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Archive for the ‘Singleness’ Category

Sometimes one huge thing completely derails an otherwise fine day. Sometimes lots of little mishaps add up to create an unpleasant week. Such things can really mess with rational thinking.

When you’re having a bad day, week, etc., does it ever start to make you feel miserable about something completely unrelated?

Personal example: Back when I had a sad, unhealthy body image, I would feel miserable about being fat even though that really had nothing to do with why I would have a bad day. Perhaps I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before, I had a difficult assignment at work, the coffee was stale, I was defriended by someone on Facebook, and my electric bill was higher than I expected it to be. Somehow this would end up with me being miserable about my weight, even though my weight had absolutely nothing to do with anything else going on. It was just something that seemed easy to point at and focus on and wish to be changed.

Since working to make peace with my body, this doesn’t happen so much anymore. But yesterday I found myself doing it again, only about something else.

I’m having some issues at work, and this week I felt quitting—and I mean quitting in a loud, dramatic way that would be truly memorable at the company for years to come. I didn’t; I’m still here. But it’s contributed to my already-growing job dissatisfaction, anger at a coworker who hates me for no reason, frustration with my limited budget, and exhaustion from two years of ridiculously early work hours.

Because of my penchant for the dramatic, the rise of formerly buried feelings, The Enemy sowing seeds of discontent, or any combination thereof, I began to feel frustration with other aspects of my life besides work. This occurred even for things I had been content with the day before—and my singleness in particular. It’s not really a surprise, since my singleness is still an area where my contentment is weak overall. But on my way home, exhausted and drained and just weary, I started to wish I wasn’t single, that I had a boyfriend to vent to (I don’t know why this would be different from calling an existent friend and ranting to her, but therein lie the logical fallacies), and the familiar feelings of “Ugh, WHY DON’T IT??” came back.

I’m not sure what it was that woke me up from this way of thinking—most likely simply the promptings of the Holy Spirit—but somehow I realized, “Hey, my singleness has nothing to do with these problems I’m going through right now. And if I magically became romantically attached at this moment, it still won’t solve these problems.”

I don’t know what human inclination it is that makes us place blame on some outside object, even if it’s completely irrelevant and irrational, but it seems to happen to a lot of us, and I am not immune.

So, based on my own recent experiences … if you find yourself feeling low about your single status (or something else entirely), try to trace your thoughts and feelings and pinpoint the true source of your discomfort. If it’s something you can fix or change, do your best and then move on. If it’s something completely outside of your control or abilities, submit it to the Lord, pray through it, and be patient.

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Whenever I read a description or participate in a discussion related to the oh-so-popular-in-Christian-circles topic of married v. single, something always leaves me squirming and dissatisfied. I may have finally pinned down the reason for this, but I’m not sure I can express it with any degree of eloquence.

One thing that bothers me is that singleness is almost always treated as a temporary condition. It’s usually a given that Christians will marry. Sometimes singleness is spoken of like a very long sickness that you must endure until you can be “cured” with marriage. I would, of course, be lying if I said that I have never thought of singleness like that. But lately I have been strongly considering and praying about the prospect of never marrying, and in some ways I find that a desirable future. The fact is, not all Christ-followers will marry, and I could very well be such a person. Granted, the odds indicate that most of us will marry, but God does not always follow statistics.

Another thing that bothers me in the topic of marriage/singleness is that many Christians like to talk about the great benefits there are to marriage. Not only is there the obvious (you get to have SEX!!!), but a Christ-centered marriage is a great evangelism opportunity, you have a (presumably) lifelong companion and best friend, it’s a reflection of the covenant between God and His people, it’s the foundation of the nuclear family that is the foundation of society, and so on.

But if you’re single … well, sorry, you don’t get any of those things.

What do you get? Um … I dunno. Something, I’m sure. I think Paul wrote about it somewhere. He liked being single, didn’t he? Yeah, I think he wanted everyone to be single. Haha, he was a funny guy.

The worst part of being single is that you can’t say any of this without sounding like a bitter spinster, even if you speak out of genuine concern for the issue (ok, even if it is with a twist of irony).

I really wish more people would speak about the benefits of singleness in Christ—ideally, those who are single themselves, or married people who can at least be honest about things they miss about being single. Although maybe it’s not practical, since as time progresses those of us who are singles will become even more of a minority, and it will just look like we want special treatment. Sigh. But then, I do understand that since most people will marry, that’s what gets the most attention. Also, the world has such a warped view of sex and marriage that I very deeply understand the necessity of addressing that within the church.

I just wish we singles could get a little more acknowledgment and encouragement is all—preferably some that doesn’t involve hearing, “Awww, don’t worry, it’s okay, you’ll find that guy someday!” I might not! That’s my whole point!

There are really a ton of perks with being single, but not everyone would agree with my idea of a “perk,” and I’m afraid that if I list them, I’ll look like I’m bitter, overcompensating, averse to marriage, family-hating, and so on. But I did anyway, months ago, and these things haven’t changed. Except to say that lately I have realized how God has gifted me with singleness (at least for the time being) as an opportunity to grow closer to Him. And NOT just in the sense of “relying on God so I can endure singleness until it’s over.” But God has given me so many opportunities that I do not think I would have had if I had not been single.

I must point out that in I Corinthians 7:7, Paul refers to both marriage and singleness as “gifts”—one for some, the second for others. And yes, he does not forbid marriage, but he does point out that marriage does bring its own difficulties, and singleness its own benefits in verses 32-35 (emphasis mine):

I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.

I know you can sigh and say yes, you’ve heard this passage a million times, it was written for a different time and place, you still hate being single, etc. etc.

Fair enough. I’ve been there. I’m sure I’ll be there again.

BUT. As I’ve grown in my faith and become closer to the Lord, the idea of a life devoted to Him and the ability to focus more on Him has become of greater importance. I don’t mean to bash marriage and say it’s less holy than singleness or that those of us who are single have a closer connection to Jesus. But it’s true that singleness can make it easier to focus on Christ, and that marriage, although a beautiful covenant established by God, does come with its own distractions and complications.

I should add that singleness is only less distracting if you are not focused on finding “the one” that God has for you. Not to say that you shouldn’t ever think about it, if you do want to get married someday. This is just another example of how you need to “let go and let God,” as they say. Please, trust my own experience when I say that letting go of such things makes worshiping, depending on, and learning more about God that much more special and rewarding.

But then, this applies to all believers, no matter their relationship status.

I am not trying to bash marriage. But if I said I still wanted to get married someday, I don’t know if that would be entirely true. And yet, saying that I don’t want to get married might also not be true.

I simply believe that people who are single and don’t want to be, should focus on Christ first and not be overly concerned with finding that other person, but concentrate on living a God-pleasing life.

Personally, right now I’m in a place where I no longer have any idea whether I am gifted for marriage someday or lifelong singleness anymore. But what I don’t want is anyone telling me, or making me feel, that my current / possibly future position in life is at all pitiable.

That’s all I ask.

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Hello, everyone. I hope you had a nice holiday weekend (those of you in the U.S.) and an excellent start to the week.

Very often God provides answers that I need to hear, not necessarily ones I want to hear, or ones that directly answer my questions. My last post was a plea for help and advice in figuring out how important physical attraction is in a relationship. Recent messages at church, my prayer time, blog posts from others, and insight from the Holy Spirit have yielded a number of answers—none of which answer my question per se, but are far more important.

Here they are:

1. If physical attraction to my Hypothetical Future Husband is my top concern regarding my maybe-someday-future marriage, then my heart is not in the right place, and I have bigger problems than that.

2. God calls us, as Christ-followers, to love without prejudice, discrimination, expectation, or selfishness. Whatever guy (or girl) enters my life for however long, I need to love him (or her) anyway, no matter how attractive (or not).

3. I Thessalonians 3:24: Faithful is He Who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

Have a blessed start to your week.

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You guys, I’m in a bit of a quandary. Or probably a lot of a quandary, actually. I could use whatever input or advice you would be willing to give on this matter. But it involves me being publicly vulnerable in a way, which I hate.

So here’s the deal. Essentially, physical attraction: how picky are you allowed to be?

Here’s what I already know:

1. Physical attraction or appearance cannot be the basis of one’s judgment of a person’s character, beliefs, personality, health, intelligence, etc.

2. It also cannot be the foundation of a solid, lasting, Christ-honoring relationship.

3. It can also fluctuate.

4. “Looks can be deceiving” and “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

5. Novels, movies (BOLLYWOOD, I’M LOOKING AT YOU), and TV shows are not real life, and not relationship examples to follow.

6. Henceforth, when I refer to guys as “unattractive,” I mean in my eyes and my eyes only. Beauty in the eye of the beholder, etc. etc. etc.

Sometimes I think I am a lot more visual than most other women. I know I’m not unique to all of history, but when I hear some story about the “conventional wisdom” of men being more visual than women in some way, it’s difficult to understand how womenaren’t. Maybe I have fewer female hormones, or maybe it’s because this particular piece of conventional wisdom is utter crap anyway. However it happens, it happens to me.

I’m single, and I want to get married someday. There, I said it. And like most other people, I want to marry someone to whom I’m physically attracted—after the other prerequisites such as spiritual, emotional, and intellectual compatibility.

Recently, I started thinking about this a lot, mostly because I started to try online dating again. I’ve kicked eHarmony to the curb and decided to try OKCupid, and so far it’s at least been fun and interesting, and I’ve gone on one nice-not-great-but-not-terrible-either date via that site. Here’s the deal, though: the only guys interested in me are either not Christians (and therefore not optional as future-spouse material), or are not in any way physically attractive.

This has been kind of a theme my entire life, both on and off the Internet. I’m attracted to guys who end up not interested in me, and I’m just not attracted to most guys who find me attractive. I am not talking about the classic “I’m attracted to jerks” dilemma or “why don’t nice guys like me?” I have been attracted to genuinely wonderful guys that just aren’t interested in me, and there have been total jerks who have found me attractive despite my lack of interest in them. For the sake of this particular blog post, I am ONLY talking about physical appearance/attraction.

Although I have a particular “type” that I prefer, I have found many different guys attractive, and I am completely reconciled to the fact that I may not marry someone who fits my ideal. And because I myself am not conventionally attractive, I already know I need to have realistic expectations overall.

Also, there is a “range” of how attractive I find someone, which I think I’ve talked about before. I don’t quantify it when I see someone, but for the sake of clarification I will use the 0-10 scale. Anything below 3 I consider “unsalvageable,” meaning that no matter how awesome he is and how compatible we might be, I just can’t get past how unattractive I find him. Anything between 3-4 and 6, and I will find him much more attractive on closer acquaintance, if he’s the right kind of guy. If he scores an arbitrary 7 or more, then he pretty much meets at least most of my ideals, so physical attraction is a given, although what remains to be seen is what lurks below the surface AND I AM TOTALLY AWARE OF THAT.

Now, I do try to have an open mind about it. The guy I went on a date with? Not attractive to me (to someone, I have no doubt; just not me) at all, but I went and had a perfectly fine time. But even when I try to have an open mind when I find guys unsalvageably unattractive, it still doesn’t change anything.

What bums me out is that if only guys I’m not attracted to are attracted to me, then I’ll never find someone I’m attracted to. I don’t know if it’s that unattractive guys find me more approachable, or if I’m sending out some kind of vibe I don’t even know about, or if I’m really actually just that unattractive myself and I should lower my standards. And even thinking about not being attracted to good guys makes me think, “I’m a horrible, shallow person and I don’t deserve nice things anyway.”

BUT AT THE SAME TIME, I’ve never met a married/dating couple that didn’t find each other physically attractive somehow. And most “how we met” stories involve noticing some good-looking guy/girl hanging around/pouring coffee/in the same church pew/across the cell block.

I’m basically asking the same question I asked a few weeks ago: Am I being too picky? Unlike last time, however, my conclusion is a resounding, “I DON’T KNOOOOOWWWW!!!”

Bethany’s advice has been, “Hold on to what you want, but keep an open mind,” and I think that’s spectacular advice that so far I haven’t been able to improve upon. This is where any input from you guys comes in: what you’ve learned through your life experiences, advice for me, scripture references, anything. And if you’re struggling with the same question, please do share that too.

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Unless you still live with your family (or a family of some kind), as a single woman you have, at some point, dealt with the issue of cooking for one. Although it can be a fun time to explore options and creativity and try new recipes with only your own health and taste buds to worry about, it can also get tiresome. Of course, you could eat out and get take-out for every. single. meal, but that gets quickly, ridiculously expensive.

I was doing some research to find ways to save on groceries that wasn’t the already-heard-fifty-times “Use coupons,” “Buy generic/on sale/in season,” and “Don’t shop when you’re hungry.” I found one great post on the site Wise Bread (which I had admittedly never read before) called, “Grocery Shopping for the Cheap and Lazy.” Despite its (honest) title, the advice is also good for singles, even if they are neither cheap nor lazy.

The article includes such gems as:

Sure, maybe I use too much salt and vinegar, but hey, it’s my palate, and if I want everything to taste like dill pickles, so be it. I’ll worry about someone else’s palate when the time comes.

Also, “Do not fear butter. It makes everything better.” I’m pretty sure I want that on a bumper sticker for my car someday.

Some of the advice is common sense: don’t buy things in bulk if you won’t use it all, and cook foods that will taste good as leftovers. Some of it is less conventional, but still makes sense: be sure to try ethnic foods and shop at ethnic stores, allow yourself one indulgent item that will make you happy to cook, and if you must drink, booze it up at home for cheaper.

Be sure to check out the entertaining article, and many of the links from it. You’ll learn something.

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It’s been, oh, about 7 months since I wrote the fourth and penultimate segment in my “Woman’s Guide to ‘A Girl’s Guide'” series. I was bored with the whole thing, and then convinced I didn’t want to get married at all, so I didn’t have to bother reading it, and then forgot about it, and then lost my notes, and then found them again and was bored still…

Finally I decided that I just needed to finish what I started—better late than never, you know. I’m going to try to keep this short(er…ish) because there’s something else I want to talk about afterwards.

(And if you’re a newer reader, just do a search on this site for “girl’s guide” and you should easily find the past entries.)

I have just a few things, really, to stay about the rest of the chapter on Christian Compatibility.

First of all, they give some hints on staying objective when you’re dating and awash with emotion. Any attempt to stay objective in a new, exciting relationship is pretty much a good idea. I’m all for having a ready crew of friends and family who will be both willing and able to basically pull you aside and say “Hey, look, I’ve noticed some warning signs you should be careful about.” This could be the guy you’re dating, or the way you’re conducting yourself in the relationship, or a number of other issues. But the Boundless authors seem to think that this will make you stop and think rationally and objectively, and immediately put on hold all future plans for this relationship. I think—in fact, I know—that there are people fully capable of doing this. But not everyone–including me. My advice? Never stop praying for the relationship, and make sure you have friends willing to harangue you repeatedly for your own good.

The section on what “good guys” are looking for really had me chuckling. As in many areas, the authors have some good ideas and make good points, but they’re often a little off-track or unclear in their wording. The authors of Boundless generally hold to the traditional dating approach where men pursue women. I have no problem with that. But the part of “A Girl’s Guide” that talks about “good guys” and what they want is almost contradictory. I must give them credit for having a man write this part, but he doesn’t seem to be quite on Planet Earth. I will explain.

First, he discusses what guys are looking for: a woman who is authentic, secure in who she is, honest and humble, and has an adventuresome faith that is willing to follow God wherever He leads. Hey, this girl sounds awesome! And then he adds,

When a girl is willing to love the unlovely and give without thought of receiving anything in return, guys take notice.

I was baffled, and honestly, pretty angry when I read this, taking it to mean that women should be willing to love the unlovely guy who may be interested in her. Pastors, writers, comedians, etc. will often refer to their wives as their “better half” and make jokes about how much nicer, more attractive, etc. she is than he. But this is ridiculous and just completely unfair. Is he actually saying that the girl should be fabulous and willing to overlook the fact that the guy interested in her is completely not?

Upon the 50th reading, I realize that he might just be referring to a woman who loves the unlovely around her, caring for things that many people don’t, but should—perhaps making friends with the girl nobody else likes, or defending someone else’s opinion, or cheerfully giving up an hour of her time to help out when she might rather spend it elsewhere. The “unlovely” may not actually refer to the guy who is “taking notice” of her. But man, as I said, the wording is a little unfortunate.

But then, maybe my first interpretation was correct, since the author also pleads with women to be patient with men. They are works in progress, after all, and the culture is fighting against them to keep them from growing up and becoming men of God.

That’s definitely a good thing to keep in mind. Unfortunately, women don’t get such a free pass, at least in this guide. I haven’t seen any mention of how society teaches us that we have to play a number of roles to get guys’ attention–the skank, the foul-mouthed “one of the boys,” the damsel in distress, the independent woman who needs nothing, the disinterested ice princess, the fawning needy chick, the sexy nerd, or the future housewife. Even if somehow we defeat these stereotypes, we too are God’s creation, and imperfect, and still learning about ourselves, our lives, and our relationship with God. Guys need to remember that too.

The author adds,

The good guy can be like the great restaurant that only locals know about. The tourists miss it because they fall for the “traps” of the neon sign and convenient location of the franchise, not realizing that the best is tucked away just a few blocks over. The good guy is more a discovery, finding him can take more effort because you have to work your way past all the flash of the franchise guy. He could be working in the cubicle next to you, or sitting just a few rows over in class, or playing guitar in your church small group.

This is kind of the basis for my favorite fictional love story, that of Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. For a while, Marianne ignores the Colonel, essentially because he’s not her “type,” when he’s exactly the sort of man she needs. So, I’m completely sympathetic and open to the idea that I’m overlooking a worthwhile guy, or setting aside petty prejudices to give Love a chance.

But if this guy is so great and so overlooked, why isn’t he making a move? If he’s not demonstrating any interest, why should I? There’s a difference between blowing off a guy who is at least initially worthy of my time, and passing over a man who doesn’t seem interested in me. Marianne Dashwood doesn’t doubt the Colonel’s interest in her—she just doesn’t like it. And how do we “find” such a guy if the girls aren’t supposed to be doing the pursuing? HMMM? If this “great restaurant” hasn’t built up a customer base from word-of-mouth, then it needs to improve its advertising or rethink its business model. Because if no one is saying good things about you, if there’s no sign saying BEST FISH & CHIPS IN TOWN!!!, and if you’re huddled behind a thick wooden door in a dark alley, why should anyone choose you?

Whoa, sorry, my capitalistic side just went crazy for a sec.

That’s really all I had left to say regarding Boundless‘ “Girl’s Guide to Marrying Well.” It’s definitely an interesting read, and you should check it out. You may have a different opinion than I do. But take both the guide and my opinion with a grain of salt.

Now, on to the other thing that I wanted to talk about.

Seriously, this part WILL be brief. I wanted to talk to Bethany about this beforehand, but it’ll have to be a surprise for her, as well, since she went on a retreat this weekend and I don’t know when she’ll be back.

I bought this book at the church bookstore yesterday, and I’m going to blog about it (hopefully with greater success than the “Girl’s Guide”). The title, which is what caught my eye, is How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk, by John Van Epp (PhD!). I’d never heard of this book before I saw it yesterday, but it’s something I know I need to read, sadly. I’ll save a full introduction and description for later, but I wanted to give you guys a little notice about what’s coming up. I’m quite excited about this one.

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I was thinking about saving this for Friday Frivolity, but I don’t think it’s really all that frivolous.

I was cruising through my old Facebook “notes” (which are pretty sparse, considering how long I’ve been ON Facebook) and found this. It’s a copy of an email I sent to my mother years ago, when I was in college, after she claimed to have “given up” in trying to fix me up with someone.

I love my mother, but, contrary to the advice of many Christian resources (I’m looking at YOU, Boundless), I wouldn’t trust her to fix me up with anyone. Not that I don’t believe she has my best interests at heart, just that … look, it’s a long story, OK?

Anyway, we’ve had issues in the past with her trying to fix me up. Sometime in my senior year, she tried to talk up one of her nursing students, and then an employee of my stepdad’s car care center. At one point, I received this email from her:

Hi Em,

I have learned my lesson big time when it comes to trying to “fix you up”. So has Aunt Mar. Unless you send me a notarized statement saying it is Ok, I am out of the “fixing up” business. Love Mom PS, He is so dang cute though, and by the way, Jeremy at the Lube, is staying on to help when he is not at his new job. 🙂

After some thinking, I came up with a lengthy response.

From: Me
To: My mother

Subject: A Sincere Response, in the Style of Jane Austen

My Dearest Mother,

I sincerely and humbly thank you for your claiming to have learned this “lesson” as you refer to it. However, I feel the need to relate some details to you that may help to further clarify my frustration with previous matchmaking attempts.

While I, as much as any young woman, would not like to spend the rest of my earthly days with a man of unattractive features and slovenly dress, I am fully aware that this is not the first priority one must have in mind when selecting her future mate. Several things, for me, take precedence over physical appearance. The most important, with which I hope you agree, is that he be a sincere and practicing Christian. Due to the fact that Aunt Marlene cares little for the spiritual aspect of life, and is, in fact, quite hostile to it, I am sure you understand that because of this one criterion alone I feel I must disregard her opinion when it comes to single men. Though I treasure her as a close relative, I am inclined to ignore her when she serves as a judge of character, and am a bit relieved that she has given up her own matchmaking attempts and now, I’m sure, considers me a lost cause.

That being said, my second requirement for a good match would be one of at least average intelligence. However, a certain level of emotional maturity must also accompany it, for during the course of my education, I have encountered many young men who easily fulfill the first requirement, yet are alarmingly lacking in the latter. While I would also prefer to not be overwhelmed by the sheer genius of my gentleman caller / betrothed / husband, neither would I enjoy the feeling of knowing that I possess a mind far superior to his. This, of course, would breed contention and disrespect, neither of which are desirable in a marriage for anyone.

Yet another very important characteristic would be a kindly attitude toward his fellow man. An intelligent, virtous man may have a tendency to look down on others and consider them beneath him, or unimportant, and thus sink to rudeness and crassness of word and behavior. This is not to be borne, and thus I require a man of humble yet steadfast and sympathetic character. Found in this category, as well, must be a good set of manners–perhaps not always impeccable, but certainly gentlemanly.

Last of all is that infamous desire of any young woman to be matched up with a man of handsome features and excellent taste. (It is, of course, a desire not restricted to the feminine sex, for it is well known that men, on their part, prefer a lady of grace and beauty, as well.) This, however, must not be the first priority, and is only to be examined once the above characteristics have been achieved. Such proverbs that warn against judging “a book by its cover,” or the biblical verse of looking into a man’s heart rather than his “outward appearance,” have been proven time and again throughout the ages, and I believe it is not something to be ignored today. Of course, a man I may find physically mediocre is entirely different from a man I consider disgusting and repulsive, and that is something to be kept in mind. Very specific physical features, such as dark hair, generous height, and green or blue eyes, are merely what we call “perks” and not necessities.

In conclusion, I wish to say that should you find a single man possessing these above-mentioned characteristics, I would willingly consider him for a future, more intimate relationship. However, the use of such lifeless and unspecific adjectives to describe him, such as “nice” and “cute,” will always arouse my suspicions that he may indeed be those things—and nothing else. My list of traits is not exhaustive, and is certainly subject to differences in situation and opinion. I have not listed other important characteristics, such as the kind and quality of an eligible man’s family. Though important, such things are difficult to discern upon only a few meetings. All in all, I trust that you understand (and agree) that your daughter is a very special young woman, and as such, requires a similarly special match.

With All Love and Sincerity,
Your Daughter,
Emily

And after several years have passed, I’m happy to see that these views have largely remained unchanged.

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