It has come to our attention at Miss Winthrop’s Upper East Side Etiquette Academy for Gentlemen-in-Training that bullying has become an issue amongst our young men. It does not seem to be an intra-, but, rather, an inter-school issue, facilitated by the relocation of the Home for Troubled Juveniles. Herewith, several tactics we encourage our students to employ, as devised by Miss Winthrop herself:
- First, attempt to broker a détente. To enliven the olive branch you’re extending, suggest to the bully that you two are reenacting the famous Christmas truce of 1914-1915 between the German Boche and British Tommies. Invite the bully over to Saturday lunch, preferably with your mother present. Seek common ground over cucumber sandwiches and sun-brewed hibiscus-scented decaffeinated iced tea. Perhaps, he, too, enjoys the underrated middle books of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (be sure to refer to it in the original French to identify a fellow connoisseur). Is he also an aficionado of, say, fin-de-siècle Hungarian operettists? The eternal question: ballet or modern? This is the stuff of lifelong chums; take the hand of your new confidant in yours and reward your successful conciliation with a postprandial skip around the rose garden!
- The pen is mightier than the sword, as onlookers are reminded by the fuchsia embroidery on our uniform’s cravats. If a bully uses physical violence and the only recourse is retaliation, take your tormentor down a peg by reveling in the glorious Queen’s English! A few sallies certain to dent your antagonist’s psyche: “You have all the verbal wit of [silent-film star] Clara Bow”; “Would that your SAT scores were as elevated as your testosterone and you might be wait-listed at a bottom-tier Ivy”; and “I can think of several four-letter words to describe you: lout; boor; clod; lunk; dolt. That is all.” Lastly, a capital retort to a frequently bandied-about descriptor whose supposedly insulting nature escapes us: “Why, thank you for complimenting me on my state of absolute merriment.”
- One can ward off a would-be aggressor with a daunting outfit that says, “Cross me, dear sir, and you shall eagerly wish you had reconsidered the notion!” To suggest a recent bout of fisticuffs, lightly scuff the cap-toes of your ostrich loafers; vests may be unbuttoned to indicate you are ready to quarrel at any moment, once you have safely stowed your grandmother’s brooch in its case; vermillion-tinted lenses are a fearsome addition to any set of bifocals.
- Prevail upon an adult for aid. Call out, in as high-pitched a voice as you can manage to attract attention, “I want succor! I require succor! Please, I beseech you for your succor—especially from you, older, muscular men!”
- Safety in numbers—and, no, gentlemen, we do not mean that reciting the Fibonacci sequence will befuddle your nitwitted attacker! Depart second-period “Advanced Techniques in Needlepointing” in a powerful herd—who would dare become entangled with such a cohort?—and, under the intimidating aegis of your squadron, sashay over to “Estrogen: An Appreciative History.”
- It is well known that bullies suffer from low self-esteem and thus take it out on others. Recommend a few self-helps books, or, better, encourage the bully to join your own group-therapy workshop for children who suffer from even lower self-esteem and are thus the targets of slightly-higher-but-still-low-self-esteemed bullies.
- When all else fails and you must resort to self-defense, first engage in pre-fight behavior to scare off the bully, such as rapidly dancing in your tap shoes to create a threatening sound and highlight your lower-body dexterity, folding and setting down on a dry, clean surface your velvet blazer to show you mean business, or yodeling. If your rubber-tipped épée is not handy or seems unworthy in the face of your opponent’s aluminum baseball bat and spiked chain, propose an old-fashioned gentlemen’s duel. Both of you count twenty paces in opposite directions, turn, and explosively fire off your most cherished Metaphysical sonnet. Congratulations, you have vanquished your rival—huzzah! Treat yourself to one of Proust’s madeleines dipped in hibiscus iced tea!