Discuss: Sticky Notes

Aug 5, 2011

A few months back, I was taking a shortcut through the House parking lot when I saw a car festooned in glittery bumper stickers.  According to the vehicle’s decorations, the owner was a “Spoiled Brat” and a “Diva” who wanted others to kiss her tiara and offer “big ups” to her sorority.

As we continued on our way, my co-worker turned to me and said, “Why do women do that? It makes you look so shallow.”

Bumper stickers are meant to be funny.  Often, they make light of something serious or mitigate flaws with humor.  But the trouble is that when these jokes apply to the driver of the car, they require a context that strangers (ie. other motorists, passersby) don’t have.

Your friends and family might get a good laugh out of your “I Saved the Horse and Rode the Cowboy” bumper sticker, but a stranger tailgating you on the Beltway will feel differently.  And your Boss probably won’t want you to park next to him in the lot.

Bumper stickers, cell phone covers, coffee mugs and other objects that feature slogans and sayings are designed to send a message about the owner.  But sometimes, the message you are sending conflicts with the professional reputation you are trying to build.  So here’s a good rule of thumb:

Take the saying on your bumper sticker or coffee mug and put it on a t-shirt.  Now, imagine yourself wearing that t-shirt into a meeting with your Boss.  If you wouldn’t wear it on your person, then it shouldn’t be on anything you own that comes to work with you.  But it’s not just at the office that you need to be careful about the messages you’re sending.

Perhaps my co-worker said it best: A woman could be smart and attractive with a good personality, but if I walked her to her car after our date and saw [those bumper stickers], I’d think twice about taking her out again.  

Some of you are probably thinking, “Belle, it’s just a bumper sticker,” but it’s not.  It’s a tattoo, on your car, that tells hundreds of other drivers something personal about you.  You may think it’s telling a joke.  But they may think it’s saying that you’re vapid or shallow or immature.  

So if you have bumper stickers on your car or drink from a sloganed coffee mug, take a moment to think about whether you want to be judged based on these objects.  Because whether it’s fair or not, you will be.

P.S. This discussion might sound a little hypocrtical coming from a woman who jsut a few weeks ago talked about how she sees the word “bitch” as a badge of honor.  But just because I don’t mind when someone calls me a bitch, doesn’t mean I’m going to buy a “bitch” bumper sticker and put it on my car.

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  1. CMF says:

    True story: I went to look at an apartment a few weeks ago and meet a potential roommate. This 26 year old, law school graduate, had a purple wooden cut-out sign in her bedroom that said “Princess”. Really??? Made my decision not to move in!

  2. CynthiaW says:

    I agree so much – I really think that many bumper stickers should really just read “I'm an idiot – don't bother getting to know me”.

    Even worse than a bumper sticker – people who walk around with tshirts that say things like that. I saw one recently that actually shocked me (both that someone made it and has presumably sold more than one and that someone would wear it in public). A middle aged woman was walking through the mall with a shirt on that said “I'm not a bitch, you're just a p***y” and it didn't have the asterisks either. Well, it sure didn't make me think whatever it was that she was trying to convey, it just made me think that she was a trashy individual. The other horrid one that I saw was, again, on a middle aged woman and it said “if you think that I'm a bitch, you should meet my daughter”. Really? I'm all for reclaiming the word bitch – but, really?

  3. Couldn't agree more with you, Belle! The only thing I would like to add is that this lack of self-awareness isn't limited to women – there are plenty of men driving around with immature and unsavory car “tattoos,” too. If a man picked me up in a car sporting a sticker of the comic character Calvin peeing on a car logo, or “I brake for blondes,” you bet I'd cancel on the spot. Stupidity knows no gender!

  4. VA says:

    Agreed, and I also cannot stand the “stick figure family” window clings. Is the mom using it to take attendance because she can't remember if she put all of her kids into the minivan? Ugh. Those stickers don't offend me, they're just lame.

  5. BB says:

    Seriously folks, there are so many other worse worse things wrong in this world than stupid bumper stickers. Granted, I wouldn't put any on my car but that is the least of my concerns if someone else has one on theirs. When there are horrible horrible things happening to kids in the world and people dying of thirst and hunger, this is just a small thing NOT to gripe about. Let's put life into perspective.

  6. CynthiaW says:

    Of course, there are – but we are reading a style and work advice blog and that's what this falls under. And Belle could be doing someone a service if she's never considered how her bumper stickers or coffee mug might be making her look unprofessional and holding her back from advancing in some way.

    And while it certainly isn't on par with saving dying children, I do have an issue with having five and six year olds ask what certain words mean because some trashy person has inappropriate words on his/her car and/or bumper.

  7. Good grief, BB, must one think about death and destruction at all moments? Is it not enough that at least some readers (and Belle herself) donate to charity and are generally good people? The world is serious, and unless you want to sink into a deep depression, sometimes you should think about things that aren't so very important.

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