Paul Coates -- Confidential File, January 15, 1959
January 15, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Mother Knows Best (She Says So Herself)
REPORT FROM A BOY'S BEST FRIEND: Deep down in the grimy recesses of my mind lives the unreasonable conviction that, in my dear mother's eyes, I'm a bum.
As I say, there is no rational basis for this.
My mother is a sweet, inoffensive, prematurely gray, little lady who thinks I'm too young to be married and is quietly certain that my wife is systematically starving me to death.
Other than this one small prejudice, her whole philosophy in life, she keeps telling me, is: "If you can't say something nice about somebody, don't say nothing." And I keep telling her, "That's a double negative."
To the best of my knowledge, she has never gone around knocking me behind my back. In fact, she always speaks very highly of me.
And, for the record, I do of her.
But I cannot escape the gnawing feeling that she really thinks me unworthy.
As a result, I'm constantly trying to prove myself to her. And yesterday I tried again.
After getting what old newshands like Lee Tracy would call a "scoop" by interviewing Anastas Mikoyan, I rushed to the long-distance phone and got my mother.
"Mom?" I shouted into the phone. "Just thought I'd call and tell you I had an exclusive interview with Mikoyan."
"That's a nice way for a son to start a conversation," she replied.
"I beg your pardon?" I said.
"A boy calls his mother who is three thousand miles away," she explained. "No hello. No 'How do you feel, Mom?' "
"Hello, Mom," I said meekly.
"Hello, Sonny," she replied.
"How do you feel?"
"Don't ask!" she snapped.
There was, you will forgive me, a pregnant pause. Then I continued, enthusiastically:
"Anyway, dear, about this interview. I though you'd like to know that I . . ."
"I already know," she interrupted. "You interviewed the Russian."
"How did you know?"
"You don't know?" I shouted. "Didn't you buy a copy?"
"We don't take the Journal-American," my mother answered. "We take the World-Telegram."
After a moment, she added: "How did you talk to him?"
"To who?" I asked.
"To whom," she corrected. "To Mikoyan. How did you interview him? You don't speak Russian. He doesn't speak English."
I explained that the Soviet's deputy premier had an interpreter with him.
'Got to Watch Them'
"Umm, hmm," she said sagely. "And how do you know that the interpreter gave you the right answers?"
"Well, Mom," I told her, "I just assumed that . . ."
"You've got to watch them," she warned me.
"Anyway," I said weakly, "I just thought I'd call you."
"What else is new?" she demanded.
I assured her that nothing else was new.
"Are you eating enough?" she said. "I saw a picture of you and you looked thin."
I assured her that it wasn't a picture of me.
"That smog out there is pretty bad," she suggested.
I assured her that it was.
"Good night, Sonny. And try to get some sleep for a change. You sound sick to me," she said ominously.
I assured her I was and then said good night.