Movie seat scuffle

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,

I have a friend who insists on sitting in the back row when she goes to a movie. I’d prefer to sit in any row of the theater other than the back row, but she is uncompromising, so inevitably we end up in a seat scuffle, sulking and often sitting alone. Should we just not go to the movies together anymore, or should I concede defeat and sit with my back-row buddy?

Confidentially yours,

Centrally Seated

Dear Seated,

The first thing I advise you to do is to find a mirror, look into it, and say to your reflection, “What a lucky person you are, to have such a first-world problem!”

It seems to me that you’ve already found the solution: You are going to the same movie but not sitting together. Why not keep that up, and just remove the scuffling-sulking part? You can meet up before the movie, maybe have a meal or a cup of something; afterward you can meet at the exit and then go out for a meal or a cup of something, while you discuss or debate the movie. This way you get all the best aspects of going to the movie with your friend (except maybe you have to buy your own popcorn), while avoiding the single bad aspect, which is sitting where you don’t want to sit. Actually sitting beside each other during the movie is fairly irrelevant (except for getting to share the popcorn), since well-behaved moviegoers don’t talk during a movie, do they? And it doesn’t sound like she’s your romantic partner, so I doubt you’d be needing to squeeze her hand for the sad or scary parts. Just keep things as they are, but skip the sulky part.

In fact this seems so obvious to me that I am a little concerned you asked the question — especially in the way you did. You did not ask about a mutual compromise — you put the burden of possible compromise entirely on your own shoulders. Your proposed options are that 1) you sit apart, or 2) she gets her way and you don’t. You are giving her far too much power.

While I really do find this a trivial (and very first-world) issue, I find the way in which you approach it anything but trivial, because metaphorically it shows a doormat attitude on your part that you might want to take a harder look at: In a relationship of supposed equals, you don’t expect her to give up what she wants, even as you contemplate giving up what you want. I would feel much happier about this so-called friendship of yours if it had inspired you to ask me “What’s a fair way for us to resolve this?” I don’t know what her actual attitude is about all this, but if she’s happy with that MO, you have a much bigger problem than where to sit at the movies.

That’s my take,