Sorry, Mom, You Are No Longer No. 1 in My Eyes

A few years back I met Johnny Earle, founder of the company Johnny Cupcakes.? I had never heard of Johnny Cupcakes at the time, and to be honest, as he described the company it didn’t make a lot of sense to me.? The company’s product line consists primarily of t-shirts emblazoned with a skull and crossbones, with the skull replaced by a cupcake.

I figured they must sell about 10 t-shirts a year.? How wrong I was.? I’m not sure exactly how many t-shirts they do sell, but it is some enormous number.? In addition to selling online, they have three swank “bakeries” (i.e. stores) where you can buy the t-shirts.

What really convinced me that Johnny Cupcakes was for real were the tattoos.? More than 100 die-hard fans have shown their affection for the brand by getting Johnny Cupcake tattoos.? You must be doing something special if you can induce 100 people to permanently emboss your logo on their bodies.

So what does this have to do with my mother?? Since the day Freakonomics came out, she has assiduously collected all my press clippings and videotaped every TV appearance.? She sings my praises to anyone who will listen.? Without a doubt, she has been my No. 1 fan.

I am sorry to say, Mom, that as of today you have been demoted to the rank of No. 2 fan.? Our new No. 1 fan is Jennifer Garcia.? Jennifer just finished nursing school.? She says she is our biggest fan.? And unlike my mother, she has gone the extra mile and shown her loyalty in the form of a tattoo…

Yes, there finally is a Freakonomics tattoo, thanks to Jennifer.


In gratitude, we will be sending Jennifer some Freakonomics schwag.? Indeed, we will happily send Freakonomics schwag to anyone who sends us a picture of their Freakonomics tattoo.? After all, we are still 99 tattoos behind Johnny Cupcakes.

That's not fruit from the same vine.

Sorry capitalism at work.

Do we get to see all that you do?


Tattoo or not, your mother should always be your No. 1 fan!!

She did far more to get you to where you are today than Jennifer did with her tattoo.


Sheesh! You're supposed to get a tattoo that says "Mom." You've got it turned completely around!


Schwag? SCHWAG? what a ripoff!

Casa Sanchez in SF will give you free burritos for life for getting a tattoo of their logo.

Plus, their logo is an awesome little caballero riding a giant corn cob a la Slim Pickens.


People will get all sorts of dumb things tattooed onto their bodies... and I say this as someone with multiple (admittedly awesome) tattoos.


And here I thought you knew you "made it" when you could Google yourself and come up with several pages of legitimate recognition, and were cited in a history book or two --- Good to know that the bar is much lower - and harder to attain ;-)

(Love you both, but am highly adverse to permanent tattoos --- would a stick on garner any Freakonomics love?)


Do you have a tattoo that says "My Readers," with or without some additional terms of endearment? If not, should we feel unloved or undervalued?

I still suspect, by the way, your mom is your number 1 fan. Comparing the work a mother does for her son to mucking up one's skin as part of the fad du jour shows an odd sense of categorization.

Jim Q. Citizen

Dude! You're all messed-up. Probably your mom's fault.

Rose Ann Garcia

OMG I'm at a loss for words. I never imagined that my daughters behind would be in the New York Times. Well Steven I hope she gets more than just schwag for this one! I had no idea she was such a big fan of yours. Maybe i'll start reading your column to find out what possessed her to do this. What the heck is Freakonomics?

Jenns' Mom

Susan in WA

A sense of value only a mother could love. Hope she still does.


The real question is where on her body does she have the tattoo? Some places are better than others.


Schwag? I always though it was SWAG, for Stuff We All Get.


Son, you are the real tattoo embossed on your mom's heart.
You'll never know till you become a mom.
- Mom in Boston


The tatoo is on my lower back people, incase you were wondering, and Yes I AM THE BIGGEST FREAKONOMICS FREAK that is out there! By the way thanks for the Schwag guys. Just got it yesterday! If I may give recognition where credit is due... For all who want a tatoo just like mine see Jay Garza at Envious Tattoos 4414 Leopard St. C.C. Texas. And come on people, let's try to eat a litlte bit more kangaroo!!! Levitt, you are awesome!


This gives me an idea: Would you guys consider Freakonomics rub-on tattoos? That way we can start cobranding children early on.

Jenn, you now have fans too (or at least one).


PS - If I changed my middle name to Freakonomics, where would that land me on the ranking chart of top fans?


I'd get a Freakonomic-tat if someone'd pay for it! A big a-s one on my back, too! Take that for your "sorry capitalism"!

Linda Lou

Everyone expresses their passion in many different ways. I am Jennifer's supervisor and I know she is a very smart and passionate person that has worked very hard these last few years to better herself, and I believe Freakonomics was where part of her enthusiasm to continue to learn came from. She got her tattoo one week before she took, and passed, her nursing exam. She "DAZZLED" them.


I may be missing some consumerist gene or something, but I totally fail to see the attraction in items (usually clothing) whose primary selling point seems to be that they prominently advertise themselves.

So, you want to turn me into a walking billboard for your product? And you expect me to pay extra for the privilege?

My best theory is it is an example of conspicuous consumption. "Look, I can afford a XXXX sweatshirt, so I'm rich and therefore cool!" I do wonder if we could use this tendency more productively - as a crude example, think of a T-shirt printed with "I donated $100 to the Red Cross for this shirt"


For years about the only corporate tats you would see were Harley-Davidson, the Budweiser bowtie, and the ZigZag monk.

Bobby G

I'm glad the #1 fan posted on her own article. I would have been sorely disappointed if she hadn't :).