This may come as a surprise, but for reasons unbeknownst to even me I don’t write every article that appears on AskMen.com (just the best ones). I can’t say I’m a huge fan of all of the site’s content, but it’s usually compelling enough and sometimes there are some real gems produced by other freelance authors. For example, if you have a little extra time, take a look at this beautifully written (if not exhaustive) expose on America’s favorite insult, “douchebag”
One can only admire the art and agility with which “douchebag” tiptoes through the gender minefield. Never directly referencing the female sex organs the way that “pussy” or “twat” do, it manages, nevertheless, to taint by a subtle whiff of association. It is an equal-opportunity insult, avoiding the allusions to race and class that have characterized so many of its ilk. Douchebags can be rich or poor, straight or gay, black, white, Samoan, or Icelandic (though Europeans do seem to be a tad over-represented). Somewhere, at this very moment, a little person is no doubt standing in front of a mirror, practicing his pickup lines and admiring his freshly waxed chest. There are douchebags playing in the NBA, running for Congress and hosting the nightly news. Anyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, can be a douchebag.
Though I can’t profess to ever having waxed my chest (ok fine I have shaved the hair around the nipple region before, but who wouldn’t?) or practiced pickup lines anywhere other than on actual women, I have at various times (both recently and in college, where I probably deserved it) been called a douchebag by someone who meant it. And I think Robbie Dillon hit the nail right on the head. It’s a beautiful insult for many reasons. The way it rolls off the tongue is more eloquent than a good “fffffuck you” yet no less stinging. It can be said in mixed company without raising eyebrows.
Most importantly, it’s that rare breed of insult that can be damning and aggrandizing at the same time. Depending on who calls you a douchebag, it’s either a signal to reign yourself in or puff your chest out even further. I know that in college, after dominating a team on the beer pong table via both skill and a slew of creative slurs and insults, being called a douchebag by some lame GDI was the highest of high praise. My initial reaction to what was at the time such a flaccid insult was to remove my shirt, shotgun a beer, shout “come at me bro” to the next team of victims and continue to accuse my female partner of flirting in an attempt to “seal the deal” later that night as we enjoyed the spoils of beer pong superstardom.
I certainly don’t miss those days and admittedly find them at times cringeworthy, but nevertheless I remember them fondly. Still, I can’t help but be impressed by “douchebag’s” continued endurance and relevance in a time where internet memes are considered passé before your mom even has a chance to forward them to you.