DEAR MISS MANNERS: I, a straight, single female, was invited to a gay female couple’s house for dinner. When I arrived, they asked me if I was ready to eat, and said we would be going through the garage.
I was perplexed, but it was a pleasant evening, and I thought we might be taking a detour to the backyard to dine al fresco. Then they got in their car, saying we were going out to eat.
At their favorite Italian restaurant, they requested a separate check. I’m on a tight budget, and everything on the menu was $15 and up. Fortunately I happened to have the money to cover my meal. If not, I would have been left in the embarrassing position of either not eating or having to beg their charity to cover my check.
I was not aware I needed to come financially prepared when they invited me in the first place. I am left wondering if I should have assumed they would pay for my meal and if I should have said something, or just be glad it happened to work out.
GENTLE READER: Allow Miss Manners to clarify some terminology that seems to be confusing the hosting world at large:
When one is invited to someone’s house for dinner, it means that guests will be provided food procured by the hosts -- unless otherwise specified and agreed upon in advance. Potluck is an example of the latter; an itemized grocery bill is not.
“I would like to take you to dinner” or “my treat” means the invitation-issuer is offering to pay. “Let’s meet at a restaurant” means that the bill will be shared. Rarely, Miss Manners feels compelled to point out, and certainly not in this instance, does the host’s sexuality or relationship status have anything to do with anything. At least in terms of who is paying.
Your would-be hosts were confusing at best. If you otherwise enjoyed their company, however, you might clarify the next time: “Will we be going out or should I plan to have the pleasure of dining at your house?”