DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been recently meeting a number of ladies through an Internet dating service. After a few e-mails back and forth it is usually suggested that we meet personally for a coffee, quick lunch, or bite to eat.
I have noticed that these ladies seem to be, how shall I say it, extremely slow in the race for the pocketbook when the check arrives.
Although these bites aren't going to send me to the poor house, is there a polite way of saying something on the order of, "It has been a pleasure to finally meet you in person but, since I barely know you, really, it sure would be nice if, instead of sitting there like a deer caught in the headlights, you would at least attempt to pay for your double half caf, quarter pounder with cheese, fettuccine alfredo, or whatever it was you've been wolfing down like a Dickensonian orphan for the past 45 minutes."
Or does one simply carry on in the hope that one day, in reaching for the bill fingertips will touch, gazes will lock, and the race will be over?
GENTLE READER: Over, in that you believe that a gentleman pays all the expenses for someone he has invited for a date? Or over, in that if true love leads to marriage, it won't make any difference who pays?
No longer is either a given. No matter how often Miss Manners points out that the decorous method is to take turns being the host (this had to be done coyly under the old system -- the lady offered a home-cooked meal or claimed to have been given theater tickets -- but it was done), some ladies insist on splitting every cost, while others never reciprocate. And some married couples never merge financially.
As if that weren't complicated enough, the event you describe, a meeting between strangers with the hope of romance, has no tradition. You regard it as a pre-courtship interview, whereas you attract ladies who regard it as a first date.
You can hardly demand payment, even if the interview is a failure. So Miss Manners advises you to cut your losses by offering only coffee. If the interview is a success, you will have opportunities to discover whether a lady has any hospitable impulses.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 18-year-old college student is pregnant. She is no longer dating the father and they have no plans to get married. She is due in March and a few people have asked me when the baby shower is.
I guess I didn't anticipate there being one. I have considered baby showers to be for married woman who are celebrating the birth of their first child. We are certainly celebrating this baby since he is coming, but we are not celebrating the circumstances of his birth. What do you think?
GENTLE READER: That baby showers are intended to focus on the baby, not on the circumstances of the conception. But since showers should never be given by relatives of the honoree, Miss Manners assures you that you need not trouble yourself about the matter.