Magazine article The Spectator

Your Problem Solved

Magazine article The Spectator

Your Problem Solved

Article excerpt

Dear Mary

Q. At a recent funeral wake I was horrified to see a man who did much to make my life a misery during my schooldays. I have no wish to see this man again or to have anything to do with him. My attempt at avoiding him at the wake was unsuccessful. Instead he made a point of confronting me in front of other people and telling them that we were schoolboy contemporaries. This is not the first occasion this has happened, but the time was not right to comment on the unhappiness he caused me. He knows that I don't have an identical twin brother so I had to grit my teeth and indulge in small talk. I would be very grateful if you could suggest what I should do if, as I am sure will be the case, this situation arises again.

Name and address withheld

A. Next time you see the man, suspend your fear and hatred briefly and inquire, 'Of course you and I were both bullied at school.

With the benefit of hindsight, do you feel we might have handled it in a better way?' This will give him the chance to make his belated apology to you. If he denies having been bullied himself, show dispassionate surprise.

Say, 'How strange! As adults we know that bullies have almost invariably been bullied themselves. Or they are frightened that they will be bullied so they pick on others in order to pre-empt that. What was it that caused you to bully me?' Then stay silent while he searches his conscience.

Q. I wonder if you can help? I am a barrister in London. My practice is specialised and confined to a few dozen colleagues. We all know each other well.

I have recently learnt that one of us has undergone a sex change. …

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