I have these two friends who don't talk to each other anymore. One friend (I'll call him Ralph) did something sort of bad to the other friend (Trixie)-consequently, they haven't spoken in several years.
Yesterday, Ralph asked me to relay a message to Trixie. I said I would, which means I'll probably have to relay some sort of message back to Ralph, which will probably lead to more message relaying, then some shit-talk listening, probably a little advice giving and then perhaps a bit of crash-and-burn watching-the very job description of the middle man.
Now, most people would say it's not wise to get between two ex-friends, that involving yourself in the tragic comedy of other people's relationships is a dangerous and despicable act.
All kinds of relationships have been saved or put out of their misery by the simple act of delivering a letter or relaying a message, and I consider the whole middle-man system a necessary function of society.
Oh sure, everyone knows the horror stories of the middle-man maneuver gone awry. You get one of these middle-oafs who doesn't know the first thing about proper middle-man procedures, taking as much care with the relationship in question as a drunk cares about the flower garden he doesn't know he's trampling.
He is a meddle man more than he is middle, what with his taking sides, telling lies, distorting messages or worse-being a triad fucker (somebody who fornicates with one or both parties of the triangle).
Certainly, millions of relationships have been laid waste by this sort of mishandled middling. Indeed, this is why the whole middle-man operation has such a bad reputation. Because of the damage caused. But which came first, the chicken or the chicken cliché? Does the middle-man have a stigma because middle-men are flawed, or are they flawed because of the stigma?
I say it's the latter.
I say the reason these things get botched is because nobody knows what they're doing. Few people will admit that they get involved in the relationships of others, which is why you never see any self-help books about how to improve your mediation skills, no new-agey courses being taught on the Zen of Conciliation, no columns being written about the Ten Commandments of Middle Management-it's just too taboo.
Hence this column.
It just so happens I am a fully licensed, veteran middle-man. I've middled in eight states and through dozens of gnarly breakups, including on behalf of Ralph and Trixie, who are now speaking to each other again after all these years.
I've been honing my skills for years. I've studied all the great intermediaries in history, learning from their successes and their mistakes. Like Sir Wadley McWiddle, who interposed betwixt 16th-century British aristocrats and was shot and killed in a duel with a jealous husband. Or like Jimmy “The Central Scrutinzer” LaGreca, who got in the middle of some New York mobsters and their stripper girlfriends and ended up dead and dismembered in a duffel bag deposited on a highway median.
This is what happens when we don't talk about such matters. We screw it up. So I say it's time to admit the truth about ourselves-that we as humans cannot help but leap into the middle of other people's personal business and wallow about like retarded monkeys in a pit of banana mush, and that maybe that's not such a bad thing, so long as we do it thoughtfully, intelligently and timely.
Six Commandments of Middle Management
1. Thou shalt not Meddle: Middle-man does not meddle, muddle, fumble or fiddle with other people's relationships-they middle.
2. Thou shalt not Sugar Coat thy Messages: When Lucy says, “Tell Ricky it's over and I hope his dick rots off,” thou shalt not say unto Ricky that Lucy has “mixed feelings about their relationship.”
3. Thou shalt not Engage in Triad-Fucking: May the Lord rain purply-red shrapnel upon thy skull should thou ever triad-fuck thy way through thy middle-man responsibilities.
4. Thou shalt Excel in the Task of Message Relaying: Message relaying is the primary function of the middle-man. If thou screw this up, thou are a piece of dung.
5. Thou shalt Identify the Inherent Dangers of thy Middle-Man Operation: Like the Middle-Man Back Stab, or the Middle-Man Undercut or, worst of all, the Middle-Goat Reversal, which is when you have a quarrelling couple on the verge of breaking up-and here comes our hero, The Good Prince Middle Man, a gallant middler from a gentler era, relaying precise messages, being a good listener, talking the couple through the rockiest dissolution he's seen since The War of the Roses. Then, in a blink of an eye, the couple reunites. However, because they cannot reconcile all those awful things they said and did to each other, they start blaming the middle-man for everything that had gone wrong between them, making him the wretched middle-goat and voting him/her off the island.
6. Thou shalt Hold thy Vault as Sacred: The vault is the place where you put your top-secret secrets. If one party tells you something that he/she does not want the other party to know, then it goes into the vault. May the Lord shower hepatitis-soaked needles upon your skull if you ever betray thy vault.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and editor@SDcitybeat.com.