As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Bruce McIntyre's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
April 17th of this year, after a frustrating attempt to call our doctor, Amber tweeted:
Four days later, she was dead.
Amber was admitted into Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY on April 21st to give birth to our beautiful son, Elias.
But she never got to meet him, she never got to leave. We looked forward to being a family, to living our lives with our baby boy. And we were robbed of that opportunity. Amber fell victim to the 37.1 mortality statistic black women face in America, in an underlying racial bias of dismissive, unattended disparity that's discussed somewhat, but not enough. There's no doubt in my mind, if Amber was white, she would still be alive today.
Am I OK? No. Will I be? I'm not sure.
I miss her, and I struggle. I get angry, I get sad. I loved that woman. And I lost her at the hands of others; at the hands of negligence. The good news is that the mortality rates for black women are going down, but what does that mean for those who've already experienced the pain?
I was born May 12, 1991 in Auburn, NY. Growing up was not easy for me at all, especially being the first-born. All of the pressure was on me after my father left. I became the man of the house at the age of seven and had to help take care of my younger siblings. We were poor and my mom had to work all day, so I was home taking care of my siblings. We had no car, so we had to walk everywhere or try to get rides from friends. The winters were harsh. There were times my mom was at work and I would have to carry one brother while holding another's hand traveling through six inches of snow to get to my grandmother's house just because she cooked. We were made fun of because of our clothes and haircuts.
I always wanted more for my family. Seeing my mother slave away to a job that didn't appreciate her did something to my soul.
I got locked up and sent to a juvenile center for a few months at 15. The judge knew I had a hard life (jumped by gang members at 10, kicked out of the house, sleeping at friend's houses, hustling for food, etc.) but he also knew I wasn't a bad kid. He told me if he saw me in his court again, he was going to give me 15 years.
And that's all I needed, I never looked back. Instead, I found other avenues to live the right way.
I met Amber through mutual friends in like 2006.
Courtesy of Bruce
When we would see each other, it was more of a "hi" and "bye" thing. I was moving between the Bronx and North Carolina every two-ish years, so we started catching up through Facebook, and would check in with each other occasionally. I tried to be more than friends with her and shoot my shot, but she turned me down. She was focused on herself, her goals, and career at the time. We kept in touch and got to know each other better over time. In 2018, I was heading up to New York from North Carolina for my birthday weekend when Amber invited me to her graduation. I didn't make it because I was still on the road, but the next day we met up and I took her out to celebrate.
We were glued together ever since.
One summer night, we were in Brooklyn on one of our regular date nights, and we stopped into a bookstore. She was looking at a hip-hop baby book and telling me how she couldn't leave without this book. She said, "You know, it's about time for us to have a baby," and she gave me this look. By October 2019, she was pregnant, and due at the end of May.
And everything was great at the beginning. I loved seeing her pregnant. There were no complications.
Elias was on schedule. She was so beautiful.
Once we made it to March, her second trimester, things began to change. It was time to begin having more frequent check-ups, but because of the pandemic, everything was virtual. Virtual visits, virtual appointments. Zoom, telehealth, you name it. She wasn't seen in-person the whole month. She would call and say, "Hey, I need my blood work back, I haven't heard anything..."
It became a daily routine. And no one reached back out to us. We couldn't get an in-person appointment, hospitals were a mess. It just seemed as if we were giving birth during the end of the world.
When we finally received her blood work, we learned that her platelet levels were extremely low. She had developed HELLP syndrome and was rushed to the hospital for an emergency C-section.
Before she went in, I couldn't hug her, couldn't kiss her. And then...she died. With no one around.
It all happened so fast, so suddenly. Just like that, she was gone.
But we had so many plans.
We were going to get married through the court system, and save for our wedding.
I was even supposed to propose the day of our baby shower, but COVID shut down our event space and the owner ran off with our money. Nothing was going how we hoped. And I never got the chance to propose.
If I'm being honest—a hundred percent honest—I haven't really been able to cope with it. Some days I don't think it's possible. Knowing your twin flame, the one that you were destined to spend the rest of your life with, and that you were supposed to do life with, is suddenly gone, is hard. And knowing how preventable her death was, will always haunt me.
I knew I had to somehow pick myself up and tell our story. I knew there were millions of other black women that needed both of us speak up.
Soon after, I started the SaveARose Foundation in her honor, which has turned out to be one of the most therapeutic aspects of this journey. I've learned the importance of carrying a load. Nothing stops you. I'm constantly doing interviews or having to leave town to advocate. I've been in meetings with Senators, legislators, congressmen/women, city council members, etc. I've told my story to everyone from Essence, to The New York Times, to Good Morning America, to Rickey Smiley.
My goal became bringing change and reshaping the way we view healthcare by any means. Primarily, healthcare for black women.
And I get so much love and support from everyone. Family, friends, the birthing community. My communities and the members of SaveARose, and sometimes even strangers from all over the world. The craziest thing about advocate work, is no one doing it ever expected for them to be the one on the frontline. One day, this heavy baton is suddenly shoved in your face, and you have to pick it up.
As far as our son, Elias...I love that kid. He is Amber's absolute twin, it's so fascinating. He has many characteristics from us both, but he lights up just like Amber did, especially when he smiles. He is just so happy, he's always smiling and laughing. He's been finding his voice so he's been trying to talk and communicate with me. He will make his own little word up and start laughing, and I assume he's trying to tell me some fire jokes so I laugh with him. He doesn't like to be babied, though, and he has this mean side-eye that Amber had.
Me, I have good and bad days. I try to take time to myself by escaping the city to breathe fresh air or I spend my time with Elias. I don't practice self-care as much as I'd like, I've always put others before myself. To see someone else happy because I was able to help them, brings me joy. Steering people away from anxiety and depression feels like I'm saving a life.
And as for Amber...
I honor her every day.
I honor her through co-parenting.
I honor her by waking up every morning and fighting for her.
I honor her by advocating for other families so that this doesn't happen to more mothers, fathers, and children.
I honor Amber through SaveARose.
I honor Amber by taking care of her community.
I honor Amber by working towards bringing a birthing center to the Bronx.
I honor Amber by making her eternal through Art.
I honor Amber by making sure she marks her place on this planet and throughout history.
Bruce has dedicated his life to advocating for the significance of black women's voices in healthcare. He is working to bring a freestanding midwifery-led birthing center that provides wellness and education to the Bronx. Follow both him [bizmacthe3rd] and SaveARose Foundation [savearose.foundation] on Instagram for all of the latest news and updates.
Please send any donations, encouragement, or items for Elias to:
2549 Jerome Avenue
P.O. Box 32
Bronx, NY 10468
Feature image courtesy of Bruce McIntyre
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Charmin Michelle is a southern native and creative spirit who works as a content marketer and events manager in Chicago. She enjoys traveling, #SummertimeChi, and the journey of mastering womanhood. Connect with her on Instagram @charminmichelle.
Three Influencers Show Off Their 2022 Holiday Hair Looks Using Their SheaMoisture Faves
This post is in partnership with SheaMoisture.
For Black women, there’s one compliment that will boost our confidence like none other: “Come through hair!” You know the vibe! Walking into a room with folks acknowledging that your hair is laid for the gawds, and the effort that it took to get it there, is a top five feeling. And with the holiday season just weeks away, you’ll be hearing that quite often. Between Thanksgiving gatherings with the family, Friendsgiving, company parties, and Christmas get-togethers, the opportunities to let your hair show up and show out aren’t too far away.
Apart from the holiday stuntin’, the end-of-year slow down is also the perfect opportunity to reevaluate the year your hair has had. Whether you kept it cute with protective braids, went big with blowouts, or let loose with textured twist-outs, this is the perfect time to give your hair the gift of TLC - tender lovin’ curls. Like the weather, our hair goes through seasons and has different needs depending on what we’ve put it through. Perhaps the transition into fall/winter has left your curls a bit parched and in need of some serious hydration. Or maybe your strands could use some restorative conditioning after taking it down from a convenient protective style. No matter what category you fall into, SheaMoisture has hundreds of ways that you can clean, treat and refresh your hair for a healthy shine that will bring you into the new year right. Bring your curls back to life with the nourishing and fragrant Coconut & Hibiscus line. Boosted with natural ingredients such as coconut oil, neem oil, carrot oil, and shea butter, this line is the antidote to reviving thirsty, dehydrated hair. Even better - with SheaMoisture’s custom quiz, you can get a hair analysis that will lead you to the right products for your hair needs. Say hello to sleek edges, and moisturized, stronger strands.
In need of a little hair-spiration? We got you covered! xoNecole and SheaMoisture have teamed up with three natural hair influencers to debut their holiday hair looks. Meet Ambrosia Malbrough, Jasmin Moses, and Daye Covington - beauty bawses who’ve created some incredible holiday looks that are stylish and easy to achieve. They also gave us the scoop on the SheaMoisture products they’re loving right now, as well as their 2023 hair goals.
Read on for more:
Daye Covington Kicks Her Twist Out Up A Notch With A Voluminous Updo
“I wanted to create a style that was super cute but also easy to pull together, so I went with a puff and tendril combo! It's a style that can be done on freshly washed curls or one that can be done on old hair. [It’s perfect for] when we're short for time but want to add a little razzle-dazzle to our hair before a special occasion. It's very versatile!”
“My favorite Shea Moisture product hand's down is the Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie! That is definitely a #TeamNaturalHair staple. Coconut is one of the ingredients that my hair favors. I also find that medium/light creams absorb best in my hair, so it's no surprise that I get amazing definition and moisture when I use the Curl Enhancing Smoothie. I love it for twist-outs, braid-outs, and rod set styles. Any product that can give me versatility when it comes to styling plus added moisture, that's what a staple is for me!”
“I would love to dye my hair back to blue! It was my favorite hair color, but unfortunately, my 9-5 now prohibits unnatural hair colors. I'm pushing it with this dark plum color, but I look forward to the day where I can transition into a new stage of life and go back to blue. In the meantime, I'm focusing on length retention. I've been doing well for 2022 and have had no major cuts so I'm hoping to stay consistent with my routine in 2023.”
Follow Daye on Instagram @dayelasoul
Ambrosia Malbrough Made Magic With Poppin’ And Defined Finger Coils
“[Finger coils] is a style that I don’t do often, it takes much more time than my usual wash and go. But that extra time put in makes it extra special and so worth it. The results are beautiful. It’s a style that offers many days of wear, too!”
“[Earlier this year] I did my 4th big chop. This time around hit different as a mom of two. I don’t always have the extra time on my hands to put into my hair, so the short ‘do has been convenient. I’ve realized that not all wash days are created equal even if I use the same products. However, my 4c coils are loving the products I'm using now”
“Since I’ve been having my hair dyed, I’m looking forward to trying Shea Moisture’s new Mongongo and Jojoba Oils High Porosity Moisture Replenish Hair Masque. I am currently growing my hair out and plan on having fun with more highlights and a new shape - possibly a shag cut in 2023!”
Follow Ambrosia on Instagram at @brosiaaa
Jasmin Moses Shows The Secrets To Her Jaw-Dropping Curly Ponytail
“I love doing a sleek ponytail with my baby hairs laid to a T! It helps so my hair isn't in the way when I am cooking and running errands, but it's still snatched to provoke anyone in the room to stop me to say 'girllll your hair is laid!'. I like to add a little razzle dazzle by adding my cute, naturally curly ponytail extensions. It elevates the look perfectly for the holidays.”
“It took me from my freshman year of college to now, almost seven whole years, to know what works for my hair. I love protective styles like wigs and braids because my hair thrives when I don't mess with it. When I leave my hair alone, it grows the best, so I love taking off my wig when I get home, oiling my scalp and putting my bonnet on for bed! When I do wear my natural hair out, what helps me maintain the health of my hair is to get in a rhythm with my hair. [I do] my wash days on Sunday, wear it in a wash n’ go all week, and repeat the next Sunday.”
“My 2023 hair goal is to get back to my 2021 hair length! Recently, a hairstyle damaged my hair causing me to lose 4 inches in length, which was not fun. So I’m working on getting [my hair] back to its original health and keep growing from there! I am also looking forward to trying the Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie as a one-product wash n’ go! I hear such great things about it and I think it will give me hold while also keeping my hair lightweight and voluminous. I’m also excited about the Coconut & Hibiscus Defining Styling Gel and Edge Gel.”
Follow Jasmin on Instagram @slimreshae
Ladies, This Is How To Date Smart Instead Of Hard
While recently talking to a couple of early 30-something never-been-married-before women about how much they want to settle down, and yet, at the same time, they’ve gotten to the point where they almost loathe the thought of dating, I got inspired to write this article.
Now before getting into some tips that I’m hoping will help a few folks out, let me first say that I think it doesn’t really matter if someone is 24 or 54, is a single mom or has no kids, is an extrovert, introvert or ambivert, wants to get married someday or is simply looking for companionship (check out “Single-Minded: So, What If You Like Dating But DON’T Desire Marriage?”) — dating definitely can be a bit of a challenge right through here.
In my opinion, some of it is because we’re still dealing with the aftershocks of the pandemic. Another reason is that things have become so damn transactional these days that I’m not sure if folks even get what the purpose of dating is anymore (mostly, it’s to get to know individuals better so that you can determine who is your right fit). Still, another reason is that when we do step out into the dating waters (that are sometimes raging), some of us are already a bit jaded due to our past experiences, our friends’ stories, and/or those (oftentimes) horrible tales that we hear on TikTok.
Let’s simplify it all a bit, shall we? Although online dating and long-distance relationships are continuing to thrive in their own way, the reality is that if you want to establish a solid connection with someone, chances are, you’re going to need to participate in some old-school dating on some level. So, in order to increase your chances of those encounters being truly successful for you, here are some things that I advise you to do along the way.
Be Clear About Why You’re Dating in the First Place — and Communicate ItGiphy
A woman recently told me that what’s pissing her off (her exact words) about the dating scene is, while she’s personally looking for her future husband when it comes to the kinds of men that she keeps running into, although they’ve wanted more than just a casual sex partner, marriage wasn’t on the menu. Not even a lil’ bit.
Yeah, one day, we’ll get into why more and more men are shying away from marriage — quite possibly more than ever before. For now, I’ll just say that if a person feels like they are meeting the needs of their partner while they’re also being told that theirs aren’t important, only for their partner to initiate divorce (over 70 percent of women do) and then take half of their earnings…I mean, I get why many guys are hard passing on the notion.
Anyway, because the men she was going out with didn’t want what she did, she’s been finding it discouraging to continue her dating journey. As she was talking to me about all of this, I asked her how long she would wait to bring her ultimate goals up.
Her: “I mean, I don’t want to scare men off, so I don’t really mention it at all.”
Yeah, that’s not good. Even though I get where she’s coming from, if you want to date in order to find your potential mate, you should never assume that the people you’re seeing automatically know that because not everyone is dating for the same purpose and reasons.
So, when should it come up? Not the first date because that’s basically a meet-and-greet to see if there’s anything “there” at all. However, if the second date goes well, it’s okay to say that your motive for dating is to ultimately find your life partner; that you’re not moving in fear or impatience, but you don’t see the point in dating indefinitely either. If a guy is on the same page, he’ll be fine with that.
If he’s not, he won’t — but at least you’ll both know where each other stands which can spare you from finding out that he was cool being with you but never wanted you to become his wife…three years down the pike.
Value Your TimeGiphy
When it comes to valuing time, some of my favorite quotes include "Trouble is, you think you have time" (Jack Kornfield); "Time and effort can get you anything you want in the world. But nothing in the world can get you more time" (Matt Fox); "Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it" (M. Scott Peck); "The one that values his time can value the time of others as well" (Sunday Adelaja); and "Time is the wisest counsellor of all" (Pericles).
Keeping all of these in mind, another benefit of knowing why you do what you do is that it can help you to value your time better. For instance, I have no interest in dating someone who has young children. This means that it doesn't matter how fine or funny a man is, if I meet you and that is what you have going on, why would I waste your time or mine by continuing to date you?
I can't tell you how many single people have come to me all distraught because they ignored their own preferences, got emotionally caught up, and now they are trying to figure out if they should totally ignore the very things that they said they did — or didn't — want in the first place.
Bottom line, please value your time and feelings enough to know what are non-negotiables and then not go further with people who fall into those categories. It's not a selfish act. When it comes to valuing another person's time, too, it's actually a really thoughtful one.
Learn a Few Current Dating TrendsGiphy
At the end of the day, trends are simply something that's popular at any given time. As far as dating goes, knowing some current dating trends can prove to be beneficial because it can 1) provide some insight on how to potentially approach dating at any given time and/or 2) help you to detect some things that might be going on with someone while you're on your say, first, second or third date with them.
That said, some trends that are, well, trending this year include open casting and infla-dating.
As far as open casting goes, the best way to describe it is it's all about stepping out of your "type" (check out "According To Experts, We All Have A 'Type'") and instead being willing to date individuals who may not look or even act the way that you're accustomed to. Now for the record, this doesn't mean that you should compromise your standards, deal-breakers, or boundaries in any way. It's more about not being so rigid in wanting a guy who is 6'2" and chocolate that you're not willing to even consider 5'10" and caramel. Because the reality is that a good man (if that's truly what you are after) may not look exactly like you prefer, yet if he's truly right for you, making that kind of compromise really won't matter much at the end of the day. Trust me.
Another dating trend is known as infla-dating. Can you guess what it's all about? Basically, it's the kind of dating that takes into account the fact that a lot of us just don't have the coins that we used to. For instance, I live in Music City, and an article came out recently that said you basically have to work somewhere around 60 hours a week in order to afford the ever-skyrocketing rink of this place. SMDH. I wish I could say that Nashville is the exception, but it's not. So now folks are finding more creative ways to date so that they don't have to tap into their rent money or their savings account in order to do it.
And for the record, that kind of approach isn't being "cheap." It's being wise. Shoot, I know a lot of couples who are on the brink of calling it quits as we speak because one or both of them aren't financially savvy. So yeah, dating people who can think outside of the box and still create some awesome dating memories while also being able to handle their financial responsibilities and obligations in the process? That reveals a thoughtful individual who is good at adulting too. If that ain't a solid potential long-term partner candidate, I don't know who is.
Keep the First Date BriefGiphy
Listen, I'm a woman, and even I don't get all of this $200 first-date nonsense. If I was a guy, I would see that as a peak hustle, too, because there is no reason why a man who barely knows someone should be shelling out that kind of cash right out the gate. Know what else? There's no reason why a woman who values herself should want to automatically give someone the privilege of 2-3 hours of her time initially, either.
Honestly, unless you already know the person you're going on a first date with (for instance, a friendship is transitioning into something more or you've been talking to someone online or on the phone for a while and you're planning on meeting up for the first time), a first date needs to be light and not expected to go over more than an hour or so. Why? Because all that you're initially doing is trying to see if there is some chemistry and even a mutual interest to take things further — and you don't need more than a meet-up at a coffee shop or a bar for a glass or two of wine to do that.
If your immediate response is, "that's frugal AF," — I mean, if all your motive was is to get an expensive meal or reenact something you saw on some dating show on television…maybe. Yet, if you genuinely want to maximize your precious moments (not to mention energy and effort), a brief and semi-casual first date is the way to go. Besides, if there does happen to be a mutual spark, it's not like the two of you can't book a second date…hell, the next day if you want to.
Ask. Don’t Interrogate.
Reply to @jwillis808 Here’s my list! #datingtips #listofthings #dating #datingadvice
Listen, this woman said that she has a fiancé, so clearly, this method worked for her. THAT SAID, although I am a big fan of people knowing what they desire in a partner, I will say that if you plan on also coming up with an Old Testament scroll of characteristics and qualities, just make sure to keep in mind that sometimes what you want may not be exactly what you need — which is why it's a good idea to be flexible on some things. Also, the goal is not to find the perfect person but someone who is a great complement to your life (check out "If He's Right For You, He Will COMPLEMENT Your Life").
That’s why it’s also a good idea to not treat your dates like they are an interrogation. While it’s cool to touch on points that are of great importance to you, no one wants to feel like they are being bogged down with tons of inquiries.
So, how do you avoid wearing someone out on a date? Per date, think about 3-5 things that are a priority to you and ask about those. For instance, if you've had a pattern in the past of doing most of the work in your relationships, ask him about how he values reciprocity in a relationship. Or if spirituality is of the utmost importance, ask him what his spiritual practice is and how long it's been that way.
The reason why I provided these as examples is because…did you notice how they were worded in a way that still gets the results that you're looking for without someone feeling like they are being put on the spot?
I'm gonna be real, some folks end up self-sabotaging their dates, and it's because they come all anxious and hurried. You can't get to know everything that you need to know in two hours. Ask some questions, sure, yet also enjoy just learning someone's vibe too because it also reveals…quite a bit.
Expect Them to Have Expectations TooGiphy
On the heels of what I just said, it never ceases to amaze me how some people think that they can have a book of what they want in a person and then act shocked when someone comes with their own comprised list. It’s almost like the “book person” is on some “You need to be everything that I expect and more, but you shouldn’t expect anything more than me showing up because I am enough automatically.” Yeah, I’m pretty sure you can hear all of the ego that is just oozing out of that sentence, not to mention how unfair and even unrealistic that way of thinking is.
So, if you’re someone who thinks that you “are the table” (insert eye rolls here) and so there should be no questions asked of you — I already see why dating hasn’t been working in your favor.
Just like you want to see how a man can add to your life, men want to know the same thing. Going on the defensive only causes them to build up walls. In other words, prepare to be a lot of what you expect. If that’s a challenge for you…maybe shorten that list — or at least don’t articulate as much of it — up.
Emotionally Pace YourselfGiphy
What happens if, after the first date, the guy checks off all of your (initial) boxes, and you’re ready to call your mama and tell her that you think that he’s the one? Yeah, PLEASE DON’T. While it’s cool to be excited about someone, if you don’t emotionally pace yourself, the elation can have you coming off as rushing things or even being too pushy if you’re not careful.
How? Well, if you really do think that he’s a great match for you, you could start emotionally processing him that way which could cause you to have expectations that are premature: “You think I’m awesome, and I think you’re awesome, so why haven’t you texted me this morning?” or “You said that you want to do this again, so why has it been four days and you haven’t booked another date yet?” GOODNESS.
I once read a study that said that when it comes to cultivating a true friendship, it takes 40-60 hours to create a casual friendship, 80-100 hours to become an actual friend, and 200-plus hours to become good friends. And that’s friendship, so why would you expect a relationship to miraculously unfold after three dinner dates?
Almost any emotionally healthy person is going to gravitate to an atmosphere of calm and serenity. So, while it’s okay to express that you’re looking forward to where this could go, as Benjamin Franklin so poignantly once said, “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” In other words, try not to allow your feelings to override the reality that everything has a time and purpose, and, as a wise person once said, “Time prevents everything from happening all at once.” In other other words, pulling on flower petals, trying to get them to hurry up and bloom, only ruins the flower.
Listen, if you don’t get anything else out of this article, please get how important it is to date from a place of mindfulness. And just what does that mean exactly? A simple explanation is when you are being mindful, you’re intentional about remaining in the moment. You’re not caught up in the past or consumed with the future.
When it comes to dating, in particular, mindfulness can be super beneficial because you’re not focused on comparing the current person with the people you’ve dated before, and you’re also not causing unnecessary anxiety and/or stress and/or drama by applying pressure on yourself or the person you’re getting to know by being obsessed with the possibilities of the future.
If you’d like to be more mindful in theory but you’re not exactly sure how to put it into practice, there are mindfulness principles that we all can stand to put into practice more often:
Reality. Reality is about what is rooted in truth and facts, not what you want or wish something to be. You can sho ‘nuff spare yourself some drama and trauma if you are someone who lives in reality while you’re dating instead of some rom-com or fairy tale that you’ve conjured up in your mind.
Accept. How would you feel if someone tried to change you? Exactly. Some people have a really bad habit of trying to “tweak folks” so that they can “make them fit” into their dating/relationship/marriage narrative. Avoid this, please. Accept people for who they are. If you can get wit it, awesome. If not, maybe they are just meant to be a friend — and that can be a blessing too.
Relax. To relax is to be less rigid, which speaks to being more flexible. When it comes to dating, this can help because if you’re willing to just let things reveal themselves as they come, that can help you to avoid overthinking or putting more stress on yourself than you should.
No one said that dating was easy. Still, if you’re a bit easier on yourself and the people you choose to go out with, each date can be an opportunity, a lesson, or a win. And all of these can be beneficial — if you choose to date smart instead of, well, hard.
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Featured image by Westend81/Getty Images