Starshine Roshell

Starshine Roshell
Santa Barbara, California, USA
August 10
journalist / professor
Starshine Roshell is a syndicated columnist, and the author of "Keep Your Skirt On" and "Wife on the Edge."


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AUGUST 15, 2012 12:49PM

Family Car Decals

Rate: 16 Flag

Frequently, I am confounded by the stickers that I see on the back of cars: The grenade silhouette. The TRUTH fish eating theDARWIN fish. The Calvin-esque little boy who pees on things.

Never, though, have I been so baffled by a bumper-sticker trend as I am by the stick-figure family decals that have become de rigueur on the back of minivans and leviathan SUVs. You’ve seen them: a string of cutesy cartoon characters straggling across a rear window, diminishing in size from yoga mom and lawnmower dad down through shopper teen, baseball boy and ballet girl to dog, cat, bird, and a fourth, unidentifiable beast that will only be fully realized just before you rear-end the offending vehicle because you’re tailgating, compelled to know what the hell pet they feel is worth commemorating on their Buick Enclave.

I don’t get it. Why enumerate your bulky brood with “personalized car clings”? It feels like these families are keeping score and the rest of us are losing — not only by the paucity of our progeny but because the doofs in front of us are multiplying even as they impede our path and sightlines with their colossal clan-haulers.

I asked a marriage and family therapist I know to explain the family-sticker trend.

“People are proud of their families, and they want people to know who their families are,” said therapist Gary Linker, who is clearly more tolerant than I am.

Okay, but … what is it, exactly, that we’re proud of? That we can procreate? Are we really so Paleolithic? Me sow seed! Feed cubs! Transport successfully to belly-dance, banjo, and BMX lessons! Let’s be honest: It ain’t hard to make humans. It’s actually kind of hard NOT to make humans. And I find myself wishing these folks would apply themselves a little.

Perhaps they’re proud they can keep their families’ windsurfing, wake-boarding, weed-whacking, and wine-drinking schedules straight (all actual decal options, as are coal miner, bull rider, and preacher; writer, I’m just saying, is not). But we modern parents have a hard enough time maintaining our identities beyond that of kid-schlepper, and these stickers only make it harder. Festoon your Ford with these stickers, and you might as well be driving a giant womb on wheels — a sort of Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in the shape of a uterus with “I crank out kids like sausages” painted on the side.

Call me paranoid, but there’s something wildly imprudent, too, about inventorying your kids on your vehicle. Name one good reason — that doesn’t include the phrase “extremely helpful to pedophiles” — for listing the genders, hobbies, and relative sizes of your children where they can be memorized by strangers on the highway, at the gas station, or in the KFC parking lot.

I have to wonder if it’s for practical purposes, so that large families can easily tally their litters. Maybe they’re afraid they’ll forget one while piling into the Yukon after Chuck E. Cheese’s. “Hold up, now, it says here there’s another one — a boy — between the cellist and the pole vaulter. Should we go back in and take another look around?”

Gary Linker says I’m failing to see the greater need that these stickers serve: “On a deeper level, all of us hunger to be seen and known,” he said. “It’s an almost primal need. This is why people parade themselves on Facebook and other social media. We’re hungry for attention — and this is a way for people to get that need met.”

I don’t know what’s more disappointing: that we yearn so desperately for public notoriety, or that such profound yearning will be satisfied by a celebrity stint that begins and ends on the ass of our mommy’s Suburban.

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I wrote post on this a couple of years ago, as a single mom feeling left out. Now I'm seeing more with "just the mom" and the kids. My recent favorite was a man and a dog, and a woman with the moniker "your name here." Too bad I'm no longer single!
My fantasy is to print up some of these with the adult male's hand down the adult female's blouse, while the adult female is sticking her hand down the adult male's pants, the boy is jerking off, the girl is flashing her brother, and the dog is eating the cat, who itself has a canary in it's mouth. do you think it would sell?
My fantasy is to print up some of these with the adult male's hand down the adult female's blouse, while the adult female is sticking her hand down the adult male's pants, the boy is jerking off, the girl is flashing her brother, and the dog is eating the cat, who itself has a canary in it's mouth. do you think it would sell?
Very funny...much appreciated at the end of the day. Though in the morning, surely would be just as funny.

With bumper stickers like

No METH around

Cook Rice ... Not ICE

Domestic Violence Is A Crime

almost exclusively displayed on exhaust-spewing old clunkers and beaters, and on the rear windows and bumpers of fancy jacked-up trucks with heavily-tinted windows, there must be some practical reason, something a psychologist would not need to analyze in order to ascertain, why such stickers displayed.
You probably would have laughed out load as I did upon observing this bumper sticker just last week: "Nobody gives a sh*t about your stick-figure family!"
R--for humor and common sense.
You guys are missing the obvious. If you drive a wreck of a car, and in this economy everyone's driving an old heap except the One Percenters, get a set or two of those decals. But don't put them on the rear window. Put them on the driver's side front bumper of your car. Then get some thin strips of red tape (or maybe decals) and put red X's across them. Just like fighter pilots did to tally their enemy kills.

You also might get a decal for your driver door, with your battle name in a stencil-type font. Maybe something like "LT. COL. BREEDERWEEDER" or a similar moniker. And for special occasions, sprinkle some red stage blood (Karo syrup and red food coloring) on the front bumper of your car.
The single biggest thing about those decals that I find offensive is the unnecessary apostrophe that inevitably accompanies them. Example: The Wilsons'. The Wilsons' what? The Wilsons' car? The Wilsons' children? People just don't understand the difference between a plural, a possessive, and a plural possessive.
C'mon Deborah, lighten up so you can continue on before you revert back.
The once prolific "Baby on Board" is by far the most bizarre and annoying. Who cares if there is a baby in the vehicle ? Should we exercise additional caution not to rear end the yuppy a-hole?
"Baby I'm bored" makes a lot more sense. I like that.
I was cracking up as I read this. Sometimes these bumper stickers I Think are in effect just to let you know that you're driving behind a grade-A asshole. Occasionally I'll see the stick figure family with no doubt, absolutely all of the figures available on the sheet, used. Straight across the bottom of the back window. Like, seriously? One day I'm going to get some and put my stick figure welding a weapon or some sort, my daughter (no name, tyvm), and about 15 cats. Straight across the back window.
'"a sort of Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in the shape of a uterus with “I crank out kids like sausages” painted on the side." Hiarious.

Try living in Utah -- covers the entire back window.
I want a man in the moon stick figure.
Isn't any bumper sticker a cry for attention? (And yes, I have two of them - window decals, though.)

I wonder if it hurts to give birth to a stick figure. :-)
Often, in modern psychoanalysis, the automobile is seen to reflect the way a person thinks about themselves. All of us can't have the car of our dreams but what we drive (one of the greatest liberties of all time) does reflect our ego. I suppose the little cartoons further reveal the psyche of the driver. I drive a Ford Edsel.
Too funny! I live in the burbs, I have kids, and no, I have never had the urge to put these stickers on my car. I don't identify myself by my children's activities. I know a lot of parents who do, and it's hard not to lose yourself completely in them so that the only thing you do is eat, sleep, work, and schlep kids to the next thing. I do notice that during the times of year when there are fewer activities and less schlepping, everyone in my house is a lot happier.
Starshine: I was on I5 between Eugene and Grants Pass. I passed a car type van with stick figures...2 adults and 3 kids. All has rifles in the stick little arms. Who knew????
Whew...glad I'm not the only one that feels that way about those damn stickers. I don't know why they bother me but they do. Personally, I prefer my (and my pre-teen daughter's) anonymity. In fact, I'm thinking of peeling off the car dealer's small decal on my trunk lid; who needs to know where I bought my car?
Thanks for echoing my sentiments exactly, Starshine!
Great post. People like to say something everywhere they get a chance, whether it makes sense or not. R.
I just love this. I've given into the minivan, my kids play soccer and cheer, and I am resting the idiocy of the stickers, so help me, PTA...
Starshine - I have often pondered over those stupid family decals too. And living in Lubbock TX, there are sooooo many of them. (Here, three kids is sort of a small family.) Also, I can help with the grenade: it's the sticker for the band, Green Day.