Alan Chartock: Who still picks up the tab?


GREAT BARRINGTON --The results of a recent poll suggest that both men and women believe that men should pay for dating expenses and, indeed, still do. According to the poll, 84 percent of men still pick up the tab.

I find the Chapman University poll quite interesting since my grown children always insisted that these days, dating expenses are shared. It makes a certain amount of sense if you follow the reasoning that men and women should be treated as equals in the job market and should receive equal pay for equal work. Anyone who is married or has a daughter, a mother, a niece or a granddaughter ought to believe in this kind of equality. I certainly do.

On the other hand, because things really aren’t as even as we’d like them to be, maybe it’s appropriate for men to pay compensation for current and past inequities. See what I did there?


I was brought up to believe that the man pays, even when the woman has more money and even when a lunch may be business-related. When I go out to lunch with female colleagues at either the university or at WAMC, I always insist on paying. Some of my lunch partners have never been happy about that and haven’t hesitated to tell me so. When I’ve been asked to justify this clearly old-fashioned attitude, I have stammered out that I have always paid. It may not be intellectually justifiable but there is something deep inside me that makes me want to do it.

Admittedly, when I pay I am certainly not on a date. Usually I pay because I have more money than my luncheon companions. The Chapman poll, which I read in the Albany Times Union, goes on to report that 57 percent of women say they offer to pay, but 35 percent of them say they hope that their male date will refuse. In other words, we all know what’s theoretically right but a lot of people revert to the old ways in their heads.

Some women will tell you they want to pay because of the age-old expectation that if the man pays he thinks he is entitled to certain sexual favors. When you are paying for a female colleague’s lunch, of course, there is no such expectation. But I do believe there is something to the idea of payback in dating. In fact, in the Chapman poll, 76 percent of the men answering said they felt guilty about accepting money from women on dates.

I suspect that the younger you are, the less of a big deal it is to share the cost of a meal. In an informal survey at WAMC, the younger folks said that they almost always go 50-50.


On another subject, I was very proud to receive an honorary doctorate a few years back from Westfield State University. The place has grown exponentially in stature and respect, and I suspect that Westfield’s president, Evan Dobelle, had something to do with that. Now we read that Dobelle is being criticized for using his foundation credit card to build up the college’s credibility.

One graduation speaker, we are told, was housed at Wheatley in Lenox which can cost more than $1,000 a night. Hey, I want it on the record that I paid all my own expenses and received nothing for my presence except for the honorary degree. In other words, I am a cheap date.

As for Evan, who has had a long history in politics and higher education, he’s done a great job but could use a structured and realistic allowance. He may not be running Harvard, but he’s done a good job.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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