Can You Trust Your Husband To Travel Alone?

"You will not bring your husband along!"

Alright fine…you caught me. Yes, I did watch The Real Housewives of Orange County last night. How could I miss it? I mean this was the “cage match” fans had been waiting for…the reunion show that had the wives AND their husbands! Call me shallow. Call me bored…but don’t call me sucker.

Yes, the show and its premise are relatively absurd, but the infighting and topics displayed with all the glitz and glam of a red carpet shindig actually provide some interesting talking points about our society. You know that I am all about the redefinition of Normal and this very concept was on full display last night.

One of the original Housewives had previously scheduled an all-girls trip to Florida. No husbands allowed! Well, this was quickly shot down by a number of the women who felt that it was Normal for them to always travel with their spouse. Arguments and whispering ensued…one side felt that it was Normal to have your partner with you at all times and the other ridiculous and wrought with trust issues.

It wasn’t a coincidence that the women who were for their husbands traveling were also the women who are portrayed as subservient to their men. Is this a real issue for your marriage? Do you have concerns when your partner isn’t with you? What are the fears one might have?

Well…let’s look at it from each gender and then…like NBC’s The Marriage Ref we can decide. I will start with the obvious…and I know you’re thinking it…The Men…because those in fear are probably insecure—right?

Men’s Top 5 Fears when Spouse Travels Alone

  1. Women cannot protect themselves
  2. Women cannot spot danger ahead
  3. Women together spell sexy clothes, alcohol in excess, and flirtatious communication
  4. The OTHER women will talk poorly of me
  5. My spouse won’t think about or miss me!

Women’s Top 5 Fears when Spouse Travels Alone

  1. All men are tempted by the Siren at the airport bar
  2. All men want freedom and when they sense it they make bad decisions
  3. All men are secretive in some form or fashion
  4. Is he really going to sleep or is he going back out…and where? With whom?
  5. Will he think about all of his responsibilities before he makes a bad choice?

Ok…so we have looked at some stereotypical fears. We have looked at fears that have either been supported by real life experiences from our own world or situations we have heard about from our friends. Either way, it is safe to say that we have all been burned by trust. We have all felt that indescribable pain when trust from someone we care about has been shattered. It could have come from a significant betrayal like infidelity or it could have been that teeny weenie trip-up that sent trust down the drain.

They both hurt. They both leave a residue for yourself and your future relationships to clean up. More often than not we act surprised when the big failures hit. We cry out, literally and figuratively, for support. And really what are we doing? We are actually acting like lawyers…detectives if you will. We lay the groundwork so that we garner ALL of the support from our inner circle. We never let on that we had ANY idea trust was sneaking out each night for a metaphorical smoke on the roof. Oh no…not us! Who can blame us? WE CAN!

We are all so deathly afraid of contributing to our own demise that we become proficient in cover-up scams…and we cast ourselves as the lead character. The mere thought that we could have contributed to the series of unfortunate events that killed our trust goes against our very fabric.

Trust can be a very fickle and elusive element in the modern relationship. We watch television…we watch movies like Up in the Air…laughing and crying with our spouse at the overall entertainment value…all the while wondering if what we are seeing on screen is merely art imitating someone else’s life…or hinting at our own.

Can you Trust the Friendly Skies?

The next time your partner wants to go Orange County on you think about the benefits, for you both, of traveling without the other. We could discuss Attachment Theory in the context of child development, but why not apply that to our own…adult worlds? To see a young child thrive with the supportive guidance and trust of a thoughtful caregiver is truly magnificent…no fear…just trust that if I fall I know who will be consistently by my side to comfort and reassure me. The same holds true in marriage—trusting yourself means trusting yours spouse. You can help each other celebrate the wonders of life and marriage without control…without submission…and without the fear that you will be forgotten.

Growth comes in stages for kids and adults. What stage are you currently in and how can you reach the next level?

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Adults Failing our Children?

The last time I checked…adults were supposed to be the ones providing good examples for children. Ironically, the opposite seems to be occurring the wider we focus our lens. If you happened to peruse the top headlines yesterday you would have seen stories like these:

“Governors Propose National Education Standards…48 governors seek nationwide standards for what kids learn in school”


“Kansas City board OKs plan to close nearly half of schools


7-Year-Old
911 Hero an Example for all Families
Experts Say Carlos Likely Saved His Family With Quick Thinking, 911 Call

At first glance you might say, “What’s the big deal?” You might even say that we have heard these stories before. If you dig a little deeper, though, you will see how desperate our educational system is at the present moment. The Kansas City school board voted to close down 28 out of 61 schools saving approximately $50 million dollars and shedding 700 jobs. CNN is reporting that schools in 17 states have opted to run four day weeks. The federal government assembled the nations governors in an effort to standardize English and Math standards. And…do I even need to comment on the fact that 48 out of 50 agreed. Alaska? Texas? I will take the 5th at the moment…hoping that they have better solutions to the ever-growing gap between American kids and the REST of the world.

As I dust my hands off from these appalling stories like a brick layer tired of the cement after a long arduous day…I find the story that has been plastered everywhere…little Carlos who calmly called 911 while protecting his sister as armed gunman stormed his home. As the media descends on this little guy we all find out that his mother regularly went through the proper procedures during an emergency. Smart. Concise. Thoughtful. These are the words that come to mind when I think about the effort made by his mother to lay the foundation for difficult work.

She is just one woman whereas the state and federal agencies and representatives are vast and, supposedly, representative of our communities.

Taking Down the Very Folks That Will Be Taking Care of YOU?

It is refreshing to know that somebody is being educated these days…even if reading, writing, and arithmetic are not. The irony can be found in the manner with which our educators are approaching the various problems at hand (i.e. low test scores, crowded classrooms, declining educator skills etc.)…and the irony is that we are scrambling to fix the problem.

We are scrambling like a kid who forgot he had a book report due today. Our schools are eroding, literally and figuratively, and the only thing we can think of is to throw test scores at the wall. We have decided to treat education and our children like NASCAR vehicles plastered with ads. It is and will always be about the almighty dollar unless we begin to focus on the way(s) children learn. Innovation does require funding and support from multiple levels. It requires a humble mindset. A way of thinking that looks at the experience of the audience….the child.

And, if that pains you too much to think about then think about what you liked/disliked when you were a student. What connected you to the material, inspired you to put forth the effort, and provided you with an overall pleasurable experience? It really isn’t that difficult. How do teachers and administrators feel? What works for them and what continues to befuddle them? After my work in education over the past 10 years I can tell you that the general consensus from educators is that they are inundated with new “campaigns” on a yearly and sometimes semester basis. A new way to score, a new way to observe, new boxes to check…and all we are doing is creating mass burnout.

You are getting slews of educators that aren’t enjoying their jobs anymore. They are asked for more and more with less and less professional development and support. The children see this coming and what you end up with is the makings of a perfect storm. Two disenfranchised groups of people who can’t wait for the awful song to be over…kinda like Simon Cowell screaming “rubbish!” after a grueling 2 minute karaoke audition. Ladies and gentlemen…we are not auditioning educational principles…we are preparing the next generation so that they will prepare the next.

Ah! You Scared Me! I thought You were trying to TEACH Me Something...

It is sad that widespread education has become a laughing stock to the participants and to our global neighbors. We have been so concerned with a child’s behavior that we have failed to ponder whether or not it is actually our methods that are eliciting dry heaves from our children.

We want our children and educators to wake up with some degree of optimism not pessimism. Tough decisions lie ahead. Some will be unpopular…some desperately needed. Get out of your comfy lazzyboy, stretch your legs, and get ready to stand up for the needs of the new world and the children tasked with saving it.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Competing Sexes

Looking to Beat the Next Guy?

HBO has done it again! They have secretly become a documentary juggernaut. Their latest prize pits NBA Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in an epic depiction of two men possessed with competition. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate the layers these two icons peeled back during their reign…racism, big versus small town, East coast-West coast, and dollar for dollar they delivered.

I will admit, as a sports fan, that my competitive juices were flowin even if from the couch flanked by my two cats and a lukewarm cup o’ joe.

I suddenly thought about my youth and how my seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years were staked out by competitive outlets. I had a sport for every season, a grade or project every term, a girl I wanted to look buff for, and distant educational and career goals to tide me over. Life was competitive ALL the time!

Now…well it seems that for many of us competition is relagated to survival…not for mere advantage or gamesmanship, but for our financial security and lifestyle. Where did it all go? Is this Normal? Is it Abnormal? Am I losing a step?

I mean I can turn on the tube and see competition for viewership and marketshare. Shoot, I can even read about competition between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Democrats and Republicans, Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, Oprah vs. The World, Mac vs. Windows, and last but certainly not least Conan vs. Jay. Competition is right at our fingertips…and as I painstakingly reach for it I can’t help but wonder what we would all be without competition?

Looking for Your Competitive Advantage in Life?

Would we be lost? Would we be a species that never got out of the Stone Age? Competition has a place…we need to feed our species, advance our species, and procreate our species…and competition remains the single most important ingredient. It inspires us during times wrought with disallusionment and pain. Competition helps us gauge our progress, modify our approach, and reach for new heights. And, for each gender competition can be deeply personal…

Males are given the edict that to compete is to demonstrate your prowess amongst all in your path from dusk to dawn. Some have deemed this male character the Alpha Male….the Silverback. So, as men age they look for arenas to compete in, to win…and many do so with very little regard for their opponents.We have all read of the hostile takeovers, the businesses now running lean and most have a man at the helm. Most of us have been personally impacted by the corporate competition…I mean greed…

Females, on the other hand, have been wronged for centuries. Females have been given the message that the competitive landscape is for men only…thus relegating women to compete for these men. Let’s not forget that, though, times have changed significantly, the overwhelming message has been for women to compete in non-threatening areas and for menial purposes.

You see it has been the great spoof our species…men convincing women that their pursuits were more important to the greater good…that women had a place…just over there on the sidelines.

For many, these deficient approaches are not borne from intention or malice, but rather from generations trying to survive the way they knew how. It really is hard to pass definitive judgment when we, as a country, are continuing to breed competitive destruction…we have just found new and different ways to mask our approaches and intentions.

Feeling Competitive?

We all have a burning desire to stay on top, to pursue the unattainable…it is the American way. Just look at the current landscape…looking even closer at our educational system. We now have “Race to the Top” from the federal government, we have schools and districts that pay students for attendance and top grades…and why? Because competition, today, isn’t about aspirations or dreams…competition is about the almighty dollar. Adults are wooing kids for higher test scores, ratings, and marketshare. It is as if they are saying…“Here kitty kitty….here kitty kitty.”

All the while, children who are only concerned with competing in gym class are actually playing lead roles in the high-stakes game of adult competition. In fact, it is the children who hold the magic ticket and not the adults. Failing tests grades, reduced product usage, and even fewer website hits put us and our American dollar at risk.

It truly is sad that competition, while fantastic as a sport and motivator in times of despair, brings out the animal in all of us. We were once young people competing for a cause, for a purpose, for the betterment of generations past and present. Somewhere along the path to adulthood we lost our way, sold out to the highest bidder and forgot what makes this country so grand….The hope and belief that with a little elbow grease and commitment we can win at the game of life…together.

Let us all think about the role competition plays in our lives, the impact on those around us, and the messages we are downloading to the up-and-coming generation of children.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Man-Up or Stand Up? The American Boy is in Trouble

Who Needs Lifting? Men or Boys?

I am a staunch supporter of males and the females in their lives. I believe that we can do better, as a gender, but must step up and be accounted for. Some of you who read this might wonder if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed or took my politically correct vitamins in excess. Some passerby’s might wonder if I live in the basement of my mother’s home and spew comments in a an environment where anonymity is a given and gravatars act as i.d. badges.

Though this image might bring you joy it just isn’t true. I am a Normal, insecure, bold when I need to be, confident in waves, man who loves ESPN, the arts and yard work on any-ole-day U.S.A. And, yes sometimes I find it necessary to shed light on a social practice that isn’t helping males in their pursuit to be Normal…in an effort to reach personal greatness…and life satisfaction.

As a part of an online community, The Art of Manliness, I am often challenged to think, laugh, and cry at the experience of being male. The members are thoughtful and thought provoking which I applaud with all sincerity. Yesterday was a perfect example wrapped into a single thread. A member asked a question…he wanted to know how to Man-Up a 13 year old that he knew. He described this young boy as soft, squishy, an unmotivated sissy, and lazy. I, of course, commented and to his credit the author said he didn’t know of any other word to use other than Man-Up.

The Art of Manliness

I was also given a review on the term and its usage on the site which said:

“Within the context of this site (AoM), “manning up” simply refers to “growing up” and coming to grips with yourself as a man. It’s not so much about toughening up as it is about maturing beyond boyhood.” -Jamie

To Man Up? The Urban Dictionary actually has 25 definitions and there is an organization, by the same name, that strives to end violence against women. Many of us have seen the phrase in reference to sexual enhancement and performance. We have seen it used at Little League games to dissuade emotions associated with females from being aired. Many of us have heard the phrase as a call to action; a rising up from self-induced-pity to a place of formidable stature and strength.

The American Way?

And, we have to wonder what is the impact on a generation of young boys without fathers, without male role models in schools, without heroes on the athletic field, governed by a society and educational system determined to squeeze the boy out of them, reprimanded when they become addicted to video games as a result, and told that success only comes to those who can effectively repress feelings and push on in the name of the American spirit.

I say with great confidence and sadness that our young boys are at a crossroads. Our boys are flailing in the wind with no direction, purpose, or sense of self.

Late yesterday afternoon as I was in the backyard I heard three young men talking and making a bit of noise. When I looked over to my neighbors house I noticed these three young men (approximately 18-21) crawling through an upstairs window. The house, you see, is in the midst of renovations and the owners are looking to rent the top unit out. I stopped them, at least the one young man who looked nervous, and asked them if they were with the work crew and found out they wanted a “peek inside.” Let’s just say they got my drift and headed out of my urban neighborhood.

You might say to yourself that this was a harmless act, but I am concerned at the lack of judgment. It concerns me that these young men were so apathetic to getting caught. I very easily could have called the cops and I would imagine a charge of breaking and entering could have been established. To them…nothing. They drove away quietly without verbal exchange.

Before we can ask young boys to Man-Up, we first need to establish what they are actually Manning-Up too. We need to provide a playground and environment that let’s them explore with guidance, tussle safely in the name of bonding, and believe what they feel inside. Just because we have generations of men, mine included, that were cast aside from the rational side of life doesn’t mean that we have to send them down the river as well.

If we, adult men, want a seat at the proverbial table of life then we have to set the example…together. We have to communicate our disgust for the medical system that limits access and respect during pregnancy. We have to communicate our needs with our medical and psychological doctors. We need to role model the great dualities of manhood…that we can grunt to our friends one minute, compose poetic stories the next, protect our children, cry with our children, love our spouse and most importantly ourselves all at a moments notice.

Apathy for ourselves is one thing…apathy for the next generation—shameful. Think about the language you use and the story it supports or erodes…young boys are waiting for us to Step Up…in the process we might just figure out what it actually means to Man-Up.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Is Your Life a Waste of Time?

Oh the Oscars! Oh the Oscars! The award show for all award shows. The glitz, the glam, the awkward interviews about this designer and that designer. Blah, blah, blah. Right? A waste of time and money…right? Tradition? You and I might have different opinions about last night’s show, but there remains a reason why we all tuned in…

…we tuned in because each year one movie touches us. One movie reel spins a tapestry unique to you, your life and the trials and tribulations weaved throughout. We all celebrate those moments that whisk us away from ordinary, transpose our life for all to see, and reap the rewards of a like-minded character and storyline.

The beauty of the show is that when our “horse” wins we get a brief glimpse into their lives and approach. Some confirm our estimation of ignorance for the “common folk” and others remind us that good actors and movie magicians are thoughtful, well spoken humans who capture the day-to-day better than any bought-off politician aiming to win re-election. One such magician did just that…

Now he may have flown under the radar, but (Oscar for Best Original Score for “Up”) Michael Giacchino delivered the kind of acceptance speech that radiates long past the lights of Oscar night.

“Thank you, guys. When I was… I was nine and I asked my dad, “Can I have your movie camera? That old, wind-up 8 millimeter camera that was in your drawer?” And he goes, “Sure, take it.” And I took it and I started making movies with it and I started being as creative as I could, and never once in my life did my parents ever say, “What you’re doing is a waste of time.” Never. And I grew up, I had teachers, I had colleagues, I had people that I worked with all through my life who always told me what you’re doing is not a waste of time. So that was normal to me that it was OK to do that. I know there are kids out there that don’t have that support system so if you’re out there and you’re listening, listen to me: If you want to be creative, get out there and do it. It’s not a waste of time. Do it. OK? Thank you. Thank you”
Michael Giacchino

Mr. Giacchino’s speech got me thinking…Is he speaking of an epidemic? Could he be talking about the millions of children who are instructed not to be kids, but rather robots in classrooms? Could Mr. Giacchino be talking about the droves of women who are in marriages where tradition means one thing and support another? Or, maybe Mr. Giacchino was talking about all of the good, normal, and well-intentioned men who want to participate more in the lives of their children, but feel society’s mountain is just too steep to climb?

Thank You For Taking The Time

How many of us waste time…not because we are inept, but because we are scared to death to access life? How many people out there squash the dreams of others to keep our own dormant? Do you view life as a big waste of time? Do you look at the miracle of life and realize you are lead character or do you see life passing you by. Mr. Giacchino spoke poignantly to those children without support systems last night.

He reminded us all of the children in our lives and the children hidden deep within our hearts. Can we dust off the child inside, rediscover our dreams, and live a life filled with purpose?

Effort in anything we do is fraught with emotion. Effort brings reflection whether we like it or not. Why put effort into one thing or person and not another? Our relationships with our children, friends, work colleagues, and partners are all impacted by the belief we have in ourselves to achieve and overcome.

The true miracle is through demonstration. When we demonstrate commitment to our own dreams a little bit of “movie magic” touches the lives around us. For some of us, we were given wonderful examples from the caregivers in our lives…for others…well…we were left to friends, neighbors, educators, and yes characters on the big and small screens.

As so poetically said by a passing homeless man in Pretty Woman…“What’s Your Dream?” Never give up the most important mortal you know…YOURSELF! We only get one shot at this thing…make yourself proud. Be the best with the skills and attributes that make you a miracle!

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Dear Dr. Rod from Confused in California

Too Many Differences?

It is often said that opposites attract in the game of love. Others, who don’t side with Paula Abdul’s hit song from the early 90’s, believe that a perfect love connection derives from identical hobbies, morals, and values. I recently received a letter from a reader asking for advice on this very topic. Below you will find her question and my response. If you have a question you would like answered just send them to drrod@thenormalmale.com.

Confused in California:

“Hi Dr. Rod- First of all, let me tell you how much I have been enjoying your blog!  I’m a single woman in my early thirties and I recently started dating someone who is the polar opposite of me concerning religion and politics.  However, he is a kind person, treats me very well and we have an amazing time when we are together.  I am worried that our differences of opinion may cause issues down the line.  My previous relationship was very abusive, so while I appreciate being treated well this time around,  I know that shared values are important to me.  What should I do?”

-Confused in California

Dr. Rod:
Dear Confused in California,
I applaud your efforts to address these issues early on in courtship. Too often we rush to ride the roller-coaster without thinking about lunch afterwards. We fall victim to lust, novelty, and the chance to be and act like someone new and different. You are not alone in your dilemma. So many of us compare and contrast suitors to those from our past, our family’s wishes, and our social and work environments. Not only do we wonder if we can handle the difference(s), but we also wonder if those around us can.

To establish a firm foundation in love requires us to ask very personal questions of ourselves. Why this person? Why now? Will it work? What can I contribute to ensure long term success with this person? What personal patterns do I need to be aware of? What do I need at the present moment and what can I give?

Your ability to answer these questions will allow for appropriate reflection into the positive and negative patterns you have enlisted in previous relationships. Maybe through your discovery process you find that this man represents others from the past that were also desirable during similar life phases. Maybe he represents a challenge. Maybe he stirs your need for active and engaging conversation.

He may or may not represent any or all of these elements. Your truth will come from communicating your wants and needs, your deal breakers, and areas for consideration. For some, religion and politics represent the most crucial elements in determining relationship viability. The challenge becomes when or when not to address these differences. Do you address them now for sake of prudent responsibility or do you wait? Do you wait to see the level of religious/political practice and commitment? Remember that hoping for change is just that…hoping. You do not want to find yourself loathing the very idiosyncrasies you once found adorable.

Ask yourself this…Are you looking for comfortable? Can you respect others opinions without fear that yours will not be heard and/or counted? If you can say yes, then maybe it is worth pursuing. But, if you find yourself chalking the field with fears based on his viewpoints then all your doing is setting yourself up for a familiar outcome.

I will close with this…

“Who are you protecting if you leave now?”

And…

“What are you in fear of?”

Answer those honestly and you will have a better read on your life, as it currently stands, and the direction you want to take on your personal journey. You may find that your confusion lies within yourself and not with this gentleman.

Best Wishes!
Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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This reply should not replace therapeutic consult by a local professional and is intended for entertainment purposes.

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Instant Replay Needed for NBC’s Marriage Ref

Seinfeld or Springer...You Decide

Here at Normal headquarters we have a duty to sniff out fact from fiction, belly button lint from organic accessory, and social responsibility from entertainment. NBC’s The Marriage Ref , from executive producer Jerry Seinfeld, attempts to solve marital problems with a touch of levity and a dash of sarcasm.

In true network fashion…NBC decided to capitalize on the Olympic swell and air the pilot episode after the closing ceremony. The show continues tonight at its regularly scheduled time of 10/9 central Thursday nights. I guess they are trying to relive the ole glory days of Must See TV Thursdays from the Clinton era.

Only problem is that I, and millions of BRAVO TV fans, will have to choose from The Real Housewives series and comedic commentary from celebrities who haven’t exactly been pros in the marriage arena. I mean Alec Baldwin and Madonna are…well very talented, but advisers of relationships I’ll take a pass. Oh excuse me…phone ringing…conference call between Guy Ritchie, Kim Basinger, and A-Rod. Any whoo….

Are you Ready for the Season Finale?

Guests aside, what I can say that is positive about the show is that it does provide an element of relief for couples. The past 18 months have been very challenging for millions of families and the American marriage has experienced the brunt of it. A little humor. A little… “Oh my gosh…no he di-d-nt” never hurt anybody. Critics will probably cite the eerie similarities between the Ref and any 1980’s NBC Baseball Blooper show (yes Marv Albert is actually a part of the Ref), Jerry Springer hi-jinks, and a mid-season fill-in for a network trying to reclaim some…any market share…did I mean the Jay Leno Show?

I'll Give You Some Advice

The featured couples, so far, have discussed stripper poles and the stuffing of pet dogs named The Fonz. I know it sounds a bit like the wacky neighbors down the street, but maybe that’s what we all need. Maybe we need to laugh together as a country and as couples. Maybe we need to set the laptop down, temper our texting addiction and share a bit of humor with the one who once made us laugh more than any other.

For the time being, I will give the show a pass on its usage of stereotypical men who only care about sex, pets, and hobbies. I will let it pass that each marital issue pertained to a husband’s desire to stand firm when looking ridiculously too proud for his britches. The Marriage Ref is, however, put on notice by the board of directors here at Normal headquarters to show the equality of stupidity and tomfoolery.

My guess is that The Marriage Ref will be around just long enough to wet our appetites. It’s appeal will wear off like the guy/gal you bring home that woo’s your family in the beginning only to disappoint shortly thereafter. Take it for what it is…don’t take it too seriously and you might have a bit o’ fun.

Hey....a dog?

I only hope that this is the beginning of Seinfeld’s reemergence and not a tease. He is too talented to stay on the sidelines for much longer and probably a tad concerned that the next sitcom would die a sudden death when compared to the behemoth that was Seinfeld.

I’ll check the instant replay with The Marriage Ref here at Normal headquarters…you…well, sit back, relax and breathe a sigh of relief…I mean now you can choose between Palin on FOX and Seinfeld on NBC…ahh life IS back to Normal.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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