Category Archives: Dating

A Call to Men

I recently came across this video on the TED talks website.  It features Tony Porter, the founder of A Call to Men: The National Association of Men and Women Committed to Ending Violence Against Women.

His eloquent 11 minute speech is a work of art.  It was definitely worth the standing ovation he received at the end.

To my male readers: what is your experience with stepping outside the “Man Box”?  Do you believe it is real? If so, what can we do to raise the next generation outside of this “Man Box”?

To my female readers: what are your reactions after watching this?

My First Planned Parenthood Experience: Part 3

You can read Part 2 here.

I had my follow-up appointment following my HPV diagnosis yesterday.  I was scheduled for a culposcopy and possible biopsies if the gynecologist found any abnormal cells.  Until yesterday morning, I had a pretty ambivalent attitude towards the appointment.

My thoughts went something alone these lines:  I have an STI.  Unfortunately, my STI is not one that I can just take an antibiotic and it will go away.  HPV is a virus.  I have no control over which strain I was exposed to.  I was concentrating on being as healthy and stress-free as possible so that my body could fight the virus better.   I thought that I had reached a point of acceptance.

Even though I had spent at least 8 hours researching HPV, reading about statistics, and learning as much as I possibly could about it, I woke up yesterday morning and was terrified.  I know that several women on my mother’s side of the family have had complications due to cervical cancer.  While I know that cervical cancer is caused by particular strains of HPV, I couldn’t help but wonder if there is a genetic component to the cancer as well, if there was some way to be more prone to HPV turning into cervical cancer.

I spent at least an hour crying in bed, with Fiance comforting me.  He has really been amazing through all of this.  I expected him to be just as stressed as me.  After all, we haven’t used a barrier method in a long time, and if I have HPV, it means that he does too.  Instead, he took the diagnosis in stride, and focused his efforts on comforting me.  My dear friends wrote uplifting and encouraging things when I confessed my anxiety.  Thank you, girls, it really meant a lot to me.

The culposcopy was similar to a really long pap smear.  Unlike with a pap, the gynecologist did not use any lubrication when inserting the speculum, and the speculum was opened a bit wider than normal, which was uncomfortable.  The gynecologist cleaned my cervix with a saline solution, and then she placed a cotton ball soaked with vinegar against my cervix.  The cotton ball was so cold!

The vinegar will apparently react with any abnormal cells, and make it easier for the gynecologist to see if the virus is creating warts, or, worse, cysts and pre-cancerous growths.  She then used a culposcope, which is similar to a microscope, to examine my cervix.

I am sure you can imagine my relief when the gynecologist told me that she didn’t see any abnormal cells, and I didn’t need to have any biopsies performed.  She was pretty surprised herself, and told me that this only happens about 1 in 20 times that she does a culposcopy.  She did, however, take a sample of the cells inside my cervix, which will be tested.  I’ll receive the results in about two weeks.

I want to reiterate that without Planned Parenthood, I wouldn’t have been able to receive this sort of screening without basically going hungry for a couple of weeks.  Please, if you have the chance and the liquidity, consider donating to Planned Parenthood.  Your donations help women and men receive vital sexual health care and information.  It certainly helped me.

Grace’s Diary

Thanks to a tip from one of my dear friends, I found out about Grace’s Diary, a beautifully drawn point and click game.  But this isn’t your ordinary game.

Grace’s Diary is a visual novel with easy gameplay, but this game has a purpose.  Grace is concerned about her friend Natalie and Natalie’s relationship with her boyfriend, Ken.  Grace has decided that she should call Natalie and voice her concerns, but Grace needs to write down the behaviors that concerned her.

As Grace, you explore your own room for reminders of times that Ken or Natalie have acted in strange ways.  If you find all of the evidence, and you navigate your conversation with Natalie successfully, there is a happy ending.

Although I think some of the gameplay is a little clunky (there is one piece that is particularly difficult to find, and I had to use a walkthrough to find it) and some of the dialogue could use some work,  there is no doubt that Grace’s Diary is a great game.  You can find Grace’s Diary on the Amazon App store here, and it is free.

My First Planned Parenthood Experience: Part 2

You can find Part 1 of my Planned Parenthood Experience here.  I was nervous when I woke up on the morning of my appointment.  Bleary-eyed, I put on clothes, kissed the still sleeping Boyfriend goodbye, and headed to the car.

I entered the office and checked myself in with the front desk.  After filling out some information regarding my current sexual activity, my income, and my sexual health history, I handed the clipboard in and watched Say Anything as I waited.

There was a group of three young women behind me, and they were discussing birth control options as they too were waiting to be seen.  My ears perked up when one of them mentioned that she was considering getting an IUD.  As readers of this blog are fully aware, I am a HUGE fan of IUDs, and I took the opportunity to share my experiences with it, and some of the awesome statistics.

After a short period of time, I was called into the back room, and had a chat with one of the attending nurses.  She explained that, due to my symptoms and the length of time since my last pap smear, I was going to have a full pelvic exam and a full STI screening.  She also explained that the state of California has an awesome program to help people with limited income to receive sexual health care for free, and even with my new job, I qualified.

The STI screening started right there in that tiny office with a prick of my middle finger.  This particular test was to screen if I had been exposed to HIV, and amazingly, I would have the results of that test by the end of my appointment.  I was blown away by this fantastic advance in HIV screening.

I went into the exam room after giving a urine sample, undressed my lower half, and waited again.  When the doctor came in, she was very communicative and explained everything before she started examining me.  She took three samples from my cervix, examined the positioning of my IUD (still in place!), and checked that my uterus and ovaries were not swollen.  Before she moved her hands, placed the speculum, or swabbed, she was sure to tell me exactly what she was about to do.  This definitely put my mind at ease, and kept me from jumping or starting when anything changed.

When she was done, she took one of the samples to their in-house lab, and checked it all out.  Apparently, I had a bacterial infection that may have been the cause of the bleeding, and she handed me a prescription antibiotic.  Then she told me that Planned Parenthood would call me if any of the other STI tests came back positive, but only if they were positive.

Unfortunately, I did receive one of those calls.  My pap smear came back with some abnormalities.  At some point in the past 10 years, I was exposed to HPV.  The tiny sample that was taken was not enough to determine if I have one of the more benign forms, or if it is one of the types that can lead to cervical cancer.  So, I have yet another appointment set to get some biopsies done.

I’ll have a post up on Wednesday, discussing HPV.  I’ve gotten to know my STI a lot better since the diagnosis.

Ten Dirty Little Secrets: A Response

One of my favorite fellow bloggers had a recent post titled “Ten Dirty Little Secrets She’s Not Telling You“.  Carolina was responding to male bloggers claims of how “deceitful” women are in relationships, by claiming that yes, women are deceitful and are hiding things from you or outright lying to their partners.

While her generalizations are true for a lot of young women, once you reach 25 or so, these really should no longer apply to you.  Most of these are more about a lack of maturity than anything else.  I am going to respond to these, line by line.

1.  She tells her girlfriends everything, including what you’re like in bed, and how big you are. You would cringe if you knew the juicy personal details about you she’s blabbing everywhere she goes.

Again, this is something that is typical of young women who are in their first few relationships.  I know that I did this for years.  I eventually realized that this undermines the intimacy of my relationship.  My girlfriends and I talk, but as I have positioned myself as a sexpert, I have kind of invited that into my life. We vent to each other only when we are not being heard by our partners, or we know that we’re talking about something trivial and don’t want to bother our partners with the fact that they put the toilet paper on the dispenser the wrong way. We feel better afterwards, but if any of us is having a real problem, then we talk about it with our partner, not our girl friends.

2.   She really doesn’t like to go camping, hiking, parachuting, bungee cord jumping, white water rafting, hunting, mountain climbing, etc. She only says she does to make you think you have things in common.

I absolutely love to go hiking and camping.  When you live in an urban environment, going out into nature feels almost magical, and is a welcome respite from the hustle, the bustle, the feeling that everything around you never stops.  Boyfriend loves to do these things too, but right now, his knee injury prevents us from doing a lot of these things.  At one point, I dated a guy who loved to do indoor rock climbing.  I went with him once, but I quickly figured out that it wasn’t for me, and declined further invitations to go climbing.  You should never feel pressure to lie about your interests so that you make yourself more appealing to a partner.  If you begin a relationship by lying to your partner about “shared” interests, you won’t be able to keep up the lie for long, and the relationship will end in resentment.

3.   She doesn’t like most sports—not to watch it—and certainly not to play it.

Again, I feel that this is a gross generalization.  I know of so many women who love to watch sports!  I have several girl friends who have season tickets to the SF Giants, or follow a particular sports team religiously.  I, personally, LOVE football.  I grew up in the Denver area, and my grandpa has amazing season tickets.  Going to see a Broncos game with my grandpa was a special treat, and it translated into a love for the game.  In fact, Boyfriend and I recently attended an arena football game (Go, Sabercats!), and he was completely unprepared for how excited and LOUD I became over the course of the game.  I played softball as a kid, and have considered joining a co-ed adult team here in San Francisco because of how much I enjoyed it as a kid.  It’s actually a little sexist to assume that all girls dislike sports.

4.   She doesn’t like giving BJs.

I certainly know quite a few women who hate performing fellatio.  For me, due to issues that I have with my jaw, it can actually be physically painful.  However, that is not to say that I hate pleasing a partner in that way.  In fact, it can make me feel kind of powerful, and I know that a lot of my girl friends feel the same way.  There’s almost a feeling of, “Look what I can make you do! *insert evil laugh*”.  It is sexy to feel that you are pleasing your partner.

5.   She’s all lovey-dovey with you, but when you’re not around she’s complaining about you–to everyone. (And it isn’t just family and friends. It’s hair stylists, manicurists, bank clerks, cashiers, that guy who works at Home Depot, neighbors, waitresses, co-workers, everyone.)

This is like the first item in the list, but it goes even further.  Complaining to strangers about your relationship exhibits some serious insecurity, and those strangers are probably thinking, “Wow, this person is completely unstable.”  Unless you have a previously established friendship with that person that includes sharing intimate details, then talking badly about your relationship to strangers shows a lack of respect for yourself, your partner, and your relationship.  If you are doing this with acquaintances, then they are probably wondering what you are saying about them behind their backs.

6.   She fakes it—a lot.

This is, of course, speaking about orgasms.  Ladies, if you are at a point where you are faking orgasms at all, then you are doing your partner a serious disservice.  Think of how betrayed and insecure he or she will feel to find out that even though they thought they were a great lover and a giving partner, they have not satisfied you in the least, and you felt the need to lie to them about it.  That’s really what faking an orgasm is, you know.  It is lying, pure and simple.  It is up to you to teach your partner the things that make you feel good, because no one is a mind-reader.  Learn to communicate your expectations and desires instead of expecting your partner to magically “know” what you like.  Unless your partner has some serious insecurity issues, he or she will be happy to oblige and may actually thank you for helping them become a better lover.

7.   She can’t stand your buddies, thinks they are a bad influence, and would like to remove them from your life.

This one is also disturbing to me.  Unless your partner’s friends are actively encouraging illegal behavior, or things that will undermine your relationship (like cheating), or they are disrespectful to you, then it is best to just accept that these people are a part of your partner’s life, and have helped shape them into the person you know and love.  If you don’t like particular people in your partner’s life, then excuse yourself from events that these people are going to attend.  But don’t try to change your partner’s friends.  That is controlling behavior and he or she will resent you for being so negative about people that are important to your partner.

8.   She got into the relationship with you for your potential. She thinks you need improving and she’s going to fix you.

This kind of thinking is poisonous.  A person is not a project, and you should never decide to get into a relationship with the end goal of molding that person into some lofty ideal.  No one is perfect, and while it is good to encourage your partner, you should love them for who they are, not who you want them to be.

9.   She’s keeping a close eye on you. She uncovers intel on you with an efficiency that would
make James Bond envious. She snoops through your cell phone, email, glove compartment, Facebook, and anything else she can get her hands on. She will drive past your house late at night to make sure your car is there and someone else’s isn’t.

Oh, and her girlfriends are watching your ass, too, and they’re gonna rat you out.

This speaks more to your insecurity than anything else.  If you are snooping through your partner’s things, you are GROSSLY violating his or her privacy, and that is just not okay.  How would you feel if you found your partner looking through your text messages, or found out that he or she had figured out your passwords to your Facebook or email, and had gone through everything?  You would feel angry and violated.  If you are feeling the need to do this, then you need to spend some time with a therapist and figure out why you have trust issues, and why you feel that it is “okay” to completely violate personal space and boundaries.  Seriously, acting this way speaks of some serious issues, and you should see a professional about it.

10. She may be your sweet innocent angelic ‘lil Pookie Wookie Wookums. But, if you do her wrong—like lie your ass off or cheat—she’s going to turn into a snarling, fire-breathing, vengeance seeking handmaiden of Satan.

Yeah, pretty much.

I am Coming Out

As I discussed in Friday’s post, I attended the OpenSF Conference here in San Francisco this last weekend.  It was a fantastic conference, and the organizer, Pepper Mint, did an astounding job.  I attended sessions and workshops, all dealing with different types of non-monogamy and the struggles that non-monogamists experience.  I learned so much that my head is still spinning.

Tristan Taormino did the keynote speech on Sunday morning.  She disclosed some very personal stories, and brought the audience to tears multiple times.  One story, about three men who live in a “triad”, and are in relationships with one another was particularly poignant, and as she spoke about one man’s mother finally reaching acceptance with their non-monogamy, I witnessed several people sobbing.  They want their families to accept their relationships too.

I have been a fan of Tristan’s for quite some time, and I have enormous amounts of respect and admiration for the work she does.  Near the end of her keynote speech, Tristan issued a call to action.  She spoke about privilege, and how important it is for someone who appears “normal” to everyday mainstream society to give back to the marginalized communities they identify with by coming out publicly as a member of that community.

Our lives, the way we live them, open possibilities for people around us. We are role models, whether we like it or not. Our silence will keep us where we are. Telling the truth about our values, our chosen families, will shift the dialogue, will create change.   – Tristan Taormino

I am certainly a privileged person.  I am white.  I am a cisgendered woman.  I have attended college.  I live in a city that is defined by its acceptance of everyone.  I am not in danger of losing a job, my boyfriend, or my friends by speaking about my experiences and who I am, though I do remain both nervous and terrified of my family’s reaction.

I have been the direct beneficiary of the bravery of so many other people in the marginalized communities I identify with, and yet I have refused to speak publicly about my membership in these communities.  So, as I take a deep breath, I am going to come out to you all.  Right now.

COME OUT!

Closets Are Not For Living In

I am kinky.  I enjoy BDSM style sex, with spanking, restraints, blindfolds, collars, whips, paddles, corsets, and addressing my partner as “Sir” when we are engaging in this sort of play, either in public or in private.  I find it all very exciting, and it is part of who I am.  With the encouragement and love of the BDSM community, especially the staff and owners of Wicked Grounds, I have been able to express these desires in clear terms and fulfill them with partners.  I am a happier and healthier person for it.  I am kinky.

I have experienced an open relationship.  During my year of singlehood, I dated a married man, with his wife’s explicit permission.  It was, in many ways, the healthiest and most supportive relationship I had in that time.  I never experienced jealousy of the relationship between Thomas* and Diana*, on the contrary, I knew precisely where I stood with both of them.  The liberation from wondering about the future of the relationship allowed me to enjoy our dates fully, and engage in a friendship with both Thomas and Diana that remains to this day.  I am still in awe of the love, respect, communication, and nurturing that are the cornerstone of their relationship.

Thomas and Diana have been married and involved in BDSM for years, but they both prefer the dominant role, and they chose to open their relationship to accommodate their desires that their spouse couldn’t entirely fulfill.  Thomas was the first person that I explored BDSM with, and I cannot imagine a better person to help me fulfill all the desires I had kept suppressed for years.  He was kind, patient, and encouraging, and I cherish my memories of that time.  I am so completely content with my experience that I have recommended Diana as a potential first BDSM partner to one of my closest friends.  As a personal note to Thomas and Diana: Thank you so much for giving me permission to write about our shared experience, and encouraging me to do so.  I was moved to tears at your acceptance of my request, and your continued excitement and support in my personal journey.  You are amazing allies and friends.

My boyfriend and I are considering non-monogamy.  At the time of writing this post, we are still unsure what that non-monogamy will look like, but the OpenSF conference has given us the tools, the language, and the support of a community as we explore this space.  Our relationship and interpersonal communication has already improved dramatically.  I promise to update my readers as we continue the negotiations, and will discuss the different styles of non-monogamy in another post.

I have answered Tristan’s call to action, and I am now issuing one of my own.  It is so incredibly important that those of us who have the privilege of appearing mainstream to publicly proclaim our membership to the marginalized, demonized, and ostracized communities who have given us so much.  Showing to the world that “normal” people are a part of these communities, that members aren’t some scary nebulous “other”, will pave the way for acceptance.  Stop hiding in a closet and being ashamed of who you are.  Come out.  Our world will be brighter when you do.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

 

Thanks for your support!

Ms. Taken: Fake Engagement Rings

About six months ago, I purchased a ring from Ms. Taken.  I love going out to sing karaoke, and my boyfriend isn’t a fan of how loud the bars can get when karaoke is in full swing.  So, I go without him from time to time.

It almost never fails that if I am sitting by myself at a bar, I will get unwanted attention.  Some would-be Romeo comes up, asks if he can buy me a drink, and starts attempting to talk to me.  Being the smart person I am, I know precisely what this guy is after.  He is attempting to purchase a night of affection or sex with alcohol and compliments.  I refuse to play this game, and I will immediately tell the guy that I have a boyfriend.

The smart guys will back off right away.  The dumb ones, however, will persist.  I have heard so many awful things from men who are indignant at the fact that I have seen through their charade.  These include,

  • “Well, he must not love you very much if he’s not here.”   Actually, he actively encourages me to go out and do the things that make me happy, even if they are things he doesn’t enjoy.  THAT is how much he loves me, you nitwit.  Being in a relationship doesn’t mean we are attached at the hip.
  • “If I was your boyfriend, I would never have let a pretty girl like you go out alone!”,  WOW!  I didn’t realize that being an attractive female means that I should never leave the house unaccompanied!  Did San Francisco institute Sharia law without me noticing?

And my personal favorite:

  • “It must not be serious, I don’t see a ring.”

I hate attempting to justify my relationship to strangers, so I bought a fake engagement ring from Ms. Taken.  In thinking about it further, I hate the fact that I feel I have to wear this ring even more than the outrageous comments.  It speaks so much to the backwards “women are property” attitude that somehow persists in our society today.  But the ring works.  Once I slip on the “proof” that I am not looking for someone, I can sit at a bar, and I don’t have to deal with men who don’t understand that no means no.

Have any of my readers purchased a fake engagement ring?  Would you ever consider purchasing one, or consider suggesting it to a female friend?

Song Review: Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are, you have heard the song “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye. In case you haven’t yet heard the song, please listen to this cover version by Walk Off The Earth that I think is better than the original.

Once you’ve gotten over the wow factor of five people playing the same guitar simultaneously, take a second to think about the song. Did the lyrics disturb you a little? They certainly disturbed me. Here is my interpretation of the message of this song.

[Male]
Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember

In this verse, the male is reminiscing about a former relationship. It doesn’t sound like a happy one. When you have to tell yourself that this person is right for you, despite the fact that you don’t actually enjoy being around them, it definitely ISN’T love. I’ve also never heard anyone actually say “I’m so happy I could die” in a relationship, unless they were in the honeymoon stage of an abusive cycle.

[Male]
You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end, always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I’ll admit that I was glad it was over

Dude, you sound depressed. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but “We can still be friends” is generally a line that one partner tells another to soften the blow of the breakup. You probably will never actually go have a beer after work and discuss your current relationships. That isn’t how things work when a bad relationship ends.

[Male]
But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and I feel so rough
No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

Aha! Now we know the real reason you wrote this song. You are angry and hurt that the line “We can still be friends” didn’t actually mean still being friends. It is normal and healthy to put some distance between yourself and a former lover when the relationship ends. Treating you like a stranger also screams that the relationship probably wasn’t a healthy one. Asking a friend to pick up your possessions is normal, and it sounds like she was probably avoiding seeing you. But the real indicator here is that she changed her phone number. Speaking from experience, that generally only happens when someone is scared of stalking, or is being harassed. Gotye, are you an abusive stalker?

[Female]
Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
Part of me believing it was always something that I’d done
But I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

Here it is, straight from her. When you are in an abusive relationship, you are conditioned to believe that any argument, any fight, even your partner’s bad moods are somehow your fault. It is never because your partner has mental issues, it’s because YOU did something. You are also conditioned to listen closely to the words that your partner says, because you have to be on guard for any indication of an impending abusive episode, and though you try your best to defuse it, it never works. So she left him. He probably said something along the lines of “I’m better off without you, anyway!” In reality, she’s better off without him.

Could someone please explain to me how a song that is clearly about an abusive stalker of an ex-boyfriend has somehow become a hit single? And WHY nearly all of my female friends are so in love with this song?

Disney Princess Culture

Chances are, if you are a female living in the US, you grew up with the Disney Princesses. Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and Ariel were a big part of my childhood. I still know all the songs in these movies by heart, and I occasionally daydream of a fairy godmother who would update my wardrobe at no cost to me.

These Are Not The Role Models You’re Looking For.

Now, looking back on these stories, I wonder what lessons they were intended to teach young girls. We learned about the evils of stepmothers. We learned about the importance of being beautiful. We learned how we just need to wait for the right man to come along and fight all of our battles for us.

We learned in adolescence and adulthood that all of these things are dead wrong. Stepmothers definitely aren’t all evil (mine is pretty awesome, actually, and a very loving person). Looks fade with time, but style, panache, drive, and personality are eternally attractive. Pretty much all of us learned that while men are good companions, being an eternal damsel in distress or relying entirely on a partner for emotional, mental and financial support is a recipe for disaster.

I’d like to dig a little deeper into the princess/prince dynamic. As women and girls, we are spoon fed the idea that being “swept off” our collective feet is the ideal we should be dreaming of and expecting from our potential partners: accept no substitutes. We are also taught that we should be reserving sex for that “special person”, and that we will know who they are because of how we feel when we are around him or her. We are taught that there is “the one” and that once we meet that elusive one person, they will compliment our strengths and weaknesses perfectly. Once the relationship with our “one” is announced to the world, there will be rainbows, singing birds, and maybe an elaborate musical number to celebrate our union. Or so we are taught to imagine.

Although romance and the initial excitement of a new relationship or crush is intoxicating, it is irresponsible and just plain stupid to start a relationship entirely on the strength of hormones. Sitting around and waiting for this mythical “one” to come around and sweep you off of your feet is stupid. It also puts undue pressure on a well-meaning potential mate. If they say or do one wrong thing, does that mean that they aren’t the right person for you? I mean, if they are supposed to compliment your personality perfectly, then clearly, they are supposed to be perfect to boot.

While Disney has done better in recent years with Mulan, Tiana, and Rapunzel, I’m still not satisfied. They are interesting and take matters into their own hands, but overall, they still fall all over themselves for their love interests.

LOVE her hair!

Try This One On For Size

I am eagerly awaiting Pixar’s take on the princess culture with the upcoming movie Brave. Finally, we are seeing a young woman who decides to adventure on her own, without needing a man to fight her battles for her. Pixar has already shown, through movies like The Incredibles, Up, and Wall-E, that they know how to depict healthy relationships and portray women who are perfectly capable of saving the day on their own. Merida, you’d better not disappoint me.

Fifty Shades of Red Flags

 

The Fifty Shades trilogy has been at the top of the NYT Bestseller list for 10 weeks now.  I can’t even begin to count the number of people who have suggested I review these books.  I’m on vacation in the Outer Banks, North Carolina right now, and I figured they’d be good for reading on the plane.  I started reading the first book at 3:30am, and knew that I probably wasn’t going to like them, as I had started cracking up laughing at the terrible writing by 3:45am.  Warning, those who have been in an abusive relationship may be triggered by the following post. Read the rest of this entry

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