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. Nicole’s latest novel, “Stepdog,” has recently been published. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com.
I recall a time around here when I could head out to a dinner party dressed like I just came from scalloping, or building my own outdoor shower, or watercress-picking with llamas in the mud. So why are all these Vineyarders walking around looking so snazzy, and how am I supposed to dress for a beach picnic when Kate F****** is in a cocktail dress and Nicole G****** is swathed in veils?
The good news is that you can still head out to a dinner party dressed as if you just came from a project involving shellfish, carpentry, or foraging with exotic animals. In fact, you can come to a dinner party (or a beach picnic) dressed pretty much any way you like. The difference is that nowadays, all the other people — who are also free to dress pretty much however they like — might be wearing more conventionally upscale garb, or conventionally working class garb, or even (given your reference to the veils) in conventionally unconventional garb. This does not obligate you to do likewise.
In fact, while there is no obligation of any sort on your part (unless a dress code is strictly prescribed), I would exhort you to continue to wear your après-shellfish togs with abandon. You are a reminder of Old School Vineyard, when actual shellfishermen would come from actual shellfishing straight into a gathering of intellectuals, hippies, artisans, waitresses, bakers, and yacht-owning businessmen. Back in the Good Old Days, all of these sorts would mingle together, as their shared value — loving the Vineyard — trumped all other things.
Nowadays, the enclave-ization of the Vineyard is a terribly depressing fact of life. As the middle class is squeezed out of existence across America, so too is the middle ground of Vineyard socializing withering. This is unlikely to change without a good kick in the derrière, which you will provide by showing up among cocktail-dress wearers in your waders, especially (but not necessarily) if your conversation is just as sparkling and enjoyable as theirs (I suspect it is). You can also show up among the veil wearers (whoever they are). Ignore the snazzy, and go for the authentic expression of your best Vineyard self. It might make you feel awkward at first; ignore that awkwardness and stand proudly in your watercress-and-llama-spit-smeared coveralls. It is for the greater good. Thank you for your service.
That’s my take,