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A Gal For My Sal Mineo

I have three sons, Victor, Mike and Sal, and a daughter, Sarina. For a couple of years now my two oldest boys, Victor and Mike, have come to me pretty often to say, “Ma, can I bring a girl up to the house tomorrow night?” And I always say, “Sure.” I never ask who she is, or about her background, or even her name (they tell me that!). I just say “Sure.” So they bring her up. I cook dinner—Italian or American, I alternate—and then we sit around in the living room and talk, and sing. If it’s Victor’s girl, sometimes he takes out his saxophone and plays’ it—he likes to make a splash, and he’s very good. Then my son will take his girl home. When he comes back he looks at me, and he says, “You liked her.”

“I didn’t say that,” I say.

“No,” he says, “you never say one way or the other. But I can see it in your face. You liked her.”

And he’s right. Never yet have I wanted to say, “Where did you find her?” about any girl my sons have brought home. They’ve never brought a girl into the house who annoyed me or disgusted me. Never yet have they brought home a friend I didn’t like. My sons have taste—good taste. I always know I can expect a nice person.

But it is only very recently that my youngest son Sal said to me, “Mom, I want to bring a girl home to dinner.” Till now he never has. Maybe because he is very young in years, only eighteen. Maybe because he is very busy and does not always have a whole evening to spend with a girl and his family—and he likes to be just with us, when he does have time. But all of a sudden—“Ma, I’m bringing home a girl.”

It turned out to be Gigi Perreau, the movie actress, and she came with her mother. I had a wonderful time. Her mother and I have things in common, because both of us have a child who is in the movies. And Gigi was lovely. Pretty and nice, and she laughed a lot, which I like. After they left I did the dishes in the kitchen and I said to myself, “So now it is Sal’s turn. I wonder who the next one will be.”

And I started to think then about Sal getting married. He says he won’t till he is twenty-five or more, even, but I don’t know. I see nothing wrong in early marriages—I was married when I was nineteen—providing the two people are mature in their characters. And Sal—he’s my son, but I say it anyway—he’s very, very grown-up for his years.

So this girl that he will marry—soon or someday—what will she be like? I don’t know the answer to that.Whatever she is like, even if she is a million miles from the sort of girl I think would be the best for my boy, I will be happy for them. It will be their choice. Even when my sons were little I let them make up their own minds, and I think it was good for them. I never regret it.

But out of the whole world of nice girls, which one would I personally like the best for my son? Well, I will tell you—this is what she would be like.

Sal’s girl

She would be educated. That is the first thing. First of all, because Sal is planning to go to college—and so I think she should have gone further than high school, too. Sal will probably take business administration, like Victor, and get his degree. But I don’t mean that his girl must have a college degree. In some ways I wouldn’t want her to, because if she got her degree it would mean probably that she was prepared to have a career. I would not think a career girl was the best for Sal; I want him to have a girl who would rather be home with her babies and her husband than out earning a living and becoming famous and successful. If she did have a degree I would think it was marvelous to have it in home economics. Sal is not a fussy eater like his brother Mike. He just eats anything you put down in front of him, and he likes it all. So I think his wife should know how to plan meals scientifically, with all the vitamins—because Sal certainly won’t know a thing about it. Of course she can learn that, and how to run a house, without going to college—but the college is there to teach it, so why not take advantage?

No matter how successful Sal is, he will need home-guidance. He has a mind of his own, but in show business there are always so many people to tell him, “Do this, do that, see him, go here.” So he comes home for advice when he wants to get his ideas straight. Now he comes to me. When he is married he will come to his wife. She has to be sympathetic—but also she has to know what he is talking about, and be able to help. Most important, she has to know the right way to help.

I mean, indirectly. That is one of my favorite words—indirectly. She shouldn’t say to Sal, “You’re doing it wrong—this is the way to do it!” Sal never heard me speak like that to his father! That’s no way to help a man. But he will bring her his troubles and when they are finished talking together, she should have given him her ideas and her advice, even if he hardly realizes she did it. I’d like the girl Sal marries to have studied psychology.

I myself barely made it through the eighth grade. For years later I had thoughts I couldn’t use because I couldn’t express them. To help my husband and my sons I had to teach myself. Then they would come to me and nobody else for help. A man will never turn his back on a girl like that. Sal will have many temptations in the life of an actor. But if his wife gives him this sort of help, she should never have to worry.

She doesn’t have to be beautiful

In looks, this girl of Sal’s should be average. I would not prefer a terribly homely girl, but she does not have to be beautiful for my boy to love her. A nice, normal-looking girl is what he should have. Not glamorous; he doesn’t like that. He came home: from the Coast one time and found his little sister Sarina, who is fourteen, wearing some make-up. “Take it off,” he told her. “A drop of lipstick and maybe a little powder is all you should be wearing!”

“What about all those movie actresses?” my daughter said. “They wear make-up!”

And to my surprise, Sal said, “Yes, and you know what? I get sick of them! I get tired of looking at them, with no natural beauty.”

That’s what she should have—natural beauty.

She should be independent. I’m a mother, and I know how a mother loves her children, and wants to help them all the time. And I want my sons to ask me when they need something. But I hope Sal’s wife will not be a girl to be swayed by what other people tell her—no, not even what her own mother tells her, if it is something that would make her husband unhappy. Her husband comes first! If she has to, she should move far enough away from her relatives so they can’t run into her house every five minutes to tell her she’s doing this wrong, or that. If she’s educated, and she loves her home and her family, she’ll do the right thing without being told. If she wants help she should ask for it. But she should stand on her own, and not let people run her life. Otherwise she will be miserable, and my boy will be, too.

She shouldn’t be too quiet. A sparkling girl—that’s what Sal should have. He loves fun, and to be with people. He loves to play the piano and have us all sing together, or to go to the movies with a crowd of kids. If his girl wants to sit quietly sometimes and read or listen to music, that’s fine—Sal will do that. But mostly, she should enjoy being with people. Also, she should be a girl who has dated other boys, not too shy. I don’t mean she should be forward, but she should have confidence in herself, and not expect Sal to lead her by the hand.

For example, Sal likes helping Sarina with her homework, and teaching her things—but that is because she loves it. And she is younger than him—his little sister, so it is right. But his wife is not his little sister. She should not expect him to show her how to do everything, or play teacher to her all his life. She should know what she is doing, and be a companion and a help to him.

She should be neat. Sal is. He takes good care of his clothes and his room and his things, and he hates clutter. A girl who leaves things all over the place, so that you feel you are living in a clothes-heap or something, would drive him crazy. But she won’t have to pick up after him, either.

Her husband and home are first

She should be a girl who loves her home and her children and husband more than anything else in the world. That is the way I feel, and although I have never told my children that in just those words, I think they know it. Because a woman has to make sacrifices. Sometimes when I was first married it was hard. We were young, and we wanted to go dancing together. Or maybe I wanted just to be by myself for a while, just to think of myself for a time. But there were young children in the house, and I couldn’t leave them. With my husband and me, it was because we were poor—there was no one to leave the children with, ever. With Sal and his wife it won’t be that—if they want to leave the babies for an evening, that will all be taken care of. But they will have a different problem. The time will come when a studio will send Sal to some place like Europe for a few months to make a movie. And his wife will want to go along, to see new places and to be with her husband. But when the babies are little, she will have to make a sacrifice and not go! Later, yes. When the children are thirteen, fourteen—her time will be more her own. But I hope Sal’s wife will be a girl who will be able to give up some pleasures for her children—because her family will be her greatest joy, then, too. In the end she won’t lose anything; she will gain a lot.

I wouldn’t mind if she wants to have a cook, and a nurse, and a maid. Sal will be able to pay for that. But always, no matter how many servants she has—it must be her house, and her children. She must be the mother, giving her family the love they need all the time. And whatever she does do in the house, let her do it. well. She should really care for the house, because Sal will love the place he lives in.

The boys wanted a house

You see, we worked night and day, my husband and I, to give the children a house with a room of their own for each of them. That was what I always wanted for them—a house with a place they could play, three good meals a day, a good place to come home to. That way you know your children and your husband will always come home. And a child is never too young to appreciate his home. When the boys were still little children, we asked them, “Should we buy this house? It’s big and it will take a lot of money. Should we get a mortgage?” They said “Yes.” That way they were part of it.

Then we moved in, and it needed a lot of work. So I would say to them, “If we paint the rooms this weekend, I will save a hundred dollars.” And we’d all paint. Or I would say, “If we fix the roof ourselves, we will be able to buy two chairs now.” And they would want to help, young as they were. You know how much they loved their home? Each of them got an allowance. It wasn’t very big. But they saved from it. And after a long time, the three of them brought me a hundred dollars. A hundred dollars! “Ma,” they said, “take it. Buy something for the house.” And to show them how proud I was of them, I did take it. I asked them, “What should I get?” They decided, “A carpet.” I bought a carpet. The day it came, they all stared at it, almost crying. I don’t think anything in the world ever made my sons so proud as to do that for their home.

So Sal’s wife should care about her house—it’s not just four walls and some forniture. It’s the place you belong to an love.

Tell him he’s wonderful

She should be a sincere girl, and she should never boast about the things she does, but let Sal know when she is proud of him. A man doesn’t tell his wife as often as a woman tells her husband how wonderful he is, but she will know it because he will want to be with her all the time. The way it is with my husband and me. That’s the greatest thing that can happen to a woman. I’m forty-three and I’m married twenty-four years. I’ve had a hard life, with hard work. But I’ve been happy, because we have love in our family. And just a couple weeks ago, I met a man who had interviewed Sal out in California. And he said to me, “I never met a boy who was so proud of his mother, Mrs. Mineo, as your son is of you. He told me, ‘You should meet my mother! She understands everything. She’s so bright!’ ” Well, I was amazed. Because a woman never knows for sure, and she wonders, “Am I doing the right things? Am I interfering even when I think I’m not?” And then something like that happens, and you are so happy. You know you’re doing it right.

So this girl should take her joy in that.

Well, that is the kind of girl I want for my son. I don’t care if she is rich or poor; I don’t mind if she is not of Italian descent. Just let her be a good, wise girl, and love Sal the way he loves her, and give him the kind of home he loves, too.

The funny thing is—I know girls like that. Yes, I know a couple, girls I could name to you. But I won’t. And I’ll never say to Sal, “That’s a nice girl, take her out.” Or be disappointed if he chooses another kind of girl. Because the most important thing a woman has to do is trust her men. That way she keeps their love. I want my husband’s love and my children’s, all my life. And I will say this to the girl Sal chooses, whoever she is. “You are getting a good boy. You will have a good husband. Because a man who loves his mother, loves his wife.” That’s old, but true. It is a good thing to remember.



Sal Mineo can soon be seen in George Stevens Production of Giant to be released by Warner Bros.



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