Ancient rights; friends on a budget

Nicole-GallandBemused 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. Interested in Nicole’s take on your messy Vineyard-centric ethics or etiquette question? Confidentiality ensured. Send your question to

Dear Nicole:

We have friends we are fond of who are not as financially comfortable as we are, and we find it a strain to maintain the friendship when they so often cannot join us for the things we tend to do that are beyond their means (benefits, Taste of the Vineyard, etc). We never know whether or not to invite them to join us for things, and it’s really taking a toll on our sense of comfort with them. How do you recommend we handle this?

Confidentially, Edgartown

Dear Edgartown,

One of the best things about living on Martha’s Vineyard is the bounty of free or nearly-free Things To Do. (Spoiler Alert: there is a shameless plug coming along in a few lines.) A soul-satisfying social relationship can easily be nourished on a shoestring budget here. Instead of fretting about the awkwardness of inviting your friends to a posh event, why not take the opportunity to luxuriate in the non-posh offerings the Vineyard is so rich in?

Besides the miles of glorious beaches and woodland trails, there are cultural events all year long that cost next to nothing – for example, this very weekend, Shakespeare for the Masses will be performing their (okay, full disclosure: our) free screwball version of Cymbeline at the Katherine Cornell Theatre, produced for your enjoyment by the Vineyard Playhouse.

This weekend also features free readings of local writers at the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore and a free costume ball at the Chilmark Tavern. And we’re not even in the shoulder season yet. There are art openings throughout the spring and summer, and not-infrequent musical offerings such as the Chilmark Community Potluck. Come summer, The Yard, the Vineyard Arts Project and Featherstone all offer free or “little-ticket” presentations as well. Any of these events can be enjoyed equally, and together, by people from lots of different tax brackets. You could fill your social calendar without ever reaching for your checkbook, so don’t use the socio-economic divide as an excuse for discomfort with anyone. It suggests an almost willful ignorance.

I’m not saying to eschew the big-ticket events. If you’re in a position to enjoy the full spectrum of what the Island offers, then by all means, enjoy it! But don’t judge the worth of an event by the cost of its entrance ticket; that displays a failure of curiosity and a very narrow cultural appetite on your part. Even if your friends can’t make it to the high-end benefits, there is plenty of scintillating, fulfilling Stuff To Do with them.

That’s my take.



Dear Nicole:

I have an issue at Town Meeting. I’ve noticed that when certain people get up to talk, they emphasize their importance by noting the number of generations that their family has been living here, as if therefore what they have to say matters more than what I, a long-time washashore, have to say. Is there some decent way to retort?

-Almost resentful, Oak Bluffs

Dear Almost:

I’ve never experienced this but I feel for you; it sounds pretty silly. I don’t know why their ancestors are being invoked, but you might point out that the wisdom of 19th century Islanders has little bearing on the issues that we face today; even when it does, wisdom is not genetic, and someone’s suggesting that it is really only proves that it isn’t. Yes, the repository of knowledge grows with each generation, but let’s not pretend only direct descendants have access to it. If that were true, only Florentines  would understand Machiavelli, and only the Founding Fathers’ direct descendants would grasp the workings of the American government. Which clearly isn’t true because Kevin Spacey beats them all in spades.

My family roots on the Island go back to the 1600s, but I would never suggest that gives me any kind of special insight. If I ever were to display particularly good insight into something, I would prefer to credit myself for it, not my great-grandparents. Perhaps these people you’re describing suffer from extremely low self-esteem and don’t think their ideas are good enough to stand on their own. You might ask them about that. During Town Meeting. Just for fun.

Finally, to point out the obvious: if somebody is really pulling rank this way, and implying they have extra clout because of their Island lineage, please remind them their Island ties are about as deep as a fingernail compared to that of the Wampanoags’. If they feel family tenancy implies entitlement, logic suggests they want the Tribe to determine all civic matters on Noepe.

That’s my take.