Bumper stickers are like tattoos for cars – they seem like a good idea at first, but are never as cool the next day.
Decorating your car with slogans and images is a lot like decorating your middle school locker. It’s not a reflection of who you are as much as it is a reflection of who you wish you were.
I, for instance, wanted to be a professional volleyball player and River Phoenix’s lover. Each time I opened my locker, River would stare back at me amidst a collage of “Maui and Sons” and “Gnu” stickers (the Hurley of their time). I don’t understand the appeal of those stickers or the brands they represented. I didn’t surf, ski or skate, but nonetheless me and every kid in the early 90s put them on our lockers and binders, and dreamed one day they’d be on the back windows of our VW Bugs.
Luckily, I outgrew my counter-culture, wannabe-punk phase by the time I actually got my first car. It was then that I embraced my true self (or at least the next person I wanted to be): a young scholar. My sticker of choice said “WWU”, indicating where I’d be attending college. It made me feel grown up and unique. I stuck it on my back window, top and center – the same place every other person at the college put it.
Two used Honda hatchbacks later, my husband bought me a brand new, grown-up hatchback: a gray Toyota Matrix. As soon as I drove it off the lot, it occurred to me that everything about my Matrix said “cat lady” or, more accurately, “recent-graduate-student-entering-the-workforce-with-plans-to-start-a-family.” When I expressed my interest in sporting up my car by adding a cycling, running or Obama sticker, my husband responded, “A car without stickers says ‘adult.’ And don’t put an Obama sticker on it unless you want your car keyed.” (I think he meant by him.)
So I’ve left my car sticker-free for seven years, and now that I spend 45 minutes waiting in a line of cars to pick up my daughter from kindergarten, I’m glad I have.
Don’t get me wrong, some make me laugh. But do you really want to be known as the mom with the “Gun Control Means Using Both Hands” sticker? Not if you want to head up this year’s bake sale.
The worst offenders are the ones that rob us of our sexy, such as “Mom’s Taxi.” You might as well slap on a pair of high-waisted Lee jeans and give me a frosted perm.
Lately, I’ve been most annoyed by those stick figure families. I’m sorry if you think they’re cute. In an attempt to accurately depict your particular family unit, these stickers get it all wrong, like a department store family portrait that puts you in front of a leafy background and commands you to smile like you just got poked in the rear because, dammit, you’re happy even though everyone knows you spent the previous hour trying to keep little Johnny from smearing boogers on the faux-bear rug and little Janey from eating them. It’s too cookie cutter for my taste. The daughter rendered as a princess and the dad as a briefcase-toting salesman is a pigeonhole I don’t want my family to step in.
And what happens when the family unit changes? I recently saw a stick figure family comprised of a mom and two kids. The only evidence of “Dad” was the sticky outline where he’d been picked off. How do you breach the “Where did stick Daddy go” discussion anyway? Or when a dog passes? Or when little Janey turns in her tiara for a football helmet?
Families are always in flux. People are always changing. So for now, I’m keeping the canvas clean. My gray Matrix can just speak for herself.