Single Men Are More Worried About How It Looks to Others

Single Men Are More Worried About How It Looks to Others

Angry single women sometimes stumble onto this blog. Why are they angry, you ask? Beats the hell out of me. From what I can gather, society is so judgmental of their single status that they feel like second class citizens.

They may have a point (more of that coming in a second), but this is the wrong forum on which to make it, because I am the LEAST judgmental person when it comes to being single. I was single for the majority of my life, I have many single friends, and it seems objectively foolish to issue judgment on an intensely personal decision like marriage. The only thing I EVER argue in return is that a) most married people are way too caught up in their own lives to genuinely worry about whether you’re single. If you’re happy, we’re happy. b) whether angry single people like it or not, they’re in the minority. MOST people want to fall in love and get married, not spend their lives alone. Fact, not opinion.

Most married people are way too caught up in their own lives to genuinely worry about whether you’re single. If you’re happy, we’re happy.

Well, I thought of all of this when I was reading a summation of a study from Psychological Science magazine. I found the conclusion to be striking:

“While both genders were found to rely on their relationship for self-esteem, for women it is gained through their loving connection with their partner. Men were found to worry more about a loss of social standing should a breakup occur.”

Basically, women derive more self-worth from being in a relationship (as suggested in my post “Why Don’t Men Hate Being Single As Much As Women Do?) but MEN are the ones who really care how it looks to others.

“Men re­ported bas­ing their self-es­teem on their own rela­t­ion­ship sta­tus (wheth­er or not they were in a relationship) more than wom­en, and this link was sta­tis­tic­ally me­diat­ed by the perceived im­por­tance of rela­t­ion­ships as a source of so­cial stand­ing,”

I didn’t see that one coming, which is why I’m sharing it with you.

So, male readers, are you concerned with what your friends and family think when you come home for Thanksgiving by yourself? Any women want to validate the results of this study?

The full article can be seen here:

Your comments and thoughts are appreciated below.

Join our conversation (68 Comments).
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  1. 1

    Males are shamed tremendously for being single and/or not having a girlfriend or a significant other. Single males in media are portrayed as nerds or all-around losers.
    As soon as a male of a dating/marriage age goes without a significant other for any particular amount of time, the speculation starts. Is he gay? A player? Just a loser? Low self-esteem? Man child?
    It’s never discussed that he may be single by choice, it is always speculated that it is some sort of failing on the part of the male.
    I had to go to a wedding a few months back for a corporate colleague of the product my job handles. My boss was there with his wife, sales manager there with his wife, other salesman there with his fiancé. I’m the only one there without a date/SO.
    Let me tell you, it was brutal. Now given, my boss is an a-hole in general, but the jokes, wisecracks and everything else at my expense were pretty unbearable. I loathe weddings and skip out on most of them, for precisely this reason.
    So while out in our culture, single women are “empowered, independent, STRONG, career-focused” and any other number of ridiculous euphemisms, while a single male is just a plain old loser. 

    1. 1.1

      That is so brutally honest. Only point I’d add is that it’s all fair and good if a single male says he chose to be single. But for some of us we don’t even get the choice to choose whether we should be single or not, because even if we did choose to be single nobody would have expressed or taken interest in us through no fault of our own. And yet society still judges us for it.


      If you can’t even get into a relationship and hold it down and make it work when you have minimal commitments and are still young and in your prime, good luck imagining that it would supposedly get better with age because hey, society seems to believe that men’s dating values only go up as they grow older! How many older men get hitched up because true love happened, or is it because the women who hitched up with them are themselves afraid of being left on the shelf, or worse still these women are just gold diggers cosying up to men they perceive to be materially stable for themselves?

    2. 1.2

      Sorry to say but im single without kids or married in day and time careful is the word married people take chances because they gonna have sex without thinking of covering up because they may want kids for me i have sex with a woman none sexual body parts mine is a fetish also the system controls you more when you are married or have any kids like child support also there’s disease out there you never know who sleeping with who your wife or girlfriend can sleep around with anyone you came here single you leave here single and if sleep around you will be in your casket single very early so remember single is a good thing i  didn’t say married is a bad thing only you never know who sleeping with who and i love myself too much just for a feeling that i can get between a woman feet or her hands masturbate is the most safety sex out there so think before you talk and yes im a black man most of my school mates died from AIDS just for a feeling and now they have no feeling because they are dead it don’t take much to shoot a load so do it safe as you can

  2. 2

    Don’t know if I agree with “McLovin.”  Stigma exists for women as well, just categorized differently.  When you’re a mature single woman who has never made it to the alter, people (especially other woman) judge you terribly.  They always think you’re out to get their man!  And, if you’re an attractive woman who appears to have their sh** together, you’re in for even more.  People in general are critical of others, even though they may not have room to talk.  I think the most beneficial thing to do no matter what gender you are is to be comfortable in your own skin and not be afraid to show it.  Confidence.  That’s empowerment.  

  3. 3

    Don’t think I agree with McLovin either.  I can only speak for myself and my demographic, but as a single guy, 46, divorced 2 years now, 3 kids, I don’t feel any stigma about being single.  At my age most of my guy friends are still married.  What I get from them is jealousy that I can do what I want, when I want now (the 50% of the time I don’t have my kids).  That’s probably more a by-product of how their own relationships work, but that is another story.
    The only thing I can think of since I have become single is one of my good friends (who happens to be a girl) asked me if I was gay – and she was serious when she brought it up.   Uhh, nope.  Sorry.  It didn’t bother me because I am pretty comfortable in my masculinity, so no worries.   She kept trying to set me up with diofferent friends of hers, for which I always politely declined.  Had more to do with WHO she was trying to set me up with, and not anything else.
    Anyway, can’t say I agree with this specific study.  But that might just be in my world.

  4. 4

    Maybe I should have been more specific, I’m speaking to this from a mid 30’s, never married, no kids male.
    And I agree with sunflower also, women get it in their own way.
    But what I hear from the two above posters is, “If you weren’t insecure, this wouldn’t bother you.”
    At my age, there are usually anywhere between 6 and 10 weddings I’m invited to. I bail on as many of them as I possibly can, usually I can get out of half of them. Any other type of event, also, where a ‘date’ is expected, I avoid as much as I possibly can.

  5. 5

    Interesting.  I do think that divorced men have an easier time of it, when it comes to societal judgements, than single-never-married men.  Some imagine that a divorced man might have just wed too young or that he & his wife grew apart but that, clearly, he’s capable to loving a woman and trying to create a life with one.  Even on this site, there’ve been animated discussions about whether or not a never-married-man over the age of X is worth dating, or not, with the assumption that he might be a commitment-phobe, a weirdo, a pervert, socially-inept, what have you.  
    I think that single, never-married women are judged just as harshly, if not more so, but the nature of the judgment is different (‘though just as cruel) than for never-married men.   While they might be possibly gay and/or unable to commit/ boy-men, we must be deeply unattractive to the opposite sex/ castrating b*tches/ bitter old prudes. 
    This article is right.   I think that while both sexes are disdained for being single, what hurts us women more than the unkind stereotypes is not having a romantic partner to share our lives with.  For men, the cut to the ego that comes with others ~ especially other men ~ stings most.

  6. 6

    Nah, McLovin – not saying your insecure.  Not at all.  Your situation is different.  Everyone’s situation is different.  There are lots of social pressures put on people in their mid 30s if they are single.  I’d expect that the pressure is higher on women than men, but that doesn’t mean that the pressure on men is not there.  In my opinion, and from what I have seen, women just tend to put more pressure on other women.  Guys don’t put as much pressure on other guys – and it is extremely rare that men would put pressure on women about this.  Guys priorities are just different, yes…sometimes warped, but different.
    All I can say is maybe you should attend a few more of those weddings???  Lots of single girls at weddings…. 😉  There I go, adding to the social pressure…sorry… there I go being warped…again…

    1. 6.1

      Sorry to say this but WTF? you have no idea how it feels to be constantly ridiculed called all names for having no love life as a man. being called fa##ot ; pu##y a loser is what we men have deal with on daily basis. and you know what’s even worse? Where I live there’s no chance that my situation will change as women will avoid me like plague upon knowing my lack of dating history at my age.

  7. 7

    “Even on this site, there’ve been animated discussions about whether or not a never-married-man over the age of X is worth dating, or not, with the assumption that he might be a commitment-phobe, a weirdo, a pervert, socially-inept, what have you.  ”
    Exactly this. It’s like a never-married, single man in his 30’s is looked upon with great skepticism. In all fairness, the same discussions go on about never-married single women on the mens’ sites.
    Hahahaha. Thanks for the laugh.
    Contrary to popular belief, I find there to be very few single women at any given wedding. The older I have gotten, the less single women there are at weddings. At any rate, I’ve mostly given up the whole business for a couple of reasons.
    1. The lifestyle I enjoy, my job and the hobbies I pursue are simply not conducive to finding a mate. 
    2. I got burned very badly in my last relationship, and I mean VERY badly. Those scars aren’t going away and it’s not fair for me to inflict that on an innocent party.
    Am I a 34-year-old monk? Sort of. More like I take what I can get.

    1. 7.1
      Zach D.

      I’m going to be 55 next week and I’m still single.  And like you on the number 1. part

      The lifestyle I enjoy, my job and my hobbies are not conducive to dating nor marriage.

  8. 8

    Men being ashamed of being single? That is a new one.
    From experience, I have never felt any shame in being single. Neither any of my single male friends, some of whom are even a bit older than myself. 
    At 46, divorced for the last 7 years, with one grown kid who is almost 20, I see no reason to rush into marriage again, though I have no problems meeting women. If anything, I sense that my dating odds have improved significantly the older I became. I still plan on having more kids, so I only date women with ability to have kids. That said, I do not see the need to delay marriage for the sake of buying time. If I found the right woman today I would drag her down the aisle tomorrow.

    1. 8.1
      Marie D.

      You pretty much answered your own question….You haven’t gotten married questions because you’re divorced with children, that gives you a pass.  Articles like this are more focused on the middle-aged, never married men.

  9. 9

    I’m female but I do agree that men feel pressured to be in a relationship, especially once they are out of school and in the business world.  It’s been my experience that one of the unspoken characteristics that are looked for in a man when considering him for a promotion is whether or not he is a ‘family man’.  ie. married/stable relationship means that he will be more committed to his job, he has people to provide for, and less likely to be out boozing etc.
    I don’t think base their self esteem on their relationship status the way women do but it’s definately an asset in most aspects of our society for a man to be in a relationship.  For example, when did we last see a single man run for president?

  10. 10

    D, are you my male clone? 46yo, divorced for 3 years, two kids that are about to graduate HS and college. And yes, I do not feel the stigma either, but there’s a reason why. You and me have it easy. We’ve done our time, we have X years of marriage under our belt, where X is in the double digits… we have grown children. (At least, I do.) As such, people pretty much leave us alone. I’m hearing things from my married girlfriends like “now that you’re done with your marriage and your relationship, don’t you want to just take it easy and spend the rest of your life on your own?” No one wonders whether there’s something wrong with me if I am unattached. My guess is that the never-married, no-kids folks do not get off the hook as easily as we do.
    Even so, it’s still awkward at times. I once was at a girls’ brunch in a group where I only knew the hostess and one other person well; the rest were casual acquaintances. The conversation at the table revolved around their boyfriends and fiances the entire time. I was unattached at the time, and had nothing to add to that. I mean, I could talk about kids, dogs, work, music, art, literature and a million other things, but these girls were hellbent on talking about the one thing I did not have. It was quite a long and awkward brunch for me.

  11. 11

    I’m in my 50’s, have never been married and never will be. As a guy I’ve never really cared what anyone thought or thinks about it except around the holidays when I’m not seeing anyone. I guess because it’s a common perception that someone single is more lonely around the holidays and I’m not going to lie it is. But, I’ve also been in dramatic roller coaster types of unhealthy relationships during holidays and that sucks even worse. Being single and alone a few days a year SOME years isn’t the end of the world and I don’t care what people think. Hey, some people have REAL problems.

  12. 12

    As a single, never married 45 year old man, I’ve rarely been judged or questioned for being single.  What I’ve mostly felt is envy.  As a businessman who works in a competitive field that requires a good amount of travel, probably 50% of my coworkers (male and female) have been divorced.
    McLovin, weddings are the greatest place for a single guy to go.  Even if you are dating someone, don’t take them to a wedding.  There are a couple of reasons. One, as a single guy at a wedding, your batting percentage will be better than anywhere else.  Second, taking a girlfriend you’ve been dating over 6 months to a wedding leads to very uncomfortable conversations.
    Women have it much worse than guys when it comes to being single.  A single guy can go anywhere he wants, anytime he wants.  There are places single women will not be all that comfortable going to alone.
    Being in a relationship is great.  However, if you’re an ambitious guy, I think you need to reach a point where status and money-wise you’re comfortable with the life you’re living.  Once you’re happy with the life you’re living, dating is much easier and more enjoyable.  If you haven’t created that life and you’re ambitious, don’t worry about dating.  Focus your energies on creating that life.  Dating will only distract you from creating that life.
    Your self-esteem, happiness and the social pressure you feel are tied to how you see yourself, the life you’ve created and your own outlook are under your control.  If you’re looking to someone else to provide that for you, you’re going to have a tough time.

  13. 13

    Mclovin- maybe it’s geography? I’m on the east coast and no one blinks an eye at a 34 year old never married man. 44 and yeah, some might think he is a confirmed bachelor but even then I don’t get the sense he is looked down upon. If you live in a place where everyone gets married at 22 though, I can see how being single would be challenging. 

  14. 14

    At 34 I am surprised you are giving up. It seems in my area (northeast) for the men who didn’t marry right out of college 31-34 is prime getting serious time. I am ecstatic because now men my own age are ready to get serious. I see this in their dating profiles, citing all their friends getting married and meeting their matches and how they want the same kind of life. I think its a great time for you to start meeting women 27-35, a great age range 🙂

  15. 15

    I used to long for a relationship as a way to get some kind of validation or a stamp of approval, but as I’ve built up much more self-clarity, confidence, and strength, that old idea makes me laugh. I don’t think anyone is judging me for being single (I’m a 29 year old woman, and most women around me are getting married), because I no longer judge myself for being single. If people ask if I’m dating someone, I don’t read anything into it or feel like they’re condescending me, because I feel pretty confident about my choices – but when I was insecure, I was always projecting that onto others and believed people looked down on me for being single. It’s also easy for me to feel confident because I have so many friends and interests that I’m hardly some stereotype of a sad singleton sitting at home alone watching TV (though that describes some of my coupled up friends, ha!). Hell, my weekends are filled with skydiving, camping trips, paddleboarding, partying til 3 am, and making my own gourmet meals!
    So if anyone, male or female, is concerned about how they look to others for being single or not single, I’d really have to question what’s going on inside them. If you’re happy and comfortable with yourself, people either won’t question you or, if they do, you barely notice it.

  16. 16

    I’m a 51 y.o. man who has been separated/divorced for 6 years.  My children are adults, I have a great job, and I date quite a bit.  I have never felt any stigma about being single.  Perhaps if I had never been married people might wonder, but being divorced at my age is quite common and the only comments I receive from both men and women are words of envy.  Those who are happily married usually don’t make comments other than joking around about how I keep all the women straight in my mind or how do I remember who I’m going out with on Saturday.  Those who aren’t so happy seem to live vicariously through my adventures in dating.
    I will agree with some of the earlier comments that in the business world a man might be looked upon unfavorably if he is in his 30s and not “settled down” but I think those views dissipate if the man marries and some years later is divorced.

  17. 17

    It took a minute, but YES, men (the type of men who get upset by being single) do find a loss of social standing… those men who game self esteem by having arm candy at events, or want their future to have A, B and C where A is a woman to go home to.
    I agree, as a woman, that my self esteem took little dings in bad breakups, but don’t think that being single or in a relationship effects my personal self esteem. I don’t derive self esteem from relationships.

  18. 18

    McLovin: You nailed it!!!

  19. 19

    The fact, as reported by the various studies (or was it only one study), is that most people SAY they want to be married when asked about it. Self-reporting doesn’t carry much weight in statistics-land. The fact, as supported by hard data, is that approx. half of the adults in the US are single. So whether people say they want to be married because they have some image of marriage in their heads that makes them want it (regardless of how realistic that image is), because they feel pressured into saying it to appear “normal,” or because they really do want it and have realistic expectations but are just the big fat relationship losers they’re accused of being, all those millions of unmarried Americans aren’t seeing their way to getting married and/or staying married. Look at the behavior. Speaks volumes.

  20. 20
    David T

    I very much have an attitude of f*** what the world thinks.  I define myself and do the things I do because it feels right to me, whether it is dating or not dating, working out, helping someone reach something on the top shelf of the grocery store, taking care of my son in the way I believe is best for him, or snacking after 9PM.

    When I have felt sad after a breakup, it is because I miss that person’s presence in my life, both the physical and emotional intimacy.  Heck, I feel the same when it is a deep friendship that is fading away. This is Yet Another Way I deviate from the typical male. While I never would have correctly guessed how most men feel about being single, I am not surprised it is very different from me.

    Given the responses here (I know, a small sample and also self selecting for men who sometimes read a woman oriented dating blog!) I am dubious of this study’s conclusion.  I would like to see the citation to read what the investigators wrote rather than what a science writer interpreted it, and also do a search for other work on this topic.
    During the past year, I have also have had friends encourage me to date this or that person and then ask if I am gay(!) when I decline. One of them multiple times! Blows my mind and is mildly irritating.  It is like they can’t wrap their brains around the fact that maybe I am just trying to be content on my own. (and not always succeeding, but I do most of the time. There is still that want that surfaces from time to time…oh, and that OTHER want that surfaces daily, but that one is actually easier to cope with! 😉 )

  21. 21

    I sometimes feel like being a never married is like being an unemployed person looking for a job.  A lot of assumptions are made regarding why no one else wanted to marry you.  Never mind that you can make yourself as available and open as you’d like, if you don’t get picked, you don’t get picked.  But it’s like people start to doubt their own judgement about you b/c no one ever put a ring on your finger.  
    It seems as if some people find mates quickly and get married repeatedly, even though it seems as if the more marriage you have, the more likely you are to divorce again (I feel as if I’ve seen that stat or some variation of it). 
    It also means that while I can get a divorcee not wanting to stay alone forever, I find it a bit odd how some of them won’t settle for a stable, long term relationship, and as we saw in a recent post, can have a long term, stable, committed relationship but still doubt it if the other person doesn’t want to get married (and yet, who should understand that a marriage is frequently not forever and is no guarantee that you won’t be single again than a divorcee, which I find really odd).  

  22. 22

    Love your comment Nicole. I feel the same way too. 
    And I agree with McLoving … I hate attending weddings too. I try to avoid them … some of my reasons are … Weddings for single people are expensive to attend … Travel costs. .. Gifts. … New clothes … more gifts for wedding showers. Sitting the in the back … Every other women thinks your trying to hit on her husband … The food/music not really good.

  23. 23

    I read a lot of that. Men saying that they struggled all through their 20’s and then when they hit 30 it’s like the floodgates open and there are all kinds of women who want to date them, so much so that the amount of choice goes to their heads.
    I’ve just never seen it.

  24. 24

    This is going to be the first holiday season since 1987 that I’m single. I am looking forward to it. I have created an OKC account, just to get dibs on a cool username that I’d thought of, but I don’t plan on using it until after the holidays. Unless an amazing, out-of-this-world guy somehow comes along, I plan to spend the holidays with my family, and not touching dating with a ten foot pole. This is going to be a super busy holiday season for my close family. My younger son leaves for college next year; it will likely be out of state; and, if all goes as he plans, he’s never moving back home. My older son will be graduating college in December, will hopefully be starting work sometime shortly after that (he’s just started looking, there’s high demand in the field and his credentials are good, so I’m hopeful that he’ll find something). My mom, who lives a few blocks from us, lost my dad this year and will be spending her first holidays without him in 49 years. All the above sounds to me like enough reason to spend this time with my family and not bring dating into the mix. Truth be told, I always felt pretty crappy when I had to bail on my family during the holidays after spending maybe one evening with them, because I had to go spend time with my boyfriend. I am looking forward to not having that problem this year.
    Somehow a few of my single guy friends that I’ve told about these plans, are skeptical, and keep telling me that being single around the holidays is super depressing, and that I will end up feeling the lowest of the low when holidays come around and I’m not dating anyone. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. My one guy friend told me about a time when he suddenly realized in the early fall that he was about to be single during the holidays, so he quickly found someone just to spend holidays with. Doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy, but he swears it worked for him.
    David T #20 “When I have felt sad after a breakup, it is because I miss that person’s presence in my life, both the physical and emotional intimacy.”
    Yes, same here, and I also miss the life we’d built together, that doesn’t exist anymore. Which is fairly easily remedied by rebuilding your own life from scratch. This is what I am working on right now.
    Andy #12 “Once you’re happy with the life you’re living, dating is much easier and more enjoyable.  If you haven’t created that life and you’re ambitious, don’t worry about dating.  Focus your energies on creating that life.  Dating will only distract you from creating that life.”
    This!!! *1000

  25. 25

    “Most married people are way too caught up in their own lives to genuinely worry about whether you’re single. If you’re happy, we’re happy.”
    I agree with this. I have also found that people, in general, are way too caught up in their own lives to worry about whether I’m single as well. 

  26. 26

    I believe the social stigma and whether it’s worse/better for men or women also largely depends on what ethnic background and culture you come from.  Coming from Asian descent, in my culture women past the age of 26 are considered close to reaching her “expiration date” and once she hits the 30 mark, it’s pretty much downhill from there. If she’s 30 and above & never married, trying to date within our race will be extremely difficult to almost impossible because people (men and women) will judge her as being a bad potential because everyone will assume there MUST be something “wrong” with her that’s caused her to not find a partner at her age.  For men, it’s not as bad and they don’t face as much prejudice because our culture accepts that it is good for a man to work hard and focus on his career.  This is why Asian parents are very involved and will hound their grown single children to no end to get married ASAP — esp for the women.  Also, there is a lot of social stigma for people who get divorced and are now single.  My culture considers a divorced single middlge aged women to be a “failure” as a partner (more so than the man although they will get some prejudice too) and she is considered definitely lower status & much less desirable as a marriage potential than a single never been married middle aged woman.  As a result, it is not unusual for older single people to leave their community and date people outside of our race.

  27. 27

    I’m 30 and have been dating a 37 year old, never been married man. Whenever I tell a friend about him, they all tell me to run away because he’s too old to have never settled down yet. So I can definitely see how men can feel like they have a certain amount of pressure to settle down into a serious relationship by a certain age, less they be deemed a “playboy”.
    I’ve got to be honest, when I myself am in a committed relationship, I tend to view single men in a different light when it comes down to hanging out with them or inviting them to parties. I’m more apt to inviting couples to hang out than a single man–even though I have a perpetually single male best friend. Being single now I want to hang out with them! But when I’m in a relationship, and the older you get the more people you know are in serious relationships, I think single men can be boring. I know it’s not true and should be judged on a case by case basis, but the social stigma that single men are out to get laid… well can be true.

  28. 28

    wow I find most married people boring. It’s like they stopped living life bought a house two cars and travel to Mexico on their holidays. Yawn! Most of the single men I know … Travel to interesting places have hobbies still are taking care of their bodies. Please leave me in a room with a bunch single over men in relationships ! 

  29. 29

    I agree with Nicole #21. The status that is accorded to marriage and married people is truly disconnected from reality. Marriage often provides a smokescreen that blocks some truly appalling behaviors from public censure. For example, if married to someone you’re just supposed to put up with a whole host of awful behaviors for the sake of the marriage. These same behaviors, if you’re only dating, would be called lying, cheating, or stealing, and everyone would tell you to get out. But once you’re married, it’s very important to keep up the appearance of being “happily married,” and people are full of advice on how to work through situations that are, fundamentally, abuses to another person. I cannot tell you the awful goings-on that “happily married” people reveal to me in private, or how many “happily married” men have come on to me or said inappropriate things.

    To me, when all is said and done, marriage is just a lifestyle choice with specific pros and cons. Living single is also just a lifestyle choice with specific pros and cons. Which is better for you personally simply depends on who you are and what you want out of life. If you always have to crow about your status to the world good chance is there’s something wrong there. That’s what I always think about people who do that, anyway.

    If I were ever to get married it would be to a nice, simple guy, and I wouldn’t have a big wedding or advertise my change in status at all. It would be a very private thing. To me that’s the true statement about the strength of the bond.

  30. 30

    Jenn; you really hit the nail to the head with your post. Agreed! I believe many commitment shy people see the same things you do and are onto this ‘marriage perception disconnect’. Namely, the secret appalling behavior- not every one can sweep it under the carpet and pretend it doesn’t exist-  it is a huge turnoff.

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