Kelly: Daddy, did you pick up the permission slip at school like I asked you?

Al: Pumpkin, have I ever disappointed you before?

Kelly: Yes Daddy. Lots of times.

Al: Then what I have to tell you won’t come as a surprise.

When “Married With Children” first came on the air the buzz was about cheap, mindless bathroom humor. So I didn’t watch the first two seasons. Finally, I watched an episode and discovered it was hilarious…and hilarious because it was filled with truth and wisdom. It became a favorite show of mine. I watched it for years and in reruns.

In one episode a young, handsome salesman has begun working with Al at the shoe store. Al and the young man have bonded because they both played football at Polk High. One day the young man comes to work and asks Al for advice. He wants to ask his high school sweetheart to marry him. Al is horrified. Al was an all-state fullback who once scored 4 touchdowns in one game. Then he married Peggy, his high school sweetheart, and his life went downhill from there.

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Desperate to save his young friend from making the same mistake he had made, Al takes the young man for a walk in the mall. They come to the intersection with a large circle of benches for weary shoppers to rest. The seating area is filled with men holding on to large shopping bags from department stores. They’re obviously the “mules” for their wives…assigned to follow the women around and carry the bags. The men all sit expressionless. Like zombies bored out of their minds but resigned to their fate.

Al tells the young man that he is young and vibrant and full of life. He has endless possibilities. Then Al points to the men sitting with the bags and says, “They all used to be like you.”

Fast forward 10 years. I’m following my wife in the mall carrying her shopping bags. “My God,” I thought, “I’m Al Bundy.”

A few days later I woke up and looked at my wife standing naked at the dresser. My wife was young and beautiful with a centerfold figure. We’d had great sex the night before as we had every night we’d been together. And every time we made love I asked myself if all that came with marriage to this woman made the sex worth it. I’d always answered that question “yes” but nevertheless, I was asking the question. This morning my answer would change.

I reviewed the trade-off. It was difficult for me to be a dog on a leash. The loss of freedom, dealing with her irrational moments, no longer having control over decisions for my time and money and energy, living in fear of displeasing her…I had willingly accepted all of it for the promise of love, devotion and companionship…and steady sex. But now I was rethinking that decision. I wanted to run and put it all behind me. I wanted my life back.

So, there I am laying in bed looking at her beautiful, naked ass and asking myself if that ass was worth the trade-off. What possessed me to think the following I’ll never know. My thought was, “I can do better.” That’s a bold statement for a man to say about his young, beautiful wife. In that moment I was prepared to give up the love, devotion, and sex in order to get my freedom back.

I had no reason to think I could do better but for some reason I believed it and I wanted a life with possibilities. I’d never traveled outside the country. I wasn’t thinking at that moment of moving to a foreign country. My life in America wasn’t bad at all but, for some reason, I thought I could do better. More importantly, I had to have my life back. I was no longer willing to trade my freedom for a secure sex life.

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And, as it would come to pass, I did do better. Better than I could ever have imagined. Girls more beautiful. Girls sexier. The bar has been raised and my ex-wife is a distant memory. But, the best part of the decision I made that morning is that now I’m in charge of my life. I have the power. I make my own decisions based on my own self-interests. In a sentence, I got my balls back.

I owe Al Bundy a debt of gratitude. I can’t remember if the young man in that episode took Al’s advice, but I sure did. And I’m better off for it.

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