How to Beat them to the Punch

Fall at Harvard—it’s magnificent. The days get shorter, the sunlight grows pale, and the wind begins to howl at the ...

Fall at Harvard—it’s magnificent. The days get shorter, the sunlight grows pale, and the wind begins to howl at the leaves. But above all, it’s punch season: that bittersweet, autumnal phase where strapping young lads trade their childish innocence for the duties and graces of life as a Gent.

Punch isn’t easy, especially if you aren’t familiar with the rules of the game. So for the sake of democracy, here are FM’s five big tips for a successful punch.

1. They say that punch should be friendly. This is a heinous rouse devised to distract you from the game at hand. You will go far if you know your enemy: find out exactly who the competitors are—and dig dirt on them. For your average punch, this is simple enough: ask around in the dining hall who else got punched for your club, or make an announcement in large lecture classes. But the real power of this tactic comes into play for minorities. Look around for the other Hispanics/homosexuals/PBHA coordinators and block their every move. You know there’s only space for one of you.

2. Final clubs love interesting gentlemen, so try to stand out at your punch event. Tell them about your collection of Star Trek replicas, your knowledge of Elvish, your foot fetish. You should dress the part, as well: against a sea of beige semi-formal, you’ll be a breath of fresh air with your red flannel shirt, your assless chaps, and your unicycle. In a promising young lad, there’s no substitute for complexity.

3. Wear a well-tailored air of enthusiasm. The line between playing hard to get and being plain rude is a difficult one to tread—so forgo it altogether. Should the resources be available, learn some background information about all the families and ex-lovers of current members; it will be very impressive when you bring these up, unsolicited. Stencil the logo of the club onto every item of clothing where it fits, and consider taking your love to your flesh by investing in a tattoo or a branding.

4. Enthusiasm is one thing, but sycophancy is another—and flattery has never looked flattering on a gentleman. You could talk all day about the club you’re punching, but why not spend some time discussing the clubs of which you are already part? Punch events provide the best environment for recruiting other Gents to your cause. “Are you a member here?” is an acceptable icebreaker, to be sure, but much more memorable lines can be imported from your work at the activities fair—“Are you interested in playing chess here at Harvard?”—or even from those acquaintances in Harvard Square: “Do you want to know what the government hides from you?”;  “Sir, do you have a moment to talk about sin and redemption?”

5. A few slices of freshly cut fruit will make your punch tastier and more exotic. This is not a metaphor.