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. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com.
I recently had this conversation with my teenage daughter, a high school senior:
Me: So, my friend’s son is in your class. His name is K. Do you know him?
Her: Do I know him? On Saturday, he had the party of the year! EVERYONE was there!
Oh dear. I know for a fact that my friend was off-Island. Far, far off-Island.
Here’s my question: Should I tell my friend that her home was just the scene of the party of the year among the Island’s 18-year-olds? I’d certainly want to know if it were me, but I don’t want to cause any family strife, if, ultimately, all turned out well.
What should I do?
So … this “party of the year” your daughter speaks of: Did your daughter go to it?
I see three possible answers to this question. Your answer determines my answer.
One: “No, my daughter did not go to that party.” In this case, she doesn’t know anything about the party except what she’s heard, so she’s just gossiping. If you repeat what she says, you’re just gossiping too. Don’t gossip. Do talk to your daughter (see below).
Two: “I have no idea if my daughter went to that party.” (Variation: “No, my daughter did not go that party” — but, oh dear, perhaps you are mistaken?) If you’re not keeping tabs on what your kid is up to, then I don’t think you’re in a position to keep tabs on what other people’s kids are up to. Talk to your daughter (see below).
Three: “Yes, my daughter went to that party.” In this case, if you were paying attention you must have already known that there was a party taking place in your friend’s home while she was away. For some reason, you didn’t notice this before or even during the party, just afterward. How interesting.
It is the Vineyard in winter, so we’re all climbing the walls looking for things to get excited about. Is it possible that your friend knew her son was throwing this party in her absence, and that there is not, in fact, any kind of dilemma or crisis here? Just asking. Your daughter was pretty casual about sharing that information, so maybe it’s common knowledge even to your friend. Sorry if this takes the wind out of your sails, but maybe, just maybe, this is a nonissue.
But let’s assume otherwise. Let’s go with the premise that you know for a fact that your friend does not know about the party at her house, which your daughter attended. In that case, you could alert your friend to the fact of the illicit party, but she will, of course, ask you why you didn’t tell her about this before the illicit party took place, when presumably you knew about it because you were giving your daughter permission to go to it.
And what will you say to that? Offhand, the only answer I can think of is, “Look, watch me put my foot in my mouth.”
If your daughter lied to you about the party, or you know that the son lied to his mother about the party, then there is something specific and concrete to discuss — but start with your daughter, not your friend. As with the previous two scenarios: Talk to your daughter.
If your daughter didn’t go to the party, talk to her about the dangerous power of rumor and gossip. If she did go to the party, ask her what made it “the party of the year.” If something untoward or inappropriate happened (drugs, Tea Party recruitment), then bring it to your friend’s attention, perhaps this way: “I did not realize what I was giving my daughter permission to do. I am concerned that she was in an environment like that, and I’m telling you about it in case you are concerned that your son is creating an environment like that.”
Whatever you ultimately do, it began with a passing conversation with your daughter. Continue that conversation.
That’s my take.