Dueling Tips from a Veteran Duelist

Someone’s implied you’re generously hipped or that you have a much earlier bedtime than you actually do—regardless of the character assassination, you’ve challenged your accuser to a duel. Congrats! Judicial combat is a seminal moment in everyone’s life and, as a veteran with a record of 22-0 (humans) and 1-1 (trumpeter swan– with rematch), you’ve come to the right person for advice!

Location is paramount. Use your environment to your advantage- my go-to is a hedge maze. They’re almost impossible to escape from (unless you carefully trace your pencil through their maps), and they’re great for ambushing opponents.

Some want an outfit that intimidates their opponents, like chainmail or Sean Connery’s Zardoz outfit. The latter isn’t possible for me (I was born with hollow bones), so I wear something that’s me at my purest: a loose button-down, hip-friendly cargo pants, and Asics.

Timing. Dusk is preferred: there’s still light, and you’ll have time to get home before your bedtime (which is pretty late).

Fear. About as useful as a 24-hour mattress store. If someone tells you that fear is a normal thing to have, challenge them to a different duel.

Weapon of choice? My first preference is to use my words and target the body part you’re ashamed of but, alas, most duelists choose guns as their weapon of choice. What can I say? Christian Bale’s Equilibrium made them in vogue.

Your Second. I like to choose a second that looks almost exactly like me—anything that makes an opponent hesitate or aim at someone else. To that end, I would always ask my Papa, and it was a strategy that worked every time until he had to retire from the role after my opponent shot him dead. If your dad looks like you, then go for it! And if he doesn’t? Ask your mum to wear your father’s clothes and stand next to you!

Snacks—again, ask your mum! If she’s already making cheese on crackers, she can nuke some more for whatever rascal you blast away at.

Ghosts of your victims. They will haunt you and they will be extremely passive aggressive, but as you kill more scoundrels you’ll have new ghosts and then the ghosts with tenure will get insecure about the new victims now haunting you (because they have less of your attention, right?). Your lack of attention on them will drain them of their presence on the spectral plane until they fade away to nothing, doomed to never have attained even a modicum of peace from their murder. Just a waiting game, really.

The fame. When you survive (and you will if you follow my advice), you’ll be inundated in attention from the top local radio stations. Once a week you’ll get an envelope inviting you to the latest tri-county affairs, like the local Toyotathon or a children’s hospital bankruptcy auction. Make no mistake—they’ll pass you the mic, so take a Toastmaster’s class.

The psychological burden. The only thing worse than losing a duel is winning a duel. Survivor’s guilt is a real thing, and two things help me ease it: The first is remembering that the ghosts of my victims confirm that an afterlife exists and that this ultimately isn’t our final form. While what happens when those ghosts fade is a mystery, I hope that they (except for that fucking swan) actually do reach a peace I never felt.

And the second thing that helps is the New York Times Mini Crossword, which I do right before I go to bed really late. It’s incredibly soothing, and my proficiency in it means I solve in an average of thirty-eight seconds/puzzle.

You doubt my average time? Hoo, boy—hope you skimmed this.

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