I couldn’t stop saying the word douchebag. It was Grammy night, and we were watching the telecast, and I was was becoming tired of hearing the same word over and over coming out of my own mouth. But the word felt so appropriate. What if I had been forced to explain my sentiments without bearing all my weight on the crutch of that word? I don’t know if I could have managed. “That old guy up there, the one who was in the most famous band of the 20th century, there’s something about the look on his face, it’s like he thinks he is marvelous. It’s like he is certain that we all adore him and he is guzzling our adoration like a thirsty plant. It’s like he’s pooping his pants while he’s singing and he’s confident we are going to clean his butt. Blech.”

No doubt there are people out there who might want to use the word on me. Putting yourself into a position where people have the opportunity to look at you long enough to make a judgement invites the possibility of being judged, and potentially being judged a douche. I find myself having the urge to describe someone with the aforementioned word when they seem somehow clueless about themselves and their own importance. It’s something about a person not being able to see themselves clearly, and in their lack of perspective judging themselves a little too well. But what a slippery thing, perspective. Can you ever be certain that you really have it?

A friend of mine knows a guy who gives fancy private art classes in Manhattan. The art teacher guy let my friend sit in on a few small group drawing sessions, and one of the attendees was a very well-known former model and television star. One day they did self portraits, and each artist had a mirror set up next to their easel. My friend said she noticed that when the television star looked at herself in the mirror she pursed her lips and aimed her nose slightly downwards, as if the mirror were a camera and she was going to kiss it. Looking in a mirror in order to make a self portrait is a different sort of looking than one usually does with a mirror; the aim with a self portrait is to honestly reproduce your own image. Typical mirror-looking tends to be about making an improvement on what you find in the reflection. It would seem that the former model had gotten the idea that the lip purse and nose tilt improved her image. I suppose that, in a way, she was being honest about the fact that when she looks into a mirror that is the face that she sees.

It seems almost impossible to both be oneself and to see oneself. I guess that it’s this exact conundrum, these fluctuating layers of awareness and our efforts to understand what the hell we are doing and why, that make human beings interesting. It seems that the real danger of becoming a douchebag comes when someone stops worrying that they might seem like a douchebag. The people who I want to use the term on are people who appear to have stopped looking very searchingly at themselves. And it feels so serendipitous that “douchebag” is the term that was adapted for this definition. Some slurs are fun to say, but I try to avoid them because I don’t think that the word should actually be linked to something negative. I try to avoid, for example: “Pansy-ass” (because gay-boy anal sex is a beautiful thing), “cunt”, “cocksucker.” I suppose that “dick” doesn’t necessarily deserve to be used derogatorily, but I find it so useful I can’t bear to give it up, so how about let’s allow “twat” as well to make it fair. But a douchebag is something which deserves degradation to begin with. It’s not healthy for ladies to swish cleansers up in the hoo-ha. So let’s keep on using the term and carry on reminding each other not to buy into our illusions about ourselves. But let’s deliver the judgements with as much grace as possible, and try to avoid coming off like total assholes (I’m still pretty on the fence about that one).

February 29, 2012

  1. Hailie A. Hay

    Perspective IS quite a slippery slope… Actually, it’s kind of a slippery mountain face. One that is eye-catching but proves to be a right nasty bugger (I’m not too sure of this term, but I like it better than…well, you know… the other one. It seems way less…profane? I don’t know) when you go to take hold of it. It’s almost impossible to have perspective about yourself… True perspective, I mean.
    Most of us tend to judge ourselves quite harshly… really dig in to every little flaw like a foothold in our quest to surmount our volcanic facades of happiness and tap into the cynical, all-covering lava at the center… So, most of our personal perspectives of ourselves turn out to be quite negative… Which is why we fear the mirror. Consciously or subconsciously, physically or symbolically.
    Such an interesting thing, the human self-fearing complex is; it constantly tries to bring us down, but just enough to keep us on our toes.
    To keep things…
    I don’t know.
    Just some of my own muddled thoughts inspired by your interesting rant, I suppose.

  2. Noah

    The problem with constantly worrying that you’ll become a douchebag is the stress involved, and the lack of confidence it creates. I’m guessing that you really meant “be open to the idea that you’ve become a douchebag” as opposed to “worry about having become a douchebag,” but maybe you did mean the latter in which case I say relax! and stop worrying so much.
    PS Why did you watch the Grammys in the first place? There will inevitably be more douchebags there than in ANY feminine products aisle at CVS

  3. Lacey Huff

    I recently came across your blog after hearing your music on Pandora. I’m actually not the biggest fan of The Blow, nothing personal I just never was that into electronica. But there was something about your lyrics, or you, that I found compelling and so I found myself here. In the past few weeks I have been, for lack of a more precise words, unable to stop reading your posts. As I came to the end of the last entry I got that feeling that you get at the end of a great book. Like I just had to say goodbye to an old friend, possibly to never see them again. I can however take comfort in the knowledge that you will be back. Anyway, I suppose what I am trying to say with this nervous rambling is thank you.

  4. khaela

    Bugger is a very complex and interesting word, actually. It has a history of being a negative term for gay sex, but it has evolved to take on many more connotations, including some positive and affectionate ones (“he’s a cute little bugger”). In my forays into British media I notice that the word still seems to carry pretty strong connotations to its historical usage as a man who commits buggery, the illegal act of sex between men. Wikipedia suggests that the term has also been used in courts to prosecute those guilty of practicing intercourse in the bum between any genders and intercourse in the hoo-ha between a woman and an animal. Maybe let’s keep using it, and each time we do it can be a little salute to all the things that it used to mean that we weren’t supposed to do.

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