DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper way to handle paying a restaurant bill? Three met for dinner. Two of them had more expensive meals than the third.
When the check came, the third diner grabbed the check and pointed out the cost of my meal. Next came the calculator (embarrassing). At that point I looked at the bill and asked my husband if he would put more money down. Our dinners were more expensive.
I was getting annoyed and said, "What's the difference if it's $20 off? Who cares? We'll get you next time."
This is not a woman who needs the money. She mentioned her $80,000 car. She brought a half-empty bottle of wine, which she said was $100. She drank it and did not offer any. This person is my sister. What do I do?
GENTLE READER: Surprised though she was by the late arrival of your sister in the question, Miss Manners admits that does not materially affect her answer.
If the goal for an evening out cannot be conviviality, it should at least be to minimize hostility. Beyond that, the proper way to pay a dinner bill is for the parties to agree on what does, and what does not, matter.
This means either accommodating your sister -- by matching the contributions to the consumption -- or convincing her that it really will even up over time.
The latter is more easily accomplished if one omits questions like, "Who cares?"