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Miss Manners: Cake smash at 1-year-old’s birthday party made me ‘queasy’

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: I attended a birthday celebration for a 1-year-old at which the honoree was presented with a lovely cake, obviously special-ordered, on his tray. The parents gently guided his hands to the cake and then the assembled guests oohed and aahed as he progressively destroyed it.

Most of the other attendees were laughing and videoing the performance. Was I queasy observing this simply because I am a baby boomer, irredeemably influenced by my Depression-era parents? Is this some sort of trend?

Yes, and it even has an equally offensive name: a “smash cake.”

What likely started with one innocent parent offering a baby a first taste of cake — to comically messy effect — quickly became a viral trend. And now everyone thinks it is required.

Miss Manners is here to tell you it is not — and would have thought that, especially with inflation and a recession looming, this made-up tradition would have lost its (negligible, if not nonexistent) charm. As it stands, it gives other countries yet another reason to deplore us.

Dear Miss Manners: After assisting a casual friend with an online application, she thanked me with a gift of a clutch wallet that she bought during a recent international vacation. I am always happy to help people, and do so without expectation of compensation.

This clutch is from a popular designer. I looked it up and found that it retails at nearly $1,000. Thinking it might be a knockoff, my husband and I checked several online sources, but the wallet does not have any of the telltale signs we read about.

A knockoff wallet valued at maybe $20 would be an appropriate gift, and I would put it to practical use ASAP. But if it’s an original, I find it uncomfortably excessive and would prefer to sell it. (I would replace it with a look-alike just in case she saw me use it sometime.)

I don't assign any value whatsoever to designer things, but I know this friend does. She is quite status-conscious while I happily walk around with my $15 bag. It would make me sick to wear out a high-dollar wallet the way I use my daily stuff.

A $20 gift card would have thrilled me, but I feel anxious about this gift. Should I continue to investigate the wallet’s value, or just use it the way I use the same old one I’ve had for years?

You really want that $20 credit, don’t you?

You mentioned that your acquaintance bought the wallet while on vacation. Perhaps she did not want it anymore and considered it a casual regift, rather than a valuable present?

Regardless, the wallet is now yours and Miss Manners assures you that you may do with it what you want. Which seems to be endlessly researching its value and wishing it were $20 instead.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin