DEAR MISS MANNERS: Am I free to order what I want when someone asks me to dinner? When I am paying for myself, I order what I want, and am not concerned about the price. Can I do the same when someone else will be paying for the meal?
GENTLE READER: No. When your hosts invite you to dinner, they do not hand over their charge cards.
A good guest avoids the pricier items on the menu. Miss Manners waives this rule in only three circumstances: first, when the host is specific about ordering an expensive item (“Try the lobster,” but not “Order whatever you want”). Second, when there is a mutual understanding about cost and reciprocity (i.e., the host for a recurring outing rotates, and there is a history of how much the meals cost). Third, when you are trying to forestall offers of a second date.