:
Who the Other Me Would Be
Better Off Dead? Or Better Off Divorced?