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Family Car Stickers: A Sign of the Times

It's 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and I'm on pick-up duty at my daughter's school. In the parking lot, at least half the cars sport family car stickers on their rear windows. Have you seen these things? Once you notice them the first time, you start seeing them everywhere.

They're white stick figures of a family - larger images for the mom and dad, smaller pictures for the kids and pets - and you can customize them according to your family's appearance and hobbies. Long hair, short hair, facial hair, hockey sticks, ski poles, tennis rackets, shopping bags. At $4.75 per character (not including tax or S&H), you're looking at $19 for a family of four, and more if you include your pets. And really, who doesn't want to drive around with a picture of Rover on their family vehicle?

Family car stickers are cute. Unbearably cute. They're Silly Bandz for adults. I must admit, I kinda scratch my head each time I see one.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but to me these stickers are a sign of the times. Thanks to Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly and iPhoto, we can stick our mugs on mugs, coasters, afghans, and playing cards. And now, inevitably, we can decorate our cars with likenesses of ourselves. (What does it say about my sick mind that I'm curious about the stickers that didn't make it to market - the dysfunctional family car stickers? The polygamist's family! The teen with acne! The helicopter mom! Eliot Spitzer! The possibilities are endless.)

On the same day I spotted a sticker family of six on the back of a minivan, a friend of mine confided that she's going through IVF. I just pray she didn't spot the same car. I can only imagine what it would communicate to her: "Yep, we're a happy family. We're fertile!"

I guess it's harmless fun. But aren't we supposed to be in a recession? How tough can times be, really, when families are shelling out to decorate their cars? Aaron Ellsworth, vice president of marketing and sales for Woodlawn Manufacturing, the largest producer of family car stickers, says many families are repeat customers - updating their designs as the children grow up. Heck, the company offers a pregnant woman design, which one assumes would be outdated in nine months.

The company includes an interesting disclaimer in red on its website. "Warning: does not promote adding names to your family stickers. Adding names may be a potential danger to your family." But for $2 extra, you can add a name to each character, revealing the identity of the kids inside.

I probably shouldn't be so bothered by these little expressions of family bliss, and instead just save my $19, thanks, and use the money to feed my family for two days. Or make a small contribution to charity. I've been trying to free my house of junk and ask myself before every purchase: Do I really need this? Car stickers fly directly in the face of that ambition, so for now, my clunker will remain free and clear. But if someone can find me an Oscar the Grouch sticker, I might be tempted.

What do you think about decorating your car? A little fun to brighten the day, or more junk we don't need? Sign in below to share your thoughts.
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