“Our Friends Presented Us With a Bill After Their Party”

It’s time again for Shortcuts. For every question, I’ll give my advice in just a few sentences because sometimes the answer to a person’s question is so obvious and the need to hear it so great that being as clear and frank as possible is simply the best way to go.

We were invited to a friend’s surprise birthday party at an upscale restaurant for a champagne brunch. We brought a small gift. After the meal we were presented with a bill for my husband and me; we paid, of course, but my opinion is that our friends were tacky. What do you think? Our friends are very well to do. We are not. — Not Well to Do, But Not Tacky Either

I don’t see anything wrong in organizing a get-together to celebrate a birthday where people are expected to pay their own way IF that is typical practice within the group or very clearly articulated in the invite (I’m thinking here of casual dinners to celebrate a friend’s birthday, for example, where in many friend groups it’s understood that everyone pays his or her own bill).

But, yes, it’s tacky to pretend like you’re hosting a party and invite people to an upscale restaurant and then present guests with a bill at the end of their meal. These things happen though, and I think of these unexpected expenses as membership dues in the Social Life Club. Hopefully, your dues by the end of the year are small relative to your gains.

I am a 49-year-old woman who has been in a four-year relationship with a 51-year-old man who is a physician. He cheated on me with three different women during our first year together. While I believe he has been faithful since then, I’m concerned that he sees nothing inappropriate, creepy, or wrong with having multiple Facebook friends who are waitresses at a sports bar he has been going to for years who just happen to be in their twenties and large breasted.

It has been a bone of contention for a while, and yesterday we went through his entire Facebook and deleted all of them. He claims it’s nothing but being social, but I don’t see what business a 51-year-old man has other than just wanting to show that he has hot girls on his Facebook. He refers to them as friends, but I consider friends to be people you have a personal connection with and would spend time with in person. Your thoughts? — Not a 20-something Waitress with Large Breasts

Your boyfriend likes the company of young, pretty women with big breasts. He likes to look at them. He probably likes to flirt with them. And he likes to be in connection with them through social media, either because it gives him false affirmation that he shares something with them that’s more meaningful than a transaction at a restaurant or because he thinks it makes him look special to have so many young, pretty women with large breasts on his Facebook friends list, which, yes, is pretty creepy and weird for anyone, but especially for a 51-year-old physician. But look, you’ve been with the guy for four years. He’s cheated on you multiple times. You know who and how he is and what you’re dealing with here. He might delete the large-breasted women from his FB and maybe he hasn’t been with another woman in a few years, but he’s still the same guy. If you don’t trust him or you think he’s a creep, maybe it’s time to move on.

My boyfriend and I have been together for a year and, when we first started dating, he told me he was still in touch with his ex occasionally to say “hi” and “how are you?.” I accepted that, but after awhile I told him it made me uncomfortable and we came to a agreement that, if he talks to her, he has to tell me and show me. Well, he broke that agreement not once, not twice, but three times now. I found out because one time her name popped up on his phone and the other times on Facebook. When I ask him why he didn’t tell me they talked, he says he forgot or that, if he did tell me, I would get mad. He says I’m controlling him and I’m insecure. Am I in the wrong to think he’s doing something since he hides talking to his ex? — Too Controlling?

I’m with your boyfriend here. You totally sound controlling and insecure. Unless your boyfriend has given you a legitimate reason to distrust him — like he cheated on you with three different women — it’s super inappropriate to require him to tell you every time he has a quick exchange with an ex-girlfriend. Now, if that exchange gets personal and feelings are expressed, then, yes, that’s something he should communicate with you and, at that point, either your relationship or his friendship with his ex should be (re)-evaluated. But if they’re just friendly exes who occasionally say “hi” and “how are you?”, let it go. And if you can’t trust him enough to let it go, maybe this isn’t the guy or relationship for you.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    LW1, I feel like we need more information. At the surprise party (1) was there a sit-down dinner where you ordered your own meal and then were asked to pay for what you ordered? or (2) did the host order a bunch of food, lay out a spread of apps for those in attendance, and then have you pay a portion of the food, booze, and/or the cost to rent the space or whatever? or (3) something else altogether? If (2), that would definitely be awkward/tacky. But now you know how they are so the next time they invite you to an expensive place, you can respectfully decline because it’s not in the budget this month. If it’s (1), then paying for what you ordered seems… normal, no? I guess it would depend on how the invitation was worded, how you typically handle birthdays in your social group, etc. The only time I would expect to go to a restaurant, order dinner, and then have the meal paid for by the host is if it were a wedding. I’m trying to think of another situation, but can’t, other than, like, when I was a kid and a friend invited me out to dinner with her family; her parents always paid. Or if someone said “I’d like to take you out to dinner to thank you for [WHATEVER].” Hell I don’t even expect dates to pay my way… So, I dunno.

    1. Sunshine Brite says:

      Totally agree. Even if it was a set menu, restaurants tend to have those for champagne brunches where you wouldn’t necessarily order and I’d expect to pay for that for a friend’s birthday.

    2. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      As an aside, Drew and I once invited some people to come to a restaurant to celebrate a birthday and when the bill came, no one offered to help pay. It was simply expected that we would cover the bill (which was several hundred dollars). That was a very expensive lesson for us to be clear about what we’re expecting, especially when the people we’re inviting are multi-generational and in vastly different income brackets (meaning, different cultural expectations around this kind of thing…).

      1. Avatar photo muchachaenlaventana says:

        See if someone invited me to celebrate them for a birthday dinner I would NEVER assume they would pay for the whole thing, if anything the ones invited usually chip in to help cover the cost of at least drinks for the birthday person. That mindset is really weird to me, I guess maybe it is a generation type thing because that is just bizarre to me. Unless its like my parents or something inviting us out to celebrate one of their birthdays, because they won’t let anyone else pay anyways.

      2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Yikes! Expensive lesson. But I am shocked people don’t assume they should pay for the meal they’ve ordered?!

      3. Wow. I can’t believe that. When that happens in my friend group, we usually don’t let the birthday person pay at all! On a semi-related note, I had my 30th birthday at a bar and I had heavy appetizers and cupcakes available for guests, but it was a cash bar. If I had more money at the time, I would have covered open bar for at least a little while, but no one expected to have their drinks covered anyway. There was also dancing…I would never have been like, hey bitches, pay up for those apps. Jesus.

      4. I find that weird as well. With all of my various friend groups, if someone invites people out to celebrate their birthday, it is understood that everyone pays for their own dinner, and chips in for the birthday person’s dinner. The birthday person never EXPECTS everyone will pay for their meal, but we all always insist, since it’s their birthday. Although, in general, the birthday person doesn’t usually suggest their own birthday dinner. Usually someone else will say ‘OK! Where are we taking you for your birthday!’ But I’m sure that varies by friend group, age, income bracket, etc.

    3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      When we invite people to join us at a restaurant for a celebration we always assume we will pay for everyone, although usually we don’t, even when we try. When we are invited to join other people for their celebration we go assuming that we will pay for ourselves.

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Maybe it’s an age-thing. I can’t imagine a 20-something (or 30-something) year old organizing a birthday party at a restaurant and the organizer picking up the tab. … But when I think of my parents and friends of their age, I can’t imagine them sitting around afterward trying to split up a bill. … So maybe LW needs to also chime in with old she is, ha.

      2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        Probably it is age. We would never have a birthday dinner at a restaurant if we couldn’t afford to cover the bill for everyone. We like to go to restaurants because they are fun and because they are easy. We don’t have to go shopping for the food and prep it and cook it and serve it and clean up after and we don’t have to clean the house. All we have to do is show up and have fun.

    4. dinoceros says:

      What I’m also wondering is when the LW says it was a surprise party, who was throwing it? It would be one thing if it was the honoree’s spouse, but what about if it was a friend? I can see a friend wanting to host a special event, but not wanting to foot such a large bill (whether it was everyone’s meal or if they had hosted a party at home).

  2. dinoceros says:

    I’ve been to plenty of birthday parties at restaurants and always assumed that I’d pay for my own meal. Just because you didn’t realize how it worked doesn’t mean they are automatically tacky.

    1. Yes, me too. If I’m invited to join a group for a meal at a restaurant, I always assume I’m paying. If it’s a party someone is hosting in their home, then yes, I assume they’re providing the food, unless they specifically say it’s a potluck.

      I don’t think it’s tacky at all. I’m thinking of the many going-away restaurant lunches I’ve been to for coworkers, the birthday get-togethers for friends, etc. I’ve always paid.

    2. snoopy128 says:

      Totally agree. That was my first question- who was throwing the surprise party?

      But in general (as a 20-something), I always go expecting to pay my way (unless it’s my parents) and would always offer to pay my portion and split the birthday person’s portion (or at least grab their drinks). If I threw a surprise party for a friend, I’d expect all the friends to pay their own way (except the birthday person, I would assume I’d be responsible). If it were unclear about expectations in a group, I’d do something like “I’m covering the first bottles of wine for the table” and leave it at that.

  3. What is with people and FB friends? It really is utterly meaningless. I have so many FB friends from over the years that I don’t even talk to or communicate with. I’ve always thought having a large friend number is superficial in a way.

    1. I totally agree. I routinely purge my friends list about once a year. If I wouldn’t say hi to them if I saw them in public, they don’t need to be on my friends list.

      1. Ha, I purge mine too probably about once a year. I remember in college it was a point of pride to have as many facebook friends as possible because that made you seem popular. But now that I’m almost 30 I couldn’t give two shits about that. I love pruning people out of my friends list.

      2. snoopy128 says:

        I’ve got a friend who only has close friends on facebook. She’s got less than 100 friends. It is an honour to get on her facebook friends list, and it usually only happens if there is something overlapping on facebook. Otherwise, you have her number!

  4. Here’s a new rule – if a guy cheats on you with three different women in the first year (that you know of, he probably had more that you didn’t catch), DTMFA.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      Instead of having him delete the young women from his friends list she should delete him from her life. The fact that she hasn’t says more about her than she can say about his cheating and Facebook friends.

    2. I never understand people that stay with people that are obviously scummy. I mean, once, sure, you can work through that if you really want to, and work hard at it. But three times?? I mean, I get it’s hard to leave someone, but in this day and age, with so many options available (meetups, online dating, etc), there is so much better out there! LW, DTMFA, yikes.

  5. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    I was thinking, while reading through LW3s complaint that it was much easier to date in the age before texts, email and messaging. When you broke up you were over and done and there was no long lingering limbo where you were sort of friends and sort of not. You didn’t ask how they were doing because, in general, you didn’t see each other and you didn’t speak to each other.

    Just curious, is there anyone on here who dated prior to cell phones and email and messaging and Facebook, etc. and after? How does it compare? I’m assuming it must be easier to keep in touch while dating and more difficult after breaking up? But then I think of how much angst people feel when they send a text and don’t get a reply in the time they think they should. I didn’t have that. It seems that there is so much more angst to dating now than there used to be.

    1. Yep, that would be me, the resident Old. 🙂

      Interesting question. I think it depends more on the personality than the tech. One guy I dated in the last few years wasn’t much of texter or e-mailer, we talked on the phone. We’re still good friends, just didn’t work as a couple. We still call each other and get together for lunch every couple of months. He still doesn’t text or e-mail, doesn’t even use Facebook.

      Another former boyfriend who’s still a friend….we texted and e-mailed like crazy, and we still do.

      The boyfriend it didn’t end on such good terms with….we never spoke again after the breakup. We’re not FB friends anymore. I don’t stalk him on any social media. There were no attempts at communication on either side.

      Looking back to the pre-text era, I don’t think it was much different. I stayed in touch with some guys, I didn’t with other guys.

      I think if you want to stay in touch, you do. If you never want to hear from them again, you avoid them. The tech makes it easier to communicate, if you want to, but it doesn’t force you to communicate.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I like your reply. It makes a lot of sense, being dependent on the specific relationship rather than the tech.

    2. Wait, you mean I’m not the resident old?? Not that I’m old, I just assume everyone here is in their 20s or early 30s. Anyway, yes, I haven’t dated since before social media and cell phones with texting capability, and I am perfectly fine with the fact that I never heard from any of the few guys I dated again. My one real boyfriend (before I met my now-husband) lived an hour away, and as soon as I learned he was cheating I called him, dumped him, and never saw him or connected with him in any way again (e-mail existed then, but I don’t think he used it). Best possible scenario!

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I’m 52. I wonder if anyone can beat that.

      2. theotherbarb says:

        Oh, yeah!

      3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:


    3. I think it sort of helps that no one really knows phone numbers anymore. I mean, I do, because I have freakish recall for numbers of all sorts (library card #, credit card #, every family member’s SS#, etc.). But for the most part, people don’t KNOW someone’s phone number anymore. My husband didn’t know mine until a couple weeks ago, when he recited it to see how impressed I’d be. So if you delete their phone number, chances are you’re not going to dial it accidentally on purpose. I guess that doesn’t address the whole Facebook thing, but at least there you can “stalk” someone without them knowing…

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        When I was dating you would have the phone number and the address where they lived. Phone numbers didn’t go with you so if you moved your phone number changed, even if you just moved a few doors down in the dorm. My big problem with my ex was that he could look me up in the campus student directory and figure out where I lived and he would show up at my door even though he no longer had my phone number and couldn’t call me.

      2. Anonymous says:

        Ha, I’m the same way with numbers. I still remember my ex boyfriends’ numbers. Both from high school and college.

    4. Seriously, this makes me feel old, and I’m “only” 36.
      I’m trying to remember, when I started going out with my husband (’02) I know cells were a thing here, but I don’t think texting was an option (nor did everyone have cell phones either). It was also the days of dial up.
      Our communication was either over landline, or in person (we worked together).

  6. findingtheearth says:

    LW1: I can see both sides. I always at least offer to pay for my share of the meal. Often, the organizers pick it up. However, if it’s for a birthday party, usually people pay for the birthday person’s food and beverages.

  7. LW2: Massive upvote for “Bone of Contention!” Comedy gold. But check with Dr. D-Bag – I think you may be dealing with a fracture here.

  8. I wouldn’t say it was easier Skyblossom…but it was definitely different. Though having no real bearing about it being different this random story from teen dating years popped into my head and I thought I’d share with the DW crew.
    Late 90s, I’m 18 and I like this girl, ask her out and she declines saying she only see’s me as a friend. Ok, I’m cool with that. We shall now refer to her as Girl 1. I ask Girl 2 out she says yes and we date for a few months, all the while I’m still friends with Girl 1. Girl 1 asks me to help her shop for back to school clothes and what not. I’m free the days she’s asking about so I’m like yeah sounds like fun.
    I tell my girlfriend (girl 2) that Friday I’m going to help Girl 1get some back to school stuff. And she’s like heck no, don’t you realize this is some nefarious plot to get you alone and seduce you because she likes you? Now deep down I know this isn’t true because Girl 1 has not only told me to my face she only thinks of me as a friend but likes some other guy and has asked for my help/advice. My girlfriend tells me I have to go over to Girl 1’s house and tell her I can’t go with her shopping, it’s inappropriate and I’m with Girl 2 and she has to accept that.
    Man I can’t believe how dumb 18 year old me was, but I do what my girlfriend said and tell Girl 1 I can’t help her our with her back to school stuff. Next day my girlfriend comes over and berates me for going over to Girl 1’s house, how I was crazy, made her look jealous etc etc and breaks up with me. Her and Girl 1 proceed to become great friends and bond over how crazy and psycho I am and neither one talk to me again other than to call me at my job and tell me I’m gay and a loser laugh and hang up. Random story I know but…damn…teenage dating. What the hell was I thinking?

    1. Reading this just brought back so many high schools memory. Ugh. So glad it’s over.

    2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I’m feeling sorry for 18-year-old you. That was a no win situation except you learned that neither of them was the girl for you but when you’re 18 you don’t see that point either.

    3. Dating at 18 really did suck, didn’t it? I even married the guy I was dating at 18, and I look back on our early relationship and shake my head. If he were to pull the shit he pulled with me back then now, I would kick his ass to the curb. Not to say I was immune to any idiotic dating related shit.

  9. I think there are two sides to the question of the host or guests paying. On one hand, it depends on the occasion. For weddings or showers, I would think the host would pay, although if it is at a restaurant with a normal bill, rather than a single fee, I would chip in. For birthdays or other gatherings, I would expect to pay for my meal. Who can afford to treat 20 people? Does this mean they should not plan a birthday party? The host pays for catered events, but I would offer to pay my own way if any party involves ordering from a menu. On the other hand. On the other hand, I would expect the host to choose an inexpensive place if guests pay. I have been stuck at parties where I went out of obligation and there was nothing on the menu anywhere near what I could afford. Pre fixe meals are not OK if the guests are paying. I would always bring a gift to such an occasion, even a small one.

  10. girltuesday says:

    I’m waiting for my email to load on my work computer this morning, so I’ll bite:

    1. I don’t know, I’ve never been to a birthday party where I have expected the hosts to pay. It’s usually like, “Hey, we are going to x to celebrate x’s birthday. See you there!” Even at house parties, it’s expected we bring beer, an appetizer, etc. I’m in my mid-20’s, so I think it’s understood that not all of us are made of money and can afford such things. I would not think it was tacky if I was expected to pay my way for a birthday dinner.

    2. MOA. A tiger doesn’t change his stripes, and he sounds like a total dirty old man creep.

    3. LW sounds very controlling and insecure. I had a male friend (who happened to be an ex-FWB) that I was still really good friends with at the beginning of my relationship. SO was fine with it, but then he started getting flirty and expressing feelings. At that point, I came to SO and told him what was up and we re-evaluated the situation together. I lost the friend. My point is, *that’s* a reason to be concerned, not just over casual conversation. Of course he’s going to hide it from you if you flip out every time they say “Hey, how’s it going? How’s life?” to each other.

  11. Avatar photo sobriquet says:

    I guess I just don’t understand the point of texting/FBing an ex regularly just to say ‘hi’ or ‘how are you?’. I can understand staying friendly and chatting when you run into each other, or even messaging an occasional relevant article or joke that you know they would get, but keeping in touch just to keep in touch? I don’t get that. But anyway, maybe it is controlling to expect your boyfriend to tell you every time he communicates with his ex, but the point is that he agreed to it and is only now calling her controlling and insecure. That’s not a good sign, in my opinion!

  12. Ohhhh… Lw#2… The poor thing…. I think Wendy was too soft on you.
    Seriously, ditch the CREEP. Why are you with someone who cheated on you with three different women THAT YOU KNOW OF on THE FIRST YEAR of a relationship? Why? Why?
    Please, move on. Work on your self esteem with a professional. Please. You deserve better than to have a miserable life with a creep.

  13. Ele4phant says:

    I think there’s a difference between hosting a get to together and organizing a get to together. Every big get together requires someone to instigate the thing – come up with a time, a place, find out who’s interested, and communicate said plan to everybody who’s interested. Someone organizing an event isn’t the host and isn’t required to do host like things – like pay for everybody else.

    Maybe it’s a generational or regional thing – but my automatic assumption with my friends is that things like birthday celebrations at resturants are more of the organized not hosted variety, meaning I am expected to pay my own way, unless told otherwise. Is it possible LW1 that you went to an event that was organized not hosted?

  14. If you tolerate cheating three times within the first year of a relationship, and you are old enough to know better (not a teenager, not in your first relationship), it is time for some real serious introspection.

  15. If I’m going to a party at a restaurant I assume I’ll have to pay my way unless it’s explicitly stated otherwise, and then I”m pleasantly surprised if I don’t have to. Win win. And if it’s not somewhere I could afford I would politely decline.

  16. Just wanted to say about the birthday meal issue – I find this to be a largely cultural thing. In some countries I’ve lived in, the birthday person pays the bill by default – this is how the tradition and the etiquette goes. When someone says “Lets go out to celebrate *whatever*”, it is implied and very much expected that this person will pay everything. If that person then asked everyone to pay their part of the bill, it would be considered hugely offensive.
    In other countries I’ve live in it’s quite the opposite – not only are you never expected to pay the entire bill, but your guests are likely to pay for your meal or drinks.
    On the other hand, after living in a country for a certain number of months/years, you would usually start doing what the locals do so some re-adjustments need to happen.
    Basically I guess this means that you need to ask for extra clarification prior to such events because you never know what the host will expect from you, based on their background. And my personal opinion is that if you are going to ask your guests to pay for their own meals, you should at least consult them when choosing the venue – so the venue should be a joint decision, because not everyone is be happy to pay $200 for a meal in a posh restaurant.

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