Michele Bachmann to Release “My GOP Nominee Barbie”

November 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

Conscience sold separately.

In conjunction with the release of her memoir, GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann will also be selling, in partnership with Mattel, Inc., a Barbie doll modeled on her person. The “My GOP Nominee Barbie” comes complete with tasteful blazer, pearls, and corndog accessories.

Bachmann’s campaign manager, Keith Nahigian, acknowledged the marketing symmetry, stating, “I thought it was a brilliant idea to put an image of the Barbie doll rather than of Michele herself on the cover of the memoir. Republicans love the free market, and what better way to remind them of Michele’s commitment to America and to capitalism than with a blatant attempt to sell them something – in addition to the book they just bought?”

Feminist bloggers and journalists have criticized the concept that the only female candidate must be reduced to her physicality, also noting that making a Barbie doll in her image highlights the fake-seeming aspects of Bachmann’s actual appearance, such as her airbrushed makeup and apparently plastic hair.

“Bachmann’s presentation of her body has never been progressive,” writes Amy Gobsmack of thiscannotbehappening.com, “but on the cover of her book, the proportions of her body are obviously off. Her waist should not be the same width as her head.”

A similar critique was brought against Ralph Lauren in 2009 for its airbrushed advertising images, one in particular of model Fillippa Hamilton.

Ralph Lauren apologized for distorting the model’s body from it’s normal state.

Nahigian notes that the Michele Bachmann Barbie, however, is a different situation entirely. “Barbies have been distorting societal expectations of female beauty with their unrealistic proportions since they first came out in 1959,” he commented.”We at the Bachmann campaign are simply taking advantage of existing desires within society – a purely capitalist impulse!”

Additionally, Nahigian confided, the Bachmann campaign is hoping to win points with parents, especially mothers.

“We want to get at the children,” he noted, “so that they can convince their parents to vote Michele. Additionally, the Republicans want to get at future voters as early as possible.”

In response to the “My GOP Nominee Barbie,” the Romney campaign is considering debuting a “My Mitt Styling Head” along the lines of Mattel’s existing “Barbie Totally Hair Styling Head.”

The Gingrich campaign briefly considered a Newt Gingrich Mr. Potato Head, but decided one would be superfluous.

The Demon in Your Child’s Toy Box

November 15, 2011 § 6 Comments

Today I found myself in Target, wandering the children’s toys section out of a sense of curiosity mixed with masochism. Since it was almost 10 pm, the aisles were empty, which made me spectacularly aware of just how many toys have motion sensors nowadays. Apparently it’s a lot. As soon as I watched past the end of an aisle, little stuffed dogs started to bark and whine at me. When I turned down the aisle to check out the source of this noise, I prompted a whole menagerie to welcome/berate me with their various sounds, like a tiny, creepy zoo. As I walked, I set off trucks, musical toys, and dolls; it was like walking down the freezer aisle late at night, watching the lights come on in the wave of my motion, only auditory and startling.

Amongst a variety of odd and disturbing toys, however, (were toys this creepy when I was growing up? I mean, we had trolls and stuff, but Bratz dolls take it to a whole new level…) I was especially bothered by one that may seem tame compared to the dominatrix dolls and army tanks with real war sound effects.

Sock monkeys. I hate sock monkeys. I think they’re terrifying.

Just look at those soulless eyes.

I have felt this way since the first time I saw one. Their mouths look like giant gaping gashes across the front of their tiny, drugged-up faces. Their eyes are too far apart, making them look glazed over in a permanent unsettling stare. I know, I know that the eyes are just buttons and that these littles guys are meant to be funny and cuddly and squishy and I WANT TO KILL THEM ALL.

Apparently sock monkeys were originated in the 1890s as an easy way to create a homemade stuffed animal; people filled leftover socks or other fabric (shirt arms, etc.) to make inexpensive toys. Creative and cost-efficient! And ecological!

In 1932, however, the Nelson Knitting company became making their trademark red-heel socks, which became popular for sock monkeys since they provided a ready-made mouth. Still, I’m willing to say that the monkeys’ inherent terrifying nature did not necessarily begin here; it wasn’t until the ’50s that the Nelson Knitting company acquired a patent to the sock monkey pattern and began including one with every pair of socks, prompting the creation of a sock monkey army (!). Still, people were at least making these soulless creatures themselves, hopefully as a nice (if satanic) bonding experience with their kids. Conversely, in 1992, Fox River Mills bought the Nelson Knitting Company and began to produce the shit out of pre-made sock monkey products.

Now sock monkeys no longer had a droopy eye because Sally was bad at sewing buttons, or one arm longer than the other because Timmy forgot to measure before he cut the fabric. Now, all sock monkeys had standardized, uniform, coked-out eyes and conveyor belt, factory-produced mouth wounds. HELL IS EMPTY AND ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE!!

You can't tell me this doesn't look like the hallucination of someone on mushrooms who after this vision will NEVER DO DRUGS AGAIN.

And Fox River Moloch didn’t stop at tiny stuffed animals that come out of the toy box to stare at you while you’re sleeping. They started slapping demon monkey faces on everything. There are sock monkey backpacks:

Sock monkey footy pajamas:

Sock monkey slippers (I saw these today at Target – in the women’s lingerie section! I was not prepared for the horror! At least in the toy area you know to brace yourself!):


If you want to scare the living hell out of me, this is an easy way:

That is an adult-size sock monkey costume, which means that it creates a human size sock monkey. Excuse me while I go barricade myself in my bedroom with a hack-saw. Thank god Halloween is over for this year.

I know some people like sock monkeys. I know some people think they’re cute, and have sock monkey hats and sock monkey pencil cases. I know you think I’m overreacting because sock monkeys are at the best adorable and at the worst harmless, but THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO THINK. While you’re giving them googly eyes, they’re sucking your soul out through your eye sockets.

In terms of demonic toys, I’d say that sock monkeys are our greatest threat, second only to Furbies. (I can’t even think about Furbies or I’ll have a nervous breakdown, so we’ll save that for another time.)

Sock monkeys: innocent stuffed toys or agents of Satan? I’ll give you a hint – which one do you think would require human sacrifices?

Oh my gods, they've eaten her head and both her hands! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!

In Appreciation of Jared Leto

November 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

Let’s be honest: I love me some Jared Leto. I’m too young for My So-Called Life (I know, I know), so my first encounter with Jared involves his role as Angel Face in Fight Club, or as I thought of him, the hot guy that wasn’t Edward Norton or Brad Pitt.

I was probably around 14 when I first watched Fight Club, at the end of the very brief period in which I was attracted to blonde guys. Notable about this period is the fact that I was particularly into the bleached-out surfer blonde (or as was more accurate to my hometown, water polo blonde) type, and that I managed to watch Paul Walker in She’s All That (a pretty hilarious movie, if not so much intentionally – check out the scene of Freddie Prinze Junior hacky-sack-ing) and find him vaguely attractive in addition to thinking him a massive douche. This attraction is remarkable due to my current intense hatred of Paul Walker, which did not take long to kick in and which includes a feeling of visceral revulsion when I think of him and/or see a trailer for Fast and the Furious 13: Fasterer and Furioserer. I find his speaking voice particularly infuriating/nauseating.

But back to Jared: I watched Fight Club.  I was pretty enthused, the way teenagers are required (probably by law) to be upon first viewing Fight Club, and considering my current penchant for chlorine-headed water polo players, I got over his bleached hair and creepy matching eyebrows that made his under-eye circles look like Dante’s circles of hell. I may have even found these vaguely appealing (I know, horrors).

For a year or so, then, to me, Jared Leto was simply the third hottest guy in Fight Club (and in case you’re wondering, Edward Norton is #1 and Brad Pitt is #2. While Brad is obviously prettier from a purely physical standpoint, Edward Norton is like catnip for brainy girls. Really sexy catnip. Except in The Italian Job, where he kills Charlize Theron’s adorable father and has that disgusting mustache. Mostly the problem is the mustache. But other than that, Edward Norton = yes. For remedial Edward Norton Studies, watch The Illusionist.)

My sophomore year of high school, however, I became aware of Jared’s defining role: lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars. At 15, I still liked the Ataris and other fairly heinous bands, though I was growing out of it, thank god/dess, so 30 Seconds to Mars did not repel me musically. Also, as someone who has had “anger issues,” as I think my parents referred to them when I was in junior high, 30 Seconds to Mars is ideal music for kickboxing/running until you may literally die/whatever else I did to channel my aggression as a teenager so that I could graduate from high school without murdering one of my more moronic classmates.

Even as I progressed emotionally and musically, realizing that Radiohead exists and other such important discoveries, I retained a soft spot in my heart for 30StM, specifically the song “The Kill” from their 2005 album A Beautiful Lie (the title song is also excellent treadmill music). “The Kill” is a masterpiece of angst, anger, and aggressive lyrics that don’t actually make that much sense.

The music video to “The Kill,” additionally, is its own piece of genius, featuring an homage to The Shining, a man inexplicably wearing a bear costume, and two Jared Letos sing-fighting.

 I place it up there with other cheese-tastic music videos, like the Backstreet Boys’ “Incomplete” (he’s playing a piano in the middle of the forest, for no reason) and New Kids on the Block’s “Summertime.” Basically, it’s impressively cheese-tastic considering 30 Seconds to Mars is not a boy band (at least in the traditional sense, though Jared Leto does seem unable to grasp that he is no longer a stringy 19-year-old and is in fact almost 40, and thus should begin comporting himself as an actual adult. You can be a rock star without seeming like a man-child perma-douche.)

“The Kill” truly dominates these other videos, however, in being light years more sincere. 30StM has no idea what a hilarious parody of a band they are. My favorite thing about Jared is that he seems to take himself so seriously.

Jared Leto wants to change the world. And Jared Leto seems to think that Jared Leto is changing the world.

“I just wish there was no such thing as fighting, that the world could just be like, perfect, and everyone could get along. But obviously, that can’t happen.”- Little girl whom the video highlights as if she is bestowing a nugget of wisdom coming from her childlike innocence, rather than obnoxiously stating the blatantly obvious

My favorite things about this video include 1) the rather unimaginative comments of the people featured, 2) Jared Leto’s portrayal of himself as a messianic figure, and 3) Jared Leto’s pink mohawk. This music video, which Jared himself directed (!), came out in 2010, at which point Jared was 38 years old. 38. Years. Old.

And he still thinks it is acceptable to dress like this:

And this:

His “I am an adult and wear scarves and such and do not have a pink mohawk” look unfortunately/fortunately looks like this:

The girls at GoFugYourself.com, one of my personal favorite blogs, referred to this look as the “doucheffant.”

Honestly, though, Jared’s “I’ll never grow up” Peter Douche Pan attitude is actually one of my favorite things about him. It’d be incredibly disappointing if he started wearing suits and stopped making music that makes my run awesome and the angry 13-year-old inside me mosh with glee.

However, this picture from the MTV Europe Awards from earlier this week reassures me that won’t be happening any time soon.

Are he and his bandmate in the middle both wearing skirts? Oh Jared, I love you; don’t ever change. Except your hair, and your clothes – into even more ridiculous ones.

On Naming, Part 2

November 12, 2011 § 2 Comments

In my first post on naming, I avoided commenting on naming trends particular to certain racial groups, specifically, the black penchant for adding “Da” or “D’ ” – and also “Ja” – to the beginning of existing names, giving us DaMarcus, Dashawn, DaWinston (I wish), etc. After talking to my dad on the phone the other night about this very issue, however, I decided I couldn’t keep my silence. He brought to my attention a name so hilarious I had to bring it to your attention as well: New York Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

If you pay more attention to football than I do – my interest is mostly limited to the Stanford Cardinal and the kind of football that is played with a round, black and white ball – you are probably already aware of our friend D’Brickashaw. It’s my understanding that the Jets are currently a successful team, and D’Brickashaw seems appropriately happy about this.

This man is adorable. I just want him to give me a giant hug. Instead, I’m going to make fun of his name.

Sorry, ‘Rick. Can I call you ‘Rick? I cannot address another human being as D’Brickashaw in all seriousness. Actually, let’s go with Brick. This man is 6’6 and 310 pounds, so I imagine he hits people like a brick wall.

Our friend Brick’s parents were quite ambitious, for they combined bad-naming strategies 1, 4, and 5 from my previous post. Strategy 4 involves naming your child with an existing English word. “Rickshaw” is an English word that was adapted from the Japanese word “jinrikisha” and that has been used since the 19th century, whereas “ricochet” comes from the French and means, “a glancing rebound (as of a projectile off a flat surface).” “Brick” is an English word meaning a “handy-sized unit of building or paving material typically being rectangular and about 2 1/4 by 3 3/8 x 8 inches (57 x 95 x 203 millimeters) and of moist clay hardened by heat” (Thanks, Merriam Webster. Note: being a massive linguistic nerd, I’d link to the Oxford English Dictionary online, but you need a paid subscription to read it, and since many people no longer pay to subscribe to newspapers, I doubt they’re lining up to shell out cash for the etymology of “teleological.”)

Strategy 1 involves spelling a normal name in a strange way, and while Brick’s parents didn’t do that, they did take normal words and spell them strangely. Of course, we could just diagnose a usage of Strategy 5, completely making up a name, and be done with it, since D’Brickashaw only retains passing likeness to any pre-existing word ever uttered.

Of course, perhaps his parents were simply prescient and knew that their son would grow up to be an NFL tackle, thus giving him an onomatopoeic name after the sound that opposing team’s players make when they bounce off his massive frame.

Perhaps, then, these psychic parents knew that their son wouldn’t have to worry about being teased for his unique name once he grew up to look like this:

Please don't hurt me.

Maybe they also knew, then, that in addition to being a fearsome giant,their son would be in good company with the other weirdly named NFL players. Frostee Rucker of the Cincinnati Bengals was obviously conceived and/or delivered in a Frostee Freeze, while C.J. Ah You of the St. Louis Rams was named after “the customary expression to use when you realize that the person walking through the shadows of your darkened home is just your spouse and not an ax wielding lunatic,” according to The Smoking Jacket.

Plaxico Burress, my favorite NFL player name, until I heard about Brick here, has done the seemingly impossible by living up to the incredible stupidity of his name. While he has yet to forge a dental cleanliness empire crusading against the dangers of plaque, he did accidentally shoot himself in the leg in a New York City nightclub, after the loaded Glock he had tucked into the waistband of his sweatpants (he should have been arrested for wearing sweatpants at a nightclub, forget the lack of a Concealed Carry permit) began to slide down his leg. Attempting to stop the gun from falling, Plaxico grabbed it and accidentally pressed the trigger, shooting himself in the leg. He was later arrested and charged with criminal possession of a handgun and reckless endangerment. His team, the New York Giants, were understandably less than thrilled and immediately tried to revoke the $1 million signing bonus Plaxico was due to receive. He was sentenced to two years in jail, serving most of that time, and after being released early this year, has returned to the NFL, playing for the New York Jets, along with our friend Brick.

Brick’s name is no longer anywhere close to the most embarrassing thing about a Jets player. This makes him happy.

Seriously, this man is adorable. Though he could kill you.

Adventures in Thrifting

November 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’ve come to love thrift stores. Sometimes, in the midst of size 24 muumuus and club wear from the ’80s, you find a London Fog trench coat, or a cute gray Members Only jacket, or a t-shirt with a skeleton hand on it (all of this has been in my latest few hauls – I like skeletons, all right?). Of course, sometimes you don’t find anything and just end up spending an hour sorting through polyester monstrosities that have already been worn by strangers.

Still, you never know what you’ll find. On a recent trip to the Salvation Army, I came across the following jackpots.

Having problems in your monogamous relationship because you feel the need to sow your wild oats? Invest in a specially designed Wild Oats Storage Device:

Domesticated oats should be stored separately.

Think that $6.20 is outrageously expensive for a 64-pack of brand-name crayons? Get them gently used for only $1.50:

Okay, vigorously used.

Though I think thrift stores can be a treasure trove, I understand that not everyone likes them. Then again, some people like them for the wrong reasons. “Ooo, a thrift store! Because each item is separate, and thus not catalogued in some computer system, there’s no way to keep track of how much each thing is supposed to cost! I can just switch the price-tags around and presto! This $15 jacket is now $2! Hurrah for me!” Careful there, Stealy McLoose-Morals, Big Brother is watching you:

Petity larceny: not to be confused with "petty larceny."

So, if you’re going to venture into the wilds of thrift shops, be careful not to ruin your life. Similarly, if you’re going to venture into the wilds of heterosexual sex (wild oats container not doing it for you?), be careful not to ruin your life. Use protection, kiddies. Though I suggest you buy your condoms somewhere other than the thrift store – this is not a case where a spin in the washing machine makes “gently used” like new.

On Naming

November 9, 2011 § 4 Comments

Tellingly, this banner does not read "It's a chance to let everyone your child will ever meet know how clever her parents are!"

This is the part when I, a childless twenty-three-year-old, give you advice on how to parent – or, more accurately, how not to parent.

Specifically, I’m interested in what happens before the potty-training, before the volcano science fair project, before the eighth-grade graduation, indeed, often even before the child is born: I’m interested in naming, and where the line falls between “creative” and “child abuse.”

Celebrities have made bizarre-ass kids’ names more popular recently. Everyone has heard about Apple, Coco, and Pilot Inspektor. Hell, Nicholas Cage named his child after superman. (His son is Kal-el. Seriously.) The British chef Jamie Oliver, whom I find generally adorable, gave his four kids my favorite totally mad names: Poppy Honey Rosie Oliver, Daisy Boo Pamela Oliver, Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver, and Buddy Bear Maurice Oliver. If you take the naming decision as a joke you get to play on your kid for the rest of his life, don’t do it halfway.

For a humorous collection of the most insane celeb baby names, check out Cracked: http://www.cracked.com/article_15765_the-20-most-bizarre-celebrity-baby-names.html

Now, the fact that a celebrity does something does not mean normal people – or, really anyone – should do it. You don’t see me running around asking for Slash’s hair stylist or Lindsay Lohan’s therapist’s number. But regardless of whether or not Sylvester Stallone chose to name his kid Sage Moonblood (note: he did), there are certain stupid naming practices that will likely persist.

I’ve identified five categories of naming impulses that can lead to appellative chaos:

1. Normal name spelled a strange way. These parents want to give their child a common name but still feel the need to leave their stamp on it somehow, in this case a stamp reading, “If found, return to Psychiatric Wing.” These names sound normal – Rachel, Jessica – but when written, their latent cray-cray is revealed: it’s not Rachel but Raychul, not Jessica but Jessikuh. Spellings with a cultural or ethnic background do not fall under this category; the Jewish “Channah” for “Hannah,” “Shaun” instead of “Sean” or “Shawn” – these are totally acceptable. I’ll even provide a little leeway if a parent wants to spell Jamie “Jaime” so that it’s spelled the same as the French for “I love.” But “Leesa” (Lisa), “Emilee,” “Jorja” (Georgia)? You have got to be joking. The bat-shit fundies on that TLC show 19 Kids and Counting (although apparently the mom’s pregnant with number 20, because 19 children is never enough – it says that right in the Bible) have given each of their kids a name beginning with the letter “j”. Rather than be restricted to names that are actually spelled with the letter “j,” however, they named kid #6 Jinger (like “Ginger”). I hope she’s a redhead. And I seriously wish her name were pronounced “Jinger” like “ringer,” though I doubt it.

2. Normal name pronounced a strange way. I’m not talking about “aw-na” versus “Anna” as in “apple,” nor do I have a problem with ethnically-informed pronunciations. If you’re Latino and say “Da-veed” instead of “David,” no sweat. My problem is the conscious choice to make reading your child’s name aloud difficult for everyone for the rest of his/her/hir life. If your daughter’s name is spelled Divine or Devine but pronounced like “Devin,” that’s too bad because “divine” is already a word. Or, vice versa, if her name is Devin but you want to pronounce it “Dee-vine,” tough tuckus.

3. Foreign word as name. Yes, Reina does sound lovely, but if you are white/Asian/not Latina and you interact with Spanish-speakers, it just becomes a bit awkward. However, if calling you “Queen” makes them uncomfortable, let them know they can always substitute “Your Majesty.”

4. Existing English words as name. Apple. Objects are particularly strange, but abstract words are also quite strange. Traditionally, some (mostly girls’) names have been words that signify positive attributes: Hope, Joy, Faith. Even some of the more ill-chosen, in my opinion, (Temperance, Chastity), still persist. Yes, historical people wanted to burden their daughters with names that were moral imperatives, but they also didn’t know about germs and thought masturbating caused blindness, so I think it’s acceptable to depart from their example. So don’t go calling your son “Brevity.” Also, nouns aren’t the only words that make bad names, though I’d caution against christening your offspring “Panoply,” “Rhapsody,” or “Garden.” “Culvert” sounds like a good idea but isn’t. Verbs (“Scurry”), adjectives (“Antipodal”), adverbs – most existing words are probably a bad idea. Even if you think it’s obscure – “Miasma,” maybe, for your lovely daughter – word nerds like me will be wondering why you wanted to name your child after an infecting vapor.

5. Completely made up name. Throw together any combination of letters and call it a name. Indeed, try out punctuation as well. I’ve heard tell of a girl named “La-a,” and her name is not pronounced “La” or “La’a”: it’s pronounced “La-dash-a.”

I understand the impulse to give your child a unique name; my name is uncommon enough that most people misspell it and many mispronounce it. My best friend has a fairly unusual first name but a downright strange middle name: von Wulfen. It means “from the wolves.” She has hated it our entire lives. I have always thought it was basically the coolest name possible (a perspective likely made possible by the fact that it is not my name). Here’s a hint, then: if you want to throw in some cray-cray along with the family “Thomas” or “Catherine,” stick it in the middle name. Then it’s at least a bit hidden, and your son doesn’t have to spend kindergarten to second grade learning to write “Velociraptor” at the top of his assignments. (Confession: I may or may not think “Velociraptor” would make an awesome name. In theory. In practice, I intend to love my kids, not send them unarmed into the world with a sign saying, “I’m a freak!” My kid will probably be enough of a freak on his/her/hir own.)

In terms of finding interesting names that won’t draw the attention of child protective services, I myself often like surnames used as first names, especially as a means of giving the child a namesake; I had a female friend in college named “Austen” after Jane Austen. I know an English Lit Ph.D. candidate at Stanford whose son is named Whitman, with the nickname “Whit”  – pushing it a bit but ultimately pretty cute, I’d say. However, the surname-as-first-name rule doesn’t always work. My neighbors recently gave their son a family surname: Thorsen, “Thor” for short. No. Dear god/dess no.

Your child is not a pet. If you call a dog “Gobsmack,” or “Fork,” or “Federal Reserve,” it may bring you embarrassment at some point, but it will not stimulate the dog’s peers to make his/her/hir life a living hell. I’m sure Apple’s classmates have never made a joke about having her in their lunchbox, and I’m sure when she gets older there will be absolutely no sexual innuendos constructed around the fact that she’s named after a fruit. I’m totally positive.

Ridicule – you want your child to get less of it, not more. Do your part to make that happen.

My mother grew up knowing three sisters, the children of hippies, who were named Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. If you view this example as inspiration for your own name-creation endeavors, rather than as a cautionary tale, please begin this blog over from the beginning.

Vanity Plates: A Tramp Stamp for Your Car

November 9, 2011 § 6 Comments

I am a new resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, and I have become aware of an epidemic in this town – an epidemic of personalized license plates. I don’t intend to be hyperbolic when I say that, in my estimation, one in every ten cars here has a vanity plate.

While technically not as dangerous as other widespread diseases, such as cholera or the bubonic plague, precautions should still be taken against it. Safe sex practices can prevent against the transmission of HIV, but they cannot prevent against vanity-plate-itis. Before you know it, you could turn out to be dating a guy with this plastered over the ass of his car:

As a native Californian, this specific plate rankles me because Californians don’t usually emblazon their douchebaggery on their license plates; they let you figure it out from their driving.

In Charlottesville, however, vanity plates are displayed proudly, often surrounded  by any number of bumper stickers or window decals.

Personalized license plates present several potential problems:

1) I can’t read it. Is that a zero or an “o”? When do I pronounce the numbers for the sound and when are they just numbers? Sometimes a vanity plate just seems like a purposeful jumble of unrelated letters and numbers, and when I spend a minute and a half at a light without figuring out what it is supposed to say, I will inevitably become pissed off. And we Californians channel this kind of aggression into driving – and into yelling profanity while driving – which does not help me in my attempt to adapt to Virginian driving practices, which are the automobile equivalent of that lovey-dovey couple saying, “You hang up first.” “No, you hang up first! Teehee!” I’m constantly pleasantly surprised by how polite drivers are here, though after the red Taurus in front of me lets pedestrians cross the street for upwards of three minutes, my surprise becomes less delighted.

2) I can read it but I have no idea what it means. I walk the two miles from my place to the UVA campus most days of the week (I like walking), and I always see a parked blue pickup with a license plate reading “KID 05.” You are the fifth kid in your family? You graduated from high school/college/plumbers’ academy in 2005? While your vanity plate may have significance for you, it means squat to me. In everyday life, language is a communicative medium, and since the people most exposed to vanity plates are strangers, I think they should be decipherable to the average person. Otherwise, all the letters and/or numbers translate to is annoyance.

3. I can read it and understand it. But it’s superfluous. You don’t need a license plate reading “LEX RYDE” to let everyone know you drive a Lexus. We already know. Because you’re driving a Lexus.

4. I can read it and understand it. But I still don’t care. I simply don’t understand the need to turn your car into a permanent sign communicating your occupation/field (“ER MED” and “UVA FISIX” are two I’ve seen recently, though I’ve come across quite a few that reference medicine), family composition (“FAB 4SUM”), or general likes/dislikes (I saw “F5 TRN80” this morning; F5 is apparently the highest/most dangerous classification of tornado on the Fujita scale, one of three accepted scales for ranking hurricanes. Okay…)

Now, these are the problems vanity plates provide for me, random driver on the road, reading the sentiment you found so important that you needed to say it everyday, to every person with the use of their eyes, which, to be fair, seems to be only around 90% of drivers.

Let’s consider the problem this personalized plate creates for you, the vanity-plate-haver: it makes you memorable. “But, that’s all that I wanted! To make sure all strangers know and remember that I am a ‘CWBYS-FN!'” since the big football helmet sticker and lone star flags flapping out your windows didn’t do a good enough job.

Sometimes, though, as a driver, you don’t want to be remembered. You cut somebody off in traffic. You make an illegal left-hand turn. You accidentally scratch someone else’s car in the parking lot and just want to drive away and leave it. I’m not condoning any of these actions, but if, per se, one were to engage in such illegal and/or frowned upon actions, one wouldn’t want every person witnessing them to be able to say to the cops, “Oh yeah, I remember the license plate!” – which they will if it reads, “BBR4EVR” (I have not seen this license plate and I pray to god/dess/whatever that no such Beiber license plates exist).

Vanity plates are the tramp stamps of cars. Like a lower-back tattoo of a flower, a sun, or some tribal-ish scrolls, a personalized license plate tells strangers something about you, yes, but not something good.

Please, do the rest of the world a favor and just say no to personalized license plates. They’re called vanity plates for a reason; the thing they communicate first and foremost is their owners’ sense of self-importance.

Can this kind of egotism ever be excused? My best friend once saw a BMW with a plate that read “CAPTLST.” That plate is acceptable. Why? That man is being a douchebag on purpose.

Also, on my walk to campus one day recently, I came across this license plate:

This one is either the pinnacle of irony or a case of significance going so high over someone’s head, it’s at the height of a Southwest airplane (Fly Southwest! Your first checked bag is free!).

Not as obnoxious, by far, as vanity plates themselves, themed license plates offered by the state (showing a whale, a national park, etc. and often donating a portion of their proceeds to the cause championed on the plate) can also be a bit much, especially when a “Kids First” plate is surrounded by bumper stickers reading, “Life begins at conception!” and “GUNS SAVE LIVES!” (I saw that second one on an SUV whose bumper stickers had more text than Herman Cain thinks bills should have.)

This seems like the correct moment for me to admit that I am very tempted to connect the preponderance of vanity plates in Charlottesville with the fact that Virginia is home to many more conservatives than I am used to, but anyone who’s taken a basic social science class knows that correlation does not equal causation, so I will simply note that Charlottesville seems to have a lot of both personalized license plates and conservatives. Also, bagels. There are a shit-ton of bagel places here.

All that said, the one license plate I feel moved to defend can be found below. Using the annoying personalization option to comment on the annoying themed license plate option? I can get behind that.

Apparently the Virginia DMV has revoked this plate. See here for the disappointing details: http://www.popfi.com/2011/01/06/virginia-bans-pro-cannibalism-license-plate/

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