Bemused 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. Interested in Nicole’s take on your messy Vineyard-centric ethics or etiquette question? Confidentiality ensured. Send your question to OnIsland@mvtimes.com
Going out to dinner is always expensive here. More than once I find myself with a group of people, some of whom are on a Linda Jean budget, while others are more State Road types. The State Roaders just assume we should be going to State Road and the Linda Jeans type are usually too embarrassed to say otherwise. I’m sort of Offshore Ale material myself, but I feel like I’m the only one in a position to mediate the socioeconomic gulf. What would you recommend?
Dear Oak Bluffs:
I’d recommend you mediate the socioeconomic gulf. (Good for you for doing so, by the way. Everyone is so strange about money, especially on the Vineyard.) To use off-Island terminology: encourage the State Roaders to appreciate the street cred of slumming it.
That’s just one take, of course. There are so many variables you’re not including, any of which could change my answer. If there’s great mutual affection and regard among all parties, try saying something discreet to the State Roaders; if it’s more of a casual acquaintanceship, perhaps encourage organic opportunities for the State Roaders to congregate amongst themselves at other times — at State Road. The one thing that’s never OK is to willfully contribute to the Linda Jeaners’ sense of not-belonging due to financial stress. That would not be okay anywhere, but it’s especially not-okay here. Why? Glad you asked.
A few words about Living In The Economic Spectrum of Martha’s Vineyard. It’s generally considered poor taste to talk or write about money, but money is weird on the Vineyard in ways that it isn’t weird most other places. There is often zero relationship between one’s income, class, educational/cultural/financial background, social standing and innate hipness. It’s part of our cultural make-up that people from totally different financial realities casually cluster together and feel good about it. So it’s not surprising you find yourself in such a cluster.
That said, it can make for certain kinds of awkwardness, especially of the sort you’re describing. I’ve surfed those waters pretty thoroughly. I’ve found myself on or near the bottom socioeconomic rung and also on or near the top socioeconomic rung of different but equally enjoyable social groups on the same day, in the off season. Part of what made them enjoyable was that nobody gave a s**t which rung I was on. I’ve been a Linda Jean’s, a State Roader, and an Offshore Ale. I was not better company, nor was I in better company, at one place over another.
OK, rant over. Thanks for listening.
Short answer: If the State Roaders are worth their Vineyard salt, they’ll understand about the Linda Jeaners.
That’s my take.
Dear Nicole –
Celebrity sightings… selfies okay?
Dear Bug –
If you were actually from Martha’s Vineyard you’d already know the answer to that. It’s no. Oh, you can ask them if you want, and they’ll probably be gracious, maybe even say yes, but that’s only a mark of their graciousness, not of how bodacious you are. Celebrities come to the Vineyard because we had (or used to have) a tradition of letting them just be regular human beings. Are you a regular human being? Would you take kindly to a stranger running up to you and asking to take their picture taken with you? Well, there you go, then.
Besides, selfies are so ten minutes ago.
That’s my take.
Last column, as some readers noticed, I failed to provide an actionable response to a certain question. I apologize, and to make amends, have reprinted the question below, with a real answer this time.
I was recently at the MV hospital for a procedure, the nature of which I’d prefer not to mention. I don’t particularly want people know about it. While I was at the hospital, I ran into four people that I know. Each of them, without fail, asked me if I was okay and why I was at the hospital. I prefer not to lie, but my procedure is my business. I know people will be even more curious if I say I’d rather not tell them why I was there, so I told them I was there to visit a friend who is sick, but each of them, without fail, asked me who my friend was. So I panicked and blurted out my neighbor’s name. Nicole, what should I do? Do I need to tell my neighbor about this?
Dear Oak Bluffs,
Of course you need to tell your neighbor. Immediately. I recommend showing up and delivering the news with a rather nice bottle of wine, or, if they do not drink, with some artisanal bread and cheese. If they have an incredibly good sense of humor, they may find it amusing and laugh it off. If they don’t, proceed to the next paragraph.
In the most unassuming way, ask if they will help you with a small carpentry project. Go to Cottle’s, buy some wood, and make a Colonial-era public stockade. Set it up at Five Corners and ask your neighbor to lock you into it for a few hours.
I don’t actually expect you to do that, but perhaps having contemplated it, you’ll consider contacting the four people who now believe your neighbor is in the hospital, and setting the record straight. Alternatively, your neighbor could call them and explain the situation directly. But in that case, you risk coming off as more of a fool than you would in the stocks.
That’s my take.