Minding Your MV P's & Q's: Doctor in the produce aisle; ex...

Minding Your MV P's & Q's: Doctor in the produce aisle; ex at the dinner party

— Illustration by Kate Feiffer

Bemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on Martha’s Vineyard. Nicole,  who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Got a question on Island ethics or etiquette? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com.

Dear Nicole,

My daughter had a bad cough last week. I was in Cronigs and ran into her pediatrician. I asked him about my daughter’s cough while he was looking at lettuce, but now I’m worried that I crossed a line. Was it okay that I asked him about my daughter’s cough? By the way, he didn’t seem to mind and, if you care to know, she’s much better now.

Confidentially yours,


Dear Tisbury:

It’s fine as long as the lettuce was locally grown. Many doctors who choose to practice on the Island do so because they are enamored with its quaint, old-fashioned ways. Your approaching the doctor over locally-sourced produce affords him the kind of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman moment that most doctors who have relocated here secretly yearn for. So actually, he is somewhat in your debt.

Honestly, approach the doctor over produce as you would approach any professional outside the context of their workplace. Would you query your plumber about your toilet running if you meet him at the Post Office? Would you ask your child’s teacher about homework habits at the gym? Would you ask a video store clerk about the latest releases while waiting in line at the DMV? Context and character are everything. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. If you ask for advice and get a deaf ear, respect it and don’t take it personally.

That’s my take.


Dear Nicole,

My good friend’s ex is coming to the island with his new girlfriend for a visit. My friend doesn’t know about his plans, nor does she know that my husband and I stayed in contact with him after they broke up. We are planning to host a welcome-back dinner party in his honor when he’s here. Should I tell my friend?

Confidentially yours,

Oak Bluffs

Dear Oak Bluffs:

Because this question begs more clarity, I’ll have to answer in the if/then manner.

Why haven’t you told your “good friend” you are friendly with her ex?

IF it’s because you are generally of a sneaky disposition, THEN don’t tell her – continue the sneakiness, since that’s clearly what you’re best at.

IF you have not told her because she has an unreasonable sensitivity on matters regarding her ex, THEN don’t tell her – be kind.

IF, however, she lives on the Vineyard or you have even a single friend in common, THEN TELL HER, because she’s obviously going to find out about it anyhow. Think about it. This is a freakin’ island. Just saying.

Seriously: news travels fast on the Vineyard, and devolves almost instantly into rumor and gossip. You have no control over what is said about you, or to whom it is said – all you can control are your own actions, so make sure you act in a way that reflects your value system. Do you think of yourself as honest? (Tell her) Compassionate? (Maybe don’t tell her) Compassionate and honest? (Tell her but do it gently.)

That’s my take.




  2. I agree with the previous comment. Its like asking a plumber who is out to dinner If he can come look at your toilet because it is backed up and your house smells. Its completely inappropriate and out of line.