Q: When we are traveling and visit with friends or relatives, we always go out for dinner one night. We always pay as part of our thanks for staying at their house. When they come to visit us and we do dinner out one evening, we again pay, as we feel they are our guests.
No one even offers to pay either way. Seems we are always footing the bill for dinner. Who should pay and when? How do we get out of it?
A: The host always pays, but the question is, who is the host? Is the dinner out an extension of the invitation to stay over, or is it a way of thanking the house host and giving him/her a night off?
Miss Manners recommends not stepping outside until you know the answer.
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Dessert, as you have discovered, is far too late. If you are issuing the invitation, you are the host. If your house guest suggests a night out, you can say that is so kind, and that they really do not need to take you out – you can eat at home.
Q: I am a registered nurse and work in an ER setting. Very often a patient will ask polite questions about me that can be difficult to answer. You see, I am lesbian.
If a patient asks if I am married or about my husband in a nice way, I am at a loss. If I “come out” to a stranger, the results can be unpredictably uncomfortable.
Sometimes the patient becomes indignant and wants another nurse, which is very hard to arrange. A patient might feel that I would not take good care of them if they express distaste about my being gay. How can I politely deflect these questions?
A: “Now, now, we’re not here to talk about me. We’re here to take care of you.”
Miss Manners notes that you are in a rare position where nosy questions are not only condoned, but required. But they must be from you to your patient, and about whatever prompted that visit to the hospital.
Deflecting personal chatter in the interest of solving the immediate problem is a skill that all professional people need, regardless of the nature of their private lives, but it should be particularly observed in an emergency room.
Q: My sister-in-law is throwing a baby shower for my daughter. Invitations were sent to several of my co-workers with a request for an RSVP and a deadline.
My co-workers haven’t responded, and I am being asked to find out if they will be attending. Although not answering the RSVP is a faux pas, is being asked to find out who is coming rude?
A: So long as your sister-in-law is asking you for help because you know your co-workers and see them regularly, she is not being rude. Miss Manners does, however, require that she not make explicit the fact that you are being asked to make up for a manners deficiency on the part of your invitees.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.