I'm having a fight with my wife over a seemingly stupid issue. We're having friends over soon for a barbecue, and in planning the menu, I said we should have watermelon for dessert. She objected because some of our guests are African American, and she thought they might take offense. I said it's not racist to serve watermelon to black people, and she agreed. But she thought that, to avoid making our guests uncomfortable, we should be sensitive to stereotypes. Is she being hyper-politically correct, or is she right that people might think we're projecting racial stereotypes onto our guests?
H. R., Philadelphia, Pa.
Dear H. R.,
Well, it sounds like we're in for a very relaxed barbecue. Are you serving existential angst for an appetizer? To borrow from Freud, sometimes a watermelon is just a watermelon. My suggestion, though, is for you to serve cantaloupe, or honeydew, or another member of the melon family, or perhaps a selection of berries, not because watermelon would necessarily offend your guests, but because its presence would destabilize your excessively thoughtful wife. And we'd like her to enjoy the barbecue too.
The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?