Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Massengill Moment

Remember that old commercial? A beautiful scene on the front porch swing of a country farmhouse, "Mom, do you ever get that not so fresh feeling?". It was a cheesy and unrealistic take on mothers and daughters having intimate discussions.

I was recently sent, for review, a copy of The Body Scoop For Girls by a CBS News contributor and M.D., Ob-Gyn, Jennifer Ashton, a specialist whose NY practice is centered on the treatment of girls from age 13 through their early twenties.

Dr. Ashton has put together what she calls 'a straight talk guide to a healthy beautiful you', covering every topic from puberty and health to abusive relationships and everything in between.

Having now finished reading it, I can only say that I have less than positive feelings about it and I certainly won't be handing it to any of my daughters to read, without at least removing a few pages first. Nor would I recommend it for my reader's daughters without the same creative editing.

Don't get me wrong. There is much useful information to be had in this reference guide. There is much information that is important and should be shared with adolescents and teens, but there is also much information that I, as a mother with 16 years experience, feel is left out, inaccurate or plain and simple misleading.

There are good tips on personal grooming and changes to be expected during adolescence and puberty. There is great information about taking care of yourself for the long term, but there is also much information that I feel is not appropriate or incomplete.

Dr. Ashton speaks of her private practice and the need to treat a patient with respect and knowledge of complete information, for teens are smart, savvy and more worldly than ever before. I couldn't agree more, but feel that she leaves out important details. I also feel that she takes it a little far at times. Although a proponent of girls waiting until they are of legal adulthood to engage in sex, Dr. Ashton states that in her practice that includes younger girls also, "...I'll expect you to use your own best judgment and I'll treat you accordingly, with respect for the choices you make"(page 6).

It's one thing to say, 'I'll treat you medically appropriate and not with any less personal respect, for I can not control your actions or decisions, but I can help keep you healthy.', but it is a ludicrous statement to 'respect the choice' of a 15 or 13 year old girl to engage in sex. Let alone to continue a few pages later with, don't worry, I'll never tell your parents. Would the decision to skip school be respected? What about a decision to smoke, drink or use recreational drugs, would they be respected choices? Are those behaviors any less dangerous to engage in or is it a matter of 'just make sure you use a clean needle'?

On the topic of Doctor patient confidentiality, Dr. Ashton touts on page 12:

"By Law, I am not allowed to tell your parents if you are sexually active or not. They can pound on my door and beg and plead, stalk me with phone calls or spam me online and I'm still not going to tell them whether or not you are having sex."

She then goes onto list two scenarios when she would have to break confidentiality: 1, Safety of the patient or someone else and 2, certain STDs that are reported by the labs to the State.

I say give the girls the full scope of information. If you are covered by your parents insurance and are a minor, your parents have legal rights to a copy of your medical record. Everything health concern related that you tell your doctor gets written in your file, be it sexual activity or recreational drug use. Also, if your insurance company is being asked to pay, they too get a copy of all treatments/tests/diagnosis and rationalizations of why they should be covered under the policy. The policy holder (one of your parents) also gets a statement in the mail of all treatments/tests and what percentage will covered by insurance, courtesy of the insurance company. You will not be given a pap-smear unless sexually active. Forget privacy if you are under 18 or even older if you are insured under your parents. This is an important tidbit.

Dr. Ashton also is in full support of the 'Wait until your 18 club" before you become sexually active. She gives many reasons, both health and emotional, why she encourages her patients to wait. I applaud this. Dr. Ashton continues to point out that the lower your lifetime number of sexual partners, the better is her mantra. However, there is no mention that waiting until you are married is even a concept, achievable or something to shoot for.

Yes, I am wholeheartedly aware that most people will not wait that long. Yes, I am aware that that is a rare standard to achieve. Yet, under the belief that teens and tweens deserve full and competent information with which to make life changing decisions, I let my children know their personal value and potential. I let them know that their intellect, personalities and talents are something that constantly get shared with the world, but their body and virginity are a special gift that they should keep until they find someone that they are wanting to grow old and regress back into diapers with to deem worthy of a gift so sacred.

They will obviously make their own decision on this matter sooner or later, that I will have no control over, but I will always encourage them to do what is truly best for them, even if they are too young to understand what is best for them. That's why they have parents.

When it comes to school work, I never encourage my children with "I think you are capable to achieve a C!". I let them know that the sky is the limit and that they are capable of an A+. Sex as a reward for your 18th birthday is a D-, in my book, it's settling.

Granted, Dr. Ashton admits that age 18 is an arbitrary number that seems achievable and realistic to her and her patients (page 149). I let my children know that this is something that only they have control over and it is within their ability to shoot for the best. They deserve it.

Dr. Ashton speaks of Abstinence Only sex-ed as out dated and ineffective. Parents who teach abstinence only are obviously living under a rock and uncomfortable speaking about anything puberty or sex related is the connotation that you feel as reading the book.

I for one am a parent that teaches abstinence only. I also am open and honest about everything that they need to know about themselves, their hormones, body changes, feelings and what to expect in the future. I openly, yet privately, make my children individually aware at an appropriate age of the common forms of birth control and how they work and why I believe they are a bad idea to ever put into use, but I am not about to give a demonstration on how to adorn a condom (as is suggested on page 162). If you can't figure that out by reading the back of the box, you have no business having need of one and probably should have a safety cork on the end of your eating utensils too.

Emergency Contraception is noted in the book also. "Plan B and similar medications prevent conception from taking place. It does not cause abortions.", is made as an absolute statement, but if Dr. Ashton believes her teenage patients to be intelligent and worthy of making their own decisions based on all the information, why is not mentioned why there is such controversy surrounding this drug? The manufacturer makes the claim that it prevents conception and may be used up to 72 hours after intercourse. Where the controversy comes to play is: Most conceptions do not take place immediately after intercourse, but many do prior to 72 hours after. Plan B will not abort and existing pregnancy, but pregnancy is now defined as once implantation into the uterus occurs. A fertilized egg being destroyed before it has implanted in the uterine wall is the factor that have many referring to to Plan B as an abortive medication. Why only share one 1/2 of the debate?

The icing on the cake comes on page 163:

"Your parents may not be as dumb as you think. Try asking them how old they were when they started having sex. Or if they regretted it. Or if they have any funny or memorable stories or words of wisdom for you. You may be surprised at what you learn-and your parents might actually believe that you want to talk openly about sex."

I actually had to re-read that little segment, after rubbing my eyes and cleaning my glasses, just to make sure I had read it correctly. I had.

I don't discuss such personal aspects of my life with anyone other than my spouse. It's no one else's business. Not a girlfriend, nor a sister and certainly not my child. Any teen that I am familiar with would want to wash their brain thoroughly with bleach in an attempt to cleanse any such thoughts of their parents out of their heads. I am their parent, not their peer.

I asked Boy Weasel (13) to read that blurb and give me his thoughts. His face said it all. Once he swallowed the vomit down, he said "What do they mean, 'your parents aren't as dumb as you think?' ". After a good laugh, I asked him, "Okay, now seriously, what are your thoughts?", and he gave me an honest, "That's not even funny". I informed him that it wasn't supposed to be funny and he replied "You mean that wasn't a joke? That's just not right."

I had Eldest Weasel read the same excerpt. "Eewww', was her reaction to the thought.

I ran it past some other parents of various age children, asking for one word gut reactions; uncomfortable, outrageous, eewww, nuts and silence were the consensus of reactions. I am not alone.

This book is obviously written from the standpoint of a doctor and not that of a parent. I can give credit for that. Ninety percent of this book is filled with valuable information that is important for for teenage girls to have and mostly what I have already covered with my daughters (and son) regarding all sorts of growing pains, piercings and maintaining health for the rest of your life. The other 10 % of information is not right for my family. Every family is different and every parent has to make the decisions that are right for theirs. This book, however, doesn't get the WeaselMomma seal of approval.

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Melisa Wells said...

So how do you really feel? haha

Before I could get past the first paragraph I had to re-read the author's name because in my still-sleepy state I thought you wrote that Jennifer Aniston wrote the book, and, well, THAT would have been a funny angle on the whole issue.

I loved your honesty in this review. And that last section bothered me tremendously as well.

I think that the key as a parent is less book-sharing with their kids and more consistent talking. Times have changed since we were kids and it's not "The Talk" anymore; it's talking all the time. I'm not against a parent using books for information sources, obviously, or finding a book that is completely appropriate for their kid, of course, but I think the connecting that happens when parents and kids can have a meaningful conversation (or twenty) about sex, alcohol, etc. is way more valuable.

Daddy Files said...

I haven't read the book, but I'd have to say I'm on the same page as the author.

Not only don't I believe in abstinence education, I will never teach it to my son (or any other kids I might end up having.) Sure they should wait until they're ready, and no one wants their kids to go out whoring around having casual sex. But I really think only sleeping with the person you think you're going to grow old with is short-sighted. Personally I think most people fall in love several times before they find the right person, and sex is not solely about love anyways. I plan to tell my son to be careful and respectful, but also that it's perfectly OK (and even beneficial) to have sex before marriage.

My parents are very open and always have been. Sometimes too open, but once I got past my gag reflex I realized they had some pretty good advice. In the end, it helped me relate to them and made me realize they were treating me like an adult. It wasn't easy and it was uncomfortable at times, but I appreciated the openness and honesty.

But like you said, each family is different and I understand this was your personal review. Just offering an opposing per usual! =)

Ron said...

Looks like I'm going to have to put this book in my shopping cart. I don't want to, but with two girls (sigh) it's going to happen.

Still, I might not be the one doing the talking, but I need to be prepared.

Thanks for the review.

The Father of Five said...

I have a friend who suspected drug use by their teen aged child.

They called the clinic to schedule a drug test.

The clinic reminded my friend that despite the fact that the child is a minor, covered under their insurance, and that they are paying for the test, the results are considered "confidential" and can only be shared with the teen.

It would be up to the teen then to share that info with their parents...


Friend's solution... Over the counter drug test (a solution suggested by the clinic)

The good news? A "clean" test.

The bad news? Parenting just got a lot harder.

WeaselMomma said...

@ Melisa ~ I couldn't have said it better myself. These are ongoing conversations & 'the talk' should never have a starting or end time.

@ Daddy Files ~ It comes of no surprise that you and are in disagreement about this. I have always been open and honest with my kids, and tell them honestly that my personal business is none of theirs. If it weren't a private matter, I wouldn't need to lock or even close my bedroom door.
To each his own and we all, as parents, need to do what we believe to be in the best interest of of our families.

@ FoF ~ That is ludicrous! My pediatrician respects and talks directly to my children as patients, but also has a big sign on the door saying that no one 17 or under will ever be seen without a parent in the room.

@ Clark Kent ~ It's not a book that I would recommend, but you need to decide for yourself.

Anonymous said...

I'm in between your thinking and Daddy Files'. I plan to teach abstinence, but there will always be a "BUT" at the end of my sentences, because I know that despite the best parenting and sex education and religious values, sex does happen between teens. If my sons do decide to not listen (b/c I didn't listen so I know it's possible) then I want them to know what they need to do to protect themselves. But I will emphasize abstinence like crazy. And you are right on that no one wants to hear details of their parents' sex lives. Ick.

Anonymous said...

So, this one time when I was camping...

OK, like Boy Weasel I had to choke back down the vomit at the thought of my parents 'sharing'. Definitely classifies as TMI in my book and well outside the dynamic of the parent/child relationship.

It is disappointing that a book that appears to be otherwise packed with solid information becomes spoiled because there isn't complete disclosure. Sounds more like a doctor that wants to pretend they are their patients friend, not a professional that has a job to do.

BellaDaddy said...

AM going to keep my mouth shut on this one, instead, come back and read everyones comments...truly an intersting post.


Together We Save said...

Ok well I have to say I would never buy the book!! I am glad you reviewed it for me because I know not to waste my money!!

Cathy ~ Tadpoles and Teacups said...

Interesting post! And I heartily agree.

We as parents are called to instill in our children standards and values that are in their best interest both now and for their future success later. I can't remember ever saying something like, "Now, darling, you know it's best to pay for this very special candy bar before leaving the store; but I don't really think you can wait, so just in case you simply can't control yourself and must have it now, here's a big coat to hide the candy bar in so you won't get caught." Either now, or later, there's always a price to be paid. Always. Some are more costly than others. And more lasting.
I've tried to instill in my children that their choices are about self-respect (and respect for others) as much as self-control; and it's about not placing yourself in a situtation which may compromise either or both of those ideals.
Something I heard once from a very wise teacher, "Sex is like a can of Drano. It's a great 'product,' does a great job, but you have to use it according to the Manufacturer's directions."

Raising kids is tough, and parenthood is def not for the faint of heart, especially once the kids reach adolescence! The minefield just changes.

WeaselMomma said...

@ 3 Men & a Lady ~ You have to do what you feel is best.

@ PJ ~ It is a shame that so much good information had to be tainted.

@ BellaDaddy ~ No need to keep quiet, this is a individual parenting decision and WoW is a no flame zone.

@ We Save ~ I'm glad you found this review helpful.

Joanie said...

I remember talking to my daughter, when she was in college, about whether she should be taking birth control. She had a boyfriend at college and I thought MAYBE she was sexually active. I didn't want her getting pregnant and having to quit school. When she came home at the end of the semester, we went to my gyn and she got checked out and a Rx for the pill. Little did I know that she lost her virginity near the end of her senior year. lol

I know my son who is nearly 22 is sexually active (I found condoms in his drawer, looking for a book) and was glad he was smart about it.

Now I just found out my youngest daughter, who is in her first year of college has a boyfriend at school (I'm not supposed to know... everyone is sworn to secrecy) I guess I need to make that same offer to her. but I have a feeling she'll tell me to get lost (but much much stronger)

Joanie said...

Oh! my son did tell me he lost his virginity in college.

And that book? I'd pass on it. If you let a young teen read that book, you may as well give him or her permission to have sex.

At least I waited until my kids were in college before I approached it!

Tom said...

Here is Michael's Daddy standing up and APPLAUDING LOUDLY!!!!

I am in full and complete agreement with you: kids are kids, and we are their parents. We are legally and morally responsible for them until they reach adulthood, in every aspect of their lives. Privacy is earned, it is a privilege, and it may be withdrawn at the parent's discretion.

I think kids are more worldly now and tend to get into sex earlier simply because parents have, for the most part, abdicated their parental roles and abandoned their kids, leaving them to their own devices and their own decisions.

Kids don't make good decisions on their own; they need guidance. That's what parents are for. And sexual decisions are most often life-altering. They shouldn't be left up to kids who really have no idea what "the rest of your life" really means.

Antique Mommy said...

Well said.

J.R. Reed said...

as the father of a 12-year-old girl I think I need to hit my local Barnes and Noble ASAP. Hopefully The Bookstore Chick isn't in there.

Thanks for making me laugh. This was better for me than talking to my mom about Kotex.

Mr. Man said...

This book obviously comes from a person who has a different set of values than I do. That's' okay. She has a right to write the book (which she has obviously done.

With that being said, the fact that teens are more "worldly" than previous generations does not mean that they are mentally and emotionally ready for sex simply because they are physically ready. Many of us, as adults, have regrets for actions taken as a teen without the benefit of wisdom and maturity that we have now.

As a parent, I will talk openly about sex from the biblical perspective that God provides. Our children need to understand that sex is not the same as love. There are a lot of things that feel good that are not good for us. Experience and wisdom gives us the discernment not to do everything that feels good to us because it might be harmful to us (i.e. your illicit drug example).

I don't claim to have all of the answers to this topic. However, what is the point of having a belief system if you are going to try to find loopholes in that system? All I can do is speak to what I have taught my family to believe.

michaelsmommy said...

Great post! I am standing with MichaelsDaddy and applauding too. I have witnessed a parent telling her daughter too much information and the risky behavior that ensues.

LisaMM said...

Weaselmomma, Just a quick note to say thank you for a very honest, fair, and balanced review. I'm sorry you had some issues with the book, but what a terrific conversation it started here in the comments! Thanks so much for all the time and effort that went into reading and reviewing The Body Scoop for Girls. We really appreciate it.

WeaselMomma said...

Cathy ~ If I don't believe my child is capable of the best, how can my child believe it.

@ Joanie ~ Definitely not a book I would my 15 year old to.

@ Tom ~ Thank you for the standing ovation. Maybe NukeDad will bring the flowers? Or Melisa will make a paper bouquet and a sash?

@ Antique Mommy ~ Thank you.

@ J.R. ~ If your Mom has you using Kotex, RUN, don't walk, to the bookstore.

@ Mr.Man ~ Well said.

Otter Thomas said...

Parents sharing sex tales is definitely enough to make everyone sick. That is not the type relationship parents are intended to have with their children anyway. I am glad I have a long time to formulate a plan of action on this topic. Great job with the review. I love your honesty.

Momo Fali said...

I have to say, that I laughed out loud when I read "not so fresh feeling" and "cheesy" in the same paragraph.

I am SO STINKING proud of you for telling it like it is. I wish the FTC would read this so they would know that not every review is full of crap. Some of us are confident enough to tell the truth.

Tara R. said...

Having older kids, one already in her 20s and another almost 17, I will say that as they grew up I did tell them that my belief was that the best plan was abstinence, but also provided information about other birth control options. I made my feelings very well known on that subject. At this point in their lives, I know that, especially with my daughter living most of the year away from home, I don't have as much control over their lives as I once did. I can only hope they each make wise choices.

That being said, the quote you cited is disturbing on many levels. The author's conspiratorial tone, 'it's us against your dumb parents,' is not helpful. The suggestion that a parent share intimate details about their sex life is an unrealistic suggestion.

This has been an interesting discussion. Some of the other comments are intriguing.

Anonymous said...

How did that whole abstinence thing work out for Sarah Palin? Not so much.
Or is it do as I say, not as I do?
Wait, it does seem to be that in your case. You're not willing to admit to your own children when you first had sex. "It's none of their business" - so why is when they choose to have sex your business? Talk about double standard.

And you're willing to cover the various birth control options but instill that you don't feel any of them should be used? Please. Hypocrit!

The approach you're taking is just going to ensure you're terrifying your kids - especially if you have girls - into not being honest with their health practitioner because heaven forbid it would get back to you. (And no, just because they're underage, you're NOT entitled to their medical details - there's that whole patient privacy thing that is appropriate for each and every communicating human.)

sexandthesingledad said...

Why are some people such douche's that they won't even identify themselves? Geez. (coughing) what a loser! (coughing)

Vodka Mom said...

okay, Anonymous? Obviously does NOT HAVE kids.

And from the sounds of it, never will.

john cave osborne said...

wow. it's hater day in the comment land. i love differing opinions, especially when they belong to two intelligent people. but respect is a must. name calling is a no-no. insecurity breed meanness. and cowardice breeds anonymity.

WeaselMomma said...

@ LisaMM ~ Thank you for the opportunity, for thinking of me on this blog tour and being so gracious.

@ Otter ~ Every parent has to do what they know to be the best for their families. This book isn't for mine.

@ Momo ~ Feel free to email this to them. I will only agree to to reviews if they are willing to accept my honest review.

@ Tara ~ "One time, at band camp.." is no way to start a conversation with your child.

@ Anonymous ~ Please don't ever come to my blog and flame. This is a place of civility and open discussion. Doing it anonymously is cowardly. That said:
1. I don't tell you how to raise your children, don't tell me how to raise mine.
2. Yup, it's a double standard, just as it should be. I am their parent, they are minor children.
3. I talk to my children about religions other than the one that we practice and why they are not what we believe and practice. That's educational, not hypocritical.
3. Lulling children into a false sense of privacy and security is dishonest. I can sign and attain a copy of my minor child's medical records, they are allowed to know that.
4. Point of advice for the future, don't be the troll.

Daddy Files said...

People who comment without having the intestinal fortitude to attach their identity to what they say, are not worth responding to WM.

It's fine to disagree, but don't be a jackass about it.

WeaselMomma said...

@ sexandthesingledad ~ I agree that people should have the courage to identify themselves before getting inflammatory, but crudeness of language is something that I ask you refrain from here. My children DO read my blog.

@ VodkaMom ~ I have a funny follow-up, but am resisting the urge to feed the troll.

@ JCO ~ Only one commenter forgot civility in the other pants. I am grateful for all the positive reaction to this review, even from the publisher.

WhiteBullie said...

For some reason I kept telling myself to stop reading, but I made it through.

I Think your review was great, I'm glad you pointed out, that private information you share with the doctor is not that private when under their Insurance.

WeaselMomma said...

@ Daddy Files ~ I agree that it is cowardly to not leave a name when being inflammatory, but attempt to respond to all comments, in kind. Thanks for the support.

@ White Bully ~ Thank you. I hope you found it helpful.

NukeDad said...

See? This is what happens when you choose Massengill over Summer's Eve. Just sayin'.

OK, let's get serious; In a society where kids have instant access to each other through texting, email, Facebook, MySpace, etc.; and that information on ANY subject is just a mouse click away, it's unrealistic to think that they don't already know more than we think they do. It's like the old joke about the Dad having "The Talk" with his son; "Billy, I think it's time we talk about sex." "Sure, Dad; what do you want to know?"

Kids today face so many more social issues than we did it's unreal. From kids beating up weaker kids just so they can post it on You Tube to cyber-bullying to sexting; there's a lot of pressure on kids today! The best you can do is impart your wisdom and advice on them and hope that they use it. Let's face it, their moral fiber and character are going to be pretty solidified by the time you have "The Talk." If we have done our jobs raising them while they are young, then the "Talk" will be much easier, more honest and, hopefully, more effective.

Now, on to the Troll: ARE YOU SERIOUS? You go on someone's blog to state your case and don't even have the gonads to leave your name? You, are a coward. No, I take that back; you're not a coward, you're worse. You're the gutless instigator that wades into the crowd, gets them all riled and then cowers to the sidelines before you break a nail. Your courage can be measured in a thimble and you're probably cursing me right now from the basement of your Mother's house. You obviously don't have any kids, but when you do, remember this post when you're a grandfather/mother at 34. Pathetic.

WeaselMomma said...

@ NukeDad ~ I agree that in this day and age kids are growing up with much more access to all sorts of information and daily stresses. All the more reason we as parents have to make sure that we are a trusted source of info to our kids, a good example, and give the best guidance that we can for their personal well being.

seashore subjects said...

Great review! (I don't have time to read all the comments now, so I hope I'm not repeating someone.)Forget 18 - what about simply until you are committed, mature, and solvent enough to raise a child that could potentially be created by your decision to engage in sex? While I, like you am willing to give all the facts to my children, I am not willing to be their friend. It is not my job! Parents presumably have increased their wisdom since teen-hood, and that is the knowledge to share!

WeaselMomma said...

Anonymous left another comment and I accidentally deleted it. I would like to post it. So when you come back to check responses to it, please leave it again, anonymous.

terri said...

This is what makes you such a great parent. You are strong in your convictions. Having read your review, I have to say I'd be very uncomfortable having my daughter read it.

Anonymous said...

I am visiting from Tom's Being Michael's Daddy and NOT the previous Anonymous.
Excellent post. My Mother had a rather unique way of teaching abstinence...she was a nurse, worked in OB at the local hospital. She had me wait for her outside the delivery room after school so I could catch a ride home with her. Very effective, especially when the new mother was a screamer. This was in the 1950s. Alice Kable

Michelle said...

Ahhh, now I understand your question a whole lot better. Yeah, this probably isn't the book for me. but I plan on having years of conversations, not lessons from a book. Fingers crossed it works -- for all of us!

The Microblogologist said...

First of all you totally traumatized me with that book quote! I then traumatized Cheryl with it because misery loves company and all, her traumatized noise was hysterical!

Second I definitely agree that there needs to be a dialog between parents and their children on this subject and that it is the parents' job to help guide their children into making the decisions that are right for them. I also believe that privacy is not a right but a privilege for minors, they do not have the mental and emotional capacity to truly make the best choices for them and their family. Plus if they do get pregnant (or diseased) before they can take care of themself and the offspring the parents have to deal with the consequences right along with them.

I think that it is best for all kids to be educated on both abstinence and the various methods of birth control and protection with the pros and cons of each discussed. In my opinion this is best done by the schools in a fact based manner and the parents should be responsible for instilling morals and beliefs in their children. My district taught a balance but the lesson was crystal clear, the only way to ensure you will not get pregnant and/or diseased was to not have sex. And I definitely agree with you on the "plan b" or whatever pills, I believe that preventing an embryo from implanting is abortion/murder.

The minor patient confidentiality depends on the state laws for the most part. When I was 16 or so they made me have a pap smear because I had a cyst thing or something on an ovary that caused abdominal pain. I had Mom come with and stand by my head for support. The doc kept asking if I had sex and I kept telling her that I had not and then she made my mother leave the room to ask again with the promise to not tell if I said I had (she got the same answer). Crazy world we live in!

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