The Ref

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’ve gotten in the middle of two friends who are having something
more than a spat and less that a full break-up and I’m trying to figure
out what to do. Both of them have taken to calling me to air their
grievances about the other. The specifics range from sheer pettiness
to legitimate sources of concern. But as this has escalated it has begun
to verge on the comical, or would, if I didn’t genuinely care about both
of them. The lack of honesty and closeness between them has been
happening over several years, but now has escalated to a point where
when they hang up with one another both of them dial my number
almost immediately, starting their conversations almost identically,
“You’re the only one I can talk to about this. You won’t believe what
she just did or said….” I’ve tried to tell them they should talk to one
another more kindly and cut each other some slack over the small
stuff, but it feels like I am talking in Swahili. Neither one responds and
just rants about the other. What else can I say or do?

The Ref

Dear Ref:

Take yourself out of the center of the ring, unless you are enjoying it
ways you aren’t copping to. The next time each of them calls and
starts to rail, just keep saying Stop! Stop! Stop! until she hears you.
Then deliver as blunt a message as you can. My script goes something
like this: I know you two used to be closer. I certainly know you are a
long way from appreciating each other’s finer qualities. But the war of
words isn’t helping either of you and frankly I’m starting to like you
both a little less for it. Please stop using me as your sounding board or
source of perceived rationalization for what you say and how you feel.
My advice is that the two of you go off somewhere and talk or shout it
out until you are hoarse from yelling and end up laughing about how
silly you have been. But if you can’t get it together to do that at least
stop making me unhappy as well.


That’s unlikely to win you any brownie points with either of them. But
at least you’ll have had the satisfaction of getting your frustrations
out. The alternative is to try and broker a peace accord, inviting them
both over for tea (probably without revealing why in advance) and
trying to say something more softly that conveys the same message.
The only thing I can promise is that the odds you will be thanked for
your efforts are slim, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try.