Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m the person in my circle that people call to brainstorm their
problems with. Sometimes it’s a maybe-having- affair spouse, a
gambling-addiction; help with a resume or job search. You name it and
I’m the local helper/fixer.


A friend whose life has finally settled down after three tumultuous
years that included job changes for her and her hubby, an
out-of- wedlock baby by her eldest son, a major accident by her
youngest, and a sudden death-by- heart-attack of her father-in-
law, just surprised me with her New Life Plan, announced with bold,
large-font, capital PLAN. She wants to sell their house, relocate to a
big city two hours away, buy a five-bedroom home and turn it into an
Air B&B, and retire to become an innkeeper. If she took meds I’d say
she was off them, but she’s generally pretty rational. This feels like an
explosion of change without a clean strategy to make her Plan a
reality. To top it all off she asked if I would be interested in investing
in her new hostel with some of my liquid capital, and offered an
interest rate far in excess of what I could possibly get from a bank.
This is a friend that I love and value. But (A) I think she’s hallucinating
riches, and (B) no way would I lend money to such a sketchy venture!
How can I say those last two in much less confrontational ways? I do
not want to lose this friendship. Mostly I’d like to talk to the husband
but he rarely gets the last vote in their marriage.


Dear Shocked:

I agree that your tone and word choice will matter. Also that what
seems like a PLAN to your friend seems like an out-of- the-blue,
disruptive, irrational response to trauma to you. But her life is her life,
not yours. The best way to be, and to stay, a friend, is to remain very
calm, supportive, rational, and non-confrontational. Often I suggest
writing an email to line out important thoughts you want to be sure
are not lost or misinterpreted. In this case, I suggest a series of coffee


Tell your friend you want to meet her and ask her to bring a notepad
and pen. Then say very clearly, I understand you want to start over,
and that the difficulties of the last few years have left you shell-
shocked. Personally, I think your Plan is a little pie-in- the-sky without
enough information, at least for now. So No, Thanks to investing. But
I’m interested enough to want to hold your hand while you pencil it
out, do some solid research and a market analysis with financial
projections, and generally be a supportive bystander. If your numbers
persuade me, I’ll jump in and write a check. If not, I hope you’ll
reconsider the plan. Ether way, I love you. So let’s get to work. That
makes it hard for her not to do the serious homework that seems
lacking in a fundamental and expensive life change. If her market
analysis surprises you, both of you will feel better. If the numbers are
unsettling, maybe she’ll see the light.