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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

Do I Stay or Do I Go? (5 Reasons to Leave NYC, 5 Reasons to Stay)

Robert Manni - Thursday, August 03, 2017


Although more and more people are moving out of New York, it feels like the city gets more crowded every day.

The first few years of living in New York is a love affair. But over time it can turn into a love-hate affair. When I was a kid, my dad worked in the Empire State Building. New York was a beacon to me. I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I knew I would live and work there when I grew up. After graduating college I knocked around suburbia for a few years before landing a job in the city. Whoot! I was a young buck working at global corporation in huge skyscraper in midtown traveling the globe selling bubble gum. Since then, I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else but New York. That is, until now. After a few decades of city living and finally settling down and having a child, city life has changed. These days, my wife and I are discussing our future and we’re not sure if New York City is going to be part of it. We’ve done so much here, but there is so much more out there for our son and us. So soon, we may be saying adios to NYC.

I don’t want to move and find myself bored with the pace of a So Cal beach town, freezing my ass off in New Hampshire, or feeling like I’m much too far way in New Zealand. I also don’t want to be so jaded to think that there is no other place to live besides NYC. And although I grew up in New Jersey, sorry Chris Christie, but I do not want to return to my roots in the Garden State. I’ve had enough of the tri-sate area.

So, I’ve mapped a handful of the pros and cons of living in the big city and whether or not it is time to move out. To stay or leave NYC is a big decision, so let’s explore the criteria.

REASONS TO STAY IN NYC

1. NYC is a 24/7 playground - There is always something to do in New York. Unless you want some quiet time, being bored is virtually impossible in a city that never sleeps. If you dig people, they are out and about at all hours of the day and night. If you don’t believe me, hop on a subway at midnight and chances are it will be overflowing with people coming home or going out. If you’re the type of person that often gets that late night itch to find some action or some great food, there is no better city in the world than NYC. Once you become accustomed to the lifestyle and having all the resources at your fingertips, it’s hard to fathom living anywhere else in the world.

2. The people, the energy, the culture - New Yorkers are a high-energy, purposeful, intelligent, and cultured group. People with that purpose-driven mindset come here from every other country to follow their dreams and become part of the fabric of this amazing city. We’ve got some crazies here, but that’s understandable when you jam eight million people together and expect them to fall into some semblance of order and organization. Over the years I’ve had neighbors from every continent on Earth all drawn to New York like flies to honey. And there is no other city in the world with the cultural diversity of New York. Open any issue of Time Out New York and hands down you’ll find more things to do and places to go for the arts, music, theater, and film than anywhere else.  You get four real seasons and you can hit the beach, the slopes, or a golf course relatively easily from midtown.

3. The food, the drink – Not only does New York offer indigenous foods and drinks from every culture on Earth, it’s also a leader in inventing and fusing new foods and cocktails, whether it’s Korean tacos, cronuts, or alcohol-infused ice cream. If it’s new and it tastes good, it usually starts here. And, you can get it delivered at any hour of the day or night. Check plus, plus.

4. If you can make it there… - Deep down, I think every New Yorker carries pride knowing they are making their mark in arguably the toughest arena in the world. Unlike life in other areas of the country, many New Yorkers live to work and take pride in being the best in their jobs. Of course all work and no play gets old, so most careerists know how to cut loose in their down time, often in extreme ways. If you don’t believe me, check out the action at the clubs and after-hours dens of diversions in sex, gambling, and other extreme activities. If you’ve got an itch for something edgy, yeah, you’ll find it here.

5. It’s constantly changing – If someone asked me what’s the one thing that I’ve learned that stands out about living close to three decades in New York, I’d have to say that New York City never stops moving, evolving and changing its shape. Nobody can keep up with the city, even if a lot of New Yorkers roll 24/7/365. No one person has the time, stamina or resources to harness the pulse of this ever-changing magical city. Hot new neighborhoods like Hudson Yards and Gowanus pop up like weeds all over the city.

There. I’ve laid out a strong case for living in and never, ever leaving New York. If only life was so simple. There is a big wide world out there, amigos and it’s important to know when it’s time to pack up the caravan and move on.

REASONS TO LEAVE NYC

1. The rent, and every thing else is too damn high – Can you really afford to pay $3,000 a month for a studio in midtown or would you rather live with four random roommates in a two bedroom walk up in Bed Stuy? That’s just the tip of the financial iceberg that impacts your quality of life in New York City. New Yorkers can handle it, but after awhile living like you did in college gets old. New Yorkers like convenience so they eat out for most of their meals. That along with cocktails, the daily Starbucks, and a trip to Whole Foods on the way home gets expensive. Unless you are a savvy New Yorker who has been here long enough to stay ahead of the housing trends, it’s tough to keep yourself out of debt when you are renting, raving, and rolling in the clubs until dawn and all the while working a backbreaking entry-level job. Over the past few decades the situation has gotten worse. Unless you got a break on a Wall Street job, most kids fresh out of college to wheel and deal and improvise just to find a place to live, and that sucks. Back in the day, you might have to live uptown or on the west side, but at least you could plant some roots and live relatively comfortably with some privacy when starting out. That’s tough now. Almost a deal breaker if you ask me. I would not want to have to commute from the depths of Brooklyn or the Bronx for an entry-level position. I always managed to live near my office and relatively close to the nighttime action. I’m not sure that’s possible these days. And it’s very expensive raising a child in this town. Swimming lessons go for $50 a half hour. That’s just the beginning, folks.

2. Mass transit is worse than purgatory – Unless you have a trust fund to draw on or a corporate Uber card, you are probably using the subway. Over the past few decades the subways have gotten way more crowded, and much less reliable. And now we’re in the mass transit “summer from hell”. Very simply, riding the subway sucks more than ever. The cars are dirty, unreliable, and overcrowded, even in the dead of night. New Yorkers, and human beings in general, deserve better. Did I mention subway service on the weekends? Hahahaha. For a long-time New Yorker, traveling by mass transit has become a sore point and an actual embarrassment that is below the standards of a quality of life that New Yorkers deserve. And I don’t see the situation improving.

3. The noise, the lights, the crowds – After three decades you’d think I’d be used to the sounds of pounding jackhammers and blaring sirens at all day and night. Nope. Where I live uptown, we are also treated to churn of motorbikes plowing down the streets at all hours. All the lights from the streets and businesses that stay open all night make it challenging for us New Yorkers to get a proper night’s rest. By now I’ve learned to sleep through anything but why should I have to shut my windows to dull the roar from the crowds outside the bars at 3 am? Did I mention the lines New Yorkers stand in for a cool movie, event, or a bargain? I now pass on anything requiring me to stand in line, unless they are giving out free money or sex.

4. City living can be toxic – New York City living is a stress-inducing experience. Don’t discount the effects of living in a cramped metropolis filled with all types of Wi-Fi, radiation, and radio waves bouncing around and throughout the entire city. Humans soak this stuff into our bodies and over time it collects in our systems and causes havoc to our health. Recent studies show that our once-thought-as-wonderful city drinking water is filled with carcinogens and heavy metals. Get a water filter and walk in the park whenever possible. And even though New York has come a long way since 9/11, it is still number one target for terror.

5. Been there, done that – Black outs, 9/11, hurricanes, massive snowstorms, a garbage strike, the AIDS crisis, sweltering heat waves, and blinding rain and floods have all been part of my life in New York City. Like Mick Jagger sang, “I’m in tatters”, after surviving these tumultuous years. After decades of running wild and finally settling, there comes a point of diminishing returns for living in the big city. It’s that, “do I really want to put up with this shit?” feeling when you’re dealing with the cable company, mass transit delays, broken elevators at the train station, “show time” on a crowded subway, or witnessing general bad behavior on the street in front of your kids. This stuff gives even the most ardent New Yorker pause about continuing to live in this crazy town. Admit it. You’ve thought about living elsewhere.

So where does this leave me? I’ve put myself on a two-year plan before making a final decision about leaving New York. After working for major corporations, ad agencies, start ups, I’m not sure if I want another nine to five gig in the city. Nowadays businesses no longer require employees to come into the office every day. More and more jobs are done virtually, so it doesn’t matter where you live. I’ve done or tried just about everything I’ve wanted to in this city. So I ask myself, why not cash in and check out of New York to start a more peaceful life with my wife and kid somewhere less interesting, but saner? It’s a decision I will be considering over the next twenty-four months. Until then, I’ll keep fighting the good fight. Now I’ve got to go back into the bowels of the sweltering subway and get on that filthy C train to take my kid to his expensive swimming lesson.

This week’s Guys’ Guy’s Guys of the Week are all the folks who have taken the leap and lived in the New York City. Some like it hot and some do not, but everyone here adds a bit of spice to this human zoo. I’ll see you in the crowded streets, amigos!

10 Questions Guys Need to Ask Themselves Before Getting Married

Robert Manni - Sunday, July 30, 2017


I was single for so many years that no one bothered asking me anymore when I was getting married.

But then I got married, and I am glad I did. Marriage is one of, if not the most important, decisions you will ever make; yet many folks take this life-changing decision lightly. Nowadays the divorce rate exceeds fifty percent and until recent times who ever heard of a “starter marriage”? Take it from a Guy’s Guy. Don’t get married until you are absolutely certain that she is the one or you will pay a big price for your folly. I know so many guys who either married too young, grew apart from their spouses, or decided wanted to trade in their partner for a younger, hotter model. They all have one thing in common. They’re paying for it now.

Now, I’m not saying that when two people become partners in this fast paced modern world that it is always going to work out just fine. No sir, amigo. Shit happens and some of it hits you in the face when you least expect it. And it’s not necessarily your fault or that of your spouse. Life gets complicated, so unless you are a true risk taker, I suggest you do your homework and then think long and hard before getting married. If this sounds harrowing, it shouldn’t. Getting married to the right woman can be the best thing that ever happens to a guy. Take it from one who waited before finally hitting the jackpot. My experience confirmed what my gut told me. Do not get married until it feels right inside. And when you find that special woman, you’ll breeze through my list of ten questions guys needs to ask themselves before getting married. When it feels right inside and the stars are aligned, the answers come quick and they’re affirming. I hope they work for you the way they worked for me. Here goes… 

1. Am I truly ready to be a married man? Marriage is a lifelong commitment. And it’s no joke, so make damn sure you’re aware of what you’re signing up for before you take that leap. Marriage means you are entering a partnership built on a bond built on love, trust and respect. I strongly suggest that you look inside and ask yourself if getting married feels like the right decision. If there is any hesitation, take a deep breath and ask yourself again. If your underlying hesitation remains, you might want to reconsider your options. Ignore any outside pressures. This is your life, amigo. You hold the answers inside your heart.

2. What kind of future will I have with her? Do your best to peek into your shared future and visualize the kind of life that awaits the two of you. Where do you want to live, work, play, vacation, travel, settle down and buy a home, and spend your sunset days together? These questions can go on and on. Do your best to “see” your future with this lady. If you like what you see, proceed to the next question.

3. Will I be content not shagging other women for the rest of my life? This is usually an unspoken area, but in many ways for a guy, it becomes the issue. And if you are a horn dog like me, you’ll want a woman in total synch with your boning stylings. If she is the only one you’ll be rumpling the sheets with, you two better be simpatico about sex. Maybe, and this is a long shot, you both will be cool with an open marriage. It could happen, but don’t count on it. Unless you are a douche, once you tie the knot, your prowling nights are over. Yeah, you can always look at the menu, but ultimately the big dogs like to eat. Make sure you are cool with this.

4. What are her expectations? Guess what? It’s not all about you. If she’s going to invest her body, mind, and spirit in commune with you for what could be her entire life, she deserves to know what she’s getting into. If you think she’s the one for you, make sure you don’t hold back any creepy secrets that would give her pause. Let her know about your dreams and aspirations and how you’ll be there for her. And ask her what she expects from you along the way. It’s only fair that you are transparent and that you feel comfortable with her needs.

5. Do you both want kids? This can be a deal breaker. Everyone has their own vision of what their future family will look like, and not every woman wants to have kids, or wants to stay home and care for them. So if you want three kids and she wants none, or she wants to work and you want her to raise the kids, these issues could become a sore point as the years go by. Maybe you’ll have to take care of the kids! It happens a lot nowadays. Will she be cool with that? Will you? Get the details about children out in the open before walking to the altar. I was single for so long that I didn’t think I would ever become a father, and I was okay with it. That said—I kept an open mind in case the woman I married wanted to start a family. And here I am now, a doting father of a four year old. And I could not be happier.

6. Do I like her family? You might not think that this matters, but it does. In the vast majority of cases, you’re going to have quite a few interactions with your in-laws. So if you really can’t stand being around them, think twice before moving forward. Hey, you might find out that they don’t like you either. 

7. Does she make me laugh? The power of humor is underrated. When I think about it, most of my friends are funny, or at least know how to laugh. If you can’t make your future wife laugh, you are in trouble. And hopefully, she can get a rise out of you, too. This becomes important when you fight (which you will) and how you make up (which you will also do). I highly recommend finding a partner that laughs easily at your shenanigans. You want to make her laugh, don’t you? 

8. Do I really want to grow old with her? Fast forward thirty or forty years. She no longer rocks a black bikini the way she used to, and maybe she’s put on a few pounds. And you have less hair, worse eyesight, and a belly. Can you handle that? I actually weigh less than I did thirty years ago and I still run the same times. Why? Because I give a shit and I invest time in taking care of myself. And, frankly I expect the same of my partner. Think about how you will handle her looks and health three decades from now. Can you handle the variables? My advice is that you set the example by taking care of your health and fitness as a matter of lifestyle and pride. There is nothing wrong with a little pride when it’s for the greater good.

9. Does she fight fair? Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are like an old married couple. They fight, they avoid one another, and yet they still make wonderful music when they come together. Be like Mick and Keith. You can fight, but don’t hit below the belt. And always forgive. That doesn’t mean you become a doormat. You may not instantly forget shit they may have done, but it means that you don’t allow your partner’s behavior or your anger eat you up from the inside. The point is, marriage is a like long dance when it comes to managing emotions. Take the lead and make it a waltz. 

10a. Do we share the same values? Another underrated, but important thing to consider. By values, I’m referring to what you value you as people. It’s not about money. We’ll get to that. It’s more about how you both see humanity, and your role in making this world a better place. Do you both care about this, or is she the only one who cares about clean water, feeding the poor, education, and health care. What if she prefers country life and you dig the big city? Think about all of your values or you may end up marrying someone with a completely different set of beliefs. Can you imagine a Trump loyalist married to a Bernie supporter? You think that would work out?

10b. Are we in synch on financial issues? To solve a mystery, they often say, “follow the money”. When it comes to marriage, you best be in synch when it comes to how you view and handle the cash. If not, you could be in deep shit, and it could happen quickly. Nowadays, many couples have separate bank accounts. I think this is a good practice, but it doesn’t guarantee that financial issues won’t beguile your marriage. Money problems are near the top of every divorce hearing. There is a reason for it. People have their individual relationships to money, many times formulated during their upbringing. If you like to save and she likes to spend, good luck, champ.

11. BONUS QUESTION - What’s in it for her?  Why should she marry you? Think about it. What do you have to offer her that would inspire her to spend the rest of her life listening to you snore and watching the Jets lose? She can give you love, emotional support, children, and the kind of love that only a woman can share. What are you going to do for her? If it all boils down to is you making a paycheck, you are skating on thin ice, amigo. Think long and hard about how you can add to her life emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. She deserves it. So do you.

With marriage there is a lot to consider, but then again, if it’s meant to be, you’ll breeze through these questions. If you have to think long and hard about any of the points I raised, then you might want to think hard and possibly reconsider your options. After all, you want to be fair to yourself and your partner. If deep down, it really doesn’t feel right, no matter how much pressure you may be under, don’t do it. After all, who wants to spend their life with someone who may secretly not feel the same about them?

This week’s GUY’S GUY of the WEEK is my father, Serge Manni. He was twenty-five when he married my mother, who was 21. They have been married for 67 years now. Sure, they have had their arguments and they are very different people, but underneath it all they have consistently maintained their love for one another. And ultimately, love is the fuel that drives a marriage. Good luck, amigo. I hope you make the right decision. It will change your life. Just ask any Guy’s Guy.

On Being A Dad

Robert Manni - Thursday, June 15, 2017


I thought the task of being an older dad would be easy. More life experience, more patience, more self-acceptance. I was wrong. Being a dad is not an easy task, but the job has become more and more fascinating with each passing year.

Since I only got married seven years ago and never pictured myself as a father, when my wife got pregnant I wasn’t sure how to feel or what to expect. Regardless of all the books I’d read on the subject (none) or the classes I took (none) to help me face the mysteries of fatherhood, I knew I’d be in for lots of surprises and priceless life lessons.

I consider my wife the smartest person I know, so thankfully I’d have someone who knew what they were doing at the wheel at least during infancy. I thought I would step up once the kid was ready for little league. That was selfish and dumb, and it didn’t turn out that way. I’ve been totally immersed in fatherhood since the moment I caught my son in the delivery room four years ago. I thought I’d learn about being a dad along the way, and as a result I made my share of miscalculations and blunders. Yet my wife tells me that overall, I’m a good dad. Here’s a snap shot of how the first few years have played out and the key takeaways I’ve been gifted since my son was born.

Year one was all about eating, sleeping, pooping, and crying. Mom and son really bonding here, folks. Sure, I wiped his butt, changed diapers, etc., and did my best in taking a load off my wife, but a powerful connection was forged between mother and child during this critical first year. Year two was less intense and highlighted by movement and awakenings. First he crawled, then he pulled himself up, and finally he stumbled a few steps. He still ate, slept and pooped a lot, but so do I, and now he was mobile and demonstrating his distinctive personality traits.

I was under the assumption that half of his personality would be like me and the other half like my wife. Wrong. Although he shares our strong personalities, he is, and has been, his own little person from the get go. He began showing more of his willful personality during year two. I noticed how focused he was and how he never let go of something once he got locked in. He was developing his likes and dislikes. During this time, he walked, even ran a bit, and smiled a lot.

My wife and I are big readers, so we read books to him and like magic, he connected with the stories we picked out. And like most kids, he wanted us to read him the same books over and over again. I don’t know what it is about Goodnight Moon that hits the spot with kids, but they love that book. At two, my son also loved The Giving Tree along with the many Dr Seuss books. There are so many great kids books that stimulate a child’s imagination and I highly recommend devoting ample time to reading to your child. It makes a difference in how they develop their imagination and process language. We only allow gentle videos, like old school Disney films as a reward for taking his nap and having a good day at school. By the time my little guy turned three, he began waking and getting out of bed on his own, and slipping out to the living room where he could be found each morning flipping through stacks of books on the couch.

Socialization can be tricky for toddlers. My son has always been super upbeat and friendly, so he has no anxiety and makes friends easily. During years two and three he evolved from being the victim to occasionally being the perpetrator, or the one who pushes at the playground. But that was a short segment that most kids go through. Over a short time, he developed a natural empathy for others and learned how to quickly make connections with the other kids. Now he talks to adults, kids, neighbors, strangers, and animals. I’ve never seen a kid so comfortable in his on skin. This outgoing and friendly behavior will serve him well in life. During his threes, he also developed a penchant for art, drawing pictures, and playing cards and board games. Unfortunately, due random circumstances, he was forced to attend three separate Pre K 3 schools in one year. But it’s worked out and he has his sights on moving to Pre K 4 at a bigger school in the fall.

Overall, year three was about transitions. I’m proud to say that he handled all the changes like a champ. And like a true New Yorker he has friends of all races, creeds and cultures. New York City has its drawbacks for raising kids, but it also has the parks and activities that provide a wonderful environment for opening young minds. Now, our little guy is four. He knows what he likes and does not hold back on letting anyone know. He picks out his clothes. He tells us what playground he wants to hang in, and he knows that if he doesn’t take a nap he’s not getting a cookie or a video.

Parents are the first mirror for a child, but teaching works both ways. With the help of my wife, I am learning what approaches work best while I attempt to elicit the desired response from my child. That means getting him to listen up and do what I need him to do when I ask him. Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I’m a get-it-done, task-oriented person. I do my thing and allow others to do theirs. All I ask is for people to pay attention, be present and do their job. Kind of like Bill Belechik. Unfortunately, that’s football and business, and not how things work with kids, especially with sensitive souls like my son.

When I ask him to do something-- like follow me to the bathroom so I can brush his teeth before we head for school-- he often ignores me. This type of situation is commonplace and can become tedious. Being an unschooled dad, I used to get upset in these situations, and it backfired. My son picks up on my energy, so if I don’t project the proper tone in my voice, he would run away. What’s the answer? Watch what my wife did. And she uses blackmail. So, now if he ignores me when I call to him and he does not respond, I tell him there will be no cookies or videos in the near future. And it works. Now he listens and, at least usually, comes running by the time I count to two. I’m also reprioritizing my schedule and making sure that I am more present when I am with my son. I fight the urge now (and usually win) when it comes to not taking out my phone on the bus or subway. I realize how lucky I am to have the time to spend with my little boy. When I was a kid my father traveled constantly, so I’m making up for those absences of quality father-son time while I have it.

So, what is fatherhood all about if not teaching your child about the world while learning more about yourself and life at the same time? Sounds about right to me. I highly recommend becoming a father to any guy who is ready when that special opportunity comes their way.

This week’s GUY’S GUY OF THE WEEK is my dad, Serge Manni. He recently turned ninety-two and has lived an amazing, full life. I can only hope I’ll do the same and also be a shining example of how to be a man for my son…even if I’m still learning.

The Guys' Guy's Secrets to a Successful Marriage

Robert Manni - Thursday, February 04, 2016


It took a long time for me to get married…a really long time.

In fact, I waited so long that family members didn’t badger me about this sensitive topic during holiday get-togethers. My fate appeared sealed so no one even bothered asking me any more, not even my mother. Although I had never taken the leap, I didn't have a firm stance against the institution. In fact, I looked forward to marrying and experiencing that watershed life stage. But it could only take place with one caveat. It had to feel right. Us Guy’s Guys don’t believe in half steps like starter marriages, whatever that is. Marriage is a sacrament, so unless I went all in, I wasn’t going in at all. Sure, I had a number of long-term relationships with women that I loved. But deep down I never felt right about any of those situations, so I waited and waited and waited. Of course I was at fault for not cutting things off once I knew these relationships were not going any further. I was wrong and both my partners and me paid a price in lost time because of my indecision and lollygagging. That said, I enjoyed all those relationships and did not feel a sense of failure once the window closed. I got dumped every time and you could say I deserved to learn my lessons the hard way.

After numerous forays into the online dating pool, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t getting any younger and if I was ever going to get married, it had to happen soon. There was no panic or anxiety though. I realized that I was mentally, spiritually, and physically ready to take the next step. All I needed to do was meet the right woman for me. And even though I was not dating at the time, deep down I was intuitively aware that I’d get married soon. I just felt it in my bones. One Thanksgiving Day, after dinner I told my Mom I was planning on get married the following year. She was delighted and asked me who was the lucky lady (her words, not mine). I told her I had no idea, but I knew I was ready because I had made room for the right person to come into my life. Six months later I met my future wife. We were engaged exactly one year later to the day and were married very close to one year after that. We are now closing in on six happy years of marriage and are the proud parents of a wonderful little boy. So today, your Guy’s Guy is offering his insights, limited as they may be compared to those who’ve been married way longer than me, on the things that have made my transition to married life joyful and successful.

Drum roll, please…

1. Hold out for the right partner.

This was my most important learning. I paid a price due to my age by waiting so long to get married and having a child. But I feel it was meant to be and ultimately for the best. My heart has never wavered and I have no doubts about my making the right choice. I probably would have been relatively happy if I’d have married one of my former lovers, but would I have the knowing peace of mind a man needs after making the big commitment? I’m not sure about that.

My future wife sent me a card after a few dates with a hand written inscription stating, “I believe in you.” That flipped the switch for me. Sure everything else was working out nicely, but those words every man yearns to hear from his partner. I keep the card tucked in a drawer as a reminder, although my wife frequently reminds me of her sentiments, even when the going gets tough. This made all the waiting worthwhile.

I’m sure some of you singles are questioning my simplistic purview. Finding true love is never easy and it may not happen for everyone in this lifetime. But don’t settle. Loving yourself, making room for someone, and keeping an open mind are the keys to finding the right partner. Remember that if you compromise, will you end up asking yourself if you did the right thing? Will you burn even more time in an unfulfilling relationship?

2. Know when you’re ready and then let go.

As mentioned, I created space in my heart and the right consciousness to allow a new person to come into my life. In retrospect, this was a very important aspect of making my connection. In order attract and bring the right things into our loves we need to rid ourselves of the internal clutter that bogs us down psychologically and create a warm and inviting space for new love to grow. Keep your heart open. It really works in attracting love and in many areas of our lives. Make room for what you want and have faith that you are exactly where you need to be right now. Don’t press. Let it happen.

3. Find someone who shares your values.

Some people think this means making sure you and your partner are simpatico about money and that’s really important, but values are more than just money. Values include many other aspects of partnering including how they treat people and their extended family. And not every couple is in synch with their visions concerning lifestyle, sex, children, family, work, where and how to live, and even politics. If partners disagree on core values, they’ll need to be addressed with clear, honest communication or a chasm will grow.

4. Don’t turn small stuff into big problems.

There are two things on television that I despise—real estate fixer upper shows and those damn housewives. And although my wife has two masters and is the smartest person I know, she loves watching those programs. So what’s a Guy’s Guy to do? After being single for decades I became accustomed to getting my own way all the time, so this created a potential dilemma. This was certainly more of an annoyance than a problem, but some of small stuff can blow up if people do not compromise. I thought about how generous my wife is and realized that she deserves her minor indulgence without my sniping over her shoulder while she watched her favorite housewives in Beverly Hills and Orange County. So on Tuesday nights, I retire to my study and work on my content. The real estate shows can be more of an issue because they are ubiquitous, but I tune them out, knowing that the next installment of ESPN Sports Center is only a few short hours away. Which leads me to…

5. Put your partner’s needs first.

Minor sacrifices as I described above are only the beginning to forging a fruitful marriage built on respect. I urge my wife to take break from our kid and go out with her friends. And I make it my priority to take care of the dishes, empty the garbage, recycling, and do the laundry. After all, she really takes great care of my son and me. I should do more, but I’m spoiled and bad habits don’t die easily. Being mindful of your partner is a process, but we all have to make modest sacrifices for the greater good. Which brings us to our next point…

5. Keep dating your partner.

A romantic brunch (even though I hate brunch), a movie, flowers, or a vacation are obvious ways to keep stoking the romantic fires. So are keeping up with the chores and not complaining. It’s easy to take your marriage for granted and use your partner as a sounding board and psychic dumping ground for the shitty things in your life. Try not to be that guy. You want to share your feelings and concerns with your partner, but try to also include your dreams and aspirations as well as the things you’d like to do together as part of your verbal intimacy. And keep surprising your partner. That includes you too, ladies. Make him feel like Mr. Big now and then, especially after a tough day of changing diapers and being domestic.

I’m scratching the surface to what makes a marriage work. And marriage is not always a picnic. Job stress, money, and sex become elephants in the room if we are not mindful and open to discussions. The most important question to answer is if your marriage is making you happy. If you are not happy, look into your heart and ask why. Then have a talk with your partner and see if you can reclaim the common ground that brought you together. We grow and people change. And not every marriage is going to work. But we want to respect our relationship and give it our best shot.

Marriage can be joyful. It can be fulfilling. If you keep love at the core of your marriage, you’ve give yourself the best opportunity to make it work.

This week’s Guy’s Guys of the Week are Serge and Carol Manni. My dad and mom have been married for 65 years. But they are not always in the same page. However their marriage was built on a solid foundation of love for one another. Thank you, Mom and Dad for teaching me the value of love.

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Holiday Hacks

Robert Manni - Thursday, December 10, 2015


Let’s face it; our culture has sucked the fun out of the holidays. Between our bowing to political correct greetings, decorations on display in October, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, tipping everyone from the dental hygienist to the dude who bags your groceries, and those omnipresent holiday musical playlists, this time of year can be tough. How can we deal with the calamity without turning into a Grinch?

Take heart, amigos. There is a bright side to this holiday story. Your Guy’s Guy is stuffing your digital stocking with his helpful hints to give you a firm handle on the season before it can rise up and devour your soul. And it makes no difference which holiday you celebrate. Everyone needs a strategy and flawless execution to help make the holiday season joyful

So, here is my not-so-secret Santa gift — The Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Holiday Hacks.

1. Plan early and often.
This critical first step requires only a modest investment of your energy, but pays off handsomely in dollars and hours saved by the time Santa squeezes his big butt down your chimney. December flies by at the speed of a reindeer on PED’s, so it’s important to plan in advance. A good first step is to begin a mental checklist in September and October of things to consider for the upcoming season. In fact, it’s never too early to plan or be on the lookout for things you’ll need once we enter the season to be jolly. My wife buys wrapping paper whenever she sees a pattern or material she likes, regardless of the time of year. Sounds crazy, but it saves her time in December.

For the rest of us, the best way to get started is by asking a few key questions. Where will I be celebrating and with what people? Who do I want to (and need to) exchange presents with? How much can I (and do I) want to spend? Mull this over during your commute, on the treadmill or even when showering. Then, grab your iPhone, jot down a few notes and let them it sit. Subconsciously, you’re laying the groundwork for a successful plan and execution. Over the coming days, you’ll come up with things you omitted and revise your checklist, and that’s good. Soon you should have your game plan mentally mapped out and documented. Although it’s just a guideline, you’re getting off on the right foot start.

2. Do your research online and offline.
There are plethora of digital apps for price comparisons and tools to find the best deals and best times to buy. A quick walk through a few selected retailers before Thanksgiving can also give you a good idea as to what items are hot and in ample supply. For instance, UNIQLO is the king of lightweight down jackets and vests, so you know they will be a few mega-sales during December/Christmas. The point is, if you are mindful and invest a few minutes into research both online and offline for ideas and deals, I assure you that you will spark some ideas and score bargains. Gone are the days of frantically marching through big box retailers the week before Christmas.

3. Consider themes.
After compiling your list of the peeps you want to buy presents for and your budget, consider a common theme for the bulk of these gifts. By the time December rolls around and we’re on the clock, buying one theme that fits all actually levels the playing field and prevents hassles about who got what because everyone's getting something similar. Hey, I’m just being practical here.

Let’s say you need to buy gifts for a bunch of kids. Unless there has been a special request or there's something you specifically wanted to give one of your nieces or nephews, themes save a lot of time. My nephews live for the Dallas Cowboys so last year I bought them both Cowboys caps and shirts and they were happy campers. This year I decided on polar tech across the board, including gifts for siblings and cousins, etc. I’ll drizzle a few more tasty items on top if I see something I like for someone. Of course you will want to be more selective for the people that are closet to you. And the spirit needs to come from a place where there is joy in giving.

3. Booze – Who doesn’t like a select bottle of wine, tequila or rum? If your loved ones indulge, they are probably putting out the full assortment of beer, wine and spirits throughout the holidays. Although it’s not an exciting gift, a nice bottle of wine or spirits comes in handy, for guests or even for (Gasp), regifting. Hey, we all do it and booze is perfect for passing along holiday cheer.

4. Tips and gift cards – You can find tipping guidelines online for everyone from your hairdresser to your doormen. But really, just give an amount that feels right. When time is running out or you’re not sure what to give someone, you can’t go wrong with gift cards. You can find them for everything, if you can’t come up with an idea; all of the credit card companies offer gift cards.

I realize it’s already getting late, and that not all of this is news to many of you. My goal, as a Guy’s Guy, is to help you in whatever way possible, to be at your best during the holiday season. It’s a time for giving, but also a time filled with stress. Have a safe, healthy holiday season and remember the true meaning of all these holidays is bringing loved ones and mankind together in peace.

This week’s Guy’s Guys of the Week are the retailers who did not open on Thanksgiving.

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Love - An Exploration of the Heart

Robert Manni - Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Jagger had it right when he sang, “Love, it’s a bitch”.

Sure, it makes the world go around and can make your heart go pitter, patter, but love can also break your heart and cause a lot of pain. How can we maintain a loving heart in a world filled with so much hateful behavior? At times it’s hard to love our fellow man. But, it’s not all bad. If you look deep inside, there is a light that shines. It’s a spark, that part of you that comes from God. And it keeps burning no matter what.

This week, your Guy’s Guy is taking on love, with all the hurt and happiness that accompanies it. This one’s is not about my novel, The Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Love per se, but it runs along a parallel path by exploring the different kinds of love we experience—romantic, friendship, family love, and the love of humanity and all its flaws. Hopefully, we’ll come to the same conclusion; ultimately love is all we have, and we need to do everything we can to express it every day.

Let’s take a look at the various forms of love, to see if we can find common ground, and ways to understand how we can keep our love alive.

1. Family - The old saying states that you can’t choose your family. But I’ve also read in spiritual texts that before incarnating we choose our parents and family based on lessons we need to learn.

This makes more sense to me, because human ascension requires certain experiences for growth. I’m sure many people would welcome the opportunity to choose their families again because not every familial situation brings joy. Throughout history, family members have done horrible things to their relatives. Not all, but some. That’s just how it goes. And I think you’d agree that at times, everyone’s family seems like it’s totally screwed up. But however we became connected to our families, we’re here now and in it together, so we need to find ways to make the best of it. I’ve learned this the hard way.

Maybe your family is like mine. I like speaking my mind, and for years I assumed you could talk to your family honestly about anything. But I was wrong. My family is made up of good, well-intended people. The problem is, they don’t get me—at all. Compounding the issue, my brood doesn’t share its feelings. Over the years, this has created frustration and occasional outbursts. Over time, I reluctantly decided to shut up and look elsewhere for understanding, validation, and honesty. At family functions I bite my tongue (for the most part) and I’ve learned that it’s better to simply love them than try to get them to understand me. There wasn’t one incident that switched on the light. It took time, lots of time, to understand that although these nice people are my family, it doesn’t mean that they think the same way I do or live their lives the way I do. And, it’s okay. I’ll love them unconditionally regardless. In my heart I thank them for their love and the lessons they are teaching me. I love them.

2. Friends – What’s the old saying? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. At times, they can feel like one and the same.

I’ve done my very best to maintain long-term friendships, and as you know, that’s not always easy. Some people change and evolve, and others travel a different path. But that’s okay. If my friends and I remain on the same page with how we relate, laugh, and treat others, we’re good. But of course, that’s not always the case. Everyone relates to their friends differently. Some never initiate a call, but they are always there if you come up with an idea. There can be misunderstandings, and for some, it’s easier to talk behind a friend’s back than engage in an honest conversation about a point of contention.

I have a friend of over thirty years who for some reason did not respond to my wedding invitation. Ironically, I had been his best man. Eventually I called him two days before the wedding. When I asked if he was attending, he danced and dodged about things that were going on in his life. He couldn't bring himself to just say “no”. Instead he said, “I might stop by.” WTF? Initially I was understandably irked and cut him out of my life. But over time, he began reaching out and acting very cordial and differential to me. Still no mention of the wedding. I finally got together with him this summer when he arranged a road trip and bought concert tickets for our old crew. I showed up and had a nice time. Still no mention of my wedding. I had to make a decision. We’d been friends for decades, but it just wasn’t in him to deal with that issue. Like me, he is a flawed individual, although we do things differently. So, although I don’t go out of my way to see him anymore, I let the ”issue” pass. In my heart, I love him as a person, and for the good times we shared. I’ve moved on. That’s all there is.

You have to make smart choices about friends and which ones are worth keeping. You’re not going to change them, so you either accept them as they are or move on. Sometimes, the choices are tough, but if you use your heart as a guide you’ll make the right decisions. And, you can still love them for the times you shared.

3. Romance – Love hurts. No matter how you look at it, we’ve all felt the pain of a broken heart.

The good news is that relationships are great teachers. The practice of opening our hearts is a great practice. I have loved and lost, loved and lusted, and simply loved. I most enjoy loving and lusting. The biggest challenge for most people when it comes to love is letting go. In retrospect, every time I got dumped turned into ultimate good fortune. I managed to avoid marriage until a few years ago, and I am glad I did.

My last long-term girlfriend dumped me. I suspect she was cheating on me with a colleague. She didn’t cop to it, but all the signs were there. They took unnecessary business trips together and then he and his wife, at the time, took us to a concert, and it felt weird. When the end came, I was at initially devastated. My heart did not want to let go. But, it was time, so I shed a tear or two and moved on. They got married and I dated like crazy before finally meeting my wife. Now I’m beyond grateful that all of this happened. I had my fun, got away from an unfulfilling relationship, and met the right person for me.

Looking back on all of my relationships, I can honestly say that at the time I loved all of these women and regardless of the dirty details of the break-ups, I harbor no negative feelings for them. In fact I love them as people and hope they are happy. We had our good times and I am grateful. It’s so much easier this way. After all, who wants to be in a relationship with someone who does not share the same feelings toward them? It’s easier to simply love.

4 . The Human Race – People do screwed-up, crazy, mean shit to each other every day.

It upsets me, especially the little stuff, because it is so unnecessary. Here's an example: I hire a plumber to replace my water heater. They do the job, but while at my place, promise to come back a replace a cartridge in my leaky faucet. Since he did not have one on the truck, the guy who did the work said he would come back in a few days, give me the plastic cartridge for free and charge me 15 minutes time to fix it. I’ve been calling the main office on a daily basis for over a week now to get this done. Unfortunately, I’m forced to deal with the same repressed, passive-aggressive person who always answers the phone. She keeps finding reasons for why the work has not been scheduled yet. “I told my boss”. ”He doesn’t come in to the office much”. “I gave her the message”. “We’re very busy right now”. She’s got a new excuse every time I call. And she never calls me back. It’s obvious that she has no interest in helping me. In fact, in her own strange way she’s getting off on exerting her minuscule bit of power in life by preventing me from having my faucet repaired. What can I do?

I decided to thank her internally for helping to teach myself how to control my temper and develop patience. I’m almost choking on my words, but I love her. I may feel like giving her a wedgie, but I realize that she has her own issues. I recognize that we both come from the same loving spark of God. And so, I will love her, no matter how difficult it feels. And, I’ll check out YouTube and most likely fix the faucet myself.

There’s so much more to love. For me, the key is to recognize that we all come from the same spark. It’s not up to us to decide who is worthy or not of love because we are all equally deserving. I know it can be a challenge, but love is why we are here. Learn how to love everyone.

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is ex-Beatle, John Lennon, who so aptly said, “It matters not who you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love”.

Teachings from a Toddler

Robert Manni - Thursday, November 06, 2014


Time flashes by. It’s hard to believe my young son is already eighteen months old. As any parent of a toddler can attest to, the job of raising a child is both exhausting and exhilarating. As a long time bachelor who never considered children, I scoffed when my friends told me having a child changes everything. They were right. It’s a whole different ballgame and hopefully it has made me a better Guy’s Guy. While I’ve witnessed my little boy learn about the world, I’ve also learned a lot from him. Here are a few things I’ve picked up by observing and tending to my son.

Life is discovery and learning.

It’s so refreshing seeing a young one interact with things for the first time. Whether it’s trying a new food, hearing a fire truck, or seeing a big dog or a little girl with flowing blonde hair, I’m continually amazed at the sheer joy children glean from what adults consider uneventful daily occurrences. Just a few minutes ago I watched my son play with a hanger for ten minutes. He picked it up, tossed it, dropped it, pushed it and basically milked the life out of it before leaving it on the floor so he could hide in my closet. When we’re outside he’ll pick up a leaf from an oak tree and carefully examine it like an astronaut who just landed on a strange planet.  He constantly reminds me about the wonders of our world and little things like fresh fallen leaves that adults take for granted. Maintaining one’s innocence and sense of wonder is important to keeping fresh and staying young at heart.

Get your hands dirty.

Like radar, toddler boys gravitate to nature and the earth. My son loves trees and bushes and wading through leaves that crunch beneath his feet. As we walk he picks up random broken tree branches, blades of grass and leaves and he’ll stop to scrunch down and play with each item until he’s gotten whatever joy he can get from it. Then he picks up the next thing in his path. There is something about little boys and their fascination with nature and getting their hands dirty that reminds me to roll up my sleeves mindfully dig into whatever I’m doing.   

Practice makes perfect.

My son has a stack of books. When I ask if he wants me to read to him, he carefully pores through the pile and makes his first selection. I pull him onto the couch and read aloud. He seems to always pick the same books, never bored with hearing me read each again and again. I must have read, “The Runaway Bunny” aloud over one hundred times. He points to the illustrations and says, “Caw”, his current word for everything. I’ll respond, “moon”, “cat”, “fish”, “frog” or whatever before he turns the page. Then he points to the same images again to be sure he knows the word. And he’s learning. When he places his finger on the illustration of a window, I’ll say “window”. Then he points to the window in our living room and says, “Caw”. He gets it. Repetition sounds boring, but it’s good for learning. Think about it next time you’re in that language, dance, or cooking class you thought would be so easy.

Routines can be good.

Let’s take repetition a step further. My son, and I think all toddlers, prefer routines at this early age. When you are new to the game, there is a comfort in knowing what comes next. Mommy gives you a bottle in the morning. Daddy tests you with flash cards when he feeds you dinner. You grab your shoes when it’s time to go out, and so on. I’ve noticed that when his routine gets changed up, like with daylight saving, it takes him a time to adjust. But within a few days, he settles back onto his groove. Adults like the comfort of routines also, and there is nothing wrong with a little predictability during chaotic times.

 

Leave the baggage behind.

My son is endlessly curious. He wants to examine anything he has not seen before. And that’s good. Recently he’s been obsessed with a deck of cards in a plastic case wrapped with a rubber band. I knew that as soon as he got to those cards they were destined for the floor. And sure enough it happened as predicted. I finally took the rubber band off after watching his sad little eyes peer up at me again while holding the case. When I took off the rubber band and handed him the case, I could see the delight in his eyes. Then the cards tumbled onto the floor.  After a quick glance at the cards, he cheerily marched off with the plastic case. He had no interest in the cards. And, of course, toddlers don’t think about who cleans up the mess, but that’s okay. Every time my son moves on from his most recent object of desire he reminds me not to put too much value on things or emotions. It’s better to leave our baggage behind.

Maybe I’m connecting the dots a little too conveniently to suit my point of view, but I know I’m learning as much about myself that my son is about the world. Thank you, little man.

Have you ever taken the time to learn from little kids?

 This week’s Guys’ Guys of the week are the growing number of stay-at-home dads who unselfishly devote their time to raising their children.


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