Q)I have been dating a man who, when the restaurant bill ,1 comes, will sit there passively. Later he will excuse himself and go to the men's room. The last time, when he returned, he stared at the check still on the table and gave me an exasperated look.

I realized that his excusing himself at check time was his way of permitting me to pay the bill. I felt he was upset when I did not. The gentleman makes two or three times as much as I do.

Is it now customary for a gentleman to invite a lady out, choose the entertainment himself, and then manipulate the lady into picking up the check from time to time?

I was under the impression that when a gentleman as for a date, he pays, unless stated otherwise. I have reciprocated by buying theater tickets, inviting the gentleman home for dinner, etc. Should I also whip out my wallet?

A)So that it will be safe for such a gentleman to come out of the men's room? Miss Manners is not sure she wants him out.

The gentleman seems to be confused about how to apply new, egalitarian principles to old customs. Miss Manners does not blame him for that: It is confusing, even chaotic. But she doesn't care for his solution.

It is still customary for a gentleman who invites a lady out to pay the bill, unless they both clearly understand in advance that they are observing the custom of each paying separately. That is more usually practiced by students, by nonromantic friends, and by business associates, than by mature people who are, in some degree or another, courting.

What has changed is that the lady may now reciprocate more openly, by doing some inviting herself and paying that bill. (Who makes more money has nothing to do with the principle of reciprocity, although it may have to do with the host or hostess' choice of restaurant.)

What offends Miss Manners and obviously you is the assumption that one can divide the host duties by having one person do the inviting and the other person the paying. Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.