There is someone I occasionally run into. We used to have nice chats, but now when I run into him, he all but ignores me. It seems to pain him to blurt out the word “hello.” I don’t know if I have done something to offend him, but it appears by his less than friendly greetings that I have. Should I confront him about this the next time I see him? And what if it’s in Cronig’s or someplace like that? It seems like a weird place to confront someone, so maybe I should just let it go. I just don’t know. What do you suggest?
I would love to help you with this, but “someone I occasionally run into” wins the 2017 world record for Vaguest Possible Description Of Anything Ever. (Runners-up include “some TV I occasionally binge-watch” and “some political progressives I occasionally lament with.”)
Not knowing any helpful details, let me try to imagine a few, while wearing my handy-dandy Vineyard Lifestyle Filter. I shall state my responses in an If/Then manner.
IF “someone” means “a former spouse, co-worker, or roommate,” and “used to have nice chats with” means “behaved the way spouses, co-workers or roommates normally do,” THEN the cause for his sudden change of behavior is obvious. You used to fill a role in each other’s lives, and now you don’t. He’s not given to casual socializing (clue: He is a Yankee male) and doesn’t know how to make the transition. He doesn’t know where you fit in. This means, to be blunt, that you don’t fit in. That might change eventually, but not because you force it to change. Let it go.
IF “someone” means “a friendly acquaintance such as Pilates instructor, fellow choir member, or person I was stuck in standby with for eight hours last August and overshared a little while polishing off our third six-pack,” THEN it is possible that you did indeed do something to offend them, and it’s probably fine to make an effort to clear the air. “Confronting” him, however, is not an advisable attitude. That implies you’re accusing him of something. Nothing says, “Please continue to dislike me” like accusing somebody of something. On the contrary — reach out to him with the desire to offer an apology or explanation if it turns out one is due.
And be prepared to be left unsatisfied. He is not obligated to open up to you, or share your desire to go back to the good ol’ days. He might have heard something about you that changed his perspective of you, and in that case, it’s none of your business. Really.
OkK, I’ll mitigate that a little: If he heard a false piece of information about you that makes you appear to be the polar opposite of who you really are, let him know. This could be anything from “I DO have my own key to Quansoo,” to “Yeah, I voted for Bernie in the primaries but then I totally campaigned for Hillary,” to “I didn’t eat that last cupcake at the potluck breakfast, I don’t even like quinoa flour.” Or maybe it’s a matter of context and perspective: “I wasn’t badmouthing your child’s wardrobe, in my family ‘grunge’ is always meant as a compliment” or “But I’m from Edgartown, so I call everyone else up-Islanders — I wasn’t implying you’re Chilmark-esque” or “I assumed all along that you knew my ‘Colt’ was an M16 assault rifle and not a Welsh-Arabian pony mix.”
But even learning the truth about you does not obligate him to change his tune. Maybe he’s just not that into you.
IF “someone” means “a person I feel that I know because I see them all the time even if they have no reason to remember me, such as my favorite waitress, beach attendant, or Bridget Tobin,” and “used to have nice chats” means “they clearly enjoyed my monologues when I had their undivided attention,” THEN … back off. Just back off. It’s summer. If you take anything personally, at all, from anyone you know so vaguely, sequester yourself right now and don’t come out until after Labor Day. You will save yourself and most of the Vineyard workforce a great deal of trouble.
That’s my take.
Bemused readers ask New York Times bestselling novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com.