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January 17, 2010

Rod's Rules

It’s a studly Sunday, with a return engagement from our recent Manly Monday man, Rod Pennington (www.rodpennington.net) . . . but first, please note that you can see the following Tarts up close and personal this week -- and all 3, if you’re the nomadic type:

ELAINE VIETS: Jan. 22 from 5:30-8pm at Bookmania! ~ the beautiful Blake Library in Stuart, FL ~ for more info, go to www.library.martin.fl.us

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Jan. 17-18 signing Drive Time at the ALA-Midwinter at the Boston Convention Center: TODAY! from 3-5:30 and Monday from 9:30-11 a.m.

HANK again: Jan.21 at 7 pm at the Framingham Public Library in Framingham, Massachusetts www.framinghamlibrary.org

HARLEY JANE KOZAK at the Pacific Palisades Library (that’s in LA) on Wed. Jan. 20 at 6:30 pm

Okay, Rod -- back to you.


I’ve been married 34 of the happiest years of my life and by most measures 34 out of 40 isn’t so bad.   With a milestone anniversary fast approaching, here are a few hard earned nuggets of wisdom I’ve acquired in the past four decades of living in a female dominated household.

If you are caught glancing at another woman while in the presence of your significant other, immediately make a sour face and say something like this: “I think she has more silicone in her lips than I have in my laptop computer.” “Spandex at her age; what was she thinking?” “Where do you even buy trashy outfits like that?” “I wonder who did her plastic surgery.”

All of this brings us to the two very simple “Rod’s Rules” for dealing with the opposite sex.

If you can subtract a woman’s age from your age and you would still be too old to date her, you cannot flirt with her.

            If you can triple a woman’s age and she is still younger than you; you cannot even look at her.

E    Every man should know if they consider dating/marrying a woman younger than one of their kids that they’d better be stinking rich. Instead of a “Trophy Wife” they’ll end up looking at worst like a creepy old fart with a bad combover and at worse a child molester.  Viagra, Grecian Formula and Rogaine will only carry you so far. Play with people your own age and keep your sweaty paws off of their children.   

It is a middle-aged man’s fantasies that all college-aged women think older men are sexy.  This is true. The problem is that to the average college-aged woman, an older man is 25, not 55.

If a teen-aged daughter asks your thoughts on her clothes, make-up or boy friend there is only one correct answer. “What do you think, dear?”  Don’t fall into the rookie trap of actually believing they care about your opinion. They are looking for affirmation and NOT honesty. The longer you can answer a question with a question the better.           

If you are an excitable, large, loud male married to a calm, quiet female, everyone is always going to cast you as the villain in every domestic melodrama. Once, my spouse backed my brand new car into a massive, day-glow orange barrier the size of the average small Midwestern town at, wait for it, the eye doctor’s office. When it was clear that I was less than pleased and she got pouty, all I heard from friends and family was, “What did you do to her?”

If you want your children to respect your work, they will occasionally actually have to see you do some. While playing Mr. Mom for nearly 2 decades, I discovered having two high strung daughters underfoot sucked the creative juices right out of me.  Therefore, I tended to work when they were at school or late at night or in the morning before they rolled out of bed.  I once overheard my eldest daughter, who was 10 at the time, having a chat with her friends about the career paths of their parents. When it was Carrie’s turn, she said, and I quote, “My daddy doesn’t work for a living. He’s a writer.”

Men and women are very different. Anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot.

Raising girls is very different from raising boys. Anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot. 

Anyone who tells you small children never lie is an idiot AND has never had a small child.

Never take childrearing advice from a childless couple.

Never take childrearing advice from your mother – unless, of course, you are delighted with the job she did with you.

Never let a child under 14 eat dinner alone or in front of a TV set.

Listen to your kids. If you ignore them, someone else may exploit them.

Be your child’s parent and not her friend. That is why God will give you grandchildren. They are fun to spoil and it will annoy the daylights out of your daughters. 

Tell your teenagers if they are not comfortable driving or riding with someone, they should call you and you will come and get them no matter where they are and no matter what time it is, no questions asked.  And mean it. They will know they screwed up and don’t need to be reminded.  

When dealing with your spouse, you don’t have to always be right or have the last word. This, of course, works best when it’s a two-way street.

If you’ve been an idiot, admit it and move on.

If your spouse has been an idiot and apologizes, accept it and move on.

Sometimes a quiet walk together will say more than hours of talking.

You’ll know you’ve hit middle age when given the choice of a good night’s sleep or a late night of wild sex, you take the sleep.

You’ll know you’re a successful parent when the neighbors complain about all the laughter coming from your house.

Rod Pennington







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Bravo Rod! Speaking as the mother of sons, they are easier to raise than girls. And, (quite foolishly, I know)I get a kick out of walking with one or both towering over me now. It more than makes up for the years I felt like I was living in a gym or sports center. Bats, helmets, shin guards, cleats, soccer balls, basketballs, baseballs, footballs, running shoes - I used to feel like scattering sachets and potpourri around, just to make things a bit more ladylike.

Happy upcoming anniversary to you and your wife!

In 2 weeks, my husband and I celebrate our 40th anniversary. The best 40 years of my life, and I'd marry him all over again!

You guys cheer me right up!

There is a school of thought that says there are no really truly honestly happily-married couples after the first few years. So I collect testimonials like these.

I'd tack on another rule: people that have an only child aren't always helpful when it comes to dealing with sibling rivalry (which is where I spend 3/4 of my parenting energy). Of course, I have no idea what it's like to raise an only child, beyond the first 2 years. I'm sure it has its own challenging moments.

Hey, Rod, good rules.
My rule about parents and advice: if you're single and have no children and think you've got any wisdom at all to offer parents about their child-rearing methods, super-glue your mouth shut until the urge goes away. They either a) won't listen, b) will resent and shun you, c) will tell you at great length why you're an idiot, or d) all of the above. (No offense to TLC Tarts and readers, whom I'm sure have always been open to wisdom from wherever it arrives.) If you can't resist saying something, for goodness sakes find the diplomacy to make the parents think it was their idea . . . .

Excellent advice, Rod. I'd also like to point out that when a woman of ANY age answers the question "Is something wrong?" with "Nothing's wrong", then the odds are that something is wrong.

Also, only a fool ever honestly answers the "Does this make my butt look big?" question.

This is a year of Milestones; 60 in March and 40th anniversary in June. Entering this phase of my life in good health with all of my teeth and 40% of hair is about as good as I could hope for.

Fortunately, the “butt” question never arose during the child “rearing” years thanks to my daughters coming of age around the time Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” was a hit.

The deal I have with my grown daughters is, “Don’t ask for my opinion unless you really want to hear it.” I’m batting .500 in this department. One constantly asks my advice even though she knows she will often not like my answer. The other daughter never seeks my wise (ass) council and is grateful for the mute button.

Kelly, fearless mother of four (photos of the cutest grandchildren in the history of the world are available upon request), has a pretty simple rule with how to deal with sibling rivalry. “Let them beat the crap out of each other then bandage them up. It will toughen them up.” I’m not one to criticize the mothering instincts of anyone who doesn’t own a television and is willing to take four small kids, ages 7 to 14 months, to Europe for three weeks. Anne, the eldest granddaughter, told me she liked “Hamsterdam” the best.

I'm not a parent, but I wanted to inform everyone of my rules: Mmmphumphdnnphrrrllwmphgggwymphhhgf.

Dang! That superglue is nasty.

Rule Number One: Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

Rule Number Two: Any questions, see Rule Number One....

I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head.

When you realize that if you were half your age, you would still be to old for her, It's time to stop thinking like that. The other one was I once thought "Where were you when I was single?" and I figured out the answer was "The 8th grade." I was in trouble. Now some of my co-workers are under 25 so after "where did you go to high school?" and you realize you may have dated her mother you can really freak'em out.

Any guy of any age who answers "Does this make my butt look big?" any way than an immediate "No dear." probably has the scars to prove how wrong he is. On the other hand, if you love her don't let her leave the house with tags, slips or bra straps showing.

LOL, Holly! And William, now we know the secret to your marital success.

Having watched Rod (and his wife) parent their girls--we lived next-door to one another for a few years--I'd say he did a darn good job. And they were a godsend with our daughter when she was in college at the Citadel.

One of the reasons Oprah turns me off is all the "advice" she spouts about parenting. Good grief.

Rod, my favorite "rule" is the one about younger women. Some men are SO clueless, and clearly never look in a mirror. (rolling eyes)

Hi Rod! ANd happy Sunday. We're on the Acela back to Boston...we had to get up SO early! And I just elbowed Jonathan and said "What are our rules for a happy mariage?"
He opened his eyes..oops, he was sleeping how would I know that? And he said--huh?
So now that I had awakened him I figured I'd just persevere.
So I said,oh, sorry, what are our rules for a happy marriage?
ANd he said: Get eight hours sleep a night.
And he closed his eyes again.

I'll go ahead and tell this story on myself, because.... well, because it's funny as hell...:)

A former fashion model turned bank manager once smiled at me and said, "You remind me of Sean Connery." My chest swelled, I started to preen, the ego started to expand, when she went on. "My grandmother thinks he is SO sexy!"

That, and her annoying habit of calling me "Sir", kind of dashed the remotest fantasy I might have conjured....

Not only were Karen in Ohio and I neighbors, I used her new fangled IBM 286 computer to type my first book manuscript. I eventually got my own state of the art machine with DUAL 5 1/4 inch drives and 256, count 'em, 256KB of RAM. For the math challenged that is a ¼ of a megabyte. If I remember correctly, it cost more than my car and they offered to sell me a 5 meg (not gig) hard drive for only an additional $10K.

Age is in the eye of the beholder. I was out with a young employee of mine who was maybe a year out of high school. I commented on an attractive young woman across the restaurant and he craned his head and couldn’t find her. “Where?” “Right over there.” “Is she behind that old woman?” My hot young babe was his crone.

Rod, I love it when you start in with the RAM and K's and KB's and DUAL 5 1/4 inch drives.


I had no idea things like obsolete technology would turn a lady on. I still have my old slide rule around somewhere...


Rod, I'll have you know that my first computer also had dual floppy drives. Remember? We had to put the program disk in one drive, and the data disk in the other. I'll never forget how devastated you were the day that stupid computer ate your manuscript. It took the wind out of your sails for a bit, it did.

I was pregnant with Robin then, and edited the manuscript at night when I got home from work. Good times.


That's right. The program was "Easy Writer." And not to show our age or anything, but didn't Robin just turn 24?


No, she turned 25 in August! It's later than you think, dude.

And actually, it was PFS:Write. I also had two of their other programs.

You're right. Easy Writer II came with my TI clone.

Aw, Karen... PFS Write ruled. Blue background, white letters, could change to yellow if one wanted. Then I went to WordStar, drove myself insane trying to learn it, but when it clicked, it made life so much easier.

Daisy wheel printer? CGA monitor? Never forget the day one of the guys at the store called, telling me about the hot new 10 MEG hard drives. I replied, "What the f*** would I ever do with Ten Megs?"

Ah, the Olden Days....

William, I was never able to master WordStar, but PFS: Write was great, the first program to use the function keys and a menu that presaged Window/Word menus. In fact, I'm convinced that was one of the reasons I had no trouble at all mastering all Windows programs, because I was already so fluent with the menus in the PFS: programs.

Yes, my first printer (in 1983) was a wide-carriage daisy wheel behemoth that sounded like a jackhammer and printed one page in the blinding speed of four minutes. I loved that old dinosaur because it meant that I didn't have to erase carbons any more. Hallelujah!

Rod, outstanding rules. Have you considered a book on this subject? Or maybe a column for Esquire? You could save marriages. Maybe even lives.

Awww...let's get to the down and dirty. Living together is an art form. Don't get too upset when as a wife you find too soon in the marriage that you are never going to a dance or to the beach again ever though that was the seduction route early in the dating routine. The female should always, I mean always remember the rules of the ego. They do exist, believe it. A man wants to be the intelluctual provider. The wife armed with a laptop with millions of facts at her fingertips must pick and chose when declaring locations of movie locales, movies stars' ages and don't ever I mean ever diss Jennifer Aniston the current male fanasty. Having lived through the Julie Andrews phase from the movie The Americanization of Emily, Erin Gray from Silver Spoons and now Jennifer Aniston I muster up all my courage and ignore my rivals..ya, right!
Do not ever confront your partner in a screaming fashion. He will remind you that you are breaking the rules of the marriage contract that you signed which says "No Screaming."
Being married for over 45 years so far the art of the game has worked. Becoming stronger and more dominant now because of raising two daughters has caused a personality shift which I reign in because I love him. I really love him. And he says in his own charming and winning way I'm lucky to have him. And I am!
Happy Anniversay to you and yours, Rod. Thanks for sharing your life with us.

Soooo....what a walk down memory lane.
I remember when our company got it's first computor. I was still doing spread sheets by hand with a calculator and I thought "This is stupid!".
It was a Tandy and our accounting person was hogging it in her office for all her previously hand done tasks until I mentioned to the owner that really this was taking me way too much time.
One Saturday we put together a spread sheet for my stuff and I was amazed. Then he exited and I mentioned that maybe we should save it or something. Ack! We had to recreate the whole thing formulas and all.
I love it that the times they are a changing...like every minute! Thinner, faster, easier and more memory...now that's what we all need programmed into ourselves! Just kidding.
And having only one son but always having a houseful of children helped make me the patient mom I am today.
Remember Andy Rooney saying there are only 2 times to give your opinion. 1) In a life threatening situation. 2) When you are asked.
Good rules Rod. Also never ask "What have I done?". The answer is NOTHING! THAT'S THE PROBLEM IDIOT!!!!!
Just saying.
I got a book for my son called The Rules by Esquire Magazine. Spot on as William would say.

Rod, love your rules -- and bravo for preserving family mealtimes, one of the best ways to stay connected! Oh, that might border on advice from the childless, so mmmmffffmmm. Actually, one of the best things I've found to do for parents is act as a distraction for bored and cranky children. A new face, voice, a bit of "itsy bitsy spider" can really calm down a fussy child and save everyone's eardrums.
Love the computer nostalgia. I have away my two oldest computers just before my move -- the oldest one, with the dual hard drives, went to a computer teacher. He was going to use it as an example to show his students how things used to be . . . Gave away my typewriters, too, and now the Y needs one for Lifeguard cards. My favorite principal, once he learned Appleworks, said he would never authorize the purchase of another typewriter because they were about to be obsolete.
Rod, loved Fourth Awakening and waiting with bated breath for the next!!

Xena, what a hoot: 'thinner, faster, easier and more memory!' Count me in!
Wow, had forgotten that the 286 was actually a computer . . . anyone remember paper tape? I still have a length of paper tape tucked in a memory folder--it was so much easier to edit than anything I'd encountered before then. Loved WordStar, mourned it and protested having to learn WordPerfect (remember Jane Fonda as Julia, throwing the typewriter out the second-floor window?? Tempting!), but both seem like distant dreams now, in the world of Word.
Was so impressed with my Kaypro Robie (huge disks that proved to be its downfall as the market flew in other directions), but sad when it had to be replaced in only a year or two; but with a 2 Meg machine courtesy of apologetic Kaypro. Miss the days of actually speaking with the folks who created your machine . . . . Sort of miss.

Mary, only an English teacher or an editor would know that it's "bated breath", and not "baited"!

A close family member is having serious marital problems, and asked my advice. (A rare thing, to be sure, from this particular person.) I told him that the male perplexion about "what women want" is ridiculous; all we want is to be cherished, wooed, and treated like equals or betters. Period. How hard is that?

Great Blog, Rod - and as usual, the comments are stellar.

I am not giving out any advice today. I can't even get people to sleep around here.

Elaine Viets wrote:

Rod, outstanding rules. Have you considered a book on this subject? Or maybe a column for Esquire? You could save marriages. Maybe even lives.


I’ll write pretty near anything short of pornography if the advance is right. I only eliminate porn because 40 years of monogamy hasn’t given me much of a frame of reference. But I am a quick learner. Is “missionary” capitalized?

As for the other, I used to write a weekly column in a pair of suburban newspapers and about half were my exploits as Mr. Mom. I thought some were pretty hilarious; though my wife and daughters didn't always share my enthusiasm since they were often the subject matter. Go figure.

Now that we’ve all had our fun with the 80’s; how about the 70’s? Ahh, the good old days of disco, Betamax verses VHS, “Pong”, “Star Wars”, and eight track tapes. Then again, maybe not. My “Word” spell checker didn’t even know Betamax was a word. Damn!

Karen, you are reminding me of the "How to Handle a Woman" song in _Camelot_. . . and your reference to "baited breath"? Well, I just brushed my teeth, so it probably doesn't smell like bait any longer.

Rod, I agree these are excellent rules. I'm passing the exact milestones you are, I just turned 60 and have been married 34 years. I find that oddly coincidental. I will disagree with you on one point, however, I can't imagine ever being too tired to turn down a night of wild sex.

The computer nostalgia is fun, our first computer was an Apple II and we used a cassette tape recorder for data storage. One morning, a few days after we bought it, I woke up and found my wife was up early. This was unusual so I asked her what was up. It turns out she hadn't gone to bed and had been playing a Star Wars text adventure game all through the night.

Al S.

You missed the joke. I said I had been married for 34 of the happiest years of my life and 34 out of 40 isn't bad. Combine 34 years happy and 6 years of hell on earth and you get our total of 40 years of marriage.

It is an old joke and a bit lame. But anyone who tells you in four decades there weren't a few rough spots, they really needs to check their meds because they are getting delusional.

Don't forget to turn on your latern when going into dark places or the Grue will get you. (Zork fans will understand)

Ok, Al...how about practically crippling your hands playing Pacman?
How about the Honeywell data room that was temperature controlled? If you deemed to go in you had gingerly open the door and then upon leaving run like hell after the door was shut. I remember punch-cards, IBM collators, printers and lifting trays when I first worked in this field. All the technicians wore immaculate white shirts to work on dirty machines. These guys were great! I eventually married an international IT specialist. So how bad can computers be?

Rod, you're right. I was confused, you've got six years on me. I hope you don't mean I have six years of hell on earth coming up.

Marie, I certainly remember the punch card era. When I was at Purdue, the computer was a centerpiece of the electrical engineering building. Everything was behind a wall with huge glass window in it. We had this disk drive that was the size of a washing machine. The mechanism that pushed the heads out was cranky on this machine so every so often we had to open the back cover and kick lower frame to get it working again. We called this "booting" the disk.

Rod, great advice. As the mother of two boys, I'll admit I'm so glad I didn't have girls. I'm not so old I've forgotten my own teenage years.
"Tell them you'll pick them up with no questions asked and mean it." I applaud you on that one and hope when my guys are at that age, I'm able to stick to that rule.

Storyteller Mary, I thank you and all other kind strangers who've distracted my children over the years, esp. important with multiples. And all the people who held doors open when I was coming through with a double stroller. And especially the strangers I had to approach at the store and say, "excuse me, would you mind picking up this very small child and putting her in the shopping cart for me? I'm pregnant with twins and not supposed to lift anything more than 10 pounds." Watching people go from suspicious to delighted in the time it took to finish that sentence was wonderful. Nobody turned me down.


We made 5 late night runs over an 8 year period. Life is choices. We choose to pick our girls up in awkward places and at odd hours without complaint or comment. It was better than the other option; the emergency room or worse.

Often learning when to go deaf, blind and mute is the toughest skill for a parent to master.

Rod, now that I reflect on it, I see where the six years comes from. It's from getting the kids through the teenage years. Mercifully my brain has buried those memories deep. As a parent, you are the grindstone upon which your children shape their lives. It takes a little bit off of both of you. Again, these are excellent points.

Rod, are you pandering here today? Because it's working. Come back anytime, darling!

"Often learning when to go deaf, blind and mute is the toughest skill for a parent to master." That is one of my new favorite quotes. Can I share that?


I hate to think I'm pandering. I was shooting for wise and thoughtful but apparently I was well wide of the mark. Oh well.

I have to admit I can get pretty full of myself on this subject. But keep this in mind, both of my daughters graduated from college on time with great grades and got to that moment with no cavities, no pregnancies and no felony arrests. How many parents wouldn't trade anything straight up to be able to say that?


Absolutely. Share away.

Harley, of course they were happy to help you and most likely honored to be trusted with "precious cargo."

Excellent, Rod!

As a writer like you, I especially appreciated your daughter's comment, “My daddy doesn’t work for a living. He’s a writer.” :-)

I agree with Eileen, you should consider doing a book on your rules, why not?


What a nice voice from the past. For those who don’t know Linda, while a gifted writer in her own right, her dearly departed husband Don was one of my early inspirations.

I have been meaning to send you an email. Contact me and I’ll send you an autographed copy of my book. rod@rodpennington.net.

You just made my day!

Linda Pendleton? As in DON Pendleton? As in "Mack Bolan" Don Pendleton?

Linda, it is a genuine honor to meet you. Your husband got me through high school and college with his books, and they (the original 41, by Don) still sit on my bookshelves.

Welcome to TLC!

I wrote 2 "Able Team"(AT #45 “Lethal Trade & AT #50 Death Hunt) work for hire novels for Dianne Moggy at Harlequin books years ago when she was still a line editor and not yet VP Overseas Editorial Strategy for Harlequin. They were spin offs of Don Pendleton’s concept back in the day when Harlequin still had a male only action/adventure imprint – Worldwide Library and Gold Eagle Books. I believe this is now a fantasy imprint.

Rod, didn't I edit Lethal Trade? That sounds familiar. And maybe the other one, too?

Yup! Both of them.

Outstanding post, Rod. Very funny, and very pointed at the same time. The rules were just great!

This from a middle-aged guy who's never been married nor had kids.

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