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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Guys' Guy's Post-Election Guide to Managing Your Friendships, and Social Media

Robert Manni - Tuesday, November 15, 2016


More shocking than the host of Celebrity Apprentice becoming our 45th President-elect has been the hate and vitriol spewed between so many friends who supported different candidates this recent election.

As you know things have gotten personal and real nasty. The levels of hate and toxicity have been surprising and it’s saddening that things have come to this in our great (yeah, it’s still great) country. 

Who out there hasn’t been taken aback by the sheer anger and bile projected by our friends, countrymen, and fellow patriots at one other? Those who voted for Trump ask others to give him a chance before jumping down his throat. The HRC supporters respond and say how can we, when it was it was Trump who started and then fanned the fires with his inflammatory comments throughout the campaign? His early picks for key positions that include members of his immediate family and Republican insiders—how is this draining the swamp?

Many people are afraid of the early signs of backlash from the Trump victory by his fervent supporters, including racial slurs and swastikas slapped onto public buildings. Others point to Clinton’s cronyism and the screwing over of Bernie Sanders as proof that she really was Crooked Hillary. A match between Bernie and Trump may have been more interesting and might have yielded different results, but that’s not what we got. Instead we had six months of WWE style putdowns, slanders, and nastiness that either embarrassed, enraged, or galvanized supporters for these two flawed candidates.

How did this happen? For months, and even after the Wikileaks emails surfaced, it looked like Hillary had the election in the bag. But the pundits were wrong. They were so, so wrong. The polls and the TV talking heads either misread or weren’t paying attention to the pent up anger that spread not only through Middle America, but also resonated with a surprising number of women, blacks, and Latinos, all voting for Trump. It’s amazing, but true. So let’s agree that people were fed up, and now here we are. A country more divided after the election.

Social media, and Facebook in particular, have become war zones. Friends, friends of friends, and trolls continue the diatribe of incendiary and often highly personal remarks about their fellow Americans. Disgusting democrats, racist Republicans, Nazis, and rapists are just a sample of the descriptions I’ve witnessed today on my FB feed. And I, too, was sucked into the fray early on and may have tossed a few verbal bombs as well, especially towards friends who seemed out of touch. The bottom line is that many voters are going to be in for a major surprise, especially for those in the lower income levels who need positive change and a bit of luck. It’s still early, but unlike Brexit, I have not seen any buyers’ remorse by Trump supporters. In fact, most of them are either gloating or doubling down on the “whiny loser” rhetoric. Clinton supporters have refused to take a “wait and see” approach, but this only leads to more frustration as we are going to experience change whether we like it or not.  To be fair, Trump won, and his supporters were really, really pissed off and many didn’t expect to win. But after the celebratory mood quiets down, I suggest they fasten their seat belts because it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Many who hate the costs of Obamacare will find themselves on the short end of the stick when it comes to healthcare and rising costs from private sources, which was why we got Obamacare in the first place. The bottom line is that it’s going to get ugly and to survive as a nation we collectively need to stay peaceful, focused and educate ourselves about the positions and policies that we’re about to face. 

So what’s a Guy’s Guy to do? I suggest first taking stock and then taking action as warranted. To the protestors, you have the right to assemble and make our voices heard. Trump urged revolts when Obama won in 2012, so we have to be fair about that. Are some of these bused-in, paid supporters? Maybe. If so, it’s not a good thing, but do we get truth from the media anymore? Let’s face it—the mainstream media outlets are partisan. And most of the crap reported on the internet is mostly just that, crap. But, lots of people believe what they want to believe and that is not going to change. So here’s what I suggest:

1. Don’t attack what you hate. Promote what you love. Whether that means protesting, marching or joining a group that seeks to advocate transparency or make positive change, make sure that it is built on love, not just fear.

2. Block nasty strangers and snarky trolls on social media. People get whisky muscles on social media and, as you may have noticed, there are a lot of jerks on the internet. So unless you feel like wasting your time arguing with people who love to drag a spirited discussion into the gutter, the most effective way to deal with their bullshit is to simply block them. End of story.

3. If you have to, UNFRIEND people who are toxic. If they really are your friends in the offline world, they most likely won’t fall into this category. But, if offline friends become impossible and copy you on endless threads of hateful emails, rethink that friendship.  Whatever you do, don’t respond to those emails, especially if you’re being baited and if members of their CC list expose strong and divergent opinions from yours. Ask yourself if that person is really your friend and the kind of dude you want in your life now.

I’m not pointing a finger solely at Trump supporters. They have a right to celebrate and even gloat a bit. But, I would ask them to at some point soon, get past the euphoria and actually go deeper into what their candidate has discussed, including the wall, tariffs, repealing Obamacare, handling ISIS in a secretive fashion, etc. Our new President-elect was voted in on the winds of change. Change can be a good thing, but not when it’s simply for the sake of change. There needs to be substantive reasons and concrete plans we can embrace. At this point, we all need to watch our new administration closely and hold their toes to the fire when they consider any actions that could curtail any of our hard-fought freedoms.

So let’s all take a deep breath, stay vigilant, and choose love over fear. It’s the only way to go.

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Yeah, remember that guy? He promoted equality, space exploration, physical fitness, and justice for all. And no one called him crooked or the second coming of Hitler. But sadly, we all know what happened. God bless America.

To Drink or Not to Drink...

Robert Manni - Friday, April 01, 2016

When you’re not drinking have you ever noticed the people around you who’ve had too much to drink? Pretty sloppy, huh? At times like these I wonder why I drink. So I stopped, for a while at least.

By doing so, I learned a lot about how drinking impacts our behavior, fitness, and overall health. I spent over two decades in the marketing and advertising industries working on many the world’s most popular spirits brands. I’ve also been known to enjoy a cocktail or two or even three on occasion. But, I’ve also easily pushed alcohol aside for months at a time.

With that in mind, I’m sharing my Guys’ Guy’s perspective on the art of drinking, its benefits, and consequences. I’ll do my very best to avoid judgments or preaching. Let me begin by stating that fortunately, I’ve never had a problem with alcohol. Although I enjoy the taste of aged dark rum, a fine sipping tequila, a buttery Chardonnay, or a complex Pinot Noir, I’ve never physically or mentally needed a drink. I can hold my liquor, and only on rare occasions have I been inebriated. And, if I do drink too much, I go home and fall asleep. I’m not a mean, violent, or even a funny drunk. But, that’s me. Everyone experiences booze differently.

In today’s culture, and particularly when working hard, alcohol becomes a go-to outlet for letting off steam, venting, and bonding. So the phrase, “let’s meet for a drink” is de rigueur. We do it all the time. It’s become who we are. So, how does that work when we’re not drinking alcohol? A few nights ago I was out with friends. I had given up drinking for the past month matched my buddies beer rounds with club soda. When you are in a bar, this becomes tedious quickly, especially when your squad is matching you with rounds of ice-cold IPA’s.

I put my blinders on and focus on the conversation, but I can’t help but notice when someone in my group or standing close by has had a few too many cocktails. They get loud and bolder than usual, and many times they start repeating things. The other night, I was on the receiving end of a lecture complete with Tony Robbins quotes from a close friend who showed up after meeting his colleagues for a few hours of drinks. He’s a great friend, but he already had one or two too many by the time he arrived. And for some reason I became the object of his attention. He shared pearls like, “I’m an assassin. I’m a killer. I close deals. There is no long term, only today. What is your six-month plan?” Some of what he said was correct…mostly for him, but he meant well. That said, whenever I attempted to get a word in edgewise, he raised his voice and talked over me. I’ve been there before so it was nothing more than a mild annoyance. And although his intention was to be helpful, the alcohol obscured his message. Sometimes that’s what happens when the beers gets ahead of us.

Let’s take a quick look at drinking from three perspectives: as a marketer, as a drinker, and as someone abstemious.

Working in the booze business – The spirits business is comprised of a mixed bag of marketers, salespeople, and entrepreneurial thinkers. It’s a fun, social business where a lot of time is spent observing the market at the on-premise establishments. And, unlike the packaged goods, financial services, or pharma sectors, liquor is a category where you can seed a great idea, create an image, and in short order witness a brand taking off. I worked in the vodka category in the 90’s during the flavor explosion. It was exhilarating. Ten years later the magic was gone. Where do you go after vodka tastes like breakfast cereal, candy bars or cupcakes?   Fortunately, there are many types of spirits and tastes change every decade. Nowadays, although vodka still accounts for $.35 out of every dollar spent on spirits, it’s no longer the hot spot. Millenials want their own drinks, and there has been a migration to brown goods (bourbon, whiskey, and rye). Beer has also blossomed into a multilayered category. Back in the day you either drank Bud or Miller. Now every state, county and metropolis produces beer and most of them are better than the mass-produced brands. It’s happening with spirits also. It’s fascinating how the spirits industry continues changing as each generation shifts their tastes to reflect their values versus what their older siblings and parents drank.

Drinking as a team sport- Who doesn’t like to meet up with their mates after hours to throw back a few cold ones and watch the game? It’s part of our culture, and in most cases people are pretty cool and know how to pace themselves. But not everyone handles themselves well after a drinking for a few hours.

There has been a proliferation of binge drinking, especially by gen-Xers and millenials over the past two decades. Shots, followed by drinks, beers, and more shots is standard fair that comes with a downside. People get drunk quickly. Then they act stupid. Also, drinking has been an expensive habit, especially when frequenting bars, clubs, and restaurants on a regular basis.

And there is more bad news. Today’s cocktail culture is built around sweet mixed drinks laden with sugar. These tasty sugary concoctions make us crave salty bar bites like wings, nuts, pizzas, and assorted cheesy bar snacks. If you go to bars a lot you need to be mindful. It’s easy to gain weight, seed Type 2 diabetes, and spend a lot of money. Plus, if you get pulled over when driving with a buzz, it’s usually a disaster.

Not drinking- As mentioned, I’ve stopped drinking for months at a time on numerous occasions. For me, the challenge is breaking the habit, so after a few days I forget all about my post-work cocktail or wine with dinner. It’s not that big of a deal. The good news is I always lose a few pounds, sleep better, and have more energy in the morning. I spring out of bed and get right into my day. As a result I am usually more productive. Additionally, alcohol is a depressant, so if I’m experiencing personal or career challenges or taking things too seriously, giving booze a rest is beneficial to my mood and attitude and health. I usually stay positive, I’m consuming less sugar and empty calories, and I lose weight around my midsection as long as I don’t replace the liquor with other sweets like chocolate and ice cream. I’m not suggesting that this is for everyone, but it works for me. And I think that one of these breaks will become a lifestyle. We’ll see. How about you? Think you can stop drinking for a month? Try it if you can and keep track of what changes take place. Then decide what you get out alcohol and if you need it in your life. Maybe. Maybe not. No judgments. It’s up to you.

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is Robert Downey Jr. who after years of substance abuse went clean in 2003 and became one of the most bankable movie stars in the world. Nice work, Iron Man.


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”.

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Forgiveness

Robert Manni - Friday, September 19, 2014

People screw up. In fact, people screw up a lot.

We’ve all been jerked around, stabbed in the back, had our hearts broken, and been betrayed. It’s part of the human experience. But, these trials are opportunities for growth. Some say that there are no coincidences and life is one big schoolroom. People cross our paths to teach us what we need to know, even if the lessons are painful. So we need a way of dealing with people’s misdeeds. It’s called forgiveness and it comes from the heart. That does not mean condoning asshole behavior, allowing it to continue, or failing to take preventative measures so it does not happen again. Nope. We do what’s necessary to protect ourselves, while forgiving and releasing the offenders from our energetic realm. With this in mind, I offer my Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Forgiveness. I know life is hard and we’ve all been tempted to slap certain people upside their heads. But forgiveness is a critical part of a Guy’s Guy DNA.

Why forgive?

None of us are without fault. We’ve all done bad things to our fellow man. Maybe these misdeeds were unintentional, but we’ve all been subservient to our egos and wronged someone. We’re human. We’re also all connected in vibration. That means all of us are equally deserving of universal love. So what does all this have to do with being a Guy’s Guy? Guys’ Guys have a duty to make the world a better place. Forgiveness is a wonderful path of ascension. It aids our physical, emotional and spiritual health while releasing toxins and low vibration energy. Forgiveness also helps us see ourselves in others, even if we would not necessarily handle certain situations the same way. We do not know their path or their pain. And again, people mess up all the time so we need to forgive, even if it seems impossible at the time of the transgression. Carrying around anger and resentment or reacting in an equally bad way continues a cycle of negativity and impacts our health. Do we want the effects of someone’s bad behavior compounded by our internalizing their misdeeds? It’s a double whammy to avoid.

How do we forgive?

It’s easy. Take a deep breath, exhale, and release the person in question from your consciousness. I’m not suggesting that we forget what they have done. I am only suggesting that we forgive them. An eye for an eye results in a lot of one-eyed people. This is about letting go and moving on. The best way to deal with people who wrong us is by not engaging them in the future and not internalizing their bad behavior.  Carrying around anger and pain also empowers the other person, and that’s the last thing you want to do. There are many ways to forgive. Here are a few that work for me. When someone does me wrong I say to myself, “I’m sorry ____ is not the way I wanted him or her to be. I forgive them and set them free.” It helps me energetically and it also frees the other person. Maybe they can learn from this. I do not want to create ill will towards this person anyway because it will boomerang back to me. It’s better to forge ahead and seek like-minded people. I have found that since I have made forgiveness a daily practice I continue to meet people whose energy is more in line with mine. Meditation is also great way to forgive and let things go. As always, I put myself in a relaxed state. I begin by forgive myself, acknowledging my mistakes and how I may have unwittingly hurt others. I may be a Guy’s Guy, but I screw up as much as the next person. Then I mentally review specific time periods in my life. In my mind’s eye, I wait for individuals who have done me a disservice to appear. Let me tell you, it’s a long list. I face each one, tell them how I feel about what they did, and forgive them. I release them from my consciousness and they disappear. The process takes only a few minutes and I find it very cleansing. Just make sure to always forgive yourself. I realize that forgiveness can be challenging. But once I got the hang of it, forgiving others became easier. And somehow the world didn’t feel like such a terrible place.

Have you forgiven those who have trespassed you?

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is Paul Ferrini. His book, “The 12 Steps of Forgiveness” provides a practical blueprint for the art of forgiveness.

A Guy's Guy is a Friend's Friend

Robert Manni - Friday, April 11, 2014


Friendship is at the heart of being a Guy’s Guy. 

The frenetic pace of the modern life can get in the way of maintaining long-term friendships. The world has gotten smaller and as a result we spend so much of our time working or managing our complicated lives that we sometimes forget about the importance of having real friends. We make friends throughout life—in grammar school, high school, college, at work and through meeting friends of friends. Our bonds grow deeper with some of them than with our siblings, while many disappear like ships passing in the night. We grow out others of like old sweaters. Friends get married, start families and move away. And as our lives and values change, some old buddies may no longer fit our lifestyle. Throughout it all there are a few individuals who withstand the test of time and circumstance and remain our friends. It’s important to protect and respect these precious connections as they become more rare over the passage of time. 

Most of the Guy’s Guys that I know can count their real friends on their fingers. I fall into this category. Here are a few thoughts about the importance of friendship and how to manage the challenges of making and maintaining friendships throughout life.

You'll have to make an effort to maintain your friendships.

All but a few friendships will fade away off over time. This is not a bad thing. It’s just a function of the speed of modern life. Time flies and before you know it you’re hearing abut former classmates who have passed on. It’s called life, amigo, so don’t sweat it. And if your friendships are important to you, sometimes you’ll have to be the one who reaches out. Let’s face it; people are so busy that many of them see life through a “out of sight, out of mind” filter. It’s understandable.

If I like someone and we haven't connected in the past year, more often than not, I pick up the phone or shoot them an email or a text. More often that not, I get a response, Because I enjoyed a positive high school experience, I made sure to attend another high school reunion. It would have been easy not to go. But it was great seeing so many good people that played a role in my early life. For one night, it was like nothing had changed, regardless of who now had the big money or powerful job.

You'll outgrow some of your old friends.

Don’t take this as a put down of your old chums. It just means that over time and through experience, your values and lifestyle evolves. You may have moved away from the town where you grew up and the cast of characters that you ran with back in the day.  So pounding beers at the local pub may not be as appealing as it had been years ago. That’s okay. You can still cherish the time shared with your old buddies. And if you do run into them, why not have some fun? Never look down on your old town. Whether you like it or not, you are a product of the environment and community where you grew up. Respect.

You are never too old for making new friends.

Have you ever thought about your inner circle of friends and how they came about? When I asked myself that recently I realized that more half of my current friends were not from my high school or college years. That reminded to keep meeting new people. As quickly as our old acquaintances fall away, new people who are more in line with our current energy replace them.  I like that.  And it in no way undermines our valuation or appreciation of those former friends.

Don’t poach from your friends.

We’ve all had a crush on our buddy’s girl or wanted to get it on with his sister, but think twice before you do something that yields short-term benefits at the risk of losing a long-term friendship. Of course every situation is different, but you get the picture. Right, amigo? 

A friend in need.

Being a good friend is easy when everything is going fine. But this is rarely the case. We all run into bumps on the road of life, whether it’s illness, job loss or the passing of family or a friend. That’s why friendship is so important. Part of the responsibility of being a good friend is checking in on your buddies when they are up and more importantly when they are down. I lost a good friend a few years ago and was dismayed at how so few of his many friends showed up to visit him when he was ailing. Ask yourself how many times you’ve reached out and called someone you know who is sick or out of work, just to chat for a few minutes and show your support? If you’re a real Guy’s Guy, you are also your brother’s keeper. 

Are you a good friend?

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is my old friend, Bill James; we’ve maintained a friendship that began in Little League, throughout school and over the course of our careers. We have never argued and or not had a great time when we get together.

 


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