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Miss Manners: Friends charged us for eating dinner at their house

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: About once a month, we go out to dinner with another couple and always have a good time. We tend to order roughly the same things — one drink each, no desserts unless it’s a special occasion — so we just split the bill.

We were surprised, but fine with it, when they suggested that we should eat at their house next time instead of going out. We've all been doing a lot of creative cooking during the pandemic, and I offered to host the following time.

We had a nice meal — but then they told us what our share of the cost would be! I’m in shock that our friends would be so stingy as to charge us for eating at their own home. We thought they were close friends!

Evidently, they are close. Or maybe just confused.

There is, indeed, a huge difference between a restaurant and a home. Or rather, there should be. But the habit of eating in commercial establishments has resulted in all but obliterating the meaning of private hospitality.

This shows up in many ways. Guests no longer feel obliged to make definite advance commitments — perhaps even less than they do for restaurants, which may charge no-shows. They expect to be able to state their food preferences. They are not likely to reciprocate.

And hosts who no longer feel the sole responsibility for providing the meal may even assign some of the shopping and cooking to their guests.

Your friends have carried this to a crude extreme. To anyone who remembers the ancient tradition of hospitality, this is sad. Planning and overseeing entertainment were a pleasure that people enjoyed taking turns doing. The claim that it put all the burden on the hosts was false because reciprocity evened it out.

Miss Manners might have been inclined to make this point by asking your friends whether the price they quoted included the service charge.

But if you are not terminally insulted by your friends having treated you as a customer rather than a guest, you could just set an example in your own house. The opportunity to discuss this will be when your friends ask what they can bring, or attempt to pay. Then you can properly express your horror: “No, no, it’s our home, and we consider it a pleasure to entertain you.”

Dear Miss Manners: My neighbor is hosting a brunch for a local mother who lost her daughter in early December. The daughter was tragically murdered, leaving two grown sons and a 3-year-old. It was terribly painful for the entire family.

My husband and I are of the belief that it is too soon for this event. Please help me sort this out in my mind.

It is not for outsiders to decide what constitutes a proper period of mourning. If it were too early for the bereaved mother to be coaxed out to what may be a low-key event, that lady could have begged off.

Life was simpler, Miss Manners agrees, when society set firm periods for withdrawing after a death, but these were not always what best suited the individual. The way for you to come to terms with this is to acknowledge that you cannot know the survivor’s needs, so it is best to let her decide whether this is too soon.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

© 2023 Judith Martin