Who even can we trust?

I usually try to make it clear that I’m not a man-hater, but it’s becoming really fucking hard these days. With everything that has been coming to light recently, I can’t help but be cynical of men in general, whether or not that’s justified. I’m not saying that I think all men are guilty until proven innocent, and they’re definitely not all bad. What I’m saying is that it’s really hard for me to trust men.

Some recent incidents were particularly hard-hitting for me not because of how vile what he did was. Unfortunately, that kind of behavior is commonplace, which does not make it at all excusable—it’s something we need to fight hard to change. However, the reason the recent news bothered me so much and was all I could think about the past few days is that he was such an advocate for women’s rights. He self-identified as a feminist, showed his support, and demonstrated nothing but respect in his public behavior, including in his comedy acts. Furthermore, he wrote that best-selling book that dissected healthy relationships, analyzed them, and gave advice to readers. I took a lot of that advice. I used that book as my bible when I started dating again last August.

It bothers me because he was supposed to be an ally. We were supposed to be able to trust him. If we can’t trust him, who can we trust?

It’s one thing for him to have made a mistake. I’m not trying to crucify anyone here. What really shines light on a darker side of him is how he responded to the allegations. When he received the text detailing the events, he simply said that he thought she was cool with it.

Whether he actually didn’t see a problem or denied there being a problem, it doesn’t take away fault. It goes back to the absence of a “no” not being a “yes.” Not knowing something is wrong is not an excuse. It’s the responsibility of each individual to understand what consent means. Not knowing a red light means stop isn’t an excuse to blow stoplights because in order to drive, you need to know what means what. Just like you shouldn’t be driving if you don’t know traffic laws, if you don’t know what constitutes consent, you shouldn’t be having sex. There is no offense where ignorance is an excusable justification.

And why wouldn’t you want to be sure about consent? Who would want to have sex with someone if they’re not sure the other person is totally into it?

And why are so many people defending this? It’s one thing to defend it as not being sexual assault, but why are so many people defending it as a perfectly normal bad sex experience? Yes, I realize that this is a very common thing, and so maybe people are defending it because they do it, but once you realize how god awful it is from the other person’s perspective, wouldn’t you be repulsed by this and want to stop?

It’s things like this that are making me incredibly cynical. Why the fuck can’t everyone just have nice, good-feeling, consensual, safe sex? Why is that not something people can get and apparently not even something some people want?

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An argument for gender: Why labels can be a good thing

I’ve been reading a lot of radical feminist articles recently. I’m not sure how it started. I was up late one night browsing the internet, read an interesting one, and just kept coming back for more. It’s incredibly important to read about things that don’t necessarily align with your beliefs, but that’s something I rarely do these days. Mostly, it’s because the opposite of my beliefs are just SO opposite my beliefs to where they’re just spewing hate and not giving any constructive facts or logic (e.g. white supremacy, anti-feminism, some religious sectors).

I identify wholeheartedly as a feminist, as everyone should, because feminism is the belief that all humans are equal despite their sex and gender. That’s simple enough. It’s more complicated when it comes to more nuanced beliefs, but I’d call myself a liberal feminist. I’m not going to break down everything that that label means because it’s irrelevant to this post. The only relevant bit is that radical feminists don’t recognize gender because it is a social construct, but liberal feminists do recognize it.

I had to really think about this one because I don’t like the idea of gender. As a social construct, it’s done so much more harm than good over the years. It fits us into the two boxes of Man and Woman, and based on those boxes, we’re told what toys we get to play with growing up, what our household roles are, the relative wages we earn for equal work, the color (and price) of hygiene products we use, the clothes we’re supposed to wear, how we’re supposed to talk, what we’re supposed to talk about, what we’re to care about, what we eat, what our bodies are shaped like, how we wear our hair, where we go, how late we’re allowed to be out, how much we drink, who pays for dates, who holds the door open for who… basically every aspect of our lives. Why do we have to give so much control to an abstract concept? Wouldn’t it be easier if we just got rid of the goddamn thing?

In an ideal world, gender wouldn’t have to exist because it wouldn’t dictate anything about what we had to do. That would be really nice. Unfortunately, it’s such a fundamental part of our society right now that we can’t just ignore it and hope it goes away. It’s not going to go away. At least not for a long, long time.

While I completely am against gender roles and gender expectations, I still feel like gender is important in our society right now because it’s a part of identity. I hate labels when they confine us, when they reduce us to the expectations of a specific label, but labels are incredibly useful because they help to define us. It’s all about how we treat the label.

I identify as a woman, but this is just one of the many things that describe me. I also identify as bisexual, optimistic atheist, liberal, scientist, etc. All of these come together to give people a better picture of who I am. With labels come assumptions—that can’t be helped—but as long as we’re open-minded about things, that’s okay. As long as we don’t read into it as me saying, “I am Woman,” and that being the end of the story and just forcing me into all of the preconceived notions of what it means to be “Woman.” It’s all about self-expression and nothing about societal expectations. That’s when it becomes harmful.

And that’s why I totally love when people identify as nonbinary because it’s part of self-expression. It’s recognizing that we have these labels, but they really are just labels. We don’t have to use them if we don’t want to, we can redefine them how we choose, and they help us communicate and interact with others.

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Don’t let the bastards grind you down

Alright, so this post is sponsored by a healthy mimosa buzz (brunch with $10 bottomless mimosas just isn’t a deal you can beat). I haven’t written anything under the influence since one bad experience I had in undergrad, so let’s see how this goes…

When I came to grad school, I was a fragile, innocent child riddled with insecurities. I was convinced that I wasn’t good enough. I had major imposter syndrome, where I felt like everyone else in the program was super smart, and I had just slipped through the cracks and didn’t really belong. One day, it was all going to catch up to me and people would realize I wasn’t smart or gifted enough to be here, and I would have to leave the program in disgrace.

Obviously, this was a bad state to be in, and it made everything that happened to me feel like a personal attack. If I didn’t know something in my field, it wasn’t because I was new and not yet caught up on the literature. It was because I wasn’t smart enough. If I couldn’t come up with a novel idea for a research proposal, it was because I wasn’t creative enough and I couldn’t generate ideas. When I acquired bad data, it was because I was incompetent and screwed something up. Anytime I was anything less than perfect, it was because of some inherent shortcoming. I already am prone to depression and anxiety, but this state of mind made it so much worse, and it felt like every day was a battle just to prove that I’m acceptable. I felt like I was trying to trick everyone, to keep them from finding me out.

A huge theme in science is to question everything, and so that’s what people do. It’s incredibly hard to get used to as a new person in the field. Every time you show data to someone, they try to pick it apart, asking questions about every detail regarding how the data was collected, how it’s processed and interpreted, giving different meanings to it. They question why you did things a certain way. If you did things differently than someone else, they call you out on it. If there are holes in the logic of your conclusions, they point them out. They also question feasibility, novelty, applicability, and usefulness. It’s great because that’s part of the scientific process. We have to question everything.

This is incredibly stressful for a new person who is insecure about their own capabilities. Every time someone criticized something I did or thought, which is everyone, all the time, I would interpret it as me having fucked up. I constantly was stressed out about this, and it got to the point where I was afraid to talk to anyone about my data because I feared the onslaught of interrogations that would happen.

For this reason, my first two years of grad school were incredibly difficult from an emotional standpoint. However, I noticed a huge transformation just recently that really surprised me and started to put everything in perspective.

I had my first in-person meeting with a collaborator whom I had been working with since my first year here. He is a big-name professor at a hoity-toity school on the east coast. My project with him wasn’t going well. The data made no sense, had no reproducibility, and it was essentially going nowhere. He called me out on this. He basically said that my data were shitty, that they was inconsistent, disappointing, and allowed us to make zero conclusions about anything.

This is where I impressed myself. Without even the slightest flinching, I continued the conversation. Yes, the data were terrible, and the project was a fucking mess. Then, I told him why I suspected it was like that, my plans for doing some validation of the method to make sure it was nothing with my experimental workflow that was causing it, and some possible alternative strategies that we could try. He agreed, saying that, from his biology expertise, that the subjects I work with are notorious for huge biological variability, and that he trusted me to do what I needed to do on the chemistry side. He also gave some ideas for ways he could use my current data to drive the project in new directions.

It wasn’t until looking back on the conversation a week later than I realized how much I had grown. This meeting would have gone much, much worse had I still been in the same mindset I was in when I started grad school. As soon as he said my data were shitty, I would’ve closed up, apologizing and panicking, and our meeting would have gone nowhere. Instead, I took what he said at face value, and we had a productive and engaging discussion that led to some constructive goals. He said my data were shitty. He didn’t say I was shitty. That’s the distinction I was never able to make before.

I’ve gotten so much better about these things. Failure is something that happens all the time in grad school, but now when it happens, I don’t see it as me failing as a scientist. Instead, I see it as something I tried didn’t work, I should figure out why and come up with a different thing to try. It’s not only made me more productive, but it’s made me much calmer and more confident.

I was just talking to my roommate about something similar last night. We were talking about our new years resolutions, and she said that one of her goals was to submit a piece of writing to the New York Times. She told me that it was probably a bad goal since she knew it wouldn’t get accepted, but we talked about it, and really, even if it gets rejected, it’s progress. Every well-known writer talks about getting massive amounts of rejection starting off. Massive amounts. You can look up countless stories about authors like J. K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss who got rejected from dozens of publishers before they made it big. It’s just part of the process.

And that’s the key. Failure isn’t a good thing, but it isn’t a bad thing either. It’s just a thing. It’s part of the process. It’s a necessary thing you have to go through. The more you do it, the easier it is. I’m working on projects that I have yet to do something with that isn’t a complete failure. It’s just how it happens. You need to wade through it to get to where you’re going.

When I came to grad school, I let the bastards grind me down, but only until I was sharpened into a point, and now I am so much stronger because of it.

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I am so bored with my life

Do you ever wish something really bad will happen to you just because you know it will bring some excitement into your life?

I literally do this all of the time, and it’s something I’m ashamed of and would never admit to anyone (except, like, the entire universe via the internet apparently). When I’m halfway through a crosswalk and I see a car barreling around the corner, I hope it will hit me. When I’m walking on the sidewalk and I pass someone, I think in my head Please stab me. I’m not even joking. I know it’s terrible, and I really don’t want to get stabbed or hit by a car, but I know that if I did, I would be in the hospital for a while, I’d have to tell people, “Sorry, can’t make it. I was stabbed.” I would have a scar from it. I’d maybe need stitches that have to be attended to. And I’d have a story, a memory, something that actually happened.

I’m not bringing this up to be cute or glamorize dark thoughts. I know it’s a terrible thing to think, and I feel guilty for thinking it. But, my point is, my life is boring me, and I want something exciting to spice it up.

This is really hard to do. All of the lists I read about how to bring excitement into your life are so ridiculously impractical that they’re useless. Like, I’m never going to wake up one morning and think, “Today I think I’ll skip work and go CLIMB a MOUNTAIN.”

Also, I’m definitely not taking this as I sign to quit grad school and switch career paths. I love what I do, and I’m happy with my life’s trajectory. I think it would be very difficult to find a job that’s exciting every single day. Overall, it’s satisfying which is what I need, but I’m still really fucking bored.

I know, I know. I need to take up a hobby or something. Still, I find it hard to convince myself that learning woodworking will really bring the spark back into my eyes.

I’m not just looking for something to do. I’m busy enough as it is, and I have a reasonably fulfilling life, so that’s okay. What I need is something that will leave me breathless. Something that will take me out of my head and into the moment and leave me with an actual memory. Right now, days are such a blur, and even though I don’t do the same thing every day, it all feels the same. Nothing stands out. I want something that will make my eyes widen, will get me to stop staring at the clock waiting for lunch time.

Maybe this goes back to the fact that I might not be a passionate person, but there has to be more to life, right? I have all of these organs in my body that are intended to do great things, and they’re never used for anything more than status quo. Exercise is a joke if that’s all they’re being used for. You could just hook me up to life support and it’d have the same effect.

I might be being overdramatic, but come on. There has to be something more. There has to be something I can do to bring excitement in aside from willingly injuring myself.

Or maybe I should just be grateful that I live a comfortable life insulated from any danger.

Or I should at least stop complaining and actually do something about it.

I don’t know. Life’s hard.

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I Will Never Be Satisfied

I just ran out of right swipes on Tinder, and so they put me in time-out for 12 hours. (Don’t get confused if this has never happened to you on the app. I read a few articles that say they only do this to “less desirables.”) I was right swiping so fast that, even though I was trying hard to be careful and scrupulous, the faces were a blur. Yes to you, yes to you, and a hell fucking yes to you, babe. I go on these binges all the time. If it’s not Tinder putting me in a time-out, I’m putting myself in a time -ut.

It’s a vicious cycle that I’ve been going through since I started venturing into this wilderness back in August. Don’t get me wrong, dating apps are fun. Some people say it’s not for them, but it’s totally for me. I love it. I love seeing all the possibilities, (judging people from the comfort of my couch,) finding out right away if people are attracted to me, and making the bold first move within the safety net of knowing that they’re interested in me. What’s not to love?

Except that, like Doritos, too much of something I love can destroy me, even if I’m enjoying every minute of the self-demolition.

In the short time I’ve used Tinder, I’ve gone on an almost embarrassingly large number of dates. Within the first 2 weeks of downloading the app, I had gone on dates with 6 people. I have to put myself in time-outs every now in again because I just run out of time and energy, but I’m always excited to get back into it. I honestly can’t even attempt to calculate how many people I’ve dated from the app in total. I don’t know how to feel about this fact.

I’m starting to realize how I might have put myself in a difficult situation that’s sabotaging any chance I have at a healthy romantic relationship. I guess it’s the paradox of choice, but I am never satisfied. I always want more. I want to see who else is out there, start something new and fresh. It’s hard because what I really want is a committed, long-term relationship with my soulmate. However, any time something gets close to becoming committed or exclusive or emotionally invested, I break it off and as soon as I get home I’m back on my swiping binge.

I fly through people like a lunatic, and it’s a problem because I’ve actually met a lot of really cool people that I admire and I had a lot of fun with. But, of course, there would always be something. They’re too needy, or they’re too distant and don’t text me back fast enough, they don’t share my political beliefs, they lack ambition, or there’s just no spark. Sure, these reasons could be totally justified for breaking it off, but if I only go on 2 or 3 dates with someone, how can I just make an informed decision like this?

But on the other hand, going on a series of dates with a person in order to really get to know them and understand them is a huge time commitment. I’d say it’s normal to go on a date a week with a person, but often times it’s even less than that. Let’s say that you need 6 dates to really get to know someone. That’s 6 weeks, at least, that you’re committing your time to this person, and that’s a huge chunk out of your life if they’re not worth it. And, as a personal rule, after 5 dates, I expect exclusivity, so I would have to only date them for part of it, and that takes away from precious time trying to find my actual soulmate.

God, as I’m writing this, I’m feeling like a lunatic. Hopefully some of you can relate, because I’m starting to scare myself.

If you think about it, how does one really know if they have their soulmate? You would think you’d just click right away, but so many couples say they never imagined falling in love with the person they’re with, and it took time for that connection to develop. Maybe I just blew through my soulmate and left her in the pile with the other discards just because she voted for Bernie in the primaries.

There’s one girl I’ve gone on 4 dates with, and this weekend will be number 5 (the magic number), and I’m planning on breaking it off with her after our date because I don’t feel any chemistry. She’s a great person, and I love spending time with her. Also, she shares my love of horror movies, which is a huge plus. There’s just something missing that leaves me feeling dissatisfied with what we have. Am I being unfair? Should I continue to see her and give this a fighting chance? Am I just numbed to the whole experience because I’m experiencing a sensory overload?

I’m genuinely concerned that I’ll never be satisfied if I keep going on like this.

But, if I give up dating apps, it means I’ll have to take time out of my day to go out into the world to meet people (cringe) because there’s no way in fucking hell I’m dating a fellow chemistry grad student (double cringe).

Anyone else have this problem? Am I just being a gluttonous fiend?

 

I have 10 hours and 43 minutes until I can start right swiping again.

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Bisexuality: Am I Choosing to Not Be Straight?

This is a weird thing for me because, despite the facts I know to be true, the word doesn’t feel valid outside of my head. It’s had to explain, but part of it is bisexual erasure, something I’ll write about more from an informative standpoint later on. But this post is about me.

My feelings of invalidity don’t stem from a lack of authenticity or certainty. I’ve been bisexual since I crawled out of the womb, and there was never any question about that. Honestly, I don’t remember there ever being a time that I didn’t know I was attracted to all genders. That’s just how it was for me. I can’t even imagine it being any other way for other people, but that’s also something I’ll cover in a later post.

The problem is that, since I’m attracted to all genders, why don’t I just limit myself to men? Then I’d be a nice straight normal person. I wouldn’t have to deal with judgment from a conservative, religious family. I wouldn’t have to worry about bias and hostility at work or missing out on opportunities because others disapprove of my lifestyle. I could just go about my life as any actual straight person would, except occasionally I’d check out women while no one was looking.

What I’m saying is, an argument as to why gay people can’t force themselves to be straight is because they’re not choosing to be gay. If I’m attracted to men and women, I’m choosing to be bisexual. At least, if we’re going by actions alone. I can never will myself to exclusively be attracted to men, but I can limit myself to only dating, sleeping with, and starting a family with people who identify as men. Now, this is only an issue if I believe that non-straightness is morally wrong. Then, anything that’s non-straight is only okay if it’s something that can’t be helped (i.e. not a choice). I would never in a million years think this way. I’m not just LGBTQIA+ tolerant, but extremely pro-LGBTQIA+. (I absolutely love how long the acronym is getting, by the way. It’s such a nice marker of how much our inclusivity is growing). I’m 100% completely for people pursuing whatever sexuality is right for them, works for them, and makes them happy. Therefore, even if a particular sexuality were a choice, not something you’re born with, I say go for it anyway.

But, that’s not the society we live in. As a whole, I think we’ve moved away from seeing non-straightness as morally wrong, but we still definitely see it as weird. I’m talking as a collective mass, but maybe weird is too harsh. We see it as different. It’s just not something we’re used to. And that makes sense because the majority of people are straight (or at least were conditioned to be straight based on the toxic hetero-normativity running rampant in our society, but I’ll save that for another time…). More notably, it’s extremely underrepresented. We’re getting better about that, but still, it’s pretty rare to see non-straight couples represented in advertising and in entertainment, and when they are there, it’s usually a side character that’s a stereotype cliche, not a fully fleshed-out character.

Even though we’re getting better as a society and as a culture, we’re still nowhere near the point where I could bring a woman as my date to an after-hours work event without carefully considering the possible repercussions, socially and professionally. I don’t even feel comfortable inviting the woman I’ve been dating for 2 months to my coworker’s wedding next month as my plus-one. Though my coworker and I are pretty close and I’d call us friends, her family is very conservative, and so it just wouldn’t feel right. That’s totally fine with me because it’s her day not mine, and so I don’t want to bring unnecessary stress, but it’s not totally fucking fine that me bringing a fellow human to an event as my date would be viewed as unnecessary stress, and it’s not totally fucking fine that I have to consider all of these details and everyone else’s perceptions every time I want to bring a woman as a date to something.

So, even though I see absolutely nothing wrong with my lifestyle, I can’t argue that it would be so much easier if I exclusively dated men. I wouldn’t have to worry about people’s reactions, what they thought of me, if I was causing people undue stress.

I have 3 arguments against this, but I also have counter-arguments to all of them (and one counter-counterargument).

Argument: I’m sappy and I believe in soulmates. What if my soulmate is a woman? If I only date men, I’ll never meet her. I’ll probably get sucked into some mediocre relationship with someone I tolerate because I’ll never know how good it could be.

Counterargument: If the soulmate thing is true, then one would assume that we’ll come across our true soulmate at some point in our lives whether or not we’re actively pursuing them. I could just stop actively pursing women. If I stumble upon my soulmate and she’s a woman, so be it, but otherwise, I could just stick to men.

Argument: Since I don’t believe that non-straightness is morally wrong, if I chose to only date men, it would be for society, not for me. It would be giving into what society sees as normal, which is something I’ve never done, nor is it something I’m okay doing. Also, it’s like shunning people who are actively non-straight. It’s like I’m saying “Sure, I’ll say I support what you’re doing, but I’m not going to do it myself because it’s ewy.”

Counterargument: A common defense of a non-straight lifestyle is that they don’t choose to be gay. They were just born that way. If I’m essentially choosing to be non-straight, it’s like I’m making a mockery of that way of life and invalidating their struggles. Also, if I do end up settling down with a man, it’s like I’m jumping ship when things get difficult and abandoning their cause.

Argument: Bisexuality is a part of who I fundamentally am, and it’s deeply ingrained in my identity. Furthermore, being actively bisexual makes me happy, and it makes me feel free from the constraints of others. It’s not just about limiting my options or appearing normal—choosing to act straight when I’m not feels like I’m hiding. It’s kind of like when I made the choice to stop wearing makeup and stop shaving my legs. It wasn’t so much about the end result, it was about acknowledging that this is who I am, and I no longer feel the need to hide it from the world.

Counterargument: The fact that I can’t just do it in hiding, but I want to be open about it is proof that it’s more than just a personal thing. Even if it makes me happy, it affects other people. My family would be super uncomfortable with it, and people in attendance at said events might also be uncomfortable and I could make scenes. Therefore, I would be inflicting my personal happiness on other people to potentially cause damage.

Counter-counterargument: If seeing a woman with another woman causes damage to someone, they need to get the fuck over themselves because there is something seriously wrong with them. It’s not that I need other people to acknowledge my sexuality, but I need to not be in hiding about it. I’m not going to wave it around in other people’s faces begging for validation, but if the mere presence of it bothers people, that’s their problem, not mine.

Okay, I’m done arguing with myself because it’s getting a little weird, but this is essentially what goes on in my head all the time. I’m just going back and forth with myself trying to justify my life choices. It’s pointless really. I’m not going to choose to be straight. That’s not something I was ever interested in doing, even if it is easier and I’m a lazy bastard that usually takes the easiest way out of everything. I’m a huge advocate for self-acceptance, and this is my self, and I am accepting. It just still feels questionable to me, like I’m being selfish.

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What even is virginity?

Someone said this word to me today and ugh, the word alone is so cringy. It’s so unbelievably outdated that I have no idea why it’s still being tossed around when we no longer barter wives for cows. It’s the equivalent of asking “has the package been opened?” And this question is easy to answer for a toaster on Amazon, but kind of hard for people, who don’t come in packages. I don’t even know what I would call myself. Gently used, maybe? But if it’s strictly my body’s condition we’re talking about, then maybe something more like, “seal has been only partially broken, but someone dropped it down a few flights of stairs, so contents may be in very poor condition.” But, sexually, what does it mean?

Here’s where I’m going to go a bit into my sexual deviancy, as I try to tackle how many cows I’m worth, and whether I can crown myself with the big “V” (not the sexy one). People say virginity is never having had sex, but, still, what does that mean? Does it mean, has the penis gone into the vagina? If that’s it, then I can never have sex with women (what a sad thought…). Does it mean, has the hymen been broken? So there are a lot of people having sex with a tampon or having sex while in the middle of strenuous physical activity. Is it, having an orgasm? In which case, I have a lot of sex, but no partners…

Anytime someone says the word virgin around me, and it’s not in reference to olive oil, I get really repulsed and I don’t want any sexy business to happen.

Maybe, instead of asking if someone is a virgin, we should just ask what we really want to know. Like the following:

“Should I go slow?”

“Are you feeling nervous?”

“Do you want to do anything special?”

“Do you know how to do this/do you feel comfortable doing this?”

“Have you been tested for STIs recently?”

“Should I pick up some lube while I’m at Target?”

“Do you like the soundtrack to Chicago playing in the background or is that just me?”

Maybe, now here’s a crazy thought, instead of slapping ambiguous labels on things and then getting hurt when our expectations aren’t met, we open a dialogue that involves more than a one-word answer. Maybe we should stop using archaic language rooted in sexism and both educate ourselves on our own and other sex’s anatomy and ask questions when we don’t know things so that we can be informed and be brought closer together. Maybe we should stop treating each other’s bodies like Amazon packages because you know the good stuff is never Prime eligible. Maybe we should know by now that a vagina doesn’t have to bleed the first time it’s penetrated as long as it isn’t being jack-rabbited. Maybe we need to finally figure this stuff out because it’s 2018 for Christ’s sake.

That is all.

(No, Amazon did not sponsor this message, but I’m open to it, if they’re interested)

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