Guilt. In this age of freedom, long after sentiments such as "I'm OK, you're OK" have become commonplace, mothers retain their singularly impressive ability to make the most successful and respected individuals quiver with adolescent guilt. No matter that you're a famous actress, a best-selling author or a big politician. Here, for Mother's Day, a guilt sampling:
Mell Lazarus, author of the comic-strip "Momma": "It's hard to resent someone you've made a living off of for 15 years. I believe in guilt, I think it's good. I'm not as afraid of the word as a lot of psychologists are. It's not a dirty word. Have you ever met someone who's not guilty? You can't stand them!"
New York Gov. Mario Cuomo: "My mother was never very happy with my becoming a politician. I went from being reviled by no one, as a lawyer, to being reviled by 40 percent of the population at least. She regards that as an unintelligent decision. I told her I had to be a politician in order to become a judge. I knew she would find my political life more decent if it would lead to being a judge. She now reminds me every two weeks that I'm still not a judge. My mother should be champion on imposing guilt. She has standards that no human being could possibly live up to."
Arch Campbell of WRC-TV: "My mother was a first-grade teacher when I was in elementary school. Her main points of nagging are, first, my handwriting. Up until I was 30 years old, she would occasionally send me a script book. And she always nagged me about my grammar . . . But she would always put a good cast on things."
"Cathy" cartoonist Cathy Guisewite: "My relationship is like the one in the strip . . . totally contradictory. I love and need her, and yet I'm horrified that I depend on her so much. I feel like I'm turning into an exact carbon copy of her. Part of me likes that, part of me hates it. My mother accuses me of moving to California just to put a 2,500-mile distance between us. There's probably a tiny bit of truth to that."
Columnist Ann Landers: "My mother was a typical Jewish mother. We had a very loving, very strong family unit, but she didn't talk to me the way I talk to my daughter."
Renee Poussaint of WJLA-TV: "When I first moved out of my mother's house and into an apartment, my mother used to call at 6 a.m. every day, supposedly to see if I'd slept well. It became apparent why she was calling. One morning, I didn't answer the phone because I wanted to sleep late. My mother said, 'Where were you? Doing laundry?' She asked, 'Who is he and why can't you tell me about him?' I told her I'd never speak to her again if she didn't cut it out. She still likes to keep track of any major events happening in my life. If I don't mention it while it's happening, I just do not mention it at all. I know she'll say, 'Why couldn't you have told me at the time? You couldn't confide in your own mother?' "
Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown: "My mother did find 'Sex and the Single Girl' a little raunchy. She thought I was a virgin until I was married at the age of 37. It came as quite a shock to her that I had been so busy. She was unhappy about it, but it didn't instill guilt in me."
Rosemary Curb, coauthor of the recently published "Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence": "My mother disapproved of my entering the convent, she disapproved of my leaving, she disapproved when I got married, and she disapproved when I got divorced. She disapproved of my coming out as a lesbian, and she disapproves of lesbian nuns. So she's got a perfect record. She's very consistent . . . When I got my PhD, I wanted her to say 'Gee, this is terrific.' What she said was, 'Wow, I guess everyone's getting PhD's these days.' If I won the Nobel Prize, she would say, 'Well, there are a lot of prizes.' "
Baby doctor Benjamin Spock: "I was brought up with a lot of guilt. I think all the Spock children felt guilty until proven innocent. I was scared to death when I had to send my mother my book. There is an implication of judgment when you write a book about child rearing. I waited apprehensively, but she said, 'Benny, I think it's very sensible,' which made me wonder if she really understood what was in it."
Actor Tony Danza: "My mother was definitely of the Italian school of guilt. I was a fighter for a while and she said, 'All that money I paid to send you to college, and you go off and be a fighter?' Then I was back at home for a while and I wasn't really doing anything, and I told her I was gonna drive a cab, and she said, 'All that money I paid to send you to college and you're going to drive a cab?' Boxing was worse, because she liked the way I looked. She told me my nose would get so flat I could bite walls."
Peter Lawrence Murray, son of Jean Shaw Murray, who compiles "The Green Book," Washington's social register: His mother is "a walking dictionary on manners. We came to dinner promptly, we didn't slouch, we didn't have our hands on the table. I resented that. I wanted to shovel food in, like any kid. But it was something we had to learn. You ate the right way or you didn't eat. Table manners were very important."
Cartoonist Jules Feiffer: "The business of a Jewish mother is to instill guilt, and my mother did a perfect job. She called me up once and said she'd been reading an article in Ladies' Home Journal about successful men and their miserable childhoods. She asked me if there was anything I resented about her. After years of experience, I knew exactly what to say. I lied to her and immediately said 'No.' She went on and on for about 10 minutes. I was desperate to get off the phone with her, so I finally conceded this: I said, 'Mom, if there was anything, it was so long ago, I've completely gotten over it.' And she said, 'Is that the thanks I get?' "