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. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com.
We’ve just moved to Martha’s Vineyard, and don’t know anyone. But no one will introduce themselves to us, and if we try to introduce ourselves, we get the funniest looks. It feels as if we’re already supposed to know everybody.
Not everybody, just the people you’re related to. That’s probably only about 17 percent of everybody.
If you’re not related to anyone, I would love to know what brought you to Martha’s Vineyard. Was it our wide array of stable, year-round employment opportunities? If so, try introducing yourself to your co-workers; eventually, they will have to acknowledge you.
In general: Give it time. I don’t know how long you’ve been here, or where you came from, but Yankees take their time getting to know people, and Islanders take their time even by Yankee standards. Once the connections are made, they are generally profound and meaningful. But it’s a small Island, with a high rate of turnover in the population. People don’t want to invest their hard-won emotional intimacy in somebody who might disappear during the next Vineyard shuffle. Here’s how it works:
Part One: Figure out what parts of Vineyard living work for you, and then just keep showing up for them, whatever they are — fishing, yoga, a bar, a 12-step meeting, an art class, the PTA, volunteering, walking a certain beach at a certain time of day.
Part Two: Eventually you’ll be part of the furniture, and then all of a sudden, one day, people will start talking to you as if you’ve always known each other, even if they have no idea what your name is.
Part Three: Almost as soon as Part Two happens, while you are talking with your new-friend-who-doesn’t-know-your-name-but-has-decided-to-like-you, another friend of theirs will approach, and you can introduce yourselves to them. Now your new friend knows your name, and will introduce you to all and sundry.
(Important disclaimer: “Eventually” and “one day” [see Part Two] could take some time. One of the best-assimilated wash-ashores I know, when asked how long she had been on the Vineyard, replied, “I’ve only been here for 12 years.” )
That’s my take.