No Valentine

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

Dear Nicole,

On a remarkably warm January day, I mentioned to my boyfriend that I took issue with the commercialization of Valentine’s Day. I probably suggested that I was disgusted that Hershey and Hallmark had hijacked our expressions of love. Then Valentine’s Day arrived, and my boyfriend let the day pass without notice. When I mentioned to the jerk that I was sad he hadn’t acknowledged me on Valentine’s Day, he said he thought I was being hypocritical. Nicole, what do you think?

Confidentially yours,

Love Snub

Dear Snub,

This is an excellent example of the perils of climate change.

But first, let me respond to your general query: I think you are right on both counts, and so is your boyfriend, who I have to say sounds like a keeper.

It IS a hijacked commercialization of love. AND YET it’s important, in the dreary depths of February, to feel buoyed by material gestures of affection and regard (chocolate; roses; a stranger’s treacly words printed in a bouncy font on raspberry-hued card stock — a tradition going back to Henry V!). It is perfectly reasonable for you to desire such a gesture.

It is also reasonable for your boyfriend not to make that gesture, since you made it clear to him you didn’t value it. Do you realize how awesome this makes him? You told him something and he 1) heard you, 2) remembered it, and 3) acted accordingly. Having him as your boyfriend is about the best Valentine’s Day present you could ever ask for, you lucky woman! I also like the part where you complain that he’s not bothering to make an effort for you while you’re not bothering to make one for him either, and he calls you a hypocrite — he’s correct, which means he is really paying attention to what you’re doing and saying! I like this guy so much! Introduce him to your mom.

Now back to climate change: Back in the good old days when winter started at the start of winter, by the time mid-February rolled around, resources were depleted and tempers were fraying. Like most things in life, there were two ways to come at this problem: religion or sex. If you chose religion, you got to celebrate Lent, which was the Catholic Church’s way to sanctify the empty pantry shelves that were inevitable that time of year. If you chose sex, you got to celebrate Lupercalia, a pagan Roman fertility festival that eventually got mashed up with the (previously chaste) celebration of the (definitely chaste) St. Valentine. The point is: Valentine’s Day is in February for the same reason that February vacation is in February: It’s freakin’ February! That’s when you need a pick-me-up!

So when the seasons are in proper working order, it would never occur to you in January to belittle the value of romantic gestures in February — even if you knew them to be grossly commercialized, you would be looking forward to them (I would use a Super Bowl metaphor, but it hardly seems worth it this year, ammirite?). The only reason you and Mr. Right had any kind of conflict is because the unseasonable warmth tricked you into thinking that February on Martha’s Vineyard wasn’t going to be a problem. That was a climate-change-induced delusion.

That’s my take.