Forgive the indelicacy of today’s mood but this is a locution I have been pondering for some time.
When I first heard “douchebag” used as a term of opprobrium, it was applied to unpleasant or repulsive older women — usually by the kind of men who find any woman older than 25 and not of centerfold pulchritude to be unpleasant or repulsive. These days, it seems more likely to be applied to the kind of people who would formerly have said it, which is rough justice of a kind I suppose.
There used to be a persistent graffito on a retaining wall at the end of Chain Bridge going into Washington from North Arlington, reading “Hose Bag City,” with a helpful graphic. It was emblazoned quite largely, and repeatedly, at a point where idling drivers could be edified, despite city efforts to paint it over. I always wondered who was so motivated.
Anyway, now the whole douchebag thing has passed solidly into the language, even heard — back when I was first in practice — on the lips of a Canadian grandmother who worked for the National Prayer Breakfast, of all things, but whose prim patience broke down after several days of the William Kennedy Smith rape trial.
“Edie” — I actually dropped her arm — “I don’t believe you said that.”
“Did I call him something very bad?” she asked. “I hope so.”
I think that application captured the sense of the expression as much as anything. Washington really is full of douchebags — former frat-boys who think they are all that and a bag of chips, blustering their way through life equipped not with courage but with a greasy jocularity that in the face of any obstacle gives way to huffy entitlement, their cocky posturing undermined by conspicuous preoccupation with peer approval. Dear God, just walk though the Capitol.
I still felt the appropriateness of the term eluding me until I considered that these are guys — dressed up or down, depending on social layer and age cohort — who see themselves as bulging with potent essence ready to be hurled into the waiting orifice of life, when they really most resemble insensible, pinkish, plasticky reservoirs, capable of ejecting at best watery vinegar or some synthetic distillation you wouldn’t touch without gloves on.
Maybe I’ve got too much time on my hands today. It’s just that this one had been baffling me for a while.