You know how they say that the two things that are certain in life are death and taxes? Yeah, well, if you're a woman, another thing that is sure to head your way is menopause. It's that time of life (on average, it happens for women once they turn 51) when we have gone a full 12 months without a menstrual cycle (so long as there may not have been underlying health issues that could play a valid role). It comes as the direct result of your body not producing enough estrogen for your ovaries to release an egg every month. As a result, with menopause comes the inability to conceive a child.
The reality is that even before menopause transpires, your body typically goes through stages of transition for somewhere between 7-10 years (although "official" perimenopause typically lasts for no more than four) beforehand. Your estrogen and progesterone levels tend to be on a serious roller coaster ride. Your menstrual cycle may be super irregular or spotty as all get out. You might experience hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, weight gain, a slower metabolism, headaches, thinning hair, dry skin, breasts that are less "perky" and a lower libido. It's a lot, I know. The reason why I'm mentioning all of this is because there is oftentimes a misconception that these things are menopause when the reality is these are what can happen as you're headed into menopause. It's oftentimes referred to as perimenopause. What happens to us after menopause happens—well, we're going to look into one thing specifically today.
If you're someone who either fears the thought of menopause or you've recently gone through it and you're freaking out a bit because your sex life doesn't seem to be quite like it used to, get yourself some bing cherries or a peach (more on why in a sec) and I'll share with you some facts that can make going through this very natural stage of life so much easier to bear.
1. A Change Is Definitely Gonna Come
Menopause is interesting in the sense that, unless you had one or both of your ovaries removed when you were very young, you will definitely experience menopause at some point in your life. That doesn't mean that you'll have to go through all of the symptoms that I shared that lead up to menopause (some women experience little to none of 'em); however, you should pretty much put yourself in the mindset that some sort of change will happen—even if it's just that fact that, eventually, your period will come to an end.
And since that is due to the fact that your body is producing less estrogen (along with less testosterone and progesterone) than it used to, it's important to prepare yourself that it could definitely affect your sex drive. This includes taking longer to be aroused; your clitoris not getting as erect (or erect as quickly) as it used to; your vagina being drier; your vaginal walls becoming thinner (we'll talk more about this in a bit) and you having a more difficult time experiencing an orgasm (if you experience one at all). This actually makes a lot of sense because most of us are our horniest during our ovulation period (when our body passes an egg and awaits a sperm to fertilize it). When eggs don't pass anymore, ovulation ceases and a spike in sexual desire can tank.
I know. What a depressing way to start off an article. Yet the reality is that when you know what could happen beforehand, you can actually prepare for it. And the less shocking things are, the less traumatized you'll be and the more you'll be able to accept all of this as a new season that requires a few adjustments. Let's keep going so that you can know what some of those adjustments entail.
2. A Dip in Estrogen Can Affect Your Libido During Menopause
The reality is that estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are all natural hormones that your body produces. When there are higher levels of them in your system, that directly increases vaginal lubrication and sexual desire overall. When there is a drop in any of these hormones or there is a hormonal imbalance, all of the things that I mentioned in the intro can transpire. That's the bad news. The good news is there's estrogen therapy that is available. Your doctor may prescribe some estrogen pills, patches or even a topical cream, suppository or vaginal ring (you can read more about some of those options here).
Because I have a lot of natural health people in my space, something else that I'm aware of is wild yam extract or cream. It is an all-natural alternative to traditional estrogen therapy. Some women sing highly of its praises. If you want to avoid the potential side effects of what can sometimes come with estrogen therapy, it's at least worth looking into. Red clover and flaxseed supplements can also be helpful, considering they are phytoestrogens which is a form of estrogen. Whatever you decide to do, just remember that less estrogen tends to equal a lower desire for sex, so when menopause happens, more estrogen should be added to balance everything back out as much as possible.
3. You May Experience Some Discomfort (or Pain)
Something that a dip in estrogen can do is actually cause your vaginal tissues to become thinner and sometimes inflamed. The cause of this is the result of something known as vaginal atrophy (which can happen during menopause, breastfeeding, a partial hysterectomy or if you're undergoing cancer treatments). Along with it, other symptoms include vaginal dryness, vaginal burning, frequent urination, an uptick in UTIs (urinary tract infections), shortening and tightening of your vaginal canal, and discomfort or even pain during intercourse. If any of this becomes an issue for you, make an appointment to see your doctor so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Sometimes estrogen treatments or bringing lubrication into the bedroom can nip a lot of this right in the bud. And speaking of lube, the next point.
4. Getting Wet Can Be More of a Challenge in Menopause
Remember how I just stated that vaginal atrophy can lead to vaginal dryness? Sex when you're not wet (enough) definitely doesn't feel good which is why, when you're going through the transition of menopause, lubrication should become one of your best friends. Also, make sure that you're getting plenty of water (being dehydrated can affect things down below too) and that you eat foods that are known to keep your body moisturized (check out "These Foods Will Give Your Skin & Hair The Moisture They Crave"). Oh, and you might want to keep some Vitamin E oil close by. Not only can breaking open a capsule help to lubricate your vulva but it can also soothe your vaginal lining without irritating it as well. There's another thing that can help you to get wetter. It's the best thing you've probably read thus far.
5. Foreplay Will Probably Need to Be Extended
I've shared in other sex-related articles on this platform before that while it takes men somewhere around five minutes to climax, it typically takes us more like 25. Foreplay is what helps us to become sexually aroused and, once menopause happens, you'll probably need extended sessions of it. Kissing. Fondling. Some of us actually consider oral sex to be foreplay (kinda like the appetizer before the full course meal). Bringing in exercises such as orgasmic meditation as a build-up to mindful orgasms can be super helpful too.
Really, when you stop to think about it, needing more time for foreplay in order to get aroused isn't just about menopause. When you were in your 20s, the "jackrabbit sex" that a lot of us engaged in isn't appealing after 35 or so anyway. You want more time to enjoy your partner, to get all five of your senses (touch, sight, taste, smell, and hearing) involved in the experience as much as possible and to simply relax and go with the flow (pun intended and not intended at the same time). Hmph. I once had a wife tell me that she needed to use her own spit to make herself wet before sex (what in the world?!) and it had nothing to do with menopause or an underlying health issue. Her husband was just selfish AF in bed. They're divorced now.
Hopefully, as we mature, we become better lovers because we know that it's about more than just "getting to the end". If anything, menopause is a glaring reminder of this very fact. More foreplay is a good—and beneficial—thing. Get into it.
6. You’ll Need to Make Some Minor Bedroom Adjustments
Probably one of the most common symptoms that you hear about when the topic of menopause comes up is hot flashes (for the record, other things that lead to them like diabetes, birth control, an underactive thyroid, radiation therapy, pregnancy and stress). The reason behind it is, when estrogen tanks, it makes your body become way more sensitive to the shifts in body temperature (our hypothalamus) than it used to be. And here's the thing—while hot flashes are the most common (and intense) as you head into menopause, they can sometimes last well into your 80s (crazy, right?).
I don't know about y'all, but I hate a hot bedroom and shoot, while you're having sex (if it's good sex), there's a pretty good chance that it's gonna get you all hot 'n bothered, literally, on its own. You can't really control when a hot flash comes along, which is why I recommend making some bedroom adjustments once menopause happens. Turn down your thermostat to around 65 degrees. Install a ceiling fan, if you don't have one. Keep some cool water nearby. Limit how much alcohol you drink if sex is in the plans that day (because alcohol is something else that can bring along a hot flash; caffeine can too). Go with some organic cotton bedding (it's a "breathable" fabric) and sleep naked as much as you can. Sometimes the urge is there but things like a hot flash can still make you take a hard pass. Being ready for when one comes along could be another "hack" that can make sex way more pleasant for you.
7. There Are Natural Ways to Balance Your Hormones During Menopause
Menopause will definitely have your hormones going all over the place. Again, since your ovaries produce less estrogen (and progesterone), it not only takes a toll on your sex drive, it can cause you not to feel as great as you normally do. For instance, it's not uncommon for low estrogen levels to lead to depression-related symptoms and for low progesterone to lead to anxiety and migraines. Who wants to have sex when any of this is going on? That's why it's also a good idea to put your body on a regimen that can help to balance your hormone levels out naturally.
Things like reducing your sugar intake; exercises 2-3 times (for 30-45 minutes) a week; reducing your stress levels; consuming more protein; eating natural estrogen-boosting foods like bing cherries, peaches, sesame seeds, garlic, wholegrain bread, alfalfa sprouts, carrots, apples and coffee; taking an evening primrose oil supplement; taking a Vitamin B and C supplement and eating foods that are high in Vitamin E such as sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, collard greens, red bell peppers and wheat germ oil—all of this will help to balance your hormones so that you'll feel more like your "old" self and more in the mood for sex.
8. Pay Close Attention to Your Mental and Emotional Well-Being
As a doula, something that I recommend my clients do is see a therapist/counselor/life coach at some point during their first year of being a new mom. The main reason why is because, no matter how awesome the season of being a new mommy can be, there is still some grieving that must happen and some processing that needs to work out as you release a lot of "what was" for "what is". Because the reality is, a baby changes a lot of things; sometimes you need help knowing how to work through your emotions about that.
In many ways, the same point applies to menopause. As a woman in my 40s who still has a period like clockwork (chile) and has made peace about not conceiving children, there is a part of me that absolutely cannot wait to retire this menstrual cup of mine. At the same time, I know it's also one thing to choose to not have kids; it's another to not be able to anymore.
Menopause is a common thing that is nothing to be embarrassed about, ashamed of or even uncomfortable with. Still, it's a big enough life shift that I suggest paying very close attention to how you are feeling mentally and emotionally too. See a professional. Talk to your girlfriends who may have already experienced this life phase. Be open with your partner about your feelings and concerns. While a lot of physical things can alter sex after menopause, the reality is that a lot of psychological stuff tends to go far too overlooked too.
9. Men Go Through Something Known As Andropause
Don't let the media (or the men in your life) fool you. While we're over here going through menopause, men have their own shift that's going on. It's called andropause. It's the time in a man's life (usually around 50) when their testosterone levels significantly drop. As a result, it can lead to fatigue, sadness, insomnia, increased body fat, decreased bone density, less muscle mass, less body hair, hot flashes (yes, chile)—and erectile dysfunction and a low(er) libido. If you suspect that the man in your life may be going through "the change", the best way to confirm it is for him to have a blood test in order to check his testosterone levels. Sometimes, simple things like altering his diet, getting more exercise, getting more sleep and eating testosterone-boosting foods such as tuna, beef, egg yolks, beans and fortified cereals are all that he will need. Other times, testosterone therapy may literally be just what the doctor orders.
10. Your Sex Life Can Still Be Great During Menopause
Yeah, this was a lot to take in. Believe me, I know. Yet let's make sure to end this on a really positive note. Fairly recently, I laughed as I read some social media comments (a lot of folks were haters, to be honest) about actor Suzanne Somers talking about how much she and her hubby get it in, to this day. At 74, she said it's "three times before noon" (good for you, girl!).
Now before you think she's embellishing or that's close to being ridiculous, it's been reported that two-thirds of people over 65 are still extremely interested in sex; 40 percent of people between 65-80 are still sexually active; half between 57-75 still give and/or receive oral sex (one-third between 75-85 do), and 25 percent over the age of 70 are having sex at least once a week.
Moral of the story: Aging is a part of life and, for women, menopause is sure. Neither has to be a death sentence for your libido or your sex life, though. 50s ain't old and, as you can see, folks close to their 90s are still thriving in the bedroom. At the end of the day, there's nothing to fear about menopause. Just learn more about what comes with it, factor in what you personally need to do and you should be all good. Literally. #wink
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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