Dear Miss Manners: Am I free to order what I want when someone asks me to dinner? When I am paying for myself, I order what I want and am not concerned about the price. Can I do the same when someone else will be paying for the meal?

No. When your hosts invite you to dinner, they do not hand over their charge cards.

A good guest avoids the pricier items on the menu. Miss Manners waives this rule in only three circumstances: first, when the host is specific about ordering an expensive item (“Try the lobster,” but not “Order whatever you want”). Second, when there is a mutual understanding about cost and reciprocity (i.e., the host for a recurring outing rotates, and there is a history of how much the meals cost). Third, when you are trying to forestall offers of a second date.

Dear Miss Manners: When I graduated from law school, I had a graduation party at my home, for which I mailed out invitations. Four of the invitees were complete no-shows; despite my request that they R.S.V.P., they must have forgotten to send their regrets.

I'm subscribed to a new service from the U.S. Postal Service that sends me digital pictures of the letters I'll receive, before they arrive in my mailbox. A few days after the party, I received one such notification: an image of an envelope with my address handwritten on it. The return address was cut off. It was almost surely a note from one of the invitees who couldn't make it; few people know my address, and fewer still send handwritten notes.

I'd always thought "lost in the mail" was a euphemism, but now, a few weeks later, this letter still hasn't turned up. I'm at a loss. One of these four people must've sent me a note (or even a gift), and I don't want to appear ungrateful. But I also don't want to shame the other three no-shows by asking if they were the ones who hadn't bothered to send a note.

What will they think of next? Miss Manners herself prefers ignorance to being teased with notice of mail that is not then actually delivered.

It does, however, provide a solution to your dilemma. You could write to all four no-shows explaining — in a lighthearted manner — the awkward situation in which you find yourself. But beware. Mention only “a letter,” not a response to your invitation, and certainly not a present. Better to ignore the entire situation than to send a note that appears to be soliciting a gift when one was not, in fact, sent.

Dear Miss Manners: My wife has been trying to find out the proper placement of chairs after getting up from the dining table. Are they to be left back, or repositioned under the table? Does this change when it's women only, versus when men are present?

Etiquette interests itself in many arcane points, but the placement of the furniture after people are done with it is not usually among them. So long as the chairs are upright, not blocking the exit and in the same general area in which they started the evening, Miss Manners assures your wife that will suffice.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website,

2019, by Judith Martin