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The Advice Goddess: October 2017
Thursday, 05 October 2017 10:59
Special to the Daily Planet

James and the Giant Leech

Q:  I’ve been dating this girl for just over a month, and she never offers to pay for anything. I was okay with this in the beginning, as I saw it as a courtship thing. I guess I wonder whether this points to problems down the road with her not being a real partner, pulling her weight, etc. How do I politely broach this without blowing up the blooming relationship?
— Feeling Used

A: This woman lives paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, it’s your paycheck. 

At this point, you’re probably musing on the perfect birthday gift for her -- a sparkly little Hello Kitty crowbar she can use to pry open her wallet. However, mystifying as it is that she has never squeaked out the words “This one’s on me!” consider that if there’s one thing heterosexual men and women have in common these days, it’s confusion over who exactly is supposed to pay on dates. 

The problem driving the confusion is a sort of Godzilla vs. Mothra clash between age-old evolved emotions (still driving us today) and modern-day beliefs about male and female equality.

As I explain with some frequency (per big cross-cultural studies by evolutionary psychologist David Buss, among others), women evolved to seek male partners who show they are willing and able to invest in any children they might have. Whether the particular woman actually wants children is immaterial -- as in, of zero interest to her emotions. 

Anthropologist John Marshall Townsend observes from his research and others’ that women’s emotions evolved to act as a sort of police force for a man’s level of commitment -- making women feel bad when the investment isn’t there. This leads women to either push a man to invest or ditch him and find a man who will.

Men coevolved to expect this, meaning that men evolved to try to appeal to the ladies by showing (or successfully faking) generosity, high status, and earning power. Many people mistakenly assume evolved adaptations like this will change with the times, as in, “Ye Olde Evolved Emotions, I’d like to introduce you to Gloria Steinem and the women’s movement.”

Unfortunately, evolution is not a lickety-split process — especially when it comes to our psychological engine panel. In fact, anthropologist Donald Symons explains that “natural selection takes hundreds or thousands of generations” (generations being 20- to 30-year periods) “to fashion any complex cognitive adaptation.” So women, even now — even highly successful women who can comfortably pay for their own meals (and everyone else’s in the restaurant) — have their emotions pushing them to look for a man who shows generosity, as well as the ability to “provide.”

This is reflected in the findings by sociologist Janet Lever and her colleagues from a survey of heterosexual men and women — 17,067 “unmarried and non-cohabitating” heterosexuals, ages 18 to 65 — on the extent to which they embrace or reject the traditional “man pays” dating behavior. (Surprisingly, millennials’ responses were generally pretty close percentage-wise to those of older adults — mostly within a few percentage points.)

A snapshot of the responses from women: Overall, 57 percent of women said yes to “I always offer to help pay even on the first date.” But check out the mixed feelings: Many women (39 percent) wished men would reject their offer to pay. But many (40 percent of women) said they are bothered when men don’t accept their money. Hello, confusing financial stew!

Men’s responses were similarly contradictory. Overall, more than half the men — 64 percent — said that after the first few dates, the woman should help pay expenses, and nearly half (44 percent) said they would stop dating a woman who never offers to pay. Yet, men overwhelmingly — that is, 76 percent of men — feel guilty if they don’t pay the bill on dates.

So, the reality is, like all of these conflicted men, some women just aren’t sure where the lines are on whether to chip in and when. (Of course, some women are conveniently unsure.) As for this woman you’re seeing, it is possible that she’s waiting until you two are “exclusive” to start picking up the tab. Instead of assuming the worst, do two things: First, observe and reflect on her behavior and attitudes — so far and as you get to know her — and see whether they suggest an interest in partnership or princess-ship.

Second, simply ask: “Hey, we’ve been dating for a while, and it seems like we should start sharing the costs. Where do you stand on that?” See what she says and take it from there — tempting as it is to opt for a passive-aggressive approach, like panhandling outside the restaurant where you’re meeting her: “Hey, Amber. You’re early!…Meet ya inside. Just trying to beg enough for the tip.”
(c.) 2017, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ( Weekly radio show: Amy Alkon’s book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say The F-Word” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).

Originals or covers? 2 singers offer contrasts
Thursday, 05 October 2017 10:29
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Steven Pelland entertained the crowd with a set of his original songs during a concert Sept. 15 in the upstairs lounge at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall in West Asheville.

 Ryan Guerra performed the opening set, doing mostly covers of the Beatles and James Taylor.

Pelland, a Fall River, Mass., native, performed an array of songs on guitar and sang, often accompanied by a keyboardist. At times, he sounded a bit like “sensitive guy” rocker Jackson Browne.

Among Pelland’s memorable songs was “Let’s Figure It Out,” which he billed as “my upbeat protest song.”

Further into his act, Pelland quipped, “Man, I might have to do a James Taylor cover,” but he noted — playfully — that Guerra already had played Taylor’s best songs earlier. 

“The thing is, even though I’ve been a big fan of James Taylor ... To get his presence and guitar work — it takes a lot of work. So I avoided that.... I spent a lot of time looking in the mirror, because no one else wanted to hear me.”

For an encore, Pelland played his only cover — of  Taylor’s “Millworker.” He introduced the song by saying, “Thank God that Ryan didn’t play this one.” The audience applauded his efforts at length.

Guerra, who has performed in a number of tribute shows at Flat Rock Playhouse, provided the opening act with a one-hour set .

He noted that the crowd would see that “I’m obviously a big Beatles and James Taylor fan.”

Among the most memorable songs performed by Guerra were “Here Comes the Sun” and “In My Life,” both by the Beatles; and “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely” by Taylor.

Guerra also performed “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” by the Beatles, “You’ve Got a Friend” by Taylor; “A Real Straight Shooter” by the Mamas and Papas, “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles, “Fire and Rain” by Taylor, “All My Loving” by the Beatles and “Shower My World” by Taylor.

Guerra noted that “Fire and Rain” is one of his favorite songs and, indeed, his rendition of that hit was, arguably, the high point of his performance.

Another highlight of Guerra’s set was his finale — an interweaving of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” with bits of  Taylor’s “In My Mind I’m Going to Carolina.”



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