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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

Who Should Pay For A Date?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Photo courtesy of Tim Boyd

Things have changed. No doubt. And that’s for just about everything that takes place between the sexes or within the same sex. Every other movie or TV show that stars a woman these days seems to feature a buff chick toting a shotgun, dressed in a wife beater, about to take revenge out on the bad dudes who harmed her family. Up until a few years ago, this was a genre reserved for Ahhnold, Van Damme, and Chuck Norris. Now these action vehicles showcase wiry females with a martial arts skill and an attitude.

Concurrently, this month’s Playboy features an article about men, using iconic male stars like Dean Martin and Paul Newman to hawk a bunch of facial creams and hair products. It seems that having smooth, glowing skin, product-laced hair and squeezing into your skinny jeans has become a new way to demonstrate your “guyness”. And we can marry whoever we chooseHarry or Sally. It doesn’t matter and most of us don’t care.  But change creates interesting questions as we dance in the dating mosh pit. Like who picks up the tab on a date?

Here’s what I think. Generally, if you ask a woman out on the first date, even if it’s just for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, the guy should reach for the check. Even if the woman starts digging through her hobo bag, the guy should pay.

Here’s an exception. Maybe you two didn’t hit it off and the woman feels patronized and insists on paying her way to assuage any guilt, anger, or because she just wants to get away from you. Let her throw a few bucks down and say goodbye. We’re all even now.

Going forward a pattern usually occurs between potential partners and although it’s going to be different in every relationship, the bottom line is that you want things to feel equal so no one seethes inside or gets all passive aggressive. In a perfect world, and in a big city where women are increasingly taking the wheel in business, politics, and relationships, paying for a date would be split down the middle every time. But we know that this isn’t a perfect world, except in its imperfections, so we’ve got to be flexible and open-minded about almost everything.

Directionally, whoever has the idea and asks the other person out should be willing to pony for the bill. But that can get old quickly. And what do you do if you’re an investment banker ranking in the cash and she’s a teacher. Are you really going to make her split every tab down the middle? And vice versa, what if your lady pulls in major coin as a corporate litigator and you’re “consulting”?  It’s something to keep in mind. And there are some women who never, ever crack their wallets open, and that doesn’t feel right.

What I have done to make life easy is to take charge and arrange the first few dates, at least until we’ve “gotten to know one another better”, and either paid the bill or made the offer. After you’ve taken care of the first major date, if she wants to split the tab the next time, cool.  I suggest having no pretentions and always being prepared to pick up the bill if necessary. Women get it, and if they are not choosing the fifty-fifty route they usually have some things in mind that will make up for it, like cooking a nice dinner at her place or bringing along your favorite Pinot Noir when you cook for her. Women pay attention and the vast majority are not looking to exploit you. So if every check is not split exactly down the middle, chill.

In many ways dating is a microcosm for how we interact and treat people, and all I’m suggesting is to always be a gentlemen, do  what  you know in your heart is the right thing, and always give a lady the benefit of a doubt.

Does who pays the tab really matter?

 

Want a Kick Ass Online Dating Profile? Start with Some Great Photos

Robert Manni - Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Image courtesy of Chris Huggins

Here are a few more pointers for guys and ladies for getting yourself set up for online success. It’s all about creating a visually engaging online showcase that demonstrates that you are a wonderful catch. 

1-Show only between three and five photos of yourself to give a full picture of the brand that is you. 

Too much of a good thing is not recommended. Maintain a little mystery. If things work out you can take your own photos.

On the flip side, keep in mind that even if you write like Nicolas Sparks, no photo means no dates. Pretty much a guarantee especially if you are a woman. Guys are visual and unfortunately some men don’t bother to give the words in your profile more than a glance anyway.

2-An appealing headshot is the starting point. 

Don’t have one? Forget the professional route. Have a bud help out—friends enjoy helping out and doing stuff like taking photos of you. Pick one that you like best, and remember to smile.  Don’t have any friends? I’ll leave that for another column.

3-Include a photo from a wedding or an event. 

Nothing too stiff though. It shows you have a life and adds social context. Since you’ll probably be dressed up for these, it adds another dimension to the multi-faceted person that is you.  

4-Always include an action shot someplace outdoors (beach, mountains, biking, or in front of the Pyramids, etc.)

This shows you get out and are comfortable with your body. This gives your potential connections a chance to get a look at your form. If you’re shy about this, do the best you can. Eventually the other person is going to see you and they will check you out.

5-Throw in a wild card. 

Have fun with this one. You and your crew at the Jets game, or in the midst of that Pulp Fiction party, or maybe just you and your dog.  If you are a hottie, feel free to give ‘em some eye candy, with class, of course. No lingerie, ladies, and fellas─no flexing. This isn’t the WWE. Or just choose your very best photo, regardless of the situation.  A photo that shows the real you and makes you feel good about yourself and what you projecting. Okay, you’re done.

6- Pick the one that suits you best for your primary photo, make sure they can see your eyes, and stick with it for while. 

Changing your profile pic every three days sounds the insecurity alarm.

That’s it. If you are unsure about your choices, have a friend take a look and give you feedback. Then post them for a month and see how it goes. You are the brand and you want your connections to like what they see and want to learn more about you. Smile!

Can you recall the profile pics that attracted you to someone you met online?



The Fastest Way to Move Your Online Dating Offline

Robert Manni - Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Photo courtesy of Adrian Nier

After you’ve created and polished your online dating profile to the point where you’d even date yourself, distinguished it with pics worthy of a mash up of In Touch and Vanity Fair, and managed to score a written response from a woman who looks like Angela Jolie, thinks like Oprah, and who your Mom would love to hang out with (not that hanging with Angelina or Oprah is bad), you are ready to take the connection to the next level. Here are a few easy steps to make things happen quickly.

1- Do not respond instantaneously, but do so within 24 hours. 

Don’t play games, don’t be coy by waiting a week, but don’t make her think that she’s the only fish in the sea just yet. Show her proper respect and do the same for yourself. Women are like exotic wild animals. They smell fear and will instinctively use it to get take the advantage. This is not a criticism. This is about women being turned off by desperation. They prefer a man who wants them, but can live without them if necessary.  Maybe I’m being overdramatic to make a point, but if you think about it, it’s true. So clap your hands and feel free to strut like Jagger around your bedroom when you receive her response, but wait just a wee bit before sending her the all-important note #2.

2- Add new, unrecorded information to your next e-mail and include your digits.  

The objective of this correspondence is to attach a last name to your first (and always use your real first name), proudly, so she can Google the hell out of you, which she will and offer her a way of connecting with you by phone. This shows respect and empowers her by having the option of protecting her identity and calling you with her number blocked, or offering you her number so you can make the first move. Then follow her lead as to how she responds when you include your number and an offer to call her if she prefers. It really doesn’t matter who makes that call, as long as you get an opportunity to take the notch up the energy exchange by hearing each other’s voice for the first time. It can be a deal maker or breaker. 

3- Keep your note short and respond to any questions she might have included in her note.  

It might be about your stated profession or where your kids from your previous marriage are living. And, throw in something relevant that you did not mention in your first note─like your family also raising bison when you were a kid growing up in Montana. 

4- Actively listen and synch with her energy during that first phone call. 

It’s amazing what is revealed when you put a voice to someone’s photo. This can be a special moment or the end. If she looks like Katherine Heigl and sounds like Joe Pesci, you may not feel quite the same after a few minutes on the horn. It happens, so don’t take it personally, and just let you heart guide you. Inevitably, the heart wants what it wants. Maybe you like hearing Pesci‘s voice.  It’s your call, no pun intended.

5- Ask for the order. 

First phone calls can be expedient or lengthy. It doesn’t matter if it’s ten minutes or two hours, you’ll know what feels right and so will she. If there’s a connection, make sure that you tell her that you’d like to meet her and then prepared with a suggestion for meeting before winding up the call. This is the moment of truth and if you follow the previous steps and share a phone vibe, you’ve just taken things from online to offline. Congrats!

Are you ready to meet her?


Online Dating- Gift or Curse?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Image courtesy of Jeff McNeill

Technology is designed to make life simpler. At least, that’s the idea. With emails, texts and instant messages, we are tethered 24/7 with no escape.  GPS, iTunes, DVR, and millions of websites on every subject from inch worm migration to crocodile mating habits have placed the world at our fingertips. So why do we express a big sigh of relief whenever we shut off our PDA’s?

The same can be said of online dating, and I think the answer is how you view and interface with the technology to make it work for you. If you are a woman, online dating is empowering. Instead of investing your time sitting with your girlfriends in singles bars, eighties-style hoping that the cute guy who bought you those cosmos is not a closet axe murderer, you can send him a wink online and review his dating credentials. Too many typos and fragmented sentences- delete. Too many photos of him without his shirt-delete.  Too many references to his devotion to televised sports or speed metal music, beers and chicken wings with the boys, or mentions of the ex-wife- delete. Then, it’s on to the next guy. It’s as if the man is sending you his resume. And you know ladies, it’s a test.  If his written responses are courteous and humorous, and of course focused on you, there’s that phone call to make sure he doesn’t sound like Joe Pesci’s character in “My Cousin Vinny”.  After that, a coffee date, drinks, or possibly dinner.  And if it works out, you’ve got yourself a real live man. And if his breath stinks and he’s ten years older and twenty-five pounds heavier than described in person, you get that call from your girlfriend. “Oops, I have to get up early tomorrow. It was nice meeting you.”

Guys have it made also. Sit at home in your tighty-whities and scroll through the girls who you would not have the cojones to approach in person and lay your best material on them. If you PAY ATTENTION and figure out how to navigate the paradigm laid out in the preceding paragraph, you’ll get as many shots at the title as your wallet can handle. Then it’s up to you to come through in person. If you are well-dressed, polite, articulate, and have a job or something that sounds like one, you’re on your way.

So how is this not a gift? A-ha! That’s because it’s so easy and there is always another fresh face on those dating websites. In fact, it’s actually too easy to serial-date or delete your latest partner whenever the smallest tremor hits your heart.  Sounds cold.  It is. But that’s because our dating lives can be so active that it’s easy to get pulled out by the tide and get lost in a sea of potential mates swimming in the online waters.  

So, always keep a life preserver around your heart, play safely, and have fun out there. And every so often remember to ask yourself: do I want to be dating online or do I want a relationship? 


Are You Really Paying Attention to Your Relationship?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Image courtesy of Nina Matthews

This one is for the guys, not all guys because guys are changing and many of them get it. But a lot of us still don’t, so ladies, feel free to forward this or slip a copy under the sports section of his morning paper.  It could pay off.  In a recent column I waxed on about the merits of guys paying attention as a secret to improving their relationship skills. You would think that something as simple as this wouldn’t come as a surprise. But guys can get distracted easily, usually by themselves, and sometimes need a nudge to focus more on the ‘us’ than the ‘I’. 

So, how did ‘paying attention’ enter my consciousness and change the way I was approaching my relationships?  Here’s what happened.  After a few dates with a woman I was interested in, I inquired about what qualities I needed to be a good boyfriend. This is something I had never done before, but I probably should have, because she immediately replied, “Just pay attention.” I narrowed my eyes like an ape does when he scratches his head with his oversized index finger. “That’s it?” I asked.  She smiled at me like I was a school boy and said, “Yes.” That was when the light went on, or in advertising terms, when I had my V-8 moment.

If you keep this precious nugget buried in your subconscious, I promise that you cannot go wrong. Women are interested in the effort almost as much as the outcome, so if you consistently demonstrate that you value her, you will invariably make good decisions and she will notice, big time. Why? Because women always pay attention. They have one goal- to make your time together as fulfilling as possible. That’s it, amigo. She doesn’t receive any pleasure from pointing out your shortcomings, and she doesn’t want to change you. Well, maybe a little. She just wants the best and who can blame her. So, if she’s with you, she sees your possibilities. Is that so bad?

So, gentlemen, how do you we pay attention? I think you know, but here are a few examples: ask her about her day and then listen, and whatever you do, don’t try and solve her problems. She doesn’t need you for that. Try and point out something new about her on a regular basis. And fellas, not, ’you look hot in that those shorts’. Think more of how she does things in her own special way or how thoughtful she was for picking up your dry cleaning and that six-pack because she knows you dig that seasonal brew (hey, she sounds like a keeper).  Or better yet, do that for her. You know the drill. Just do your best to pay a little more attention to her each day, and I promise you that it will pay back higher dividends than most of those stocks you’ve invested in.

What do you think? Are you paying attention?

What Are the Two Words Men Need to Know to Succeed With Women?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Image courtesy of Marco Bellucci

I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity with that infomercial-style headline. Hey, I work in advertising, so delivering a compelling promise is half the challenge in hooking a consumer. And we’re all consumers, thirsty for answers that make our lives easier in an increasingly complicated world. And, I’ve got a big one for the fellas. So ladies, even if he prefers box scores, market summaries, and porn over reading a blog, you might pass this column along and remind him of what we already know all too well.

The key to success with women is….drum roll please…..paying attention. Those two words will do wonders for any guy. Guaranteed or your money back. Men have strength of focus, but it’s usually about them and all of the things they are dealing with. It’s understandable, to a point. Men are under siege these days, even if much of it is their own doing. You see, they haven’t been paying attention to how society has been evolving around them, and more importantly, how women have stepped up.

Forgive me if I appear to be pandering to the ladies, but we must admit that for the most part, women invest more of themselves in a relationship than men. I don’t know if it’s in their love DNA or where it comes from, but women do pay attention. From straightening their guy’s tie, to reminding him to send a birthday card to his Mom, women put in that extra effort at what we consider the little things. But little things add up to big things that make or break relationships. Women differentiate men by how much they pay attention. Think about some guys that women find sexy. The dudes that men roll their eyes at when they hear their names─and I’m not naming names. But consider the actors who always show up in chick flicks, like Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Oops. Their characters have one thing in common. They pay attention, especially to their relationships.

Paying attention used to be called being sensitive, but that’s sounds like a wuss term. Paying attention is more active, but since guys rarely pay attention; I need to emphasize key points to achieve results. I’m doing this for us so I’m sure you understand.

Is your guy paying attention?

What Happened to Men?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Image courtesy of Horia Varlan

That’s a question that’s been tossed about quite a bit these changing days.  Over the past fifty years our lives have changed dramatically.  Science and technology relentlessly march onward and women have ascended and are slowly, but unwaveringly getting more of their deserved due.  And men? In many ways, they’ve become the whipping boys for all of the world’s ills. And who can defend them for centuries of war, misogyny, and ego-driven careless behavior? That’s a challenged, but they’re just wired differently in a lot of ways and conditioned by vastly different messages about how to behave and what is cool and manly.

While channel-surfing recently, I noticed that almost without fail, the movies targeting male audiences were seeped in mindless violence and gratuitous sex.  Most of the movies aimed at women were about relationships and participating in communal activities. The messaging couldn’t have been further apart.  And we wonder why there is so much strife and misunderstanding between the sexes. It should come as no surprise. The communications gap between the sexes grows whenever stereotypes are reinforced.  But as women are provided with more opportunities for full expression and equality, they’ve encroached on what had typically been male-dominated territory. Today, women are more educated than men, more represented in the work force, and are now portrayed as action stars, so even that last bastion of perceived macho maleness that men have held for so many years is also under siege.

What's A Man To Do?

Today’s men need to relax and see the opportunity. Most of what women do that men object to is rooted in a goal of improving the relationship. Whether it’s coaxing men to pay attention and or not try and solve a woman’s problems for her, it all has the same goal of mutual satisfaction and sharing.  But in these days of retargeting media and basically pushing images and products in front of us only based on past behavior and preferences, it’s harder than ever for men to evolve.  If they like hot rods and wrestling, they are going to be pummeled with advertising for beer, tires, and chicken wings.  It’s hard to change your mind when the media is attacking your subconscious with every move you make. Guys will have to work to transcend the stereotypes they’ve created for themselves.  When they do, they’ll see that things have never been better. Women want to share, not necessarily take over.  They pursue men (that’s a nice change), earn their way, and do not expect a man to create a life or career for them. They are capable, more fit and beautiful than ever, smarter and increasingly capable, and sexually liberated.  

How Bad Is That, Fellas?

I’ll be delving deeper into this topic in upcoming blogs, so stay tuned, and please don’t think this is only about men needing to reconsider their perspective…

Is Harlem the New Brooklyn?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Image courtesy of David.R.Carroll

Seems like every five years or so another undiscovered, gentrified neighborhood emerges from the scrap heap of old-school construction, independently owned shops, and a bouillabaisse of ethnicities. For the past decade it’s gone section by section through Brooklyn. From Brooklyn Heights to The Slope to Billyburg, and more recently a resurgent Bushwick, Brooklyn has become the place to live in New York.

While Manhattan gentrifies with a Baby Gap, Starbucks, and Duane Reade on every corner and the usual suburban white table cloth restaurants like Olive Garden and Chuck E Cheese showing up for the tourist and even some tri-state inhabitants,  Brooklyn has been a beacon to disgruntled Manhattanites fed up with the homogenization of its once proud neighborhoods. And, although many real estate experts are touting Midtown West Side as the next place, I can tell you first hand that it is noisy, increasingly expensive, and clogged with traffic.

So, if you don’t want to move to Bushwick or Sunset Park, where can a New Yorker go to get that neighborhood feel, a culture hodgepodge, and access to the greatest park in the world?

I moved to Harlem, or as they call my “new” neighborhood, SoHa. I live off Frederick Douglass Boulevard, which I had no idea where it was until I took the C train uptown to check out the hood. FDB runs north past Central Park, picking up where Central Park West ends at 110th Street. SoHa, on the West Side at least, runs between 110th and 125th. There are lots of surprises in store if you decide to check it out. First, one of the best things about Harlem is that there are no true high rises so there is lots of blue sky, sunshine, and great views.  Depending on what avenue you live on, there is almost instant access to Central Park and Morningside Park. Columbia University is right up the hill and St. John the Divine is a breathtaking piece of architecture. There are wild peacocks roaming freely on their grounds, too.  Subway access is great with the A, C, B, and D all within a short walk and the price of real estate per square foot is about sixty percent of that which is ten blocks south and west.

But the real allure to SoHa is the exquisite mix of people and cultures and businesses that make it feel like a real New York neighborhood. My neighborhood is a mix of Senegalese, African Americans, Europeans, Asians, Latinos, and an endless wagon train of Upper West Siders and families fed up with the prices and congestion in their former neighborhoods. FDB has a string of restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating and of course now Starbucks has planted its flag with a sprinkling of shops.

So, do you really need to move to Brooklyn to experience that local neighborhood flavor? Let me know. I’m off for a run in Central Park.

The 'No-Problem' Problem

Robert Manni - Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Image courtesy of Nic McPhee

In today’s hyper-fast, modern world of anagrams, walking up the stairs while texting, and speed-dating, the human spirit always seems to find even more short cuts. Here in NYC, the pace is even more frantic. Just take a look at the streets of Midtown in the summer and you’ll see the impatient faces of New Yorkers shifting gears while attempting to pass random hoards of disorganized map-wielding tourists all looking up in different directions while they shuffle along in the general direction of Times Square.

And with our all-consuming need for speed, young Americans have resourcefully found one, singular mega-multitasking response to situations that call for: an affirmative or negative answer, “Thank you” or “You’re welcome”.  It’s the now ubiquitous, “No Problem”, the cure-all for modern communication, or lack of it. You hear it used repeatedly by the staff in quick service restaurants, retail stores, and anywhere young peeps are employed or hang out. I used to think this phrase was only heard during that weeklong Caribbean vacation and scuttled after returning to the grind. Now, it’s omnipresent.

“Waiter, can we have more water?” “No problem.” “I ordered the squid, not the octopus.” “No problem.” “Thank you for moving over.” “No problem.” “Sorry, I stepped on your toe. “No problem”.  I can keep going, but we all hear this neutral, yet annoying mantra deployed on a daily basis to address a cadre of situations. First, it usurped, “You’re welcome”, and that seemed oddly acceptable. I say, “Thank you,” and someone responds, “No problem”. Why would there be a problem?  Maybe this began when we started thanking employees at retail stores for doing their job at the cash register, with our, ”Thank you” implying, “Thanks for ringing up these shoes for me.” Could situations like this be when, “No problem,” popped into our culture and took root?  Maybe, but however it emerged, its uses have rapidly expanded and the trend doesn’t seem to be going away.

I wonder how far this will go. Will we reach a point where “no problem” becomes the go-to response to “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “I’m sorry, but you’re very ill and don’t have much time”, and “Will you marry me?” Let’s hope not, but if it does, what else can we say, but, “No problem.”

Do you have a problem with that?

Think You Know The Real Jersey Shore?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Image courtesy of B.Katz

I’m not referring to the Snooki, J-Wow, Situation/graphic T-shirt and short shorts with heels version that has been glorified on MTV. I’m talking about the rolling ocean, sandy beaches, warm sun, and the diverse people who make up one of the most easy to access getaways within an hour or so from New York City.

The Hamptons, You Say?

The Hamptons are beautiful, posh, and sexy… a mini-Upper East Side with sand. But the same ocean is available with an hour less travel, more realistic rents, and without the unyielding NYC ‘tude. I personality do not want Manhattan Beach, so let’s talk about the Jersey Shore.

Asbury Park

You can drive there in about an hour and the train from Penn Station rumbles south through New Jersey’s armpit and stops everywhere along the shore. I hop off at Asbury Park, a newly hip, in-progress gentrified version of Billyburg sans the suspender-wearing dudes in handle bar moustaches and chicks dressed like Lucille Ball and Ethel Murtz in their fifties dresses. This summer AP hosted art shows, bowling alley burlesque, roller derby girls, a water park for kids, surprise guest gigs by Springsteen, a rainbow of cool , artsy people, an oyster festival, a five-mile run, and of course a great beach and rolling sea.  The town has been down and out for decades, but is on its way back, and it’s fun to see diversity welcomed as it rises.

Ocean Grove

Ocean Grove is the next town south─a square mile hamlet featuring Victorian homes, a commercial free boardwalk, a surfing beach, a tent village, colossal flea markets and art fairs, an annual 4th of July parade that will make you think you are in Mayberry, and the nation’s largest open air auditorium that that features retro acts like Herman’s Hermits or Peter, Paul, and Mary, and doo wop shows. It is hilarious and everyone puts on a great show. Moving further south, each small town maintains its own quirks and traditions.

Where You Can Find Me

I hit the beach, body surf, run on the boardwalk, play golf without a two hour wait, and occasionally frequent the indigenous Jersey Shore Italian restaurants that serve the tastiest thin crust pizza and are favored by the local good fellas. You’re probably wondering about the culture. There’s a burgeoning music scene and some theater, but you’ll have to seek out the more refined stuff that we take for granted in NYC. That’s part of the charm. Refreshingly, the shore has no pretensions. It’s a place to escape the hyper-energy of our lovely city. And of course, if you so desire, there are plenty of seaside bars with thick guys and buff girls in heels downing trays of shots, but that seems to be the norm everywhere these days, unless you live in Manhattan.

The Jersey Shore is not everyone’s cup of whipped cream-flavored vodka, but I’ve used this seaside backdrop for family vacations, marathon training, making a new set of friends, golfing up a storm, and hosting a number of dates at a beach-front condo that I would not have been able to buy if it were located in the Hamptons. But that’s just me.

Think The Jersey Shore Is For You?

See you on the train or better yet, look up and wave hi when you walk along the boardwalk past my condo in Ocean Grove.



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