Wednesday, August 13, 2008


“Define douche bag?” a friend asked me over a beer. I pointed to the table of loud amateur drunks sitting behind us. They seemed to have confused a bar with their parents’ living room. Maybe that's why they think 50¢ is a decent tip...

So what is a douche bag? In medical terms, a douche bag is a sack used to administer a stream of water into one’s body for hygienic purposes. As a derogatory term it reached popularity in the early 1970’s, but in the HBO miniseries “Deadwood,” bad guy Al Swearengen places its origin at around the 1890’s. Peter Griffin from the cartoon “Family Guy” describes a douche as a person with an unkempt appearance, body odor and an unwarranted sense of accomplishment... (Kevin Federline/Magic Mirror espisode).

Douche bags have grown to include a wider cast of characters and meaning. On the outside one might observe a subclass of hipster with a flat-affect grin, over-priced American Apparel ensembles, ironic secondhand T-shirts, antique glasses that lend an appearance of “smarts,” a socially dysphoric demeanor... but douche-baggery goes beyond appearance, it has become a lifestyle. To better describe those that I've encountered here in New York, I made these demonstrative dolls that are similar to the ones used in family court.

Ph D(ouche)
If Prospect Heights, Park Slope and Fort Greene were a Venn Diagram, a small intersecting area would be labeled "Over-burdened Sense of Accomplishment." Meet the Ph D(ouche) — highly educated yet overly medicated, they no idea how big a douche they are. Often frustrated with those who only hold a BA, they are prone to inaproppriate outbursts. I don't blame these smarties for what they've become. I blame their parents for sticking them on SSRI meds since before the age of puberty. One solution for some parents is to keep their medicated darlings schooled well into adulthood hoping that they learn to play better with others by graduation day... and possibly get a job in publishing. Privilege comes at a price — an average of 36 to 40K a year. But pound for pound, a Doctorate in Poetry is much cheaper than simply locking these darlings up in a Gifted & Talented care facility.

Gurl Interrupted
The word douche bag describes the male component of this urban subculture, the female component is a douche baggette. A common subset of douche baggette is the Gold Digger, a man-hunting coke-head companion who never quite completed a Phd., dropped out of law college after the first year, dabbled in real estate, spent a lot of time in therapy, went back for the Phd then missed the extension deadline again... it all makes great party conversation. It’s so hard to leave the nest when it provides a meal program and the strong possibility of marrying upwards.

A true social chameleon, the gold digger can blend among Southamptonites and common barflies alike — sporting flip-flops, swigging Caiparinas, grabbing at prospective mates like a tree frog reaching for a passing branch. Outside of a shower room or a tropical island, the flip-flop is a beach accessory that makes no sense in an urban setting. In actuality it's a store-bought symbol of humility for the gold digger. Look out guys! It's a trap! The truth is no one really wants to see those dirty dogs at the office or in a restaurant, especially when arriving 45 minutes to an hour late due to foot pain from walking over concrete pavement.

Then there’s that skinny smelly kid with the BVDs hanging out of the top of his 70 dollar jeans. 6'4", 85 lbs, his iPod weights more than he does, he lives on candy and Redbull. We’ve all seen the Boy-rexic intern as he arrives an hour and half late for work. Seriously, we all assume he’s wearing underwear, so he need not prove it to strangers. And what’s up with the super-toxic body odor? One has to work very hard to smell that bad, but none of these guys seem to be steadily employed or eager to work. Has good hygiene gone out of style?

The Fixies
As an avid cyclist, my friend Bill has often said that anyone in New York with a $2,000 fixed-gear bike who refuses to wear a helmet is an absolute douche bag. “Fixies,” a cycling subculture, have become the loath of people who actually use their bikes as transportation. The notion of wearing a cycling helmet and using breaks is too conformist for their taste, and it messes up their faux-hawks. But if one can afford that bike, they can certainly afford a legal team and the hospital bill.

Fixies have become two-wheeled harbingers of death for New York pedestrians and other cyclists. As they ride over sidewalks, they yell obscenities at people with baby carriages, slow-walkers, and tourists. So why do Fixies proclaim so much hate for the peds and New York tourists? Fact: no Fixie is actually from New York — yet they think a crap attitude makes them more of a New Yorker. Like migrating Lycra clads birds en route to some place else, they descend upon the city only to text the others and feed, then go back from whence they came.


knithound brooklyn said...

Yikes! They really got under your skin didn't they!

The Yarn Monkey said...

I can't be the only one. Can I?

knithound brooklyn said...

oh, by no means! I sympathize. Especially the "I see London, I see France..." I cannot fathom WHY. WHY?!?!

Tania Sk said...

You're definitely not the only one. We have the fixie douche bag phenomenon out here in the bay area as well (SF, Oakland, Berkeley).
You're lucky flip-flop season is ending for NY. It'll probably be November in California before we get to stop seeing people's toes.