Personal tour guide

- Kate Feiffer

Dear Nicole,
I have an old friend who contacted me with the news that he and his family will be visiting the Vineyard, and they are excited for me to show them around the Island. Why is it that people, good friends and casual acquaintances alike, think that just because you live on Martha’s Vineyard you have signed up to be their personal tour guide?
Confidentially yours,
Good Guide

Dear Good Guide,
It is hard to imagine a conversation that goes like this: “We are going to Martha’s Vineyard. GG, who lives there, has never given us any indication that she likes living there. She’d be the perfect person to have as a tour guide.” So to a certain degree, you may have invited this upon yourself. Perhaps they have friends on Nantucket who showed off Nantucket (because, really, what else does anyone on Nantucket have to do with their time?), and they assume you want to show them how lame the Nantucketers are. (And are they wrong? Just asking.)
But let’s dig a little deeper here. Because this question isn’t about your friends. It’s about you.
Everyone I know who comes to the Island wanting a tour has asked me — asked me, not informed me! — about my giving them one. Perhaps I have more appropriate friends than you do. But by the tone of your question, one of two things is probably true:

1. You have been informed of your tour-guide-status frequently. In that case, find other friends and acquaintances: people who are less presumptuous or entitled.
Also, maybe buy a doormat, and offer it to people trying to use you for one. Seriously. Only certain kinds of people inform you that you will be doing something nice for them — but they only try that with certain kinds of people. If your life is full of people telling you what you’re going to do for them, your problems are much deeper than a field trip to Squibnocket.
But there’s another possibility.

2. You are not, in fact, constantly being instructed to give people tours. You were informed you were giving one old friend a tour. Once. Based on that, you developed an overgeneralized persecution complex regarding off-Islanders’ sense of entitlement. Oh, come on, admit it, we all do it. Vineyarders are just Yankee enough that we feel secretly a little guilty for getting to be Vineyarders (which is a pretty special thing, after all) … so we have to occasionally mitigate our state of grace by feeling persecuted.
An off-Island friend who wants to see the Island is the perfect patsy for this. They validate how cool you are (because a, you live on the Vineyard and b, you have off-Island friends); their form of persecution is super-first-world; and you know they will disappear soon, thus freeing you up to invent whatever crazy stories you like about their behavior without fear of being held accountable.
Long story short, your question isn’t really a question, it’s more of a passive-aggressive thank-you note to your visitors. And they deserve it. All they get out of the exchange is a brief tour of the Vineyard. You, in contrast, get a bunch of your psycho-spiritual itches scratched. Enjoy.
That’s my take.

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, and is the author of “I, Iago.” Her combined knowledge of both this Island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to