Last week. Rose asked about the larger behavioral patterns that emerged when people preferentially bought “green” household cleaning items. (I will admit [against all reason] that I went shopping a few days ago, and found myself pondering the schmuckiness quotient of various dish soaps. After vacillating for a preposterous amount of time, I once again succumbed to marketing and bought the “earth-friendly” variety.) This led to a broader discussion about “signaling,” and how you choose to let the rest of the world know what kind of person you are.
Which brings me to bumper stickers.
If one were to look at the rear of my car, one could draw a few conclusions. One could surmise that I prefer center-left politicians, but that I am not strictly partisan. One would learn the farthest distance I have run in a race. (Sorry, Kazzy.) And one could both discover that I send my kid to the local Montessori school, and (by virtue of the presence of a sticker thus proclaiming on my car) surmise that I am susceptible to certain kinds of low-cost social pressures. (See above re: dish liquid.) All from four stickers. When they finally print the stickers in favor of my state’s upcoming marriage equality referendum, I’ll probably slap one of them on, too.
As you can see, I am not averse to bumper stickers as a rule. (The Better Half finds them vaguely ridiculous, and has not shied away from expressing that opinion with regard to my own choice to display them.) I realize they are nothing but signalling, and have no illusion that they accomplish anything other than saying “Lookit me, world!” But I put them on my car anyway. That said, there is a particular category of bumper sticker that I just can’t stand.
I hate those “My [purebred dog] is smarter than your honor student” stickers. (I now await angry comments comparing me to Harry Harlow from owners of purebred dogs.) I realize they are quasi-humorous way of reacting to the ubiquity of those “honor student/student of the month” stickers while simultaneously affirming one’s fondness for man’s best friend… but I hate them.
First of all, I think they’re maybe just the little bit mean-spirited. Yes, I understand that it’s kind of obnoxious to broadcast how superior your child (and, by implication, your child-rearing) is. But I will tell you now that if my own son ever eagerly hands me a sticker for my car, in hopes that I will display it and demonstrate that I’m proud of him … that sticker is going on my car. I realize that this means once again succumbing to subtly-exerted social pressures, but I’m not going to have a conversation about abstractions like that with my kid if the upshot means his feelings are hurt. And if people think I’m obnoxious as a result, I’ll take that deal. Sue me.
However, I also think those stickers are dumb, because they’re obviously not true. Sorry, folks, but your dog really isn’t smarter than an honor student. Aren’t there funnier comparisons to be made, which might also actually smack of plausibility? My dog is more obedient than your honor student? Better groomed? Hell, even smells better? “Smarter” makes no sense.
So that’s this week’s question — are there bumper stickers that drive you nuts? That make you say “I can’t believe that’s what the driver of that car chooses to tell the rest of the world about himself”? (Don’t even get me started on these, which may be the most pathetic product ever marketed in the history of mankind.) The question can also apply to t-shirts and other ways that people proclaim themselves to unsuspecting passers-by. (The story of the Worst T-shirt I Ever Saw will have to wait for a future Leaguefest.)