The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2012

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APR 2012 Issue

Some Rules for the Conduct of Young Gentlemen

In the late 1980s, the esteemed humorist and editor William Cole presented the following dicta—in three installments—to his teenage sons Williams and Rossa.


DON’T spit in the street. If you MUST spit, do it into a tissue; discreetly. Or make sure nobody is looking at you, especially women, and spit in the gutter. DON’T spit into wastebaskets—somebody may have to use their hands emptying them.

Brush your teeth in the morning right after arising—makes your mouth feel good. AND in the evening, especially if you will be with girls. Foul breath stinks!

Mind your manners. Walk on the street-side of girls. Open doors for them. Arise when they enter the room. Give them your seat on the buses, etc. This may seem silly to you but they will be VERY impressed. It will pay off—and it’s also good sense.

Be polite to elders. Call them (the men) “Sir” when introduced. Let them go ahead of you through doors. Answer them fully, don’t just say “Yeah” and “Nah.”

Keep your cock CLEAN under your foreskin. Wash there when you take showers. Otherwise you’ll gather that white substance unattractively called “smegma,” which has an odor, unpleasant to anybody. You could look it up.

Of course you wouldn’t pick your nose when anybody’s around. You know THAT!

DON’T chew with your mouth open. Nobody wants to see how you’re coming along with your food.

DON’T eat with elbows on the table. Don’t slurp. All that stuff. It’s all just common sense.

There’s no harm in saying “please” and “thank you” to excess. People really appreciate it. Also, remember that flattery will get you anywhere.

DON’T say things like, “I gotta take a shit.” Nobody cares about your bowels but yourself and possibly your doctor. Of course you wouldn’t fart or belch in public!

Be sure to do your share when there are heavy things to carry.

It’s okay to wear funny clothes, but keep them clean. Hang them up and don’t allow grease and food spots. If you get them, use spot remover.

Above all, observe the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Always think of other people, don’t make unnecessary trouble or work for them. 



NEVER wear those visor-hats with advertising messages on them. Especially those that consist of visor only. Very tacky.

William Cole with his two teenage sons in the 1980s.
William Cole with his two teenage sons in the 1980s.

DON’T tip back on chairs, especially straight chairs or those with rickety legs. They could break apart and embarrass you, and cost the owners time and money.

ALWAYS fumigate the bathroom after you drop a load. Just burn a couple of matches. This applies to any bathroom used by other people. Oddly, your own smell isn’t offensive to yourself. This rule does not apply to vegetarians.

Butter only as much bread as you’re going to put in your mouth, never the whole slice. A big, buttered slab is unattractive.

Speak clearly and slowly enough to be understood, without the hearer having to say, “What? What?”

When you yawn, cover your mouth with your hand. Better, yawn with your mouth closed; this gives your face a peculiar, strained expression, but you can usually get away with it.

If you have a girl at your place in the city, at the end of the evening walk her to her bus stop or put her in a taxi. Don’t send her out into the night alone. Better still, offer to pay for a taxi. Or see her home.

AVOID using popular cliches like, “Get off my case.” Or saying to mixed company, “You guys.” Also avoid using the expression “What’s his face” instead of “What’s his name.”

THINK AHEAD. What can go wrong? Always carry the right change for the bus. And quarters for the telephone. If you’re meeting someone in a public place, make double-sure you’ve got the right street, corner, theater, or whatever. Have a mutually-agreed-upon phone number you each can phone in case something goes wrong.

Remember: groups like Hare Krishna, Moonies, Scientologists, are to laugh at. Same is true of astrology, horoscopes, numerologists, tarot cards, and handwriting analysts.

When you go out, always carry a pencil and paper. You never know when you’ll need them. Also, if possible, a comb, and some tissues.

Generosity: Always give the other person the larger piece. You may lose a mouthful, but you’ll gain the reputation of being a great and generous person. Worth it.



NEVER wear a T-shirt bearing a message, a picture, or an advertisement. Bad Taste. T-shirts are designed to be underwear.

WHEN A GUEST YOUR OWN AGE comes to visit, or have dinner with his parents at your house, it is your duty to take care of him. In the old days you’d say “Wanna see my stamp collection?” but these days you’d tell him that you’ve got something sexy on the VCR, and how about it?

ALWAYS CLEAN UP after meals. It’s no big problem to rinse your plates and forks in hot water and put on the drying rack. If you cook the whole meal (unlikely), do the pots and pans also. Why should somebody else have to?

DON’T OVERUSE THE WORD “FUCKIN’”. It’s called the “universal adjective,” and is probably the most over-used word in the language, especially by teenagers, who think it sounds cool. It—and other cursewords—should be saved for use on an occasion when you’re REALLY mad—then they mean something. Fuckin’ has no meaning at all when overused.

IF YOU CAN’T TAKE A BATH or a shower for a couple of days, at least wash two areas in the sink—your feet and your oxters (underarms). They’re the places that emit the first stinks when dirty.

WRITE THANK YOU NOTES. Seems a drag, but will make a terrific impression. Can be two lines short. Write to people who’ve sent you presents, had you at their houses, or done you a favor. Takes a little time, and repays.

WATCH THE ALCOHOL. Just a little bit too much of it will make you look like a damn fool. And kids don’t know when to stop. A couple of beers or a glass of wine are usually okay, but the hard stuff is always dangerous. And for God’s sake, never get in a car with a teenager who’s been drinking!

THERE’S ONLY ONE THING SURE ABOUT WOMEN—all of them, from girls on up—love to be hugged. Keep that in mind, and, also, keep in mind that they like men to be gentle, attentive, and not macho! But always remember the hugging. Could get you far.

DEALING WITH PEOPLE. Remember, that to himself each person is the center of the universe; no matter how mild or self-effacing he may seem. He’s IT, and should be treated accordingly. The Golden Rule again.


William Rossa Cole

WILLIAM ROSSA COLE (1919 - 2000), editor, essayist, and light-verse poet, authored or co-authored over 80 anthologies and children's books, including the classic Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2012

All Issues