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Miss Manners: Graduation cake is to be eaten, not reserved

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend of mine had a graduation party for her child on a Thursday. She ordered a very expensive cake to be the centerpiece of the dessert table, surrounded by all sorts of cookies, fruit, etc., to be eaten that night.

She wanted the cake to be just the centerpiece and to be eaten on the night of the graduation, the following Sunday.

There was no cake knife anywhere near the cake. She thought people would get the hint, especially since she had another cake to be eaten in another room along with other goodies.

Someone took a plastic fork and stabbed the centerpiece cake when no one was looking. Some of us said that the centerpiece cake was fair game to be eaten along with all the other goodies on that table, even though there was no cake knife.

Others said, “Who would do such a thing?” Someone suggested that there should have been a note saying, “Display only, another cake in kitchen.” Your thoughts?

GENTLE READER: Perhaps the sign should have said, “Hands off; this is for the A-list guests, not you.” What Miss Manners finds most curious is that your friend thought that her guests would hold the same low opinion of themselves.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My future sister-in-law just graduated with her PhD She told me to call her “doctor,” but I was always told that if you don’t work with someone directly in their field, that doesn’t apply.

Is that true? I understand it’s out of respect, but I have never addressed other persons with their PhD as “doctor.” They also put PhD at the end of their names, teach at universities and don’t go by “doctor.”

GENTLE READER: There are two attitudes that individuals and universities take toward the use of the title “doctor” for those who hold PhDs.

One is that having been earned, it should be used, not only in professional situations when needed for identification, especially in academic positions, but also socially.

The other is not to use it — not socially, but especially not in academic positions, because that level of education being assumed, it need not be expressly mentioned. As one professor (namely, Miss Manners’s Uncle Selig) once put it, “A PhD is like a nose — everyone has one. It’s only conspicuous if you don’t have one.”

Which form of snobbery is preferable, or perhaps more effective, others can decide. Obviously, your prospective sister-in-law espouses the first-named approach. And she is covered by two rules:

1. Address people as they wish to be addressed.

2. Try not to annoy your relatives unnecessarily.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When do you send wedding announcements? Can you send them prior to the wedding, to let people know you plan on getting married?

GENTLE READER: Announcing that something has happened before it actually has is asking for trouble. Miss Manners trusts that there will be no jilting at the altar, but it has been known to happen.

Besides, an announcement received beforehand is bound to be taken by some as an invitation, and could bring unexpected guests.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site,

2014, by Judith Martin



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