Archive for September, 2011

Mabon, the sabbat of the fall equinox

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Mabon, (pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn) is the Autumn Equinox. The Autumn Equinox divides the day and night equally, and we all take a moment to pay our respects to the impending dark. We also give thanks to the waning sunlight, as we store our harvest of this year’s crops. The Druids call this celebration, Mea’n Fo’mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort the God as he prepares for death and re-birth.

Various other names for this Lesser Wiccan Sabbat are The Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), Alben Elfed (Caledonii), or Cornucopia. The Teutonic name, Winter Finding, spans a period of time from the Sabbat to Oct. 15th, Winter’s Night, which is the Norse New Year.

At this festival it is appropriate to wear all of your finery and dine and celebrate in a lavish setting. It is the drawing to and of family as we prepare for the winding down of the year at Samhain. It is a time to finish old business as we ready for a period of rest, relaxation, and reflection.

Symbolism of Mabon:
Second Harvest, the Mysteries, Equality and Balance.

Symbols of Mabon:
wine, gourds, pine cones, acorns, grains, corn, apples, pomegranates, vines such as ivy, dried seeds, and horns of plenty.

Herbs of Maybon:
Acorn, benzoin, ferns, grains, honeysuckle, marigold, milkweed, myrrh, passionflower, rose, sage, solomon’s seal, tobacco, thistle, and vegetables.

Foods of Mabon:
Breads, nuts, apples, pomegranates, and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onions.

Incense of Mabon:
Autumn Blend-benzoin, myrrh, and sage.

Colors of Mabon:
Red, orange, russet, maroon, brown, and gold.

Stones of Mabon:
Sapphire, lapis lazuli, and yellow agates.

Activities of Mabon:
Making wine, gathering dried herbs, plants, seeds and seed pods, walking in the woods, scattering offerings in harvested fields, offering libations to trees, adorning burial sites with leaves, acorns, and pine cones to honor those who have passed over.

Spellworkings of Mabon:
Protection, prosperity, security, and self-confidence. Also those of harmony and balance.

Deities of Mabon:
Goddesses-Modron, Morgan, Epona, Persephone, Pamona and the Muses. Gods-Mabon, Thoth, Thor, Hermes, and The Green Man.

Mabon is considered a time of the Mysteries. It is a time to honor Aging Deities and the Spirit World. Considered a time of balance, it is when we stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of our personal harvests, whether they be from toiling in our gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families, or just coping with the hussle-bussle of everyday life. May your Mabon be memorable, and your hearts and spirits be filled to overflowing!*

Here is a Mabon blessing that you can recite over your feast before you eat.

Goddess, we thank you for your blessings and gifts

For the bounties of spring and summer and fertility of our lives and lands
For the powers of creation, which challenge us and fill us with breathtaking awe
Goddess we thank you

For the earth with its sunrises and sunsets, ocean tides and mountain peaks
For the Humanity, our shared pasts and futures, our oneness despite all differences
Goddess we thank you

For our hopes and dreams, noble causes and understanding of views not shared
For all who have worked and fought for a fairer universe and a life of dignity and freedom
Goddess we thank you

For the opportunity to learn and grow, the knowledge to teach and make choices
For the wisdom to live by hope and not fear and by our deeds not our words
Goddess, we thank you

For all that we have overlooked and taken for granted in the our daily life
For being and letting us be blessed by that being
Goddess, mighty and powerful, tender and charitable, we most gratefully thank you now.

Blessed Be

And this is a chant for the fall equinox.

The day is balanced, the night is balanced, all is balanced this day. Let Balance be our way. The God energy is balanced, the Goddess energy is balanced, all is balanced this day. Balance in all we do, think, and say. The Sun is balanced, the Moon is balanced, all is balanced this day. Balance is the divine way. The light is balanced, the dark is balanced, all is balanced this day. From balance, may we never stray.

*Adapted by Akasha Ap Emrys to share with all her friends and those of a like mind.–
Copyright © 1997-99 Akasha, Herne and The Celtic Connection wicca.com. All rights reserved.

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The Corset Guide: Part III

Posted by Jessica Jewett 2 Comments »

“To put on a corset properly is as much of an art as to make a corset properly.” – Anna Held

In The Corset Guide: Part I, we learned a little bit of the history of corsets, why women wear them today, the dissection of a corset, and the different styles available today. In The Corset Guide: Part II, we learned how to choose the right corset for you, how to be measured, and advice for plus size corsetry. Today’s third part of The Corset Guide, we will learn the art of tight lacing, how to breathe, drink and eat in a corset, and ways to accessorize your corsetry look.

Breathing, Eating and Drinking
The first time I wore a corset, nobody taught me these things, so I’m going to teach you. Most people breathe outward with their stomach muscles, causing the tummy to expand and contract. A corset will not allow the tummy to expand and contract, so it becomes necessary to shift breathing patterns to up and down through the chest. Try it now without a corset. Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach. As you draw in a breath, fill your chest without filling your tummy. It will feel strange at first unless you already breathe this way naturally but if you’re breathing correctly in a corset, it will be your breasts that rise and fall rather than feeling pressure around your abdomen. As you get used to it, you may find yourself beginning to breathe this way even when you’re not wearing a corset.
Eating and drinking are a little more tricky. In my early days, I used to forget to eat and drink entirely. For some women, wearing a corset completely stifles the ability to feel hunger. This may be a reason why women in the nineteenth century were not so apt to eat a lot in public. In private, they often loosened their corsets or took them off completely and, feeling hunger, ate more. The key to eating and drinking in a corset is not to eat three large meals in a day but to continuously eat smaller snacks throughout the time you’re wearing the corset. Don’t guzzle liquids and don’t stuff your face. It will leave you feeling bloated like a sausage crammed in hot dog casing. Sip your liquids. Eat a snack. Give the food a chance to digest a bit and then eat more. By the end of the day, you will not have eaten less but you will have spread out the volume of three big meals into five or six snack sized portions. That way you won’t feel discomfort but you will stay hydrated and get the nourishment you need. Sometimes it will be impossible to avoid a large dinner though. Just eat slow and stop when you feel discomfort. Stop for a few minutes and then start eating again. Meals are not a race! If anything, wearing a corset will force you to slow down and really experience flavors and good conversation.
Tightlacers and Waist Training
Consider this advanced corsetry. You should not jump right into waist training if you have no other experience wearing corsets because it can harm you. Tightlacers are people who wear the strongest heavily boned corsets for anywhere between 8 and 23 hours every day in order to train their bodies to have smaller waists. This practice is largely done in the BDSM world, although don’t judge a tightlacer by her cover. I am not part of the BDSM world but I have done tightlacing before. I don’t do it continuously because I experience discomfort faster than other women due to my disability. Not to worry though. Everything I do in corset culture is safe because I listen to the signals my body gives me. There is a certain level of hypersensitivity in the body that happens when women begin corset work. We are very aware of your shapes, curves, how we’re feeling, the changes happening in our bodies, etc. Sometimes that translates into sexual hypersensitivity, which is why, I suspect, tightlacers are involved in other fetishes.
Tightlacers practice waist training with very specific corsets designed for that purpose. The process is slow and progresses along making the waist smaller and smaller. Most people in the lifestyle have been doing it for years. From Wikipedia:
The most frequent aim of tightlacing is a slim waist. Depending on the silhouette desired, the shape of the ribcage may be altered as well. Wearing a corset can also change the bustline, by raising the breasts upwards and shaping them, flattening the stomach, and improving posture. However, these effects are only temporary and will be lost on removing the corset. Indeed, excessive corset wearing has been claimed to weaken certain muscles, making it more difficult to maintain posture without a corset. Although some tightlacers aim to get their waists as small as possible, others prefer to reduce their waists to a certain point and go no further as they consider that proportion and aesthetics are more important than achieving the smallest possible measurement. For example, cross-dressing males may seek to make a more feminine-appearing waistline through tightlacing, but do not want to make their waists too small, as this would look unnatural. Tightlacers typically wear a corset for at least 12 hours a day, every day, when they are most active, although more serious tightlacers (particularly those trying to achieve the smallest waist they can) wear corsets for up to 23 hours a day, taking the corset off only in order to bathe. Tightlacers sometimes have a partner, called a trainer, to help and support them. However, it is possible for somebody to tightlace without a partner.

In my case, I’m not an extremist. I can’t go to those extremes because of my disability. My natural waist fluctuates between 26 and 29 inches. As a tightlacer, I go down to about 22 inches, sometimes a little smaller. I don’t have the major side affects that other tightlacers do, such as the shape of my body becoming altered on a permanent level.

Prolonged tightlacers find that their ribs become narrower, tummy fat is shifted downward to the pelvic region, and even internal organs move into different positions. While I never judge what people do to their bodies, I personally cannot do that to myself. I have a hard enough time keeping my body in good condition. A tightlacer has to be healthy and in strong physical condition.

Do not attempt tight lacing if you have heart problems, breathing problems, blood flow problems, or anything else that might cause fatigue or weakness, as this process will intensify any weakness in the body.

From http://corsetinformation.com regarding the art of tight lacing.

Things to Do

  1. Wear an undershirt (cotton) or corset liner under the corset
  2. Moisturize the skin and make sure there are no dry spots. Red skin is a sign of dry skin
  3. After putting the corset on, pull the laces snug, not tight and straighten out the shirt or tube underneath. Reach behind you and run your fingers under the eyelet edges and lift the corset away from the skin a bit, while straightening the shirt or tube with the other hand. Settle the corset again, twist and bend and snug up the laces.
  4. Hook the laces around a doorknob or hook, walk forward until taut and even out the left and right laces, working any uneveness towards the top. Then tighten by pulling the lace crosses bottom to center, center to top with the excess on top evening the two laces out, and then pull the crosses top to center again.
  5. Keep the two sides evenly spaced top to bottom, and avoid a bulging gap at waist.
  6. Make several tours or runs when lacing, only take 1/2″ at a time and resettle.
  7. Once it gets tighter, pause and relax. Walk around and after 10-15min, undo the laces, relax the laces just a little, resettle and go again. After another two or three tours the corset will be on much tighter than before. Repeat this after another 20min or so.  If you plan to tight lace, allow an hour, unless you are already wearing it 23/7, in which case you can probably go a little faster. For a special night out, an hour is a good number if you plan to wear it very tight. It will be much more comfortable.
  8. Take your time when getting into your corset! If you don’t have time, start earlier!
  9. For figure training, the duration in the corset is much more important than the degree of tightness. In fact if you cannot keep yourself from lacing in to your tolerance limit, then relax it by 1/2″ or so once you are “done”, just so you can enjoy it, rather than feeling you are in a fight with your corset.
  10. Don’t eat large meals before or during! No fatty foods, lots of water, fruits and vegetables and fiber. The corset will keep your stomach small and you will not have trouble losing or maintaining weight. In the end you will likely be healthier and more energetic.
  11. Exercise daily. Work the back and stomach muscles, but don’t tone the sides too much as these may “fight” the corset. For an hourglass shape you want your sides to “cave in” as much as possible.  For good cardiovascular health, walking is excellent and you do this can while tight-laced if you like. Watch the breathing. If it becomes labored, slow down to match your pace to your breathing capacity
  12. Wear your corset as often and as long as possible. Sleeping in the corset allows the body to adapt faster and settle into the corseted shape. Usually the corset is relaxed by one or two inches especially if your daytime reduction is greater than four inches.
  13. Proportion is far more important than absolute smallest dimensions:  A slender 31-22-32″ Bust/Waist/Hip would be corseted to 31-20-32″, but would be less dramatic than a 38-28-40″ laced to 38-22-40″.

Things Not to Do

  1. If tightlacing or long term wear is intended, don’t wear the corset directly on the skin
  2. When a spot continues to itch, don’t “sit it through”, but take it off and oil the skin
  3. After putting the corset on, don’t just start pulling the laces at the waist, it may damage the corset (tear out eyelets) and it may bulge and pinch the skin in back
  4. When putting the laces around the doorknob, do not “run away” or let your full weight pull the laces! This will damage the corset and it will not be comfortable! If it only took 5 minutes to take in five or six inches, you probably went too fast!
  5. Don’t pinch the top and bottom and allow a bulge at the waist! This will curve the stays in back and spoil the corset line. It should be hollow in the back. In general the back should curve more inward than the front, but usually less so than the sides.If the top and bottom close and you can’t get the waist to close no matter what, the corset waist size is too small, and you’ll have to train down your waist first and leave some gap at the top and bottom.
  6. Don’t pull it in all at once and tie it off. It’s not going to be anywhere near as tight as it can be and it may wear out the corset faster due to uneven pressure.
  7. Don’t lace to the point of discomfort and then stop,  slow down when you feel it is getting close and enjoy it. If you are in a hurry, aim for less reduction. Even if you have been able to lace down to a certain size, don’t assume that you can always lace down to that size, unless you have been consistently wearing the corset. After a few days off, you have to re-train some to regain the lost ground, before getting down to your smallest size again.
  8. If it does not go down to size, don’t force it, choose different clothing, something that’s less dependent on the corseted size.
  9. Don’t think that by over tightening you can speed up the training. You may in stead get your body to put up a revolt and produce aches and pains. A corset can and will improve your shape in a healthy manner, but only if sufficient time is allowed for.
  10. Don’t eat a big meal and then start tightlacing. No fatty foods, avoid carbonated drinks, mint, tea, coffee, spicy foods may irritate the spincter, and cause acid reflux
  11. Don’t do heavy exercise while tight-laced. Moderate it if you plan to work out while tight-laced. When very tight, your breathing capacity may be reduced, and you need to allow for more frequent but shallower breaths. Walking, hiking, muscle training are not an issue, but running is probably not a good idea. If you plan to do so, just leave the corset off.
  12. Don’t tight lace just for a few hours a day. If you only plan to occasionally wear it, moderate the reduction, probably two or three inches, four inches max.
  13. The smallest waist does not necessarily give the best figure. Shape and proportion are the most important.

 

Accessorizing Your Corset
A corset is beautiful on its own but adding the right accessories can make it fabulous. My advice, however, is to keep the focus on the corset itself. Overdoing it makes you run the risk of looking like a prostitute. My favorite accessory is a necklace that draws the eye downward along your figure. Other women accessorize fashion corsets with skirts, stockings, heels, etc. It seems that ostrich feathers are very in right now as well. Are you a little bit on the domination side? Get yourself a play whip or feather tickler. Bracelets are a great option for accessorizing too.
Here are some visual ideas:
Tomorrow we will discuss my favorite corsets and where to buy your own.
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The Corset Guide: Part II

Posted by Jessica Jewett 1 Comment »

“I’m one of those strange beasts who really likes a corset.” – Cate Blanchett

Yesterday in The Corset Guide: Part I, we discussed some of the reasons why modern women are still in the “corset culture” despite the stigma of corsets being symbols of restriction and oppression of women in history. Women are reclaiming their own sexuality, feminine power, and taking the stigma out of corsetry by doing it on their own terms. We also went over some key vocabulary and dissected parts of the corset to better understand the evolution of the garment into what it is today.

To review, the main types of corsets I explained were the overbust corset, the underbust corset, the straight front or “S” corset, the summer corset, and the ribbon corset. There are many other types of corsets but I chose those as a sampling for you to get you started.

Today I promised that we would learn about getting started with your own corset, share some tips, and exploring how far you might want to go in corset culture. It can be quite daunting with so many different options and things to avoid out there. I hope I can organize things enough to help you wade through all of the information.

There are three main types of women interested in corsets from what I have seen. Of course these types blend into each other in different ways but for organizational purposes, I’ve divided the types of corset women into these three groups.

Traditional

These are the women who are introduced to corsets through reenacting and living history, acting historical parts on stage or film, etc. Standards of historical accuracy might be so high that the woman will struggle to move into more modern corset styles. There will also be some difficulty getting past the idea that a corset is not just a functional piece of underwear. I was brought into the art of corsetry through Civil War reenacting and I was terrified the first time I wore a corset out in the open. To me, it was like leaving the house in just a bra and panties. Entering the art of corsetry through historical research forced upon me a level of appreciation for the engineering and construction of a good corset. They understood in the nineteenth century how to make a corset fit like a second skin. There were no standard sizes, so each corset was measured to the centimeter to fit the lady. Unfortunately there aren’t many skilled custom corset builders today and they cost a pretty penny but once you try one built specifically for your body, you’ll never want one off the rack again!

Lingerie

I think this is probably the biggest group of women who dabble in corsets. Lingerie enthusiasts may love their frilly teddies, bras and panties, but every woman I know who has a corset in her “toy box” treats it with reverence. It’s special and tends to be used on special occasions. I know a lot of brides who have worn them under their wedding dresses, for example. I also know a lot of women who’s romantic partners go nuts for a corset and they are never sorry when they try them. The lingerie enthusiasts usually begin a corset collection for every mood. You can convey everything from sweetness and virginity with pastels and lace all the way to tough as nails domination with leather, spandex, etc. Each corset has its own personality and facilitates different parts of the woman’s personality to come out, so they should all be chosen by asking, “What do I want to say with this corset?”

Fashion

The other group of women into corsets is the fashion group. These are the women who don’t necessarily know a lot about corset culture but they like the way they look, so they make them into party outfits or formal gowns. Sometimes lingerie corsets are adapted to be worn with a mini skirt or a great pair of skinny jeans. Much of the time, people aren’t even aware that they’re looking at a corset, as is the case with the satin Dolce and Gabbana dress on the left. Fashion corsets are not typically constructed with the standards of old corsets and they are usually lightly boned. Lightly boned corsets are much more flexible and not designed for tight-lacing. In the corset world, the fashion corsets are the beginner level because they are not very tight and constructed with the old standards. The beautiful hourglass shape does make any body type look great in a formal gown though, which is why they’re still so popular with wedding gowns.

Fitting Your First Corset

No matter which of the three main groups you identify with or if you identify with all of them, none of them are going to look right if you’re not fitted properly. More importantly, if you’re not fitted properly, the corset is going to end up being very uncomfortable and will lead to cuts, abrasions, bruises and pressure sores.

Abraham’s Lady corset

A few years ago, I went to Gettysburg for the reenactment and I had to quickly buy a corset off the rack from a shop called Abraham’s Lady. I never advise off the rack corsets in Civil War reenacting but it was a dire situation. As my friend tightened my laces, I noticed there was strange pressure under my left arm and over the front of the left side of my ribs. Within a few hours, the strange pressure points became full-blown pain. Coupled with July heat, the ill-fitted made me start to feel light-headed. I literally sat for a photograph seeing stars and starting to black out. I knew it was the corset, so I borrowed a tent and while three Confederate soldiers stood guard outside (chivalry is not dead after all), I took the loathesome corset off and put on a different bodice for that dress.

Most people think that incident is what happens to every woman who wears a corset. It’s a myth. The swooning, the romantic delicate Southern flower is simply a myth. Women of the 1860s were experts at making sure their corsets fit correctly and were built strongly so that they could raise children, do backbreaking housework, cook over hot fires, etc. I described my “swooning incident” as an example of what not to do. Never run into a shop in a hurry and grab the first corset you see. Abraham’s Lady now strongly encourages women reenactors to order custom made corsets in order to prevent injuries of this nature. My body type is nowhere near a standard size, so I can’t buy off the rack corsets without having my seamstress make serious alterations.

The corset shown here is my most recent purchase. It’s a cross between a fashion corset and lingerie even though it looks more heavy duty. Fashion corsets are very lightweight with flexible plastic boning and are not meant for tight lacing. There is no busk in this corset either, making it very flexible. This style is called burlesque because of the frills and shape. Instead of a traditional front hook and eye closure with laces up the back, this corset has a much simpler and modern zipper up the side in addition to the laces up the back.

I bought this corset off the rack in a size small. According to the size chart on the website, the size small is made to fit the measurements: bust – 32-33 A-B, waist – 23-26, hips – 32-34. On average, I’m a 32 B, a 26 waist, and a 30 hip. Those minor discrepancies in measurements might seem like nothing in regular clothes but they are enough to make your corset loose in some areas and tight in others. While my natural waist is a 26 usually, being a tight lacer means I can get my waist down to about a 22 quite comfortably. This corset is not meant to cinch you down that much, so I find that we keep pulling and pulling on the laces but it doesn’t feel tight enough even though it’s being worn right. Tight lacers often have trouble with fashion corsets feeling baggy. I doubled up the lace but it then became too short, so I had to go buy a different lace. The new lace is longer and stronger, thereby correcting most of the loose areas around the bust and hips, but I have to be careful not to be too rough on Miss Burlesque. Lacing her too tight might pop a bone because they are thin plastic. If you pop a bone, you’ll get stabbed in the ribs all night and develop a raw spot on your skin.

I might have to have my seamstress take the bust in a little bit. Your bust in a burlesque corset should be on prominent display. If you put on a burlesque corset and find that your bust is not securely pushed up, together, and not sagging or moving no matter how you jump around, then it’s too big. On the other hand, you should not feel pain or suffocation. Always take in the bust of your corset at the seams. In this case, the main seams run down the sides, so we’ll probably make adjustments under the arms where people won’t see it.

What kind of corset should you experiment with first? “Get an inexpensive one to start, with plastic boning, NOT tight lacing, to see how it feels,” advises Codie Wheeler, longtime corset wearer. “Make sure to follow the measurement guidelines. Try different styles ie: overbust, underbust. I find that the guidelines don’t work so well for me though. I have a broad chest and not-huge boobs. I find that most corset makers think that if your chest is broad, your boobs are big. My steel-boned, tight-lacing corset doesn’t fit my boobs. The boob parts are loose, even tightened so much I can’t take a breath. Waste of $75.”

Ask someone to help you take accurate measurements of your body in its natural shape. Find someone who doesn’t mind seeing you naked and never, ever try to take your own measurements. If you can’t find anyone, the lovely people at lingerie shops will be willing to help. I go through weight fluctuations sometimes and the sales girls at Victoria’s Secret are always willing to help you be certain that you are properly sized. So where should you measure your body? Here is an illustration to help you. Record the measurements in inches and centimeters. Standard sizes are done in inches but a good custom corset maker will do it in centimeters for a more snug fit.

A good place to try inexpensive, lightly boned corsets is The Fashion Corset Shop. They are not to the highest standard but they are cute, a wide variety of styles, and they are quite flexible. You never want to jump right into the steel boned hardcore tight lacing corsets, otherwise you run the risk of hurting yourself and “swooning” like I did in Gettysburg. Choose the size closest to your measurements and experiment with the different ways you can make it fit with the tightness or looseness of your laces. Go try on corsets at Victoria’s Secret or Frederick’s of Hollywood if you’re not ready to buy one yet. Keep in mind that feeling pressure around your body is normal but pay attention to any spots of pain. There should never be any pain and you should never feel like you’re not getting enough oxygen. Sexy should not equal torture (unless you’re into that kind of thing)!

Big Girls Shouldn’t Wear Corsets
I hear this all the time and it drives me nuts because it’s not true! Plus sized women in the nineteenth century didn’t go without corsets in their lives just because they weren’t skinny minnies. Historically, women didn’t look like Skeletor like the fashion is today. They were curvy and men liked them curvy. Many of them look thinner than they were because they used the corsets to shape their curves and support their larger busts. They were beautiful women and you have every right to feel beautiful too. Just as with any other woman – it’s all about the proper fit and support in the right places. Do not be afraid of corsets if you are curvy because they do help you look thinner without compromising your feminine shape. Look at how great these women look in plus size corsets.
My advice to women with more curves is to look for corsets that are structured with bra-like features. My burlesque corset, for example, has cups and underwire like a bra but those features are hidden by the lace, ribbon and bows. I don’t particularly need the extra support but some women do feel better if their bust is contained with such security measures. Also, if you are curvy, go for the heavier boned corsets because they will maintain the shape better and steel boning is probably not going to run the risk of causing discomfort as much as it would skinny minnies. I also recommend overbust corsets with sweetheart necklines as opposed to cutting straight across because the ones that cut straight across will smash your bust. Sweetheart necklines show off your curves and allow more freedom for the bust to breathe.
Tomorrow we will discuss the art of tight lacing, how to breathe, drink and eat in a corset, and ways to accessorize your corsetry look. Whips, feathers and beads! Oh my!
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