Miss Manners: Is the person who asks someone out on a date always responsible for paying the bills?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son was invited to a high school dance by a young lady from another school. When he arrived to take group pictures, he was told he had to pony up for the limo and for his share of dinner. He ended up spending nearly $80 to go to a dance with a girl he barely knew.

I’ve always told him that his obligation upon being asked to a dance was just to be a good date: purchase a corsage, offer to drive, dance with the girl he came with, and thank her for a great evening.

Has something changed? What should he have said when he was told to pay for his portion of rides and dinner? Why do kids order up limos and dinners they can’t pay for themselves? What’s wrong with a potluck and a ride in Mom’s car?

It has me steamed.

GENTLE READER: You, and a lot of single adults who cannot agree on who pays for dates. The problem is that something that should have changed is still hanging on: namely, the notion that gentlemen should pay all dating bills.

The presumption behind that custom was that ladies did not have disposable income. Nevertheless, ladies often found ways to reciprocate, such as with home-cooked treats or knitted tokens.

Miss Manners is getting away from your high schooler’s situation, but needs to make the point that the person who does the inviting should always pay the bills. If there is a significant disparity in income, the less-endowed person simply chooses less expensive outings.


That young lady was just wrong. And her parents were wrong -- and foolish -- to let her think that she could order expensive things and pass on the cost to guests. That is no way to teach a girl self-respect.

Your son could have said, “I’m so sorry, but as I didn’t order this, I didn’t come prepared to pay” -- but what high schooler would be willing to do this in front of his peers? It is understandable that he let it go.

Miss Manners appreciates the courtesies you are teaching your son, and hopes that his next date will have received similar advice.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: One of my pet peeves these days is when waitstaff at restaurants remove a diner’s plate before the other diner at the table is finished.

I see plates as an indication that the customers are still in “dining mode,” even though someone at the table may be finished. Then whoosh! The plate is taken away and someone is left eating alone.

This occurs at nearly every restaurant. Even when there are few patrons in the restaurant, the staff is always in a hurry to take your plate away. Why do they do this? And can you please explain how to handle it, other than saying, “Please do not remove my empty plate”? Awkward!

GENTLE READER: You could say, “I’m not quite finished,” meaning you are not finished sitting with your dining companion, who is still eating.

This might puzzle the server -- although maybe not, as so many diners now share their food.

At any rate, Miss Manners believes it will be effective.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to