As my close friends know, I have a deep-seated dislike of interpersonal conflict. Now, I don’t mind mocking idiots on the internet, or chastising a stranger for being an asshole or a customer service person for not giving me what I want, or having an intellectual debate. And I’ll always support someone I love in an argument with a person I don’t, without even a moment’s hesitation. But when it comes to disagreement with a person I love, I will go a long way to avoid arguments, even to the point of giving in when I know I’m right because it isn’t worth the emotional pain. In fact, the single most abusive thing my first husband, Jack, used to do in our relationship (and there were many) was to refuse to let me avoid arguments; he’d insist on cornering me and goading me no matter how much I just wanted it to stop. So while I deeply disliked arguments before, I now have an aversion to them bordering on the pathological.
As you can probably guess, this also means it’s deeply uncomfortable for me when two of my friends argue with one another. I don’t particularly even like hearing one friend complain about another, but as long as they respect my desire to remain neutral I can live with that. But when there’s an implicit or explicit request for me to validate the person’s feelings (beyond the level of, “I’m sorry you and so-and-so aren’t getting along right now”), I have to draw a line. It’s possible I might be able to mediate a reconciliation, as long as the parties both agreed to be calm during the process, but even then I wouldn’t like it. And actually hearing two people I care about hurling harsh words at one another is so painful it makes me want to run away.
Lately, I’ve had a few requests from sex worker readers I don’t know to help them in fights with other sex workers I don’t know. And while I can understand their desire to get a well-known and highly-respected member of our community on their side, my answer has to be “no” because if I don’t know either participant there’s just no way I can separate facts from emotions and decide which actions were understandable reactions to provocation and which were pure assholiness. If the two of you can agree to calmly state your cases to me, and furthermore will agree to abide by whatever decision I make or compromise I propose, I can probably be persuaded to act as judge. This doesn’t mean I want that role; if I wanted to be a judge I’d have gone to law school rather than library school. But I understand that my position as one of the grande dames of the demimonde and my reputation for wisdom and rationality will naturally cause some people to want me to act in that role, and I won’t shirk my duty. Also, if you’re a sex worker and your adversary isn’t, it’s possible I may be able to help you (though again, I won’t like it) because I’m naturally going to sympathize with a member of my own tribe. If, however, you’re a whore fighting with another whore who just comes up out of the blue and expects me to take your side without hearing the other, I’m afraid I must decline. I mean, think about it for a minute: What if she had thought to contact me first? The only way to stop the drama is to lay everything out in the open, and that’s impossible unless I can hear both sides.