Dear Miss Manners: I have a small group of friends who like to get together regularly to have dinner and socialize, which is fun. Most of the group have limited funds and very small apartments with no dining area, and can’t accommodate our group.

I recall that Miss Manners has said proper etiquette dictates the hosts should provide the evening’s dinner and drinks. We have enough space to handle the group, but not the budget to entertain everyone as regularly as we’d all like. Trying to entertain regularly is taking a financial toll.

It has been suggested that we switch to hosting potlucks so we can get together as a group more than once or twice a year. What are Miss Manners’ thoughts, and does proper etiquette allow for the potluck?

Gentle Reader: Of course it does, presuming that all parties to it are agreeable.

What you have mistaken as a total ban is her objection to the bait-and-switch scheme by which people issue social invitations to those who are subsequently ordered to contribute to the catering.

This has become so widespread that many guests feel they cannot show up to social events without bringing food that they expect to be served. And that creates a problem for truly hospitable hosts, whose menus have been sabotaged by unexpected additions.

But Miss Manners has no objection whatsoever to a frankly cooperative meal among people who have agreed on this form. She is not quite such a killjoy as you have been led to believe.

Dear Miss Manners: My friend was approached at his daughter’s birthday party by several of his ex-wife’s new friends. He was told how happy they were for them (ex-wife was pregnant with new husband’s child) and how beautiful they were as a family. He said thank you and left it at that, so as not to create an awkward moment.

What should he have done in this situation? Should he have corrected his ex-wife’s friends or simply done what he did and say thank you?

In another situation, I was introduced to someone who did not know my boyfriend’s ex-wife and said “... and you are (my boyfriend’s ex-wife’s name)?”

I said, “No, I am ...” and stated my name. What is a girl to do? Please let us know what to do with these awkward situations.

Gentle Reader: These people seem to have a lot of clueless friends. Anyone who is close enough to be invited to the child’s birthday party ought surely to know to whom their friends are married or not married.

Less culpable is the person who assumed you were your predecessor, although Miss Manners keeps warning people to stop guessing at relationships, rather than waiting to be told. Mature parents who are assumed to be their children’s grandparents are plagued by this.

Nevertheless, you and your friend seem to have handled these mistakes gracefully. Whatever embarrassment these people may feel on discovering their mistakes was brought on by themselves, and may teach them to be more careful in the future.

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