Minding Your MV P's & Q's: “Ex” expiration dates and when dates ≠ dates.

Illustration by Kate Feiffer

Nicole-GallandBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the 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. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com

Dear Nicole,

There is a very small pool of dating possibilities here and my friends and I have a rule that you don’t date the ex of someone else, at least not without their explicit permission. Since you don’t know if you’re going to like someone after just one date, do you think it’s okay to first-date with a friend’s ex without getting friend permission and then, if you want to second-date, ask for their consent?

Confidentially yours,

Oak Bluffs

Dear Oak Bluffs:

What’s tricky here is the definition of “date.” On the Vineyard, there are many activities that appear to be not-dates but potentially are, such as scalloping, power-washing a mutual friend’s boat, and waiting in standby. Once you’ve gone scalloping (for instance) together, you’ll have a pretty good sense of whether or not you want to pursue a more intimate relationship with the person.

So sure, it’s okay, as long that first date involves scalloping (etc).

A related thought: due to, as you note, the very small pool of dating possibilities, you all might want to modify your position on exes. Consider a statute of limitations (maybe after 3 years, they’re fair game). Define what an “ex” is – someone you’ve had children with? Someone you used to live with? (Note these don’t necessarily overlap). Or someone with whom you had a fling last summer after comparing root vegetables at the Farmers Market? If you’ve got the hots for somebody, it hardly seems fair not to pursue it because they went to second base with a friend of yours back in high school.

That’s my take.


Dear Nicole,

I will soon be divorced and I have my eyes on a man who works with my thankfully-soon-to-be-ex. Should I ask him out? For all I know my ex has been telling him terrible things about me. I’d like the opportunity to whisper terrible things about my ex into this man’s cute little ear. Is that wrong?

Confidentially yours,

Town withheld

Dear Town withheld:

Never mind “wrong,” let’s start with “stupid.” By all means ask him out, but if you’re lucky enough to get close to his cute little ear, don’t reveal you’re a woman who still thinks about her ex. That’s a turn-off. You’ll get much more satisfying results if you whisper terrible things about the Yankees.

What if your ex has indeed badmouthed you to this fellow? Given your character (as revealed in this question), there’s a pretty good chance he’ll have said, “…And on top of it all, she trashes people behind their backs.” Do you want to prove he’s right? No. Think strategically: this being the Vineyard, chances are that a good friend of yours is dating a good friend of his, so he’ll probably hear all the terrible things you want to tell him anyhow. Probably in some fantastically mangled, exaggerated form that makes your ex out to be a monster, while you remain above it all. It’s a total win for you.

And by the way, P.S.: Yes, it’s wrong. Whispering horrible things about other people is generally wrong. If you’re going to badmouth somebody, be upfront and do it at the Annual Town Meeting.

That’s my take.



  1. Sarah Mayhew says:

    Great advice Nicki! :-)

  2. strikesagain says:

    Comical! Nice work!

  3. Adult_Content says:

    Love it!