Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Oct. 26, 1959
Columnist's Wife Influences Column
TOKYO -- There's an ancient and revered Oriental proverb which, roughly translated, goes: "Man who take wife to Japan is man who bring coal to Newcastle."
But to my way of thinking, this is an archaic, reprehensible attitude. It has no place in today's western world of togetherness. In our way of life, marriage is a partnership. Fifty-fifty. When we do things we do them as a team. That, friends, is red-blooded, true-blue American sportsmanship. Am I right?
Take my own case, for example. Where I go, my wife goes.
She insists on it.
And I cannot understand my many American friends who, steeped as I am in the rich heritage left us by Tom Jefferson, Tom Paine, Susan B. Anthony and Amelia Jenks Bloomer, have been badgering me with such inspired comments as "Going to Tokyo? Alone, I hope." Or, "You're kidding, kiddo. You're not REALLY taking Renee."
Such remarks offend me. Why shouldn't I take my wife to Tokyo? I mean, if I have to, I have to.
Even in Hawaii, I ran into the same thing. When our JAL plane touched down briefly for refueling at Honolulu airport, Henry Taylor, an old Hollywood screenwriter gone permanently Polynesian, was waiting to greet me.
"Going to Tokyo," he cried. "You'll love it."
Then he plucked my sleeve, and in a stage whisper that bounced off the walls, added: "Shnook. Taking your wife with you. Phaa!"
When he finally went back to his little grass shack, Renee asked in a dangerously casual way, "What was he saying?"
"He called me a shnook," I explained, "because I'm going to Japan during the typhoon season."
But the point is, what's all the fuss about? I mean, it's a fact that today's generation of Japanese women have excellent figures. They're exotic in kimonos and delectable in western clothes. Is that such a big deal?
All right, their eyes are, how do you say it? Limpid almond pools. But pray tell me, you like limpid almonds?
I'll even go along with you that a Japanese maid doesn't talk, she just intimately breathes words. She blushes, and hides a delightful smile behind lovely tapering fingers. But, you know? Who needs it?
True, despite shapely calves sheathed in nylons and tiny feet balanced on high French heels, Madame Butterfly still flutters. Hundreds upon hundreds of years of dedication to the needs and wants of man cannot be erased by the mere advent in the Far East of I. Magnin and Company.
So what? So she giggles with apparent appreciation at your every inane remark, she bows to remove your shoes when you enter a room, she kneels to serve your rice and sukiyaki. While she sits on the bare floor and makes certain you have a cushion for your abundant rump.
Some Fine Loaded Questions
But tell me something. Is that democratic? Is that what you want of a woman? Oh? Oh.
Well, anyway, I'm glad I brought my western style wife along. Glad to have her give me back my equilibrium by harshly whispering that I behave like a typical Babbitt when I overtipped the waiter at the Imperial Hotel. Glad when she glares at me for not remembering to light her cigarette. Glad when she stands there and impatiently taps her foot as I forget to hold open the cab door for her.
You hear me, dammit? Glad!