DEAR ABBY: My wife died of cancer four years ago. She was my best friend, and the pain of losing her was more than I could cope with. I was in a fog for about two years, just going through the motions. Eventually the fear of spending the next 20 to 30 years alone drove me to try internet dating. I met some nice women and some very strange ones, but nothing came of it.
Then a year ago, an old friend introduced me to "Elaine." We hit it off immediately. We share the same interests and offbeat sense of humor, and I have grown fond of her. She's intelligent, kind and easy on the eyes. Our grown kids get along very well.
Our mutual friend told me that Elaine said she loves me and would be thrilled if I proposed -- I guess to encourage me to the next level. My problem is, I'm still in love with my late wife.
If Elaine one day tells me she loves me, how do I respond without hurting her feelings or making her withdraw? I can see myself loving her in the future, but I am still silently mourning my wife. I don't want to chase Elaine away, so please tell me what to do. -- NEW YORK WIDOWER
DEAR WIDOWER: You and Elaine appear to have a communication problem. You are both adults. If she has fallen in love with you, you shouldn't have to hear it from a mutual friend.
You owe it to her to have a frank talk with her because she needs to know that you don't intend to remarry until you are over the loss of your late wife. She may decide to stick it out and wait or, as you say, decide to move on. But at least she'll know what she's dealing with.
It might also be a good idea for you to consult a grief therapist. Because if you do, it may make it easier for you to move forward with your life.
DEAR ABBY: Our friend's adult children invited us to a birthday party they were throwing for their parent at a restaurant. As we were ordering, the server asked if the checks would be separate or couples. (This was our first clue that we were expected to pay for our dinner.) For us, it was no problem, but an elderly couple had a long discussion about how they would pay.
When inviting guests to a party, is it proper to expect them to pay for their dinner? And if so, how should it be phrased in the invitation? If no mention is made, how would one inquire as to how the bill is handled?
This has never come up before. Hosts (including us) have always picked up the tab. -- CAUGHT OFF GUARD IN OHIO
DEAR CAUGHT OFF GUARD: How embarrassing for that older couple, not to mention your friend.
Unless it is discussed or agreed upon beforehand, a host is expected to pick up the check. (That's what "host" means.) If guests will be expected to pay for their own drinks (or meals), then the occasion is a "no host" gathering. That the guests were expected to pay for their own meal should not have been announced at the last minute; it should have been mentioned when the invitation was issued.
As to how to ask who will be paying when you are invited out, please know that asking that question isn't rude -- particularly in light of what you experienced.