DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a slightly built young woman, and I often become terrified when confronted by (what appear to me to be) aggressive and rude older men.
Such men have confronted me twice about supposed infractions like jumping a line, which I’ve never done. In the first instance, the man’s daughter jumped to my defense. However, in the second instance, I felt quite afraid and alone, and was unsure how to deal with an aggressive man yelling at me.
Can you please advise me as to how to respond in a way that is mannerly as well as assertive? I am from a culture where women are treated with kid gloves and not usually yelled at by strange men. Both these incidents have occurred while I was traveling alone, away from home. I am at a loss as to how to respond.
GENTLE READER: As a slightly built young woman, wondering whether the rude older man in your face is truly aggressive, or only appears so to you, should not be your first priority. Assume that the behavior could escalate.
The question is how to handle it without becoming either rude or a victim. If a small female sales attendant were rude to you, you would not yell at her; you would find a supervisor to intercede on your behalf. The same principle -- getting help -- will work here. Whether that is the man’s daughter, a store employee or a larger person in line next to you, politely ask for assistance in resolving the problem.
Miss Manners assures you that you will win over the entire room, not only the person being asked to help -- and you will make the man look like the bully that he is.