Why Are Women Expected to Date Men With a Lower Educational Level?

Why Are Women Expected to Date Men With a Lower Educational Level?

Dear Evan,

I was at a speed dating event last night for the second time. Just like the first time, it was full of smart, pretty, successful women in their thirties and forties and men of similar ages with manual labor jobs (and a few running their own manual labor businesses) but no men of equivalent professional or educational status except for one doctor. Why he was there, I do not know, as he made it clear that he was not really looking to date anyone. He did however buy me a drink in the bar afterwards and asked me what I thought of the event. I said I would be unlikely to go again because I have nothing in common to talk about with the men that I have met at these events.

He proceeded to give me a lecture as to why I shouldn’t automatically dismiss dating the two guys who were responsible for service washes in the launderette as they may be perfectly nice people and that career women in their thirties get what they deserve if they don’t. I am just wondering how many other men think like this? For me, it seems plain common sense that, while professional women with masters degrees may be compatible with men in less successful professions, the guy that left school with no qualifications to work in the launderette is highly unlikely to be a good fit.

It is not the first time that I have come across the attitude that career women deserve to be alone if they don’t want to date men without any education, or men a generation older, or the obese. I am just wondering how many men really think like this.



It doesn’t matter how many men think like this.

Just like KC’s email a few weeks ago about how she receives emails from disappointing men she meets online, you’re illustrating an amusing concern with men’s preferences in women.

Men do what they want. They don’t do what you want.

My answer to you is largely the same as my answer to her.

Men do what they want. They don’t do what you want.

If he is a dishwasher and he finds you pretty, he’s going to ask you out.

If you don’t go out with him because you intimate that you’re “above” him on the dating food chain, it’s predictable that he might lash out at you.

You may be technically correct that he’s not of your social station, but that’s of no concern to the man you’ve just insulted to his face.

Literally, the ONLY thing he can do when you tell him that you have nothing in common (without getting to know him) is tell you that you’re wrong for judging people and that this attitude may come back to haunt you.

Women tend to adhere more to their checklists, which usually call for a man who is just like you, but better. And without your flaws.

He’s right about that. This is one of the big blind spots that women have in dating.

Allow me to explain.

You painted a black and white world, Fiona. It wasn’t that he was less educated than you. It’s that he was a laundry operator. It’s not that a man is older than you, it’s that he’s a generation older than you. It’s not that he’s a few pounds overweight, it’s that he’s obese. All of your examples are extreme, but not all men are extreme examples of anything.

So, to be crystal clear: no one (besides the fat, stupid and elderly) is saying that you have to date the fat, stupid, or elderly.

Got it? Good.

How do I find a man with traits I desireWhat I am saying – and what these men are inartfully suggesting as well – is that you don’t marry a list of traits. You marry a human being. And if you never think outside the box, you may well find yourself standing alone at the end of the dance.

The reason that I call this a blind spot for women is because women tend to adhere more to their checklists, which usually call for a man who is just like you, but better. And without your flaws.

Taller. Richer. Smarter. Funnier. Saner. Sexier.

Alas, men don’t care if you’re taller, richer, smarter, or funnier.

We just want you to think that we’re amazing.

Which is why men can date ANYONE – regardless of education, income, and height – while many women can only date 1 in 1000 men who are 6 feet tall, with a masters degree and a $200,000 income.

So are some men unrealistic in thinking that they deserve a chance with you?

Yes, they are.

Are they also correct in pointing out that they are open to a lot more women than you are open to men, and this may hinder your ability to find lasting love?

Yes, they are.

To your original question, no one is saying (apart from the jilted men) that you deserve to be alone. But I would be remiss if I didn’t pull out the nugget of wisdom from the flawed logic of the laundry operator.

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  1. 301

    Evan, you are quite right, even in a divorce situation where there has been infidelity, men have a three times higher rate of suicide than women. The sad fact is there are tons of men who are loyal and monogamous, but get dumped for those same traits, because they’ve become predictable and boring…..

  2. 302

    Who lives longest – bit of a red herring.
    Too many variables.

    And if this thread topic is anything to go by, it is quite likely that the men who fail to get into a relationship are going to be poorer, and the women who fail, wealthier. Health could have nothing to do with marriage itself.

    I am struck with the number of women here expressing the opinion that any degree of settling just isn’t worth it. They know what they want, and are not prepared to accept second best.
    There is a begrudging acknowledgment that this will probably mean staying single forever, but with a feeling of resentment that this should not be. The world should be a place where a woman gets everything she “deserves”.

    I was fascinated by the Owning your shit blog – this by a female blogger :

    ” The word “commitment” has in fact, in female parlance, come to mean, “up until the moment I’m no longer 100% satisfied with the person I married”. And that attitude is only going to lead to more and more divorces as more and more successful women effectively set their sights higher than they reasonably should while their youth and attractiveness wanes, leading to a growing number of them feeling like they settled even if they didn’t–even if they scored someone 2 points above them on the overall attractiveness scale.”

    Bottom line – men don’t want women who have settled for them, especially those that were not that attractive to start with.

  3. 303

    Evan, does anyone think I want to believe the results of the studies cited in the links I posted? No! I’m happily married. I’d prefer that these studies didn’t exist. But my personal preferences don’t trump science, and the science may have something to say about the ambiguity of the goodness of marriage for women.

    Let’s requalify to include both life expectancy and health quality. Health quality generally is a major contributor to longevity, but not in every individual case. The first, linking to a 2009 study following Brits for decades, shows single women having lower levels of “long term sick” and “economically inactive” descriptors (the latter not so hard to believe, the first surprising). The also-linked Australian study shows that single women have better-quality health care, volunteer more, and belong to more social groups.  The Swedish study showed that women cleaning up after a larger household (usually because they were married, but in some cases not) had worse health.

    The second link, to an Australian study, does indeed show that single, divorced, and widowed women in elder age had significantly better health than their married counterparts.

    The third link is a cross-European study showing that married women live, on average, 1.4 years less than single women. Married men live 1.7 years longer than single men.

    Does this mean that I’d urge women to stay single? No. But it would do us well to understand why there is such a health disparity at a population level, and to try to address what it is about marriage that benefits men but is a decrement to women’s health, so that health outcomes are more equitable. Meanwhile, it should be a comfort and relief to single women that their health outcomes on average will not be worse, and will likely be better, than their married sisters.

  4. 304

    #305, Nathan, I assume then you have been married/in a relationship and have children.

    We all make choices.  If our choice is not to take time off from work because of careers, or we say we can’t make ends meet unless we work full time and pay for daycare (for me, the cost of 2 children in daycare was more than my mortgage at that time!), taking a big vacation each year is a priority, driving brand new cars, buying a big house, whatever it is, it’s still a choice.   There are millions of people out there who make hard choices and sacrifices to not work full time and stay with their children.  Unless someone is in the actual situation, no one else will ever know all the details of why couples make the decisions they do.

  5. 305

    @Aisling #318 and Fiona #320: I agree with your comments regarding the health care system in western Europe versus in the US.
    I’m originally from Belgium and enjoyed very good health care until I immigrated to the States. My employer pays a ridiculous amount of money for an insurance that does not even provide good care. The dental care of pretty good but I’ve been horrified at the lack of competency of various physicians and by how injuries are being treated here. Thankfully I do not need to use the US health care system much as I’m young and healthy, but at the first sign of a serious illness I’ll be out of here. The quality is just not the same, and for 10 times the cost of what it should be, it’s outrageous. I’m also in favor a tax-funded health care system, but for it to be sustainable in the long run it would need a much more responsible management.
    @Helen #321: I agree with your comment on how having a romantic relationship is not the be-all and end-all of existence.
    We can be happy single and we can be happy coupled. It’s a different kind of happiness. Both have downsides – different kinds of downsides as well. Not sure about the health argument since it will greatly depend on the quality of the marriage created by the people in the studies. When there are equal numbers of studies making opposite conclusions, it’s because other variables not taken into account affect the data. Just for the record, I’m a scientist : )
    My relationship brings a kind of happiness that I certainly did not feel when I was single, but it does also bring stress that I did not feel when I was single and that I could do without. Globally I’m happier, but only slightly after everything is considered. Maybe it’s because I’m still in the “building the foundations stage”, or maybe it’s because I had created a high-quality single life that I would not mind returning to at all if my relationship does not progress to the level of safety and stability I need.
    Since most women will end up single anyway, it’s a good investment to work at becoming a happy and healthy single lady, and only consider entering a relationship that would not threaten that level of health and happiness. Choosing a partner that is equally happy and healthy, who treats us well, who can deal with life’s ups and downs are better qualities to look for than chasing specific features that are irrelevant to a long-lasting happy and healthy marriage that will see us blossom and live a long and healthful life where we can support our spouse’s own health and happiness in a sustainable way.

  6. 306

    So, this is the exact point in which I give up on your so-called wisdom on lovee. You should really grab a feminist book or two, and try to look at the female perspective before you give women advice on dating. 

    I am a young woman still in university. I come from Latin America, where women are pushed to always be better looking than their spouses and their degrees are treated as objects of decoration. Women are supposed to relinquish their careers and take care of the kids. Meanwhile, no one tells the men to give overweight, unattractive, uneducated, or even colored women a chance. The reality in today’s society is that women are judged by their looks and men by their achievements. This idea that men are somehow more willing to date outside their pool is blinded and biased. I hate gendered generalizations, but if you’re going to play that game then I would say that while you might argue that a man will date outside his income/educational level, he will almost always chose a woman who is better looking than he is. What this woman is complaining about is a double standard in society which says that women who are educated are supposed to satisfy themselves with what little they can get and men who are educated can get whatever they so desire. 

    I am getting my degree so that I can be independent and produce positive change in society through my efforts. I am also an activist, so I am fully aware of my privilege and my responsibility towards society. Asking for someone that is equal to me is simply being fair to myself. Your comment that women want someone smarter, richer, funnier, more successful, men is simply untrue when it comes to me and my friends. I am a feminist, so I want someone who is equal to me- not someone who is exactly the same, but someone whose flaws and qualities compliment mine. That is what most people look for, not just women. 

    My problem is not with the general idea that we all should not limit ourselves by who we date- regardless of the political and economic differences. My problem is that your articles are extremely gendered and constantly put both women and men into a box. You say things like “What women need to do” and “What women need to understand” and that is an extremely damaging outlook. Your reader was pointing to a distortion in how society perceives her as a woman, and you respond with an insensitive and inaccurate perspective on what women need to do. This parallels your article about rape, as if all of the “women problems” can be fixed by women.  

  7. 307

    But, Nancy 335, Evan’s blog is directed to women so he tells them what they as women, can do to have better chances of finding lasting love.  If his blog centred on advising men, he’d be telling guys what to do.  He isn’t saying that we are the only ones who need to change but we are the audience for his particular business.  There are other businesses that advise men how to date; I’m sure you’ll find plenty of advice directed to men — and only men — on those.

  8. 308

    “The reality in today’s society is that women are judged by their looks and men by their achievements”

    This has been the case for several hundred thousand years.

    “that women want someone smarter, richer, funnier, more successful, men is simply untrue when it comes to me and my friends”

    Good for you, however several billion women will I am sure be disagreeing with you.

    There is no double standard because men and women desire different things – its biology.
    ” men who are educated can get whatever they so desire.”
    – only because women deem them high value. It is women that give them that power.
    Women who are attractive also can have what they desire. It is men that give them that power.

    Everyone else is forced to compromise.

  9. 309

    I haven’t read this column for awhile but I keep getting emails so I thought I would check it out.  The more things change, the more they stay the same. Men are men; they do what they want. Women have to put up with it if they don’t want to be alone. Ho hum.

  10. 310
    Karl R

    Jayne said: (#338)
    “Men are men; they do what they want. Women have to put up with it if they don’t want to be alone.”
    Similarly, women are women; they do what they want. Men have to put up with it if they don’t want to be alone.
    Were you expecting women to have it easier than men for some reason?

  11. 311

    It’s true that snobbery and elitism won’t help anyone, and many kind and generous people come from all backgrounds. However in my experience, many men who have nothing in common with my educational background or professional status also have little in common with me when we talk. I love political science, literature, art, history, character-led drama. As a generality – and I know there are exceptions – people who have chosen not to pursue more academic or professional careers are not particularly interested in that kind of stuff, because if they were they would have studied more. I’m not making a judgement. I’m saying that someone who has been drawn to working with their hands all their life probably wasn’t that thrilled at the thought of academic discussions nor do they want to dissect the direction of the film we’ve just seen. Yes, I’m smart and successful – but I’m also a nice and kind person.  I’m supportive and  try to make people feel good about themselves. I’m sure lots of men are too. That doesn’t mean that when it comes down to finding something to talk about we have any passions or interests in common. It’s not about who is better or being elitist – it’s about having common ground. And actually I do think that some men don’t like not being the smartest person in the room even when there’s only two of you. You don’t have to be ruthless or intellectually harsh for someone to feel inadequate when you have degrees from top universities and they didn’t qualify high school – it happens all by itself. I have been told by many men (friends not dates) that men think they’ll want someone who’s really smart but then find that actually they prefer a relationship where they feel superior in some way. I can be as kind as you like – I can’t make someone my superior or even my equal in every respect. That depends entirely on his qualities.

  12. 312

    A friend once told me if you have a list, you will always just have a list and not a man. I think that’s good advice. Having standards is different than having a list, though. Don’t date people who are mean, abusive, lazy, drunks, liars etc. That goes for both genders. But your standards can’t be superficial things like education and income and eating with one’s mouth open. You have to judge each case on its merit.

  13. 313

    Unfortunately, I think we are doing a great disservice to Fiona.  The problem with A LOT of “uneducated” folks (and I work in employment services, so my opinion is based on a pretty diverse observation), is that a lot of these people remain at their education level due to complacency.  They also don’t make an effort to write well or to improve their speech–things you DO NOT need schooling for.  Language is a very big selling point for me.  Also, I like intelligent men, but I also recognize that a lot of very well-educated men are socially inept.  Intelligence and knowledge are not the same thing.  So, a construction guy with a high school diploma who starts his own business or something like that is going to be very valuable to me if he presents himself intelligently. 

    One word:  classy.

  14. 314

    Hmm It has been great to read more about how woman see all of this. 
    A bit of my perspective being a 29yr old white male. Most of my life it has seemed that most girls I have met go for 2 numbers above their rating. So I would consider myself an 8 and most the time girls who show obvious interest in me seem to be around a 5. (This is a generalization I know that there are woman who view themselves realistically). 
    I also see that a girl will also add a point or two to a male if he is a man of means. So for me I dont have cash flow not because Im particularly stupid just because I have never taken a specific interest in the those things that are of more value to a commericalized society. 
    The things I enjoy such as outdoor adventure, painting realsim, or studying spiritual evolution have not given me the financial return that at one time I hoped they would. Namely, Im more introspective, loving, and contemplative at an expense of outward ambivalence. 
    Though to accept responsability for this I have practically decided to put everything on hold until I make more money. Here I notice a gamble. That being do I “waste time” hoping some girl at least at my level will notice me as I am or do take the time to focus and extrapolate my rating financially so that can be with a girl who I can love and be respected by at the risk of it taking to long. 
    Take it as you will I’d say the Doctor wasn’t totally off base. Maybe his delivery was, not every doctor has a good bed side manner. Maybe a key criteria can be that if you are financially succesful is it neccesarly to be with a man who has as much if not more cash then you do or someone who has more intangible qualities or interest. I think there is something to be said about living vicariously through others. 
    Its a different world woman are more succesful in the modern market and in higher education. Men in general are no longer as valuable as we were 50 yrs ago. Nor as ambitous in a world where the rules and rewards have changed. Choose wisely…

  15. 315

    I think one of the issues is that many single educated women are in fields that have a high percentage of women.  Professions such as education, social services, and healthcare.   If you are working with other educated women all day long, (1) you have less opportunities to meet men and (2) you can loose your ability to connect with men.   I know women in these fields that are so far removed from single men that they just don’t know what to do.

  16. 316

    @ Randolph # 343:  I am starting to see the whole male/female dynamic as an extension of the union worker vs non union worker debate in the US.  Instead of there being a race to the bottom, why don’t we all strive to be our best authentic selves?  I am white, but it is disheartening to me to see black women being given the dubious advice to consider men who have been in prison, are un- or underemployed, or on parole.  Terrible advice.  Black, white, or purple, I would rather stay single until my last breath than consign myself to such a fate.
    @ MilkyyMae, # 334:  That resonates with me.  I don’t meet any eligible men on a day-to-day basis.  I have lost many of my flirting skills.  I have become almost too relaxed, and I miss the shyness and tension I used to feel when around an attractive man.  It has been soooo long since I had the butterflies or even a quickening of the pulse.

  17. 317
    Karl R

    Aisling said: (#345)
    “it is disheartening to me to see black women being given the dubious advice to consider men who have been in prison, are un- or underemployed, or on parole.”
    Who is giving that advice? Nobody has given that advice in this thread (yet).
    However, about 7 years ago I got back onto the dating market (after a long hiatus of not dating). You would probably say that I was underemployed at the time. I was working 2 temp jobs (about 30 hrs/wk between the two temp jobs). My income was enough to support my modest lifestyle, but it wasn’t going to impress anyone.
    One of those two part-time temp assignments turned into a contract job, then a full-time job, then raises, bonuses and a promotion. I’m earning triple or quadruple what I was 7 years ago.
    7 years later, I’m married and earn an upper-middle class income (just counting my income, not my wife’s). Would it have been “dubious advice” for someone to suggest that I would be a decent person to date 7 years ago?
    As Evan originally suggested, perhaps rigidly adhering to a checklist is worse than having some flexibility in whom you consider.

  18. 318

    @Karl Your points are well-taken.  And no, the advice about dating parolees was not given here, but I have seen this direction given *very* seriously to black women in various venues. Sad.
    After reading many of your posts here over the past couple of years, I would venture to say that no one meeting you would ever have considered you a loser, for want of a better word, regardless of your salary.
    As Evan often notes, there are *degrees* of everything, from looks to success, among many other things. I believe I am referring to the many men I have met who have reached their 50s or even 60s without having a clue, much less any sort of career path. You know, the kind that are still asking mom and dad for rent and gas money.
    I am very fortunate in that I am in health care, and I think that demand in my profession will only increase– unless they find a way to outsource that, too.  I don’t expect a potential partner to make what I do, but I do expect him to be financially responsible and making an effort.  I have met many who bemoan their “lack of luck”, as well as a number on disability who really could do some sort of work.  But I don’t think that that would describe anyone posting here.
    I also think there is a decided disadvantage to extrapolating opinions voiced here to our own personal situations, with all due respect. I have my own Achilles’ heel with regard to some of the sentiments expressed by some here about women over 40. I always remind myself that these men do not know me from Adam.
    Congratulations on all of your successes.  You are obviously someone who persevered.

  19. 319

    I think the “parolee” point is that if black women want to marry a black man, they may need to cave on the “no jail” criteria because so many black men are/were in jail, as a percentage of the population.  The Bureau of Prisons lists its racial composition as 37% black, whereas the population at large is only 13%.

  20. 320

    We are in a very interesting times. Things are changing in the world and everyone is having a hard time catching up. In 2010 about 60% of college degrees went to women. But almost 65% of advanced degrees went to women. In this last recession most of the jobs lost were manufacturing and other jobs that are male dominated. So it left more men out of work then women. Thirty-seven percent of employed women have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 35 percent of men, according to 2010 census figures.  Women are just outpacing men generally in higher education today. We are in a situation where overall women are outpacing men in terms of education and income. So of course if a woman isn’t willing to date men with less education or income then she probably wont get too far. Common sense would tell you that.  At some point I hope that women who are addicted to the idea of always (dating or marrying up) will learn something that men have known all along.  That there are other things in life that are way more important in a relationship then how much money a person makes or their education level.

  21. 321

    I have always been willing – indeed I much prefer to marry someone much less educated and in a lower socio-economic bracket.  Part of this has to do with the fact that I will probably marry someone my own race and I’m a black woman.  Since undergrad I have sensed that men of my race who attain higher education will marry or cheat with a woman from any other race – because they are attractive to these other women and there is the opportunity. My problem is that men will look at me etc (I’m somewhat well-figured and pretty) but they never approach me.  Let me repeat – I am willing to marry anyone from the laundry worker, security guard etc but they are not interested in pursuing me.  Being a bit old fashioned I would never consider doing the pursuing myself.  I am an engineer and university lecturer at present so I am not the highest earner but I do okay for myself.  Evan maybe you need to write a guide for black women.

  22. 322
    Karl R

    Balisier said: (#350)
    “My problem is that men will look at me etc (I’m somewhat well-figured and pretty) but they never approach me.”
    The men may have the impression that you’re not interested in them.
    Men don’t read minds. We don’t know whether you’re interested in us. We read facial expressions and body language. Most people aren’t entirely aware how they come across to others, so you may appear unapproachable … even if that’s not the impression you’re attempting to create.
    If a woman’s body language indicates that she’s not interested in me, I won’t bother approaching her. To me, I was being polite by respecting her wishes. A few of these women probably were interested (despite their body language). They’re the women who assume that men are “intimidated” by them.
    Balisier said: (#350)
    “Being a bit old fashioned I would never consider doing the pursuing myself.”
    That’s fine, but flirt enough to encourage men to pursue you.

  23. 323

    Karl R said: (#351)
    “They’re the women who assume that men are “intimidated” by them.”
    We are talking about black men here.  No black man is intimidated by any black woman – I repeat no black woman can intimidate a black man.  (Except maybe his mother).

  24. 324

     I get way more attention now that I’m older than when I was in my twenties. It’s not because I’m more beautiful (according to many comments, now that I’m over 40 I might as well be dead), it’s because I’m more relaxed, I smile more and am more friendly.  I got NO ATTENTION in my late thirties to early forties having come out of an abusive relationship. I was not giving off the come-hither vibes.
    My boyfriend, for months, thought I didn’t like him.  He said I ignored him several times when he tried to say hello and he was too scared to sit next to me.  And I thought I was making an effort! 
    I would say whatever you think you’re doing to attract men, ramp it up. If you’re not getting approached, you’ve nothing to lose.  Unless you particularly want one of those men who like hot pursuit.  Trouble is, they tend to like the chase more than they like you, and surely it’s exhausting trying to think of new and novel ways to trigger off a chase response (aka “keeping the spark alive”, “maintaining the mystery”).  There is no spark and mystery when I’ve been to the dentist and got PMT.  But my boyfriend was still very sweet to me.  I don’t recognise him in the observations you make about black men. Are you religious at all?  church may be a good place to meet black men, especially pentecostal/charismatic.  I’ve had a few black man chat to me in church.  (Not just black men, but I see that’s what you are looking for).  Mind you, we aren’t having sex before marriage so that might not suit you.  It’s hard sometimes (haha).

  25. 325

    Mary Mary #353
    Nice response.  Actually I am Christian, very much involved in church and also celibate.  Guys in church – they just watch.  They may express annoyance if they see some visitor paying me attention – but for them – I can’t say that any seem to be interested in taking it any further than just being a brother in Christ.

  26. 326

    tell me about it! It,s a common lament among many of my female friends at church.  I,m not the only woman who,s had to take more of a lead than she would prefer.
    to be fair my boyfriend did eventually say he liked me but I still had to suggest we go out. we had a long convo about it recently, he really is quite naive about dating. The men at church are looking into what it is to be a man. Well, they could start by asking women out! That said, my bf is chivalrous, protective, loyal.   Being a man is more than pursuing women. 
    when I read the comments here, dating seems hard for lots of people in different situations.  It doesn’t work out until …. it works out. And then, I think, we may be glad it took as long as it did cos we can,t imagine that anyone else would be better.

  27. 327

    Ok I’m a guy and I would like to say that I would rather have the same education level or higher than the woman I date. I for some reason can’t have her way more educated than me because it makes me feel less of a man. I wouldn’t mind if she makes more but it cannot be too significant because then I would feel she wears the pants in the relationship if you get what I mean.

  28. 328

    The points made in #356 prove the points I was making in #95.
    If I were advising girls and women dear to me, between aiming for as much education as possible and a good salary, vs. pleasing the sort of man who doesn’t want a woman to have more education and more salary than him… I’d tell these ladies to choose their education and salary over such a man.

  29. 329

    What I ask the universe for in a relationship, and anything else, is the “essence” of what I want. I don’t outline the package it will come from just the feelings I want to feel.
    What I want to feel in a relationship is joy, a sense of peace, looking forward to building my life with that person, fun, etc.
    I am totally open to “how” that will come. The package it will come in, after all, what does it matter if I feel everything I want to feel?
    If you are open to the package or the “how” it will be a lot easier for the universe to deliver. Just my two cents.

  30. 330

    Soulmate refers to the person not the job. Degrees don’t make anyone better than anyone else, they just make that person educated for their desired type of work.

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