Friday, July 31, 2009

Bagging It

A few nights ago, my friends and I were at our usual Wednesday night karaoke haunt, Sully’s Pub. Nice place, that Sully’s. I’d never thought I’d be a regular at a bar, but I like the atmosphere there—it borders on charming without pretending to it. The usual crowd is a mix of slumming hipsters, angel-voiced war vets, crooning ex-drama stars, and a Led Zeppelin-obsessed man named Jonathan, who looks like a meek investment banker but we think might be a serial killer. The clientele rotates on a regular basis, but you tend to see at least a few of the same faces crop up at some point each week.

When the douche walked in, therefore, it was easy to spot him.

Backwards hat? That’s the first sign, and not a good one. Reversed caps work on a precious few people. Actually, the only one I can think of is Ken Griffey Jr., and even then, it only works when he’s in the Home Run Derby, which he’s too old to participate in anyways, so the point is moot.

Pink shirt? OK, well, in certain situations, I can see one working. In fact, my friend Zach has made the pink shirt a key part of his wardrobe. Still, as we will see, it is often an indicator of true douchebaggery.

Purposely-ripped jeans? Unambiguously douche. We’re nearing critical d-bag level and honestly need only one thing to complete the image.

Sandals? At night? In a bar? Who are you kidding?

I do so hate to judge a person based on his appearance, but honestly, it’s disingenuous not to do so. Merely neglecting how a person presents himself in developing your assessment of him suggests powers of perception that you do not actually possess. Appearance can be by necessity or choice, but it is never insignificant.

In our own subject’s case, his appearance was obviously calculated to convey a sense of laid-back dudeness—to say, in a sense, that it would be perfectly OK and in fact preferred to call him “bro”. He had the typical lips-parted half-smile of the greater North East d-bag*, with dull eyes and just the barest hint of stubble.

*A short digression on the different types of d-bag. One would think they’re the same all over, and in truth there are certain commonalities that link douche to douche in the grand douche circle of life (if represented visually, such a circle would vaguely resemble a badly-drawn barbed-wire tattoo). In the interest of assembling as authoritative a compendium of the various types of douche as is possible in this space, I will briefly address their distinguishing characteristics:

North East D-Bag: Already addressed in some detail. Crucially, a NEDB will often pop his collar for reasons unknown (possibly in a pale and unwitting imitation of a peacock, though protection from Vampires has not been ruled out). The more advanced versions of this variant will wear several collared shirts, all with collars a-poppin’, tripling or even quadrupling the douche level like some kind of douche layer cake. NEDBs can often be found behind a friend’s house (the friend will usually be named Foley) for the express purposes of drinking a thirty-cube of Miller.

Guidouche: I’m subjecting myself to this once again this year, because I consider running the Guidouche Gauntlet to be some kind of rite of passage, like hunting down and killing an elephant or a lion (only both would be bright orange). Guidouches typically wear muscle shirts or tank tops, tan themselves to a fine burnt sienna hue, spike their hair in blowout fashion, and make kissy-faces. Guidouches are dormant for the entirety of the workweek, but come alive immediately upon exiting work on Friday. They retreat to clubs for the duration of the weekend, venturing out only to flex on the beach during the day. A Guidouche lives his life in a kind of tunnel—his vision too clouded by a haze of Axe body spray and pulsing strobe lights to ever see anything but the equally bronzed girl at the bar.

Lord Fauntleroy Douchington: “Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever BEEN on a yacht, but FATHER’s is just FANTASTIC! MUFFY and I spent nearly two weeks on it, and it was just the most MARVELOUS time (father’s terribly rich, so I haven’t had to work for AGES)! “ Lord Douchington, at one point in his life, watched one of those 1980s teen romantic comedies where the nerd moves to a new town and gets the girl, all while dealing with a cadre of spoiled rich kids led by the likes of Billy Zabka. Lord Douchington looked up to Zabka and has spent his entire life trying to tie a sweater around his neck in exactly the correct fashion.

Roidouche: When this variant goes to the supermarket, he has to ask for help in reaching for the muscle supplements on the top shelf. Swimming is a no-no—not only is it a slimming activity, the only stroke the Roidouche can manage is a dog paddle. Where the Guidouche spends his whole life in the club, the Roidouche holes up in the gym—though he usually confines himself to the bench press exclusively. His “guns” are of paramount importance, as the Roidouche can often be found gazing admiringly at them, kissing them, or in one terribly disturbing YouTube clip I won’t inflict on you, making out with them. Full tongue.

L.A. Douche: Has been on at least one reality show. This is not surprising, as he has been trying to Date a Cougar or Get a Celebrity Out of Here for most of his adult life. The L.A Douche splits his time between drinking by a pool and drinking by a beach. He retains the unique ability to monetize his doucheness, thereby making himself the most dangerous of all douches. Fortunately, he will generally waste his money on a grotto.

What makes a man aspire to douchedom? I pondered this as the douche sat down at the table next to us, in an open chair at the same table as a few attractive girls. Much of it is women, no doubt. The douche is like a mildly retarded peacock, running around with his tailfeathers out all the damn time. Eventually, they’ll just get covered in shit.

Which is appropriate, because he wasn’t exactly covering himself in glory. Though he acted overly familiar with the girls, they seemed to be having none of it. You know the expression a women gets when she’s simply not interested?* Eyes down and elsewhere, mouth in a thin line of disapproval that would seem appropriate on the face of some tyrannical nun. That’s what the douche created in the middle of a rollicking bar: a fucking convent.

*There’s a story, somewhat apocryphal, about the casting process for “The Graduate”. Apparently, Robert Redford auditioned for the lead role. His performance was good, but not quite what the producers were looking for. They took him aside and told him to act more wounded and less confident.

“You know how sometimes you’ll be hitting on a woman and she’ll reject you?” they asked.

Redford gave them a blank look, and without a hint of guile, said “Huh?”

The pattern repeated itself many times over the course of the evening—a cold approach, a sense of familiarity, a sudden but striking cooling of anything resembling ardor, disengagement, etc. Finally, the douche heard his name called by Don, the DJ karaoke at Sully’s. It was time for him to sing.

I’m ashamed to say that I can’t remember exactly what he decided on, but I’m going to pretend it was something from the douche catalogue that epitomizes douchiness. He sang Nickelback.

Nickelback is an aggressively awful band that makes aggressively awful songs, but a singer that has something of a clue can at least make their 4:00 ditties go by with very little aggravation. The douche was not one of those singers.

As I watched him hem and haw his way through the song, it dawned on me the essential problem with douches. Break them down into their component parts and you find a lot of qualities that aren’t necessarily bad. They’re confident, for sure, and somewhat social. They’re always down for a drink. Most of them keep in reasonably good shape. It’s also not a bad thing to dress a little ostentatiously.

What, then, is the problem? Why do they take so much from the table?

Substance. The douche, in one way or another, makes a promise with his outlandishness, and his overconfidence, and his willingness to engage. He says to you, I promise that I am an interesting person, the life of the party, a go-getter. I’m someone that can make things better for everyone in this bar.

He always breaks it. He can’t help it. There’s nothing backing him up.

On stage, the douche took advantage of a quiet moment in the song to raise his arms up


“I need some ladies up here now. Where are all the ladies at tonight?”

No one answered. Douche.

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