I’ve seen a lot of complaints online about this commercial for the 2011 Toyota Highlander.
The commercial depicts a boy who feels sorry for his classmate, whose dad is picking him up in a 1980s-era wood-sided Buick station wagon. The classmate hides so as not to be seen getting into such a heap of junk, and finally catapults himself through the window. The idea being, you shouldn’t embarrass your kids, so you should drive a sporty new Toyota Highlander.
Unsurprisingly, I hate this commercial, too. Surprisingly, it’s probably for a different reason than you’d expect.
Most of the kvetching I’ve heard has to do with materialism, disrespect, waste, etc. I’m of the ‘if it’s paid for and it runs, then I’m ahead of the guy with the perpetual car payment’ class. Toyota is pandering to the touchy-feely ‘we can’t harm our kids’ self-esteem’ types. And frankly, if you’re stupid enough to fall for it, then you deserve to be jacked on an overpriced mode of transportation.
But my irritation with this commercial is completely unrelated to the kind of car you drive. It is simply this: As a parent, you have the absolute, unequivocal right to embarrass your children.
When I was growing up, one of my dad’s friends was a regular at The Mens’ Store (aka Goodwill), and used to buy his ties there. He’d end up with a grocery bag full, and offer them to Dad. Some of them were really nice, but which one did Dad select?
The Horse Tie.
The Horse Tie was a wide, brown, polyester tie with horse heads painted on it. (Please, mom, if you have a picture of it, you have to send it to me. I swear, I will knit you a hat if you do.) This was the ugliest, most horrific tie known to man. I cannot effectively express the abject awfulness of The Horse Tie. The person who made this tie deserved to be tied to a racehorse and dragged through a sheep field, have his right pinky finger cut off and be subjected to a intensive fashion evaluation by Bravo TV. This tie was so terrible, unlike Dad’s snow-white suit and (I kid you not) blue suede shoes, it was NEVER in style, so would never have an opportunity to return to being in style.
Most guys would wear it to a costume party, or give it as a gag gift or something. My dad? HE WORE IT TO OUR CHOIR CONCERTS. And parent/teacher conferences. And meetings. And dinner. Anywhere you could imagine your friends being, Dad would be putting on The Tie. My sisters and I would beg him, PLEAD with him, not to wear The Tie. I remember crying, being so mortified that he would be in the audience and somehow the cute guy in my 7th grade Math class would see him and somehow KNOW that he was MY dad, and I would forever lose any chance of him asking me to go with him. (Go where, I have no idea. But in 7th grade, ‘going with’ someone was all the rage.)
Invariably, he would relent, and change ties, and as I got older, I realized that he was simply torturing us. Purposefully torturing us by making us think that he would wear The Tie and we would spontaneously combust from embarrassment. Because deep down, just like everyone else, he didn’t want to look like a dork. He just wanted us to believe that he was willing to look like a dork for the sheer purpose of our instant and total mortification. (This doesn’t explain why he wore sweat pants and cowboy boots, but that’s a whole other story.)
Now, of course, I see the future. I see pairing yoga pants and sweaters with appliques of kittens; wearing my hair in two pony tails with the smears of night cream on my face to drop them at school. (And I don’t wear night cream. But I would put it on for the sake of upping the embarrassment factor.) I imagine broken jelly shoes and white athletic socks, fanny packs and sequined ball caps. While the other moms discuss hair stylists and Zumba and swim lessons, I talk about Neti pots and acidophilus and the mileage on my running shoes. Oh, the possibilities are endless!
We can’t let Toyota talk us out of our inherent right to be lame parents! We must accept our love of spelling bees (me) and astronomy (George) and genealogy (my Uncle Ken). We must pull out a CD of The Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the Eighties, turn it up and reenact the video of Fischer-Z’s “So Long” while the kids cower in the back seat, praying that no one can see in the tinted windows. And just maybe, my kids will look back on their childhood with a mom who is obsessed with knitting and a dad who tweaks beer brewing recipes for a hobby, and will learn to accept that lameness is an inherent part of our lives, no matter how hard we try to mask it.
I, for one, am embracing my inner lame-o Horse Tie parent.