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I know New Year’s eve is still weeks away, but one of my last year’s New Year’s Resolutions was to be better organized – so in that spirit, I’m thinking of what kind of Rules-y resolutions I should make for 2011.  Here are a few I’m contemplating:

  1. Make “easy to be with” the mantra for my marriage.  For better or for worse, Rapha has picked up a few tidbits of TR over the years, and his favorite is “easy to be with.”  It’s tempting to focus on the “hard to get” part of the Rules equation – but once you’ve got him, you may not keep him unless you give him space, build him up and avoid nagging whenever possible.
  2. Revisit my birthday and holiday lists.  I adore picking out special cards and giving well-chosen gifts to friends and relatives, but when the gift-giving becomes mainly one sided, I’ve decided to take a step back.  That may sound a little Grinch-like in this spirit of giving, but the most important gift we can give each other is not material things but an open, loving heart – and when lopsided gift-giving leads to feelings of being taken for granted, then how generous is it really?  For example, for years I’ve sent birthday gifts to one relative – his wife, and each of his several children.  Recently, it started to feel like a drag…and I couldn’t figure out why.  When my birthday came and went without even a card or phone call from this relative, I realized this was a good area to apply a little TR, do a little less, and let the balance of the relationship restore itself.
  3. In social gatherings, I resolve to stop feeling compelled to engage with unsociable people.  Maybe it’s because I live in Malibu, so going out to parties in town often means a long car trip – by the time I arrive, the time investment prompts me to work hard to make conversations flow and bring people out of their shells.  No more.  If someone is socially challenged and shows zero curiosity in who I am, what I do, are why I’m there….I’m moving on.  From now on, when I go out to events, I’m focusing on having fun – not giving succor to the insecure.
  4. Wear make-up to the office!  Even if it’s just mascara and lip gloss.  Not because I’m looking to attract male attention – my husband gives me more attention than I can handle – but because it’s part of getting dressed professionally and proving you’re geared up to represent your business in the best light possible.  Research shows that women who make up their faces for work tend to be more successful – maybe it’s because those who are conscientious enough to take care of their appearance are naturally conscientious enough to take care of their work, or maybe people respect you more if you appear to take the time to pull yourself together.  Regardless, putting your best face forward will help build confidence…and if it gives you a little edge in a competitive work environment, so much the better!
  5. Give people the benefit of the doubt.  It’s hard to stay light & breezy when someone, even a stranger, violates an expectation – be it signaling before changing lanes, or showing up on time for appointments, or failing to meet a deadline.  It’s easy to apply snap judgments – that person is rude, or doesn’t care about you, or is lazy, etc.  We end up fuming – and possibly snapping – which often invites adverse reactions.  For 2011, I’m going to redouble efforts to postpone conclusions until I have all the facts, waiting to ask the simple question: What happened?  In cases where I can’t ask the question – e.g., being cut off in traffic – I’ll at least try to entertain the possibility of benign motive speculation (the person didn’t see me, is on their way to the hospital, just heard their wife is leaving them, etc.).  It may be Pollyannish – but if it helps me keep that most important Rules accessory in place (the smile) then I’m all for it!

What are some of your hopes and goals for 2011?  Are you looking to meet and marry the man of your dreams?  Get out of a going-nowhere relationship?  Close the deal with your boyfriend?  Let me help you make the resolutions that can make next year one of excitement, security, love and peace.

It’s one thing to hear dating coaches tell you how to behave to land the man of your dreams – it’s even more compelling when such wisdom comes from the mouths of dreamy men themselves.  That’s what I took away from three recent interviews with some of the sexiest men on television: Josh Holloway, star of Lost; and True Blood’s Joe Manganiello and Ryan Kwanten.

In an interview with Women’s Health under the “What Men Think” column, Holloway (41) serves as perfect spokesman for The Rules by echoing three important themes:

  • Don’t show that you’re interested in marriage: “the worst [is having] baby and bridal magazines” strewn around your apartment.
  • Do dress like a CUAO: “The hottest thing is lingerie.  The least sexy is baggy sweat pants and a large T-shirt.  And granny panties!”  (Rules Bonus: If you’re going away on your first mini-trip, bring sexy lingerie with tags STILL ON.)
  • Don’t pressure men about your relationship: Men are happiest when “we’re not under pressure of any kind, particularly from our relationship or work.”

Joe Manganiello (33) emphasizes the importance of letting men take the lead.  For example, on who pays on a date:

“It’s very sweet and much appreciated if you offer to pay, but a real mean won’t let you do it.  Men are hunters by nature; we used to drag home dinner for the family to eat.  I feel my best when I’m taking care of my woman.  I’m old fashioned.”

He also emphasizes the importance of postponing sex: “Many guys go straight to the physical stuff in the beginning, but the longer he waits, the clearer it is that he likes you.”

Refreshingly, he’s not afraid to underscore The Rules take on break-ups – if he breaks up, it’s usually broken, for good.  Says Manganiello: “Move on.  People just keep bouncing off their exes and wasting each other’s time.  If you go back, you’ll be dealing with the same stuff that drove you apart in the first place.”

His co-star, Ryan Kwanten implores women not to open up too fast.  In fact, he says the one mistake he sees women making in relationships is “Trying out the ‘I love you’s’after a week or two [of dating]. You have to give it time before you start [saying that].”

In fact, after two weeks of dating, you shouldn’t say “I love you” back even if he says it first – and of course, YOU should never say it first (think poor Kate Hudson saying ILY first to Lance Armstrong).  But Kwanten is raising the larger issue of letting the man discover you – of letting things unfold slowly.

Says Kwanten: “I like exploring the mystery of a relationship instead of laying it all out on the table in the beginning.”

Rules co-authors Sherrie Schneider & Ellen Fein lay this out in Rule #19 (“Don’t Open Up Too Fast”) and #20 (“Be Honest but Mysterious”).  It’s good advice whether you’ve just begun dating someone – or you’re at a social function or work event – or even if you’re being interviewed, for a job, or by the press (think Megan Fox, TMI!).

Doubters may argue that, sure, super-hunks like Josh, Joe and Ryan may appreciate the chase – and feel manly in paying on dates, taking the lead, and deciphering the cues of the ravishing women they meet – but what about ordinary male mortals?  Don’t they need more encouragement?  More tit-for-tat?

While it’s true that it’s all the more important to do bootcamp rules on celebrity men (or the equivalent in terms of super-handsome, rich or powerful catches), the rules work on all men, without exception.  Moreover, when you break rules by declaring undying love on date four, or jumping into bed, or picking up the tab, men may stick around for more adulation, sex, or free meals in the short term, but you’re just setting yourself up for a bigger fall in the long run.  Besides, if your guy really isn’t the king-of-the-red-carpet master-of-the-universe, all the more reason to let him feel like a conquering hero in your universe, by letting him win you over, a little at a time.

Rules co-authors Ellen Fein & Sherrie Schneider are big fans of Carrie Underwood. They cheered as Underwood’s career took off – yet cringed as the diva’s dating life floundered.  News of Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl) dumping Underwood via text in April of 2008 was the last straw: The authors sent her a copy of The Rules.

Ellen & Sherrie told me: “We don’t know if she read it but lo and behold, she’s been acting like a Rules Girl ever since!”  Indeed, it seemed like someone flipped a switch: practically overnight, Underwood (27) went from wearing her heart on her sleeve and being taken for granted to being more elusive, harder-to-get, but easy to be with.  Her wedding to hockey hunk Mike Fisher (30) was celebrated on a recent cover of People.

Just a coincidence?  Let’s compare the record “before” and “after” – you can draw your own conclusions.

BTR – Before The Rules:

After dating Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo for only a couple of months, she pressed him for commitment — he used the work card to break up with her in June 2007.  At that time she lamented, “I don’t know if it’s that I’m not quite his type or whatever, but I don’t think he’s at the point in his life where he would be willing to sacrifice football.”  Well, football didn’t seem to stop him from moving on to Jessica Simpson soon thereafter.

Two months later she rebounded with Chace Crawford. “He’s really cute,” she gushed to People.  “He’s got cool hair, he’s a nice height and he just has beautiful blue eyes.”  Yikes!  Echoes of TMI Megan Fox.

She tells Ellen DeGeneres that she would “cook for anyone that would like me to cook for them.”  She fell for the myth I discussed in “More Lies Women Tell Themselves,” namely the belief that “demonstrating your culinary skills will give him yet one MORE incentive to date or marry you, but in fact it may backfire. He may savor every crumb of your amazing rugelach, but he’ll also know you like him, think you’re trying too hard, see you as less of a challenge, and thus unconsciously downgrade your dating market value.”

She goes on record saying she wasn’t good at dating, telling Cosmo she’s “horrible around guys.”

ATR:  After The Rules

When introduced to Mike Fisher backstage at one of her concerts back in October 2008 (NB: her turf, not his) she was less than open to the prospect of a long distance relationship (his hockey home is Ottawa).   Ellen & Sherrie believe “her lack of initial interest may explain why Fisher fell so hard for her the day they met.”  It’s true, men really do know when they meet the woman they want to marry.  Looking back, Fisher says: “I was thanking God for her, for that moment. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Underwood refused to even contemplate the idea of moving in with him: “Call me old-fashioned,” she told DeGeneres in November 2009, “The next guy I move in with will be my hubby.  Whoever that is.”

She was much less loquacious in sharing any details of her relationship with Fisher with the press – almost as if she’d read Chapter 13 in Rules II, “Don’t Tell the Media About Your Love Life and Other Rules for Celebrities”: “Talking openly about your relationship will only embarrass him and scare him away.  Let him talk about you when he’s interviewed.  Better to do The Rules quietly and show up at the Oscars with an engagement ring than to talk for an hour about a man who hasn’t proposed to you yet on a daytime talk show!”

She also seems wise to the chapter that follows, “Don’t Be a Groupie….” insofar as she never boned up on hockey just to please him. Instead, she says “Mike enjoys my lack of hockey knowledge…I’m just supportive and he’s the same way.”

Underwood “felt like a princess” at the couple’s July 10th wedding in Georgia – and who wouldn’t wearing a tiara with 40 carats of diamonds from her husband-to-be.  After a Rulesy-pink-pink-pink celebration, the Fishers (she’ll still use Underwood professionally) left for a honeymoon he had entirely planned, telling her only it would be warm (Tahiti turns out).

Did The Rules inspire Underwood’s about-face in dating behavior?  We may never know – celebs are loathe to admit any artifice (none of them have extensions, or implants, or have used botox, right?).  On the other hand, should Underwood choose to share her Rules success story, she could help the millions of women who admire her avoid needless heartache, and find their own Mr. Right.  Beyonce, who wrote, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” said The Rules is her “fave book.”  Why not spread the word?

Bethenny Getting Married? star Bethenny Frankel knows how to pursue her dreams – becoming a business tycoon, best-selling author, and reality TV phenomenon.  But when this high-powered entrepreneur met Jason Hoppy, she let HIM pursue HER – and as a result, realized another dream: marriage to a man she calls “my anchor,” and the birth of their adorable daughter Bryn (in Rules-y fashion, she named the baby after her husband’s late brother, Bryan).

Bethenny’s immense popularity (she’s on the cover of this month’s People magazine) reflects not just her moxie but also the fact that so many of us have made her mistakes.  People describes her in Real Housewives of New York as “the one whose aspiration to be a ‘housewife’ was often thwarted by partying a little too hard (downing six margaritas after she broke up with a boyfriend) and seeming a little too lost.”  Finally, “Frankel realized that years of late-night partying with noncommittal boyfriends had left her emotionally and financially strapped.”  Sound familiar, ladies?

Deciding it was time to take care of herself instead of going out “to find another guy to take care of me” she set about building her own business empire, which now includes a lucrative line of Skinnygirl cocktail mixes, cookbooks, workout videos, and of course, her own show.  Being so busy and independent with work, she never really bothered Jason – she left him alone, which made him only want her more.

And as Rules co-author Sherrie Schneider pointed out to me, though Bethenny is a sometimes bitch in business, bossing around her assistant and terrorizing her wedding planner (e.g., “I will rip your dick off”) she does a decent version of The Rules for Marriage during her engagement with Jason.  She preferred a small wedding, but as Sherrie observed: “she’s having a big wedding instead to please him; she entertains his friends even though she hates to be with people; she’s really nice to his mother (asks her to go dress shopping with her)…she’s gotten much nicer than when she was single, she really wants to make things work with Jason.”

On her reality series, Bethenny describes how she went “balls-to-the-wall” in her business career.  But she takes a decidedly different, softer, lighter, more vulnerable and feminine approach with her then husband-to-be.  There’s a telling scene when the couple meets with the wedding officiant to discuss the upcoming ceremony.  The officiant observes that Jason seems to hold the ground so that Bethenny can fly, to which Jason replied: “She’s my little kite.”

The operative word isn’t “kite,” it’s “little”: Despite the fact that Bethenny’s fame and fortune would seem to dwarf her sales rep/personal trainer husband, he still calls her “baby” and feels protective of her.  Back to Sherrie & Ellen: “When you do The Rules, he treats you like a fragile, delicate flower” – even if you’re a hard-assed CEO to the rest of the world!

When I started watching Bethenny Getting Married? at Sherrie’s prompting, I found that there was a lot I could relate to.  Like Bethenny, I’m a Scorpio.  Like Bethenny, after dating various wealthy, high-profile men, “I fell in love with a regular guy with a regular salary [who] taught me that being taken care of was emotional and not financial’ [Bethenny’s words].  And despite the fact that I am older, more affluent – even taller in heels – than my husband, I am still “little” to him.  In fact, that’s his pet name for me: “Little.”  Sometimes “little thing,” or “little bird,” or “little flower,” but always….”little.”

It speaks to the difference between how the world sees you, and how you and your partner see each other, and yourselves as a couple.  Whatever the world might see, when Bethenny & Jason saw this playful, exuberantly colorful, almost childlike painting of a groom chasing a bride, by Brazilian artist Romero Britto, they saw themselves.  “That’s us,” Jason said, “because that’s you running away.”  Bethenny agreed: “He’ll always have to chase me on some level, because it’s hard to catch me.”

That’s the basic premise of The Rules: “Biologically, the man must pursue the woman,” authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider insist.  “The man must be attracted to and pursue the woman.  It simply doesn’t work any other way.”

It worked for Bethenny, and it can work for you: Pursue your goals, conquer the world, but when you find the man of your dreams, let him pursue you, until you catch him!

No one could be more unforgettably gorgeous and stylish than starlet Kate Hudson – so why do her boyfriends keep forgetting about her?  Most recently, Hudson endured the indignity of being turned away from a VIP area because boyfriend Matt Bellamy – lead singer of Muse – “forgot” to put her name on the guest list.

A man who really likes a woman will not forget about her – will not forget to call when he said he would, will not forget he had a date with her, will not forget to put her name on a list, will not forget it’s Valentine’s Day, will not forget her birthday, will not forget her number…he will not forget!  But the man who’s not that into you?  He’ll forget – a clear red flag, and one once waved should be your signal to forget about him.  Cross him off your list.  Let him go.  Don’t agonize. In a word: Next!

Unfortunately, the 31-year-old actress has seemed to make something of a second career in ignoring such signals, falling fast and hard for her men, which in turn makes them take her for granted and feel suffocated by her.  The result: a string of very brief and bumpy flings.  And the pattern seems to be spiralling out of control, leading to increased public embarrassment, and certainly private heartache.

After a six year marriage to Chris Robinson (singer for The Black Crowes), she began an on-again-off-again relationship with Owen Wilson (one of the break-ups preceded his suicide attempt).  She moved on to date comedian Dax Shepard for a few months.  A summer romance with Lance Armstrong ended sadly when he dumped her.  Despite claiming she wanted to be single for as long as possible in December of ’08, she rushed headlong and hot and heavy into a relationship with NY Yankee Alex Rodriguez, which he ended after six months.

So, now she’s dating Bellamy, and if past is prologue, that will last for another few weeks or couple of months and then he’ll “need his space.”  Hudson could save herself precious time – and emotional tranquility – by reading the writing on the wall, or better yet, reading The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider.   She could start right now, either practicing on Bellamy, or the next man who will surely be around the corner, with the following.

  • Not acting like a groupie by flying around the globe to see his shows (she should let him come to her).
  • Not flying off to meet his kids after only one date, as she did with Lance Armstrong.
  • Not saying “I love you first” like she reportedly did with Lance Armstrong (kiss of death).
  • Not moving in with men, as she did after dating Chris Robinson for just four days.
  • Not inviting men you’re dating on a vacation – certainly not with your extended family – as she did with Dax Shepard, after dating only a couple weeks!

Fortunately, Kate’s got a full life, a wonderful son, a thriving career and a loving family – she should concentrate on being happy, busy, independent, and not so focused on the men in her life. Above all, she should stop chasing men – let them chase her until she catches them for good!

There have been many surprises since I became a Rules Dating Coach. I’ve been pleasantly shocked by just how powerful these techniques are – enabling me to help many lovelorn clients prompt a proposal from the men in their lives in a matter of weeks! Also surprising has been the hostility of some male readers to the simple advice I give women who are simply looking for a way to date with more self-esteem, and avoid needless heartache. Given that sometime hostility, the absolute BIGGEST surprise of all has been the number of straight, hetero men seeking out my coaching advice on how better to meet and date the woman of their dreams!

When I first started getting these requests for relationship coaching from men, I carefully explained that a) I coach women (not men), and b) I coach women in a very specific Rules-approach to dating. Moreover, this approach is premised upon the differences between men and women, and I focus on the feminine side of the equation. I refer the men to my blog, where all of this is spelled out in black and white (or at least fuchsia and lavender). Well, despite all this dissuading (or because of it? After all, that would be The Rules!) when my first male coaching client insisted that I give him a chance, I capitulated and signed him up for a monthly unlimited package.

The result of this experiment was yet another pleasant surprise: Despite my initial misgivings, I was thrilled by how much progress I was able to make with my newbie male client. Among our achievements: totally overhauling his OLD (online dating profile), creating a simplified e-mail “template” he could personalize and send out to prospects, role-playing lighter conversation for initial phone contacts and DZs (date zeroes), etc.

The other surprise, is that while The Rules is aimed at women – and based on the innate differences between the genders – there are a few rules that can benefit both men and women. Here are three that I feel have the most crossover application:

Rule #1: While “being a creature unlike any other” is unlikely to resonate with most men, the basic message of looking one’s best is something they really do need to hear. Men are more likely than women to discount their own looks as a factor in attracting the opposite sex, and specifically are more likely to overlook problems with excess weight. The difference is that the men I’ve coached are actually more sensitive than women about receiving advice on how to improve their appearance. I pull no punches with my female clients, telling them to do whatever they can to be as attractive as possible – lose weight, get highlights, extensions, implants, teeth-whitening, you name it! My male clients have much more fragile egos!

Rule #19: Don’t Open Up Too Fast. While men are much less likely to commit this error, there is a breed of guys who are unusually in touch with their feelings, and willing on a first or second date to share emotional intimacies about previous relationships, the details of their upbringing, or even the kind of woman they are looking for. While some male candor can be particularly appealing to women, sharing too much too soon can be a turnoff, regardless of your gender. Moreover, I tell men if they are doing too much of the talking – perhaps out of nervousness – they’re not doing much listening, and again, this is as true for men as for women.

Rule #30: Next! And Other Rules for Dealing with Rejection.  I am perfectly comfortable with the generalization that on the whole women tend to be more sensitive in relationships than are men. I don’t remember if it was either Sherrie Schneider or Ellen Fein (the two co-authors of The Rules) who once observed to me that “men recover quickly.” And in general, I absolutely agree that men recover from rejection more quickly than do women. But at the same time, there is a sensitivity spectrum for both genders – and just as there are some women who have such thick skins that they have less need for The Rules, there are also some men who have such relatively thin skins that they could probably benefit from those aspects of The Rules that focus on cultivating resilience. Chief among these is the importance of not getting so thrown by rejection – whether it’s the minor rejection of a woman not responding to your e-mail or a major rejection of a girlfriend breaking up with you – that your feelings of resentment begin to poison your perspective on romance in general.

I’m not sure whether I’ll continue this adventure in coaching men, but I do know that I’ve learned from, as well as helped, my male clients — and that in turn helps me be a better coach for my Rules Girls clients.

Unmarried Carrie was a pro at breaking The Rules while dating – pushing too hard for commitment, being overly honest and not mysterious, seeing a married man, losing her L&B (“light and breezy”) on a regular basis, and overall trying way, way too hard with Big.  Given that The Rules for Marriage is, in some ways, the mirror opposite of The Rules for Dating, you might think that Carrie would have an easier time being Rules-y within the new construct of matrimony.  And….you would be wrong.

It’s one thing to try and suspend disbelief in pretending that it’s realistic that an extremely handsome business tycoon would – after years of foot dragging and even cancelling a wedding – enthusiastically jump into marriage with a quirky-looking, needy, insecure Carrie.  Sure…….it’s fiction, right?  Anything can happen.  But to watch Carrie start to take for granted her incredible stroke of fortune….to start nagging Big about his TV-watching-habits, or forcing him to go out when he doesn’t want to, is a little too much to bear.

Don’t get me wrong – I wholeheartedly enjoyed SATC 2, as I did SATC 1, watching it with my Rules Girl posse, and devouring every amazing outfit (the sexy dress Miranda wore to the gay wedding was my personal fave), the eighties flashbacks, the incredible Abu Dhabi setting, and above all, the bond of friendship between the main characters.  Unlike the overwhelming majority of critics, I thought the movie was well put together and very engaging.  But as a Rules coach, watching Carrie’s oblivious and seemingly compulsive rule-breaking definitely detracts from the overall experience and credibility of the plot.

Just a couple of examples:

Carrie barely shows any interest in her husband’s work, or even acknowledges that he does work – and it’s that work that largely affords them the ultra-rich luxurious lifestyle she enjoys.  To refer back to The Rules for Marriage, she flagrantly flouts Rule #8: Be Supportive.  Authors Sherrie Schneider & Ellen Fein remind us: “You should treat your husband like a warrior who’s going out to battle every day.”  Instead, for Carrie, it remains all about her.

Carrie forces an exhausted Big to go to a movie opening when all he wants to do is stay home, watch TV and eat takeout.  He even encourages her to go by herself, enjoy the event with her pals – he doesn’t want to hold her back – but she insists.  Is it any wonder he ends up flirting with the exquisite Penelope Cruz?  Her nagging and whining doesn’t end when they come home.

The struggle over going out vs. staying in is a common one in many of the marriages of women I coach.  That’s why it’s so important to recognize whether you can – or can’t – live with differences in how much you both like to go out, before you get married.  If he’s homebody and you’re a social butterfly – or vice versa – you’ll probably know that long before you walk down the aisle.  Once you do tie the knot, you’ve got to respect your differences and stop trying to change him.  It won’t work and will only damage your relationship.

In other words, observe Rule #23: Do Things You Don’t Want to Do.  As Fein & Schneider put it: “You may have to compromise about who you see, where you go and what you do.”  Carrie wasn’t really open to compromise about what she expected to be their shared evening agenda.  Big was actually MUCH milder in his resentment and opposition than you’d find in real life.  Men really don’t appreciate being bullied or manipulated into social activities when they’re tired or have had a hard day at work.

I may be going off the Rules reservation here, but I’d stake that the one Rules-y thing Carrie did in SATC 2 was take a couple of days by herself at her old apartment to finish a work assignment.  After the two-day hiatus, Carrie was refreshed – and Big was romantic and excited to see her.  Of course, Carrie reverted to non-Rules-y form the moment Big said they should continue the tradition of a couple days apart every week.  She disregarded the fact that she’d first proposed this herself – and that it did have a positive effect on her marriage.  Instead, she broke a primal rule, immediately jumping to conclusions, escalating the rhetoric, and questioning whether Big even wanted to remain married to her.

Of course, Carrie’s big crisis in the movie was the illicit kiss with ex-boyfriend Aidan, and then the frantic debate about whether she should confess this to her husband.  Was it Rules-y for Carrie to have confessed?  I’m not so sure.  What I am sure of is that the fact that Carrie couldn’t even follow Samantha’s quite sage advice to “sleep on it” — typical of the non-Rules-y impulsiveness and inability to delay action for 24-hours.  Again, it was all about her – her need to get something off her chest, her need for redemption, her discomfort – and not about her husband, and how/when/if he needed to know about her guilty mistake.

That scattered, selfish call to Big was the low point of the film, for me at least.  But as I’ve said, there were plenty of fab moments to make the movie worth seeing.  Best of all?  Liza Minnelli’s over-the-top performance of Beyonce’s Single Ladies!

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