Illustration by Kate Feiffer

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.Dear Nicole,

Really? My ex’s new girlfriend started showing up in a gym class that I’ve been going to for years. The first time I let it go as small-Island fallout, but then she came back. While she clearly needs the workout more than I do, I do not want to exercise in the same room with her again. I love this class, and like I said, have been a regular for years. What should I do?

Confidentially Yours,


Dear Ex-ercised,

I think you should get counseling or some other kind of professional help until you’ve gotten over your ex, which clearly you haven’t done or you would not be asking this question.

First: Your comment “While she clearly needs the workout more than I do …” pretends to express solicitous concern for her health, but it does not exactly reek of compassion. In fact, it’s gratuitously catty, which implies you have an attitude toward this woman, apparently just for dating your ex. What a very potent expression of your inner seventh-grader. I don’t give advice to seventh graders; I have seen what happens when my friends try to advise their middle schoolers. Come back and ask another question when you’re in high school.

But seriously: Why do you “not want to exercise in the same room with her again”? Really — why? I understand that you love the class and have been a regular. In that case, why not just continue to go to the class? Is the class itself going to change now? Will the teacher change it up from spinning to water aerobics to accommodate this powerful and nefarious new exerciser? Probably not. If it’s a good class and you want to keep taking it … keep taking it! If your dislike of her (a person you seem to know only as your ex’s new belle) is significant enough that it interferes with your enjoyment of a longstanding beloved class … then you are giving her sooooo much power that you need to look a little closer at your dislike of her. What has she actually done to deserve your animosity? Unless she stole your boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife, she probably has not, unto herself, done anything to warrant your displeasure.

Chances are she is taking the class just because she wants to take the class. Her presence there is not about you. If she is, for some twisted reason, taking this particular class with the gleeful knowledge that her presence will upset you, then she is expressing her inner seventh-grader. Seventh graders are psychic; they know your weak spots with the certainty of a marine chronometer measuring longitude. If she knows you’d be that upset at her presence, then she knows what I know and have already said: You’re not over your ex, so work on that. I hear exercise helps.

That’s my take.