Newport Manners + Etiquette: Restaurant Bill Awkwardness + More

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


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You've given up alcohol for Lent, but you're still paying your share of your friends' bar tab. How to handle? Didi knows.

What do I need to know first time flying? How do we pay for just our share of the restaurant bill? How can we be good friends to our old buddy who is a cancer patient? Do I attend my ex-mother-in-law's funeral?—All questions asked to Didi Lorillard at NewportManners this week.

Splitting the restaurant bill when not drinking

Dear Didi,

For Lent my wife and I gave up drinking alcohol. Once a month we go out for dinner with other couples and we divide the bill evenly. Without making a big deal out it, how do we get it across that we're not happy paying for their drinks without coming off as being cheapskates? A.F., Westport, MA

Dear A.F.,

While you're ordering it will be evident that you and your wife aren't drinking, clearly tell your waiter that you want a separate check. With your eyes or with a slight wave of your hand, let him know which of the women is your wife. Then when your bill arrives check to see that you weren't charged for any alcoholic drinks, bottled wine, or pitchers of beer. If you were charged unfairly, quietly take the waiter aside to remind him that you two didn't order any alcohol. ~Didi

First flight

Dear Didi,

I've never flown before. I'm flying to Las Vegas later this month. What should I know? Mary, North Taunton, MA

Dear Mary,

One out of six of your fellow travelers will be be anxious about flying, so you want to be considerate toward them. Wait your turn to board and to disembark. Be sensitive as to when you should get up from your seat to let your seatmate out to use the restroom. Be aware of your leg room and elbow room as you don't want to be poking your elbow into their ribs after you've dozed off into a ferocious snore.

If you're not technically savvy and your seatmate isn't friendly, ask a flight attendant for help with earphones and plug-in devices. When drinks and food are being served, adjust your seat to the upright position to give the person directly behind you more space. Help the elderly and those with small children stow and take down their bags.

Studies show that most people like to sleep or chill out while watching a movie, playing games or reading, so unless you're Chatty Cathy, you wouldn't introduce yourself first. If you have a cold, keep your face away from your seatmate and discretely tuck away those used tissues. Cough into your cupped hands or shirt sleeve. And as to drinking, alcohol is two to three times more potent when flying. One glass of wine has the effect of two to three glasses on the ground. ~Didi

Talking to a friend with cancer

Dear Didi,

My husband and I have a dear old friend who has cancer. We're having a hard time figuring out what to say and what not to say. We tiptoe around the topic of his illness. Yet, we really want to know how to be helpful. He seems to want to share but also spare us from what he's going through. He has myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). His wife left him. How do we respond? E.L., Washington, D.C.

Dear E.L.,

The fact that he told you his diagnosis means he's bringing you into the fold as part of his support group. Don't ask, "How are you?" Instead, ask, "How are you doing?" In other words, you want him to know it is alright to keep you updated on his progress.

If he didn't want you in his life, he wouldn't have confided his prognosis. Mark it on your calendars to email or call him twice a month. That will keep you in the loop. Ask questions. What can I do to help? It might be as simple as having him come for dinner or to spend a weekend. Offer to drive him to his chemo treatment. Illness is lonely. Let him take the lead. Ask questions gently and really listen to the answers. Letting him talk about his fears and concerns will temporarily help all of you to be less anxious. Be the person who is the good friend. ~Didi

Former mother-in-law's funeral

Dear Didi,

My husband of 14 years left me for my best friend at Christmas. Now my mother-in-law has passed away. I have known my mother-in-law all my life as she and my dad were best friends. I am going to the funeral, but this woman only met her while she went into the hospital and my ex is taking her to the funeral on Wednesday. Is this right!? Please help. Thanks, Kristy, Back Bay, Boston

Dear Kristy,

No, it is not right. You have two choices. Stay home and be hurt, angry and resentful or garner up every ounce of dignity and go to the funeral. Arrive early and sit with your family in the front of the church. Be sure to get your hair done and look elegant and stunning in all black with a lovely hat, and perhaps wear gloves to add to the drama. When you act as though you belong, you belong. ~Didi

We like hearing from you at and if we use your question, we're happy to post it anonymously. Your important questions help other readers make better choices. Didi researches contemporary etiquette and all matters of manners. Or you can ask them on Didi Lorillard's Facebook page or Twitter. Earlier GoLocalProv columns are listed below or can be accessed by a search.  


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