My advice is always listen to the woman in your life

My advice is always listen to the woman in your life

Television sitcoms that anchored themselves to a particular decade were fairly common, but the really good ones are rare indeed.

You had “Happy Days” from the ‘50s.

And “That ’70s Show” from, well, c’mon.

Tucked neatly between them was my favorite.

“The Wonder Years,” for the uninitiated, was a brilliantly written, convincingly acted and beautifully realized series that captured not only what it meant to be a kid in the ’60s, but also how much fun it was.

And how hard.

One of the most poignant and memorable scenes involved the juxtaposition of a complex Apollo space launch with the difficulty Kevin Arnold has as he tries to make a simple phone call.

Kevin, as we’ve learned earlier in the episode, has become smitten with a girl in his class, a cutie named Lisa Berlini, and it has become his goal in life to dial her number and talk with her.

He’s like 12 years old and has no idea how to take this step, which, as any boy who’s ever lived through that preteen trauma knows, seems impossible to take.

Kevin forces his index finger into the correct holes, and after the dial spins seven times, he immediately slams down the receiver.

This happens over and over as we, the audience, hear the NASA announcer counting down the seconds to liftoff.

You can feel the tension building as Kevin and, in a metaphor for the ages, the rocket ship get ready to fire into space, the unknown.

Guys have no clue when it comes to what women want. Oh, as we get older and more experienced, we trick ourselves into believing we’ve got it all figured out, that we’ve somehow evolved into perfection, someone so irresistible the ladies must soon swoon.


We aren’t Cary Grant or James Dean or Marlon Brando or Dustin Hoffman, though his performance as Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate” gave me my first blueprint as to how to play it cool.

Well, once he got past that awkward question for ages, the one that went something like, “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me … aren’t you?”

When those two mismatched souls become an uncomfortable one, though, Dustin Hoffman soon falls into that familiar trap of ennui, leavened with boredom, poisoned with regret.

But when he first picked up the telephone, there in the lobby of the Taft Hotel, Benjamin Braddock was nervous.

Why? Because he thought Mrs. Robinson would reject his tremulous, timid advances.

And because, like Kevin Arnold in that episode of “The Wonder Years,” Benjamin Braddock knew that that would be a blow from which he might never recover.

Guys have such breakable, terribly brittle opinions of themselves.

It’s a wonder we ever walked on the moon.

Had Neil Armstrong not had such a vital, resourceful, loving, smart wife, it might never have happened.

And of this I’m certain.

“The First Man,” as the movie has dubbed the legendary Ohioan, never ran his historic utterance past the redoubtable Janet.

“Neil,” she’d have said sometime in the summer of 1969, speaking kindly into the receiver, “sweetie, honey, it’s redundant.”

“What do you mean?” he’d have replied. “I’ve worked on that line for months.”

“Well,” Mrs. Armstrong might have said, “it’s that ‘man’ and ‘mankind’ are, well, synonymous.”

“They’re what?”

“They mean the same thing,” she’d have said, “like ‘floor’ and ‘floorboard’ or ‘auto’ and ‘automobile.’ You understand?”

We all know how that phone call turned out.


The first sentence uttered by a man on the moon made no sense.

Grammatically speaking, it crashed and burned.

What Neil Armstrong meant to say was, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Men, my advice is this: Always listen to the woman in your life.

And ladies, if we screw things up a bit, slide us some slack.

We’re less evolved than you, and the telephone terrifies us.

I remember the most awkward, difficult, embarrassing, shameful phone call I ever had to make. It was on Jan. 2, 1983, and it still makes me cringe, wishing I’d been a better and smarter man.

My college girlfriend, who had cheated on me and crippled my outlook on life, had gotten in touch just before Christmas, saying something like, “Come back to me. I think I really love you now.”

As it happened, my old Notre Dame roommate and his wife, another wise woman, had spent a night in my apartment and were heading back to South Bend in the morning.

“You think I could hook a ride with you guys?” I asked over scrambled eggs and coffee at a diner. “I could be ready fast.”

They quickly complied, and I left behind a kind and caring woman, a lady who had done absolutely nothing to deserve that kind of insult, having been my loyal and loving partner for four years.

Of course my ill-fated rendezvous with Miss ND reinforced what we had known back in 1975; that is, we were way, way, way too much alike — too far into ourselves — to ever make it in the long run.

We split up for the last time on New Year’s Eve, 1982.

So there I was, stranded in the snow, 250 miles from home, a bus ticket in my hand and just enough change to make one phone call.

You can guess the rest. The good and decent woman who’d shared my happiness and my despair, my strengths and my weaknesses since the summer of 1978, picked me up at the Greyhound station.

Even now I wish I had the courage to call her and apologize again.

It might make for good TV.

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