The Washington Post

Miss Manners: Mixed signals cause mixed message on couple’s first date

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a single, 30-year-old gay male. Saturday night before last, I met a guy who’s 12 years my senior. We spoke on the phone a few times, and on Monday he was persistent and asked me out to dinner.

When the bill came, he paid just his half. I was taken aback by this. Since he invited me, shouldn’t he have at least offered to pay the whole bill?

Granted, I’m not someone who expects others to pay my way; however, good manners and etiquette dictate that the inviter/host should have paid or offered to pay. I would have offered to pay my half or the whole thing.

Am I being too old-fashioned, or does etiquette not apply to gay relationships where the passive (female) and active (male) roles do not apply?

Also, did my having him go with me to the ATM (I was short on cash and had a feeling something like this might happen) affect his decision in not offering to pay?

He’s interested in me, but I don’t know if I should pursue this relationship. Good manners mean a lot to me, and I don’t know if I can introduce him to my friends and family. After all, the first impression tells you a lot about a person.

GENTLE READER: And his first impression was of you at the ATM right before dinner. The gentleman likely assumed that either you intended to pay for your meal, or you were planning a quick getaway afterward.

You are correct that the person initiating the invitation should pay. Please forget about that active-passive angle. Everyone else has.

Your new friend could easily have been confused by your actions and not wanted to offend. Miss Manners suggests you give him the benefit of the doubt and invite him on another date. This time you should pay — and if he protests, say, “No, no, I invited you.” If he is the gentleman you hope him to be, he will understand for next time.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What do I take to Thanksgiving dinner when the hostess said to “bring nothing”?

GENTLE READER: An appetite, good cheer, sociability toward everyone there, and an attitude of thankfulness.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Over the years, I was taught that when setting a proper table, glassware is placed above the knives, i.e. water glass, wine glass(es). However, while attending a wine tasting and dinner, the glassware was placed above the forks, the indication being made that this was the proper setting, as set forth in the world of wine experts.

I turn to you, Miss Manners, for a point of clarification, please. Have the Certified Wine Experts changed the way we set our tables, or is the more traditional setting still proper?

GENTLE READER: As little enthusiasm as Miss Manners has for taking on the Certified Wine Experts, they do not get to trash the table settings. Besides, many — probably nearly all — of their very own admirers were taught as you were. Do they really want them reaching for one another’s glasses?

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site,

, by Judith Martin



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