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Author Topic: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale  (Read 2936 times)

Faemon

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Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« on: September 28, 2012, 11:57:56 pm »
Well, this tale might not have actually involved a fairy. I forgot where I read it, since what she was, didn't seem to be the main point. Or maybe there were variations of the tale, one with a hulda, maybe, another with a fairy, maybe another with an undine.

But, the template of the story is something that I've found some comfort in lately.

Once upon a time, this mortal human man proposes to this magical otherworldly person. She presents to her would-be husband, the condition that if he strikes her more than twice? Then she must return to the otherworld. (I'll just call her a fairy.)

She fit in quite well with the people in this world, for the most part. The lesser part that didn't, was demonstrated one day that she and her husband had house guests, and for no discernible reason she halted her hostess duties to just stare out into space. (I remember this detail well, because I do that sometimes and I'm human.) Irritated, her husband struck her to get her attention.

At another time, they were at a funeral, and for no discernible reason she burst out laughing. Humiliated, her husband struck her again, and at that she sadly told him that was the second time he'd struck her. If he struck her once more, as per their bargain, she would have to leave.

And of course he did strike her a third time, although I don't recall exactly what the situation was. Maybe it was that she started weeping for no reason at all or when everybody else was happy-- for which striking her would really paint the human spouse as a capital-a arsehole and I would have left if that were the first strike.


I recently heard of this relationship coach/counselor, David Steele, who proposed (what was news to me, but rung true all the same) that we all innately have non-negotiables. That is, an aspect of another person that, if absolutely everything else in both your lives were utterly perfect, except for that, you would still leave. Most people just never learn to articulate them, or were never challenged into defining them... it's not that across the board people with non-negotiables are just intolerant and arrogant.

And I thought of the fairy woman in the story, how she definitely knew her non-negotiables and could articulate them. Physical violence: non-negotiable at this specific certain point. Perhaps this wasn't magic after all, unless you count the kind of magic from knowing who you are.

So, Steele's idea seemed to be that, everybody has these requirements-- and they're different for everybody, some people actually won't leave if they're abused by their spouse or partner, because it's negotiable for them, and that part of their nature shouldn't be judged harshly-- neither should people who theorize their non-negotiables, but find it negotiable in practice; or those who discover non-negotiables in the course of the relationship that they hadn't mentioned before because they just didn't know it themselves-- But once you know what your non-negotiables are, (says Steele) it's really best to hold out for somebody who is 100% compatible on that level. That was a comfort to me, to believe that we are all under this sort of magickal contract, of our own character and nature, at a vital level.

On another level, though: compromise. What I saw in the fairy tale was that for a time, physical safety seemed more of a need for the fairy than a non-negotiable. Steele defined needs as, an aspect of another person that you won't leave them over... but remains an issue every time they show it. (Actually, I define need as "you'll die if this is not met" whether you want to die or not, or whether somebody else wants you to live... whereas a person can be literally chained up somewhere to literally force them to live with a non-negotiable, so a need is far more basic than a non-negotiable to me. So, any other word for this definition of need, would be welcome.) This must be the "compromise" that folk wisdom says marriage is all about. Or, the "imperfections" that folk wisdom says we must come to terms with in other people-- and in the world we live in.

Those are different for everyone, too, is what I realized. What somebody sees as a "mere" need, can be non-negotiable for somebody else. And, in a good relationship, a relationship based on goodwill, the needs of both parties would be mutually honored. Too often, I see this minimizing somebody else's need: "You're being ridiculous, you're being oversensitive, this is just the way I am-- it's not horrible, it's not perfect but life isn't perfect and people aren't perfect and you're expecting..." blah. If acceptance of your violent impulsive tendencies are your non-negotiable, then... well, surely there must still be somebody out there for you. But if it's somebody else's need, well, there's this thing called "work" and this thing called "communication" that is also part of a relationship... and the fairy woman did give her husband some leeway to work out his violent tendencies.

(At the same time, I kind of can't help making those minimizations at the fictional husband. He married a fairy-- or a hulda, or an undine. They are weird. They are weird! They're... I mean... someone check my thinking on this? I guess I'm saying that he could have, like, learned more about her culture before signing up to have and to hold-- or, I don't know, just been more chill.)


So, in the fairy tale, I saw the human guy as actually very immature. He knew that he would lose his wife if he hit her, and he did anyway. This seems to stem from the fact that, unlike his wife, he didn't know what his needs were-- let alone how to express them constructively. "I need you to be fully consciously present when we're keeping the household running and when we're hosting my friends." "Right now I really need you to be sensitive and respectful of our attitudes towards death. If you can't, then I'll take you home right now and won't bring you to funerals in the future." Unfortunately, three strikes is still not enough leeway for him to learn.

So... thoughts? Have you heard a version of this fairytale, any different details that would be worth considering from this angle or another angle? How fluid do you believe these categories of non-negotiables and needs really are, in a relationship? Would you share yours?
« Last Edit: September 29, 2012, 12:03:51 am by Faemon »
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Laveth

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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2012, 01:08:16 am »
Quote from: triple_entendre;75340

So... thoughts? Have you heard a version of this fairytale, any different details that would be worth considering from this angle or another angle? How fluid do you believe these categories of non-negotiables and needs really are, in a relationship? Would you share yours?

 
I haven't heard this fairytale before, but it sounds like our Vila. And yes, they are pretty weird because they operate on different rules than humans do.

In the context of a fairy tale (as a lesson), it does seem like it's creating the point that you need to define and stick to your boundaries and limitations.

I think some presumed non-negotiables in relationships are fluid and will change depending on time, circumstance, etc... I also think that there are some that are pretty static and will never change.

Fortunately, my husband's and mine are almost the same. Both involve sharing (i.e. cheating), violence, and cruelty. I also told him that if he ever made me move somewhere where winter (snow) didn't exist, I'd leave him; but that one is pretty fluid... I'm just hoping he never presses it. ^^ Because I like snow!!

Katefox

Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2012, 04:16:14 pm »
Quote from: triple_entendre;75340
So... thoughts? Have you heard a version of this fairytale, any different details that would be worth considering from this angle or another angle? How fluid do you believe these categories of non-negotiables and needs really are, in a relationship? Would you share yours?

 
I'm sure there's a version of that tale in my Fairy Tale Tarot, though, unfortunately, I don't remember what card it was, and it's been a while since I read it.  I do believe in the version I have, the fairy/undine came back and taught her daughter some kind of magic, or witchcraft, although the husband never saw her again.

The idea of needs, and non-negotiables you talked about reminds me alot of hard and soft limits in BDSM, hard limits being those things you refuse to do, or have done to you, and soft limits being those things you're not keen about, but may be willing to work up to eventually.  I can easily see how that idea can be extended to a relationship as a whole (and not just what you (don't) do during sex/play), and it would probably do lots of relationships lots of good if the people involved discussed their various limits with each other.  But then, any kind of open, honest communication would probably do lots of relationships lots of good.

To me, like you said, a need implies something I literally can't live without, e.g. food, water, air, &c.  Although, I could argue there are psychological or emotional needs that also need to be met.  And thus, I'd assume the non-negotiable things relate to needs, of various sorts.  Like, if (hypothetically) my boyfriend were to hit me out of anger, even once, I'd be out, because that would indicate I could no longer trust his self-control with my personal safety (and I'm already afraid of angry people).  

But I think you can also have negotiable things, and that's where communication and compromise really come in.  I'm thinking of things that can wear a relationship down over time if they're not dealt with.  Like, I'd find it really annoying if we were living together, and I didn't feel like my boyfriend didn't do his share of the housework.  I'm not going to be like, "you didn't vacuum today; I'm leaving!", but over time, I know I'd get snappy, and irritable, and if we didn't figure out how to fix this problem, it would just degenerate into us snapping at each other for no reason, and eventually completely sour the relationship.  Thankfully, communication seems to be the one thing my boyfriend and I are really good at (I guess two years of living in different cities, and not being able to do much more than talk most of the time is good for something :P), so we're pretty good at resolving problems before they start making us be horrible to each other.

Faemon

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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2012, 10:13:00 pm »
Quote from: Laveth;75345
I haven't heard this fairytale before, but it sounds like our Vila. And yes, they are pretty weird because they operate on different rules than humans do. In the context of a fairy tale (as a lesson), it does seem like it's creating the point that you need to define and stick to your boundaries and limitations.

That's why I like this tale. I thought that boundaries and limitations were a modern idea, but to see it in what I think is an fairly old tale, tells me that people wove this story and passed it on as a kind of expression of some ideal. Like, the wife is weird for zoning out and laughing at funerals, but her magickal prenuptial contract was completely understandable.
Quote from: Katefox;75402
The idea of needs, and non-negotiables you talked about reminds me alot of hard and soft limits in BDSM, hard limits being those things you refuse to do, or have done to you, and soft limits being those things you're not keen about, but may be willing to work up to eventually.  I can easily see how that idea can be extended to a relationship as a whole (and not just what you (don't) do during sex/play)

I like that. Unlike separating needs from requirements, limits imply that they're cut from the same cloth, and I think allows for a much more organic personal/interpersonal development, rather than implying that something was mislabeled to start with.

The truth I see in the fairy tale was that soft limits can harden, like, if the conflict is not resolved on a deeper level, then those acts add up until the offended party gets fed up, like, "Do that one more time... and I will leave!" so it's less principally wrong because they had let it slide in the past, and more of a measured response stemming from the present quality of their limit. Or maybe it touches on an entirely different principle, like, "don't just pay lip service to working at something, but really only be waiting until my mood gets better to repeat the hurtful act, as if it's only ever my problem". By the same rule, perhaps hard limits can soften with buffers-- the litmus test of "if everything else were perfect except for this" would rarely happen, I think context still makes for a valid variable-- although it would be extremely disrespectful not to believe in someone else's explicitly stated hard limits.

Quote from: triple_entendre
some people actually won't leave if they're abused by their spouse or partner

I should probably also just very quickly add, in addition to harsh judgments like, "Oh, either they really have self-esteem issues and are weaklings, or it's not as bad as they make it out to be-- if they won't just leave," not sitting well with me, it doesn't generally sit well with me for this to be glorified either, like, "Oh, they're so good and virtuous, they're so patient and tolerant".
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Maps

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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2012, 11:02:58 pm »
Quote from: triple_entendre;75434
I should probably also just very quickly add, in addition to harsh judgments like, "Oh, either they really have self-esteem issues and are weaklings, or it's not as bad as they make it out to be-- if they won't just leave," not sitting well with me, it doesn't generally sit well with me for this to be glorified either, like, "Oh, they're so good and virtuous, they're so patient and tolerant".

 
Yeah, it's really not as easy as "oh, this isn't good for me, therefore I should leave". Granted, it's extremely easy to think that way if you haven't experienced what that's like firsthand.

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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2012, 12:07:15 am »
Quote from: Maps;75435
Yeah, it's really not as easy as "oh, this isn't good for me, therefore I should leave". Granted, it's extremely easy to think that way if you haven't experienced what that's like firsthand.


Hanging this here.

There are several good sources for the swan maiden/fairy-wife motif. (There's also the demon-lover on the other side of the coin.)

Here are a few:
 
 http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=BytDXeTtHiQC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=swan+maiden+marriage&ots=2NvoVIBuje&sig=sal8ot4B1RVBFEcooj1cRMVMGoI

 http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/1177885

 http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/40003030


Women are Other and Outsider. By virtue of gender they are liminal beings, never quite within the circle of man and not fully otherworldy. In some lodges there would actually be an eastern door for the lady of the house to enter, east being the direction of the other. There's a social contract, where women honor the choice to be domestic, birth children, cook and clean and be a helper to the civilization and order that man has carved from a strange and magical world [men birth laws and boundaries, women are the gateway between the laws of life and death]. Since women are Other, one who choices to liberate herself from this contract is supernatural, wild, etc.

One interpretation is that the fairy wife motif stems from tribal marriage raids, the stolen wife refusing to conform and accept her lot, or the man has broken the social contract, and the woman "flying away" back home, leaving her children and her husband. When this happened  it was decided that the man had caught a fairy, swan, hulda, etc. But the man often wins his wife back, so the tale can be about realizing that the social contract is difficult but that it also has a necessity. [Another angle is that the swan maiden is related to transgenderism.] Men can also break the social contract by mistreating their wives which in turn allows them to become Other. She steals her cloak, takes possession of herself, and disappears.

It should be mentioned that Frigga, wife of Odin, also has a shape shifting cloak of feathers.

Anyway. Its not just about non-negotiables in relationships but about gender roles, the place in society of men and women, a greater connection to the structure of the world and the concepts of society, duty, and what it means for us when we chose to cross those boundaries: how human are we then, what makes us human, are we defined by our roles. Yada yada.

Again, just want to reiterate, there is a male counterpart to this in the demon lover.
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mlr52

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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2012, 12:42:59 am »
Quote from: triple_entendre;75340


Once upon a time, this mortal human man proposes to this magical otherworldly person. She presents to her would-be husband, the condition that if he strikes her more than twice? Then she must return to the otherworld. (I'll just call her a fairy.)

(At the same time, I kind of can't help making those minimizations at the fictional husband. He married a fairy-- or a hulda, or an undine. They are weird. They are weird! They're... I mean... someone check my thinking on this? I guess I'm saying that he could have, like, learned more about her culture before signing up to have and to hold-- or, I don't know, just been more chill.)


So, in the fairy tale, I saw the human guy as actually very immature. He knew that he would lose his wife if he hit her, and he did anyway. This seems to stem from the fact that, unlike his wife, he didn't know what his needs were-- let alone how to express them constructively. "I need you to be fully consciously present when we're keeping the household running and when we're hosting my friends." "Right now I really need you to be sensitive and respectful of our attitudes towards death. If you can't, then I'll take you home right now and won't bring you to funerals in the future." Unfortunately, three strikes is still not enough leeway for him to learn.

 
She should have left after the first time he hit her (the first time is the hardest, and if there is no protest, that just gives permission for the next hit.)  However she did give him permission to hit her.  

Understanding the culture of your significant other is important.  Was her staring part of her culture, communicating with others, a medical problem, or a reaction to something that was present only at those times?  

That he was immature is clear because, he hit her when something else could have been done.  IMO the hitting was for the benefit of his image of himself, as he saw the other people seeing him.

I am uneasy in that she expected to be hit, to me that is not a good message to send into the ether.

I am defining ether as that which things manifest out of.
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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2012, 12:34:22 pm »
Quote from: triple_entendre;75340
(Actually, I define need as "you'll die if this is not met" whether you want to die or not, or whether somebody else wants you to live... whereas a person can be literally chained up somewhere to literally force them to live with a non-negotiable, so a need is far more basic than a non-negotiable to me. So, any other word for this definition of need, would be welcome.)

 
Just responding to this point, because this is actually kind of a pet peeve of mine:

There is no "need" without a "for what"; "need" just means "this is what is required for that goal".  I don't have an abstract need for eggs, but if I'm gonna make my grandmother's fudge cake, damn straight I need some eggs.  If I don't get eggs, there is no cake possible.

This is just "need (for survival)".  Survival is a really fucking low standard.  People have other goals than mere survival.  Someone who is only able to formulate what is required in order for them to survive is in a really shitty situation.

In this context I'd consider things like "for happiness", "for a functional relationship", "for successful sexual attraction", and so on to be really important for-whats to include here.  When I'm going into relationships, I'm certainly evaluating what's going into them at a level much higher than "will this kill me".
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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2012, 08:01:58 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;75485


This is just "need (for survival)".  Survival is a really fucking low standard.  People have other goals than mere survival.  Someone who is only able to formulate what is required in order for them to survive is in a really shitty situation.


 
I am not in agreement with the "low standard" part of this statement.  When I was an active alcoholic, homeless, and unemployable, I could not conceive of anything other than survival.
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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2012, 09:37:38 pm »
Quote from: mlr52;75535
I am not in agreement with the "low standard" part of this statement.  When I was an active alcoholic, homeless, and unemployable, I could not conceive of anything other than survival.

 
... so being an active alcoholic, homeless, and unemployable doesn't qualify as a really shitty situation to you?

I am so confused.
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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2012, 09:42:32 pm »
Quote from: mlr52;75535
I am not in agreement with the "low standard" part of this statement.  When I was an active alcoholic, homeless, and unemployable, I could not conceive of anything other than survival.

 
I think Darkhawk summed that up as, per your quote, "Someone who is only able to formulate what is required in order for them to survive is in a really shitty situation."  Being homeless, unemployable, and addicted is exactly the kind of shitty situation where all you can prioritize is what is needed to survive.  And that is a low standard, because as a human being, you deserved better than that, and because other human beings had the opportunity to shoot higher than "live until tomorrow."

I have had some pretty low standards myself, at times, and not been able to imagine higher goals than going on living.

As I told someone recently who came to me for pastoral care, survival is not actually an achievable goal, in the end--nobody wins that fight.  But less conceivable stuff, stuff that seems less possible, stuff that is harder to shoot for when things are really hard--like love, or joy--those are things you can actually get.  That's a fight you can win.
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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2012, 09:46:01 pm »
Quote from: mlr52;75439
She should have left after the first time he hit her (the first time is the hardest, and if there is no protest, that just gives permission for the next hit.)  However she did give him permission to hit her.  

 
I just want to highlight this and say, as a survivor of intimate partner abuse, that this skirts aaaaaawfully close to outright victim-blaming, and is a pretty dangerous line of thought.  ...okay, actually, it doesn't skirt close, it's flat-out.  He may have perceived that he had permission to hit her, but she didn't give him permission, and not leaving was not inviting being hit.  That decision was his.
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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2012, 10:08:26 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;75542
... so being an active alcoholic, homeless, and unemployable doesn't qualify as a really shitty situation to you?

I am so confused.

 
As I said it is only the low stranded that I do not agree with.
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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2012, 10:10:41 pm »
Quote from: Valentine;75544
I just want to highlight this and say, as a survivor of intimate partner abuse, that this skirts aaaaaawfully close to outright victim-blaming, and is a pretty dangerous line of thought.  ...okay, actually, it doesn't skirt close, it's flat-out.  He may have perceived that he had permission to hit her, but she didn't give him permission, and not leaving was not inviting being hit.  That decision was his.

 
She set the terms before the action.  He did what she said he could.
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Re: Relationship Non-Negotiables in Fairytale
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2012, 10:19:55 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;75438
Its not just about non-negotiables in relationships but about gender roles, the place in society of men and women, a greater connection to the structure of the world and the concepts of society, duty, and what it means for us when we chose to cross those boundaries: how human are we then, what makes us human, are we defined by our roles.
Thanks for the links! This being a folktale, it does more easily apply to a representation of some collective, more than an analysis of the relationship dynamic or the psychology of the characters.

I personally tend to see them as people-characters first, though. Like, in the variation where the mortal husband steals the clothes or magic item of the magical woman, rendering her non-magical, and then keeps it away so that they stay married. I can certainly see the aspect of rape culture and patriarchy, because the woman's autonomy is stolen as a matter of course, but what I'm really thinking is: the extortion-based marriage was an utter farce from the get-go. How could he, individually, not notice this or feel this? (For which the social science analysis does provide several answers: conditioning, patriarchy, no identity outside of the social role...)
Quote from: mlr52;75439
She should have left after the first time he hit her (the first time is the hardest, and if there is no protest, that just gives permission for the next hit.)  However she did give him permission to hit her.  

I am uneasy in that she expected to be hit, to me that is not a good message to send into the ether.
Quote from: Valentine;75544
I just want to highlight this and say, as a survivor of intimate partner abuse, that this skirts aaaaaawfully close to outright victim-blaming, and is a pretty dangerous line of thought.  ...okay, actually, it doesn't skirt close, it's flat-out.  He may have perceived that he had permission to hit her, but she didn't give him permission, and not leaving was not inviting being hit.  That decision was his.
I agree, that it was perfectly within her rights to not give him even that chance to hit her at all, because this concerned an actual attack on her person. It's a value that we don't only share with that character, but elevate.

Here I might skirt too close to victim-enabling. The message this tale "sends into the ether" to me, is that of her willingness to adjust, because, I don't know, maybe she loves him and wants to be in his world and his life-- as long as he is equally willing to make adjustments on his part, for her. And he wasn't.

So, none of this was her fault. It's just that one aspect of the story was her (perfectly respectable, IMO) standards and boundaries.

If the otherworldly wife's request were something like, "Wear something green every day and everywhere except within earshot of the riverbank where you should never" it would still be important to adjust to this request, because it's a relationship, because he's working with an outside phenomenon, because a prospective partner's needs (*twitch*) were communicated and would better be honored even if it's not understood, right? But, I can accept the human husband having a learning curve with that otherworldly contract... and if the fairy wife would leave him for the first transgression against that request, well, it would just be a challenge for me not to judge her harshly.

Quote from: Darkhawk;75485
Just responding to this point, because this is actually kind of a pet peeve of mine:

There is no "need" without a "for what"; "need" just means "this is what is required for that goal".  I don't have an abstract need for eggs, but if I'm gonna make my grandmother's fudge cake, damn straight I need some eggs.  If I don't get eggs, there is no cake possible.

This is just "need (for survival)".  Survival is a really fucking low standard.  People have other goals than mere survival.  Someone who is only able to formulate what is required in order for them to survive is in a really shitty situation.
It's precisely because of that last part, though, that it's a pet peeve of mine when people use the word "need" for a luxury like making your own cake, or successful sexual attraction. My reaction is to think that the speaker is misappropriating that shitty situation and experience, by using the word need so willy-nilly.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2012, 10:28:25 pm by Faemon »
The Codex of Poesy: wishcraft, faelatry, alchemy, and other slight misspellings.
the Otherfaith: Chromatic Genderbending Faery Monarchs of Technology. DeviantArt

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