P’s and Q’s: Why can’t I be your caretaker?


Please enjoy this encore column from Nicole Galland.

Dear Nicole,
I have a friend who has a very lovely home on the Vineyard in which she summers. This winter she was looking for a live-in caretaker for this very lovely home, which is also in a stellar location, and coincidentally I was looking for winter housing. It seemed obvious to me that I should be her live-in caretaker, but not at all obvious to her. She found someone else. She said she didn’t want our friendship to suffer if anything happened with the house. However, our friendship is suffering, because I am furious. Nicole, should I forgive my friend or should she forgive me?

Confidentially yours,

Dear Friend,
That’s right! You forgive her and she forgives you. Well done!
Wait, let’s take a closer look at this … Really, what it comes down to is this: You’re forgiving her for not giving you what you want, while she’s forgiving you for being an emotional toddler. I hope you realize you are getting the better deal in the friendship department.
I notice you have broached a hot-button cold-season topic: winter housing. It is far beyond the scope of this column, or my big mouth, to address such a crisis. In the winter, it is claimed, there are more houses standing empty than there are year-round residents. If that’s true, or even close to true, then it sounds reasonable — arithmetically speaking — to just fill all the empty houses with all the people who need housing, and recompense the owners in some manner deemed “appropriate” by a random set of metrics. (This is just as likely to happen in a corporate or governmental setting as a socialist regime, so stop with the political pigeonholing.)
I only mention this because of the tone of your question. It is tinged with a soupçon of piqued entitlement, and so perhaps you are of the persuasion that it is the duty of the summer-home holders to provide housing for the year-rounders. If you are of that persuasion, I have some fantastic news for you: Your friend is a do-gooder! She is supplying winter housing for somebody in need.
It just doesn’t happen to be you.
I know you think it should be you. She disagrees. I don’t know the nuances of why you’re on different pages there, but if it soothes you at all, please consider that this was perhaps not an easy call for her to make. You’re a friend in need, and she is saying no to you — that probably isn’t easy for her (even if it appears to be easy from your POV).
One of the great triumphs of modern humanity is the First World Friendship — the freedom to be familiar and affectionate with somebody else entirely by choice, not out of necessity, family ties, or cultural obligation. This is something Vineyarders do incredibly well. The challenge with FWFs is that there is little “conventional wisdom” about what’s OK and not-so-OK to ask for, allow, or offer. There’s a fine line between two unrelated grownups looking out for each other’s interests, and one grownup feeling obligated to take care of another. The first is friendship. The second is something else. You have a friend. Isn’t that great news?

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. 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 onIsland@mvtimes.com.