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Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession

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Blending memoir, literary exposition, and revealing case studies, a powerful, surprising, and empathetic cultural and psychological exploration of one-sided romantic obsession The summer Lisa A. Phillips turned thirty, she fell in love with someone who didn’t return her feelings. She soon became obsessed. She followed him around, called him compulsively, and talked about hi Blending memoir, literary exposition, and revealing case studies, a powerful, surprising, and empathetic cultural and psychological exploration of one-sided romantic obsession The summer Lisa A. Phillips turned thirty, she fell in love with someone who didn’t return her feelings. She soon became obsessed. She followed him around, called him compulsively, and talked about him endlessly. One desperate morning, after she snuck into his apartment building, he picked up a baseball bat to protect himself and began to dial 911. Her unrequited love had changed her from a sane, conscientious college teacher and radio reporter into someone she barely recognized—someone who was taking her yearning much too far. In Unrequited, Lisa A. Phillips explores the tremendous force of obsessive love in women’s lives. She argues that it needs to be understood, respected, and channeled for personal growth—yet it also has the potential to go terribly awry. Interweaving her own story with frank interviews and in-depth research in science, psychology, cultural history, and literature, Phillips describes how romantic obsession takes root, grows, and strongly influences our thoughts and behaviors. Going beyond images of creepy, fatally attracted psychos, male fantasies of unbridled female desire, and the platitudes of self-help books, Phillips reveals a powerful, troubling, and surprisingly common phenomenon. As she illuminates this mysterious psychological experience, placing it in a rich and nuanced context, she offers compelling insights to help any woman who have experienced unrequited obsessive love and been mystified and troubled by its grip.


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Blending memoir, literary exposition, and revealing case studies, a powerful, surprising, and empathetic cultural and psychological exploration of one-sided romantic obsession The summer Lisa A. Phillips turned thirty, she fell in love with someone who didn’t return her feelings. She soon became obsessed. She followed him around, called him compulsively, and talked about hi Blending memoir, literary exposition, and revealing case studies, a powerful, surprising, and empathetic cultural and psychological exploration of one-sided romantic obsession The summer Lisa A. Phillips turned thirty, she fell in love with someone who didn’t return her feelings. She soon became obsessed. She followed him around, called him compulsively, and talked about him endlessly. One desperate morning, after she snuck into his apartment building, he picked up a baseball bat to protect himself and began to dial 911. Her unrequited love had changed her from a sane, conscientious college teacher and radio reporter into someone she barely recognized—someone who was taking her yearning much too far. In Unrequited, Lisa A. Phillips explores the tremendous force of obsessive love in women’s lives. She argues that it needs to be understood, respected, and channeled for personal growth—yet it also has the potential to go terribly awry. Interweaving her own story with frank interviews and in-depth research in science, psychology, cultural history, and literature, Phillips describes how romantic obsession takes root, grows, and strongly influences our thoughts and behaviors. Going beyond images of creepy, fatally attracted psychos, male fantasies of unbridled female desire, and the platitudes of self-help books, Phillips reveals a powerful, troubling, and surprisingly common phenomenon. As she illuminates this mysterious psychological experience, placing it in a rich and nuanced context, she offers compelling insights to help any woman who have experienced unrequited obsessive love and been mystified and troubled by its grip.

30 review for Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession

  1. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    I have read so many disappointing psychology oriented books where the authors claim to be experts but rely on bad studies and have a generally poor ability to engage in critical thinking. This book by phillips was, without question, better than a lot of what I have read about narcissism and obsession. Phillips uses her own experience as an obsessed stalker type to examine why women become obsessed. She provides incredible references to literature (at times I felt like I was back in some of the b I have read so many disappointing psychology oriented books where the authors claim to be experts but rely on bad studies and have a generally poor ability to engage in critical thinking. This book by phillips was, without question, better than a lot of what I have read about narcissism and obsession. Phillips uses her own experience as an obsessed stalker type to examine why women become obsessed. She provides incredible references to literature (at times I felt like I was back in some of the best courses I had in college, pouring over Greek and Roman mythology in order to understand why society is the way it is), a summary of psychological and criminological studies, case studies, and interviews. The book is incredibly well written and Phillips comes off as a person who is not an expert, but rather someone who did an incredible amount of research to understand her own experience. I recommend this book to individuals who like neuroscience, stalking, criminology, psychology, obsession, narcissism, OCD, the history of love/feminine identity, mythology, narratives on being a stupid girl, and the like. Surprisingly good

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dwight Davis

    This is probably going to get a little bit personal so bear with me and be warned. I’m coming off of the worst relationship and break-up I’ve ever been through and I say that as someone who has been divorced. I fell in love a year and a half ago with someone who always kept me at arm’s length but also kept me hooked with just enough romance or interest that I didn’t just tell them to fuck off. We eventually started sleeping together. And eventually I asked if we could define things and was told This is probably going to get a little bit personal so bear with me and be warned. I’m coming off of the worst relationship and break-up I’ve ever been through and I say that as someone who has been divorced. I fell in love a year and a half ago with someone who always kept me at arm’s length but also kept me hooked with just enough romance or interest that I didn’t just tell them to fuck off. We eventually started sleeping together. And eventually I asked if we could define things and was told no because “I want to go out with other people and not have to tell them about you.” Which was a cool thing to feel. A month later they decided we’d be exclusive and then they fucked off to Texas for months and we ended up breaking up because long distance is hard. They showed back up months later with a drunk text: “I’m drunk and all I can think about is you.” We started talking again every day. They had me running errands for them. They led me to believe we were getting back together. Then they tweeted about their boyfriend and I was absolutely crushed that I’d let them use me that way again. 3 weeks later I finally told them I couldn’t have them in my life anymore and cut off all contact. In all of that, I never could figure out what it was about this person that made me lose my mind. I’m usually a fairly level-headed person. I do fall in love fast but it’s never taken me this long to get over someone and I’ve never felt anything near the intensity of emotion and love I felt for this person who seemingly only wanted to use me and never actually cared about me at all. It was so out of character for who I am, and my friends noticed it too. So then I saw this book on twitter and I immediately bought it. It is the single most helpful thing I think I’ve ever read, walking through why we fall in love with people who don’t want us, who are unattainable. Why we lose our minds to lovesickness. And how to break that cycle. More than any of that though it was so helpful to show me that I’m not alone. I’ve felt so profoundly embarrassed and ashamed and alone over the last several weeks for falling for this person, for wasting my time and for having such intense emotions around all of this and this book, full of true stories, helped me see I’m not alone and that so many other people have lived this and made it out the other side. It offered a glimpse of hope that I desperately needed only 2 weeks out from finally ending contact with my unrequited lover. It’s one of the best books about love in general that I’ve ever read. I have a few nitpicks. Mostly that it does reinforce a gender binary in a pretty unhelpful way. I’m a non-binary person and I found all of the reduction to male-female binary responses to be kind of gross and unhelpful. I do skew more “feminine” whatever that means in how I experience myself and my emotions so I could pretty easily connect to the stories of women but I don’t know that it needed to be as heavily gendered as it is. It’s also very straight. I think I remember maybe one or two stories about queer unrequited love and as a queer person I certainly would have loved more queerness in the book. But I realize those are niche complaints coming from a very specific place.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This was a well-done and non-judgmental book about unrequited love. I definitely think it would be helpful to any women currently suffering from romantic obsession. I'm not currently having that problem, but I have in the past, 4 times to be exact, starting in high school. I think this book would have been great for me to have read during any of those obsessions, but even now that I'm post-obsession and I have a great long-term boyfriend who I'm sure loves me as much as I love him, I was glad to This was a well-done and non-judgmental book about unrequited love. I definitely think it would be helpful to any women currently suffering from romantic obsession. I'm not currently having that problem, but I have in the past, 4 times to be exact, starting in high school. I think this book would have been great for me to have read during any of those obsessions, but even now that I'm post-obsession and I have a great long-term boyfriend who I'm sure loves me as much as I love him, I was glad to have read this book and revisited some of my past experiences. I wasn't expecting this book to have been so PITTSBURGHISH! The author's romantic obsession that she wrote about took place in Pittsburgh, PA, where I once lived myself. In fact, she writes about a time when she checked herself into the UPMC psychiatric ward during her obsession and the phychiatric resident there told her it was not uncommon for women to check themselves in over unrequited love. Incredibly, one of my own 4 romantic obsessions I ever had was over a UPMC psychiatric resident doctor I dated back then. That seemed like too amazing of a coincidence for me not to bring up. That guy totally sucked, I'm so appalled at myself for ever thinking that he and I were the right match. But I would say that his cruelty helped me overcome my desire for cruel men. I learned from this book that such lessons are one of the good things that can come from an unrequited love. If you enjoyed learning a bit about one of my own romantic obsessions and want to hear more such stories, read this book. It also covers history, psychology, and just a touch of self-help.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marie-e

    Almost everyone has been through a relationship breakup. While some bounce back easily after an ending and go on about their lives with better understanding, others seem to get stuck on an obsessive path. Those folks may resort to stalking their love interest, retaliating in ways intended to hurt them, or engaging in other forms of undesirable behaviors. ‘Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession’ by Lisa Phillips, gives both sides of the relationship exposure and clarity. It deeply delves into t Almost everyone has been through a relationship breakup. While some bounce back easily after an ending and go on about their lives with better understanding, others seem to get stuck on an obsessive path. Those folks may resort to stalking their love interest, retaliating in ways intended to hurt them, or engaging in other forms of undesirable behaviors. ‘Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession’ by Lisa Phillips, gives both sides of the relationship exposure and clarity. It deeply delves into the unrequited lover’s side and the multiple forms this subject has taken throughout history in literature, the arts, psychology, and other fields. It also examines the physiology of 'falling in love' and how ‘limerence’ as a pathology shares significant features with OCD and substance addiction. There is a constant craving that cannot be fully satisfied. When obsession has taken place in the mind and body of an unrequited lover, no matter what the rejecter does, nothing will be right unless he returns his love completely to the one who seeks it. Preoccupying oneself over a former beloved after being rejected can happen. How to get over it constructively without hurting others in the process is part and parcel what this author aims to share. Phillips gives voice to those beneficial options. To this reader, respecting one’s choice to walk away from a relationship should be a right we all respect, even when it takes effort. In the end, as the author says, for the unrequited lover, “rejection is mercy”. I enjoyed the book a lot.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Z

    Well and thoughtfully researched; the author provides historical perspective on obsessive love in literature and popular culture, as well as medicine and psychology. The section on brain science (the feeling of ‘reward’ and pleasure) was particularly interesting. The personal narratives of both the women involved in obsessive love and the objects of their affection vary in length but each story makes its point. Educators or group discussion leaders could use the author’s examination of sexism an Well and thoughtfully researched; the author provides historical perspective on obsessive love in literature and popular culture, as well as medicine and psychology. The section on brain science (the feeling of ‘reward’ and pleasure) was particularly interesting. The personal narratives of both the women involved in obsessive love and the objects of their affection vary in length but each story makes its point. Educators or group discussion leaders could use the author’s examination of sexism and the ways it affects male victims’ situation -- even when a situation is obviously dangerous, the general societal response may be disbelief, sarcasm, or statements that the object of stalking should be flattered or take sexual advantage of a woman -- to begin important classroom discussions on gender, ethics, and law. As a librarian, I’d recommend Unrequited for academic libraries (as supplemental reading for gender studies, sociology, and psychology courses - perhaps criminal justice as well, although that’s not my area) and for public libraries. Book groups may also want to consider Unrequited.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    3.5 stars --Female stalking is a phenomenon that we rarely hear about. However, the author, a reformed stalker, has collected numerous fascinating stories on the subject. Not all of the "unrequited" relationships were of a romantic nature, and not all involve men as the target. All involved bizarre behavior that often left the perpetrators stunned by what they had done. In between these examples, Phillips periodically takes us on a fascinating trip around the human brain to understand how alarmi 3.5 stars --Female stalking is a phenomenon that we rarely hear about. However, the author, a reformed stalker, has collected numerous fascinating stories on the subject. Not all of the "unrequited" relationships were of a romantic nature, and not all involve men as the target. All involved bizarre behavior that often left the perpetrators stunned by what they had done. In between these examples, Phillips periodically takes us on a fascinating trip around the human brain to understand how alarming behavior can become a twisted sort of addiction and reward for the pursuer. I also appreciated reading for the first time the true story of Lisa Marie Nowak, the NASA captain infamous for her bizarrely staged attack on her ex and his girlfriend. Before reading this book, I and many others knew her only as the "astro-nut" of TV jokes. I actually felt pity for her after reading this.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    Lisa A. Phillip’s Unrequited blends well-researched case studies with her own very personal story in this nonfiction/memoir that grapples with the power of obsessive, unrequited love. Phillips approaches this subject with both sympathy and frankness: while she empathizes with “the unwanted woman,” she never coddles; unlike many dating books, she examines the difficult nuances of both being the unwanted lover and the beloved. She details how both male and female stalkers are treated. Most impre Lisa A. Phillip’s Unrequited blends well-researched case studies with her own very personal story in this nonfiction/memoir that grapples with the power of obsessive, unrequited love. Phillips approaches this subject with both sympathy and frankness: while she empathizes with “the unwanted woman,” she never coddles; unlike many dating books, she examines the difficult nuances of both being the unwanted lover and the beloved. She details how both male and female stalkers are treated. Most impressively, Phillips intertwines her own story with research in such a way that owns up to her actions – she accepts what she did and never tries to justify it. This book is a fascinating read for anyone interested in psychology, gender studies, or love.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rosanna Leo

    As an author of romance novels, I picked up Unrequited from a research perspective and was not disappointed. Ms. Phillips has penned an interesting volume on obsessive love, interspersed with very brave snippets of her own story and stories from other women who felt the sting of unrequited love. Fascinating and well-researched.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sean Beaudoin

    Really smart and interesting take on relationship dynamics. Obsession is such a relative term, and Phillips mines it for many original and startling insights. Very well studied and researched. This book should be read immediately. I've already bought two copies. Really smart and interesting take on relationship dynamics. Obsession is such a relative term, and Phillips mines it for many original and startling insights. Very well studied and researched. This book should be read immediately. I've already bought two copies.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Claire Handscombe

    Fascinating and important. Why aren't more people talking about this book? Fascinating and important. Why aren't more people talking about this book?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    2.5 stars. I don't think it's worth reading too closely unless you are currently in the grip of a romantic obsession and need some misery-company (it is very skimmable). Otherwise, here's the TLDR: When it’s not creepy or violent, romantic obsession is often seen as noble in men; for women, it’s usually seen as pathetic, at least until it hits “psycho bitch” levels, at which point it’s considered crazy (Fatal Attraction). That's unfair to everyone because it demeans women at multiple levels and 2.5 stars. I don't think it's worth reading too closely unless you are currently in the grip of a romantic obsession and need some misery-company (it is very skimmable). Otherwise, here's the TLDR: When it’s not creepy or violent, romantic obsession is often seen as noble in men; for women, it’s usually seen as pathetic, at least until it hits “psycho bitch” levels, at which point it’s considered crazy (Fatal Attraction). That's unfair to everyone because it demeans women at multiple levels and trivializes the effects extreme obsession can have on the “beloved”, be they male or female (invasion of privacy, stalking, etc.). (Although it's noteworthy that she doesn't interview any women who committed (or admitted to) anything remotely crime-like.) She also points out that romantic obsessions tend to have less to do with the beloved than the obsessed. So basically, there’s nothing new here. I didn’t find the weaving of literature and psychology to be particularly compelling (I already knew about the research on love as addiction) and her arguments seem not so much arguments as they are obvious states of affair.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    This was well-done. Author Lisa Phillips writes empathetically (and from some personal experience) about women who fall into a self-destructive pattern of romantic obsession. At the same time, she refuses to give them "a gender pass" and explains how one way she got over her strong (and not shared) romantic feelings for "B.," was by imaging that a man was acting the same way she was. Personally, as a single woman I stayed away as soon as I realized I was an "unwanted woman," and, for that reason This was well-done. Author Lisa Phillips writes empathetically (and from some personal experience) about women who fall into a self-destructive pattern of romantic obsession. At the same time, she refuses to give them "a gender pass" and explains how one way she got over her strong (and not shared) romantic feelings for "B.," was by imaging that a man was acting the same way she was. Personally, as a single woman I stayed away as soon as I realized I was an "unwanted woman," and, for that reason, I didn't feel a whole lot of empathy myself for some of the stories, although they were interesting to read. The cringe-factor is pretty high in this book, though I can recognize that it's well-researched and undoubtedly could be helpful to some. It's the kind of book that has some ideas that are worth sharing with daughters, providing you don't mind some coarse language.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Julene

    Having started and then put down this book several times, I think I've finally figured why it doesn't spark my interest: it's meant to be read by a woman in the midst of an unrequited romance, especially if she's leaning heavily towards The Crazy. It would've read better as a series of essays - it lacks flow, relies heavily on unsupported arguments and historical examples repeatedly used out of context. *le sigh* Well, you tried! Having started and then put down this book several times, I think I've finally figured why it doesn't spark my interest: it's meant to be read by a woman in the midst of an unrequited romance, especially if she's leaning heavily towards The Crazy. It would've read better as a series of essays - it lacks flow, relies heavily on unsupported arguments and historical examples repeatedly used out of context. *le sigh* Well, you tried!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I think I chose this book by mistake as someone recommended a novel with a similar name. Regardless, I read it and found it very interesting to see how women who were aggressively pursuing men over the years are treated very differently than men doing the same. It was an interesting study.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    Nothing that you wouldn't expect but puts our obsession for love in perspective and makes any woman who has gone through this experience feel confident that others feel the same way. Kind of redundant yet reinforcing. Nothing that you wouldn't expect but puts our obsession for love in perspective and makes any woman who has gone through this experience feel confident that others feel the same way. Kind of redundant yet reinforcing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jami Nakamura Lin

    So fascinating, and the way she blends pop culture with exhaustive research and her own story is admirable.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    The subject of this book was quite interesting, and I did take some valuable insights out of it, but overall I didn't like its approach. The subject of this book was quite interesting, and I did take some valuable insights out of it, but overall I didn't like its approach.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gabriela

    This book presents us with an unusual subject matter: the female romantic obsession, its historical and cultural causes, as well as its vivid, numerous depictions in pop culture. It contains examples from the everyday life (based on the author's own experiences) presented in an non-judgmental way and compares the treatment of "romantically obsessed" women with their male counterpart. It's really interesting to read how each gender receives totally different treatment, how people of both genders This book presents us with an unusual subject matter: the female romantic obsession, its historical and cultural causes, as well as its vivid, numerous depictions in pop culture. It contains examples from the everyday life (based on the author's own experiences) presented in an non-judgmental way and compares the treatment of "romantically obsessed" women with their male counterpart. It's really interesting to read how each gender receives totally different treatment, how people of both genders get "groomed" into certain social stereotypes and expected behaviors, how they are encouraged to act and feel in a certain way that actually might not be the best one there is. Women in this fragile state are seen as non-threatening and are given a gender pass while similar behavior demonstrated by men is scrutunized and strongly condemned. And there are two sides of each coin. A woman stalked by an "unrequited lover" receives much more serious treatment and protection than a man who happens to be in the same situation with a female stalker. Each of us starts receiving social conditioning early in life and it's up to us to develop and see further ahead, beyond the societal norms and expectations that might influence us to develop harmful feelings and habits.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emi

    I very much enjoyed the thesis of this book. *spoiler* This book posits that romantic obsession, often viewed as damaging, ugly, and useless, can and should be viewed as a catalyst for growth. It states that the ideal a person projects onto someone is often something they are striving for, and can gain knowledge and experience in their pursuit of the object of their desire. If you are looking for a handbook to get out of or prevent this situation, this book is of no help, except to assure you tha I very much enjoyed the thesis of this book. *spoiler* This book posits that romantic obsession, often viewed as damaging, ugly, and useless, can and should be viewed as a catalyst for growth. It states that the ideal a person projects onto someone is often something they are striving for, and can gain knowledge and experience in their pursuit of the object of their desire. If you are looking for a handbook to get out of or prevent this situation, this book is of no help, except to assure you that you are not alone.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nora Last

    I've been on reading kick about relationships, romantic love, attachment and trauma. I found Unrequited both thoughtful and educational; balancing the author's personal narrative with anecdotes from her practice and empirical studies. This is certainly worth reading if you experience intense emotional attachment (or limerence, or obsession), although perhaps unnecessarily gendered at times. I've been on reading kick about relationships, romantic love, attachment and trauma. I found Unrequited both thoughtful and educational; balancing the author's personal narrative with anecdotes from her practice and empirical studies. This is certainly worth reading if you experience intense emotional attachment (or limerence, or obsession), although perhaps unnecessarily gendered at times.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Merced

    It's a very good book, but... I found it a very good book and I enjoyed the different stories, so much, but sometimes it's so analytical and so rational about love as a process that it seems even sad. I ended the book hopping never to be in love again. It's a very good book, but... I found it a very good book and I enjoyed the different stories, so much, but sometimes it's so analytical and so rational about love as a process that it seems even sad. I ended the book hopping never to be in love again.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Halley Sutton

    Some interesting insights.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Megan Davis

    This book delivers everything the title suggests and far more. I highly recommend it and wish I had come across it years ago. Fascinating, educational, inspiring, and helpful.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    You know, I knew I was going to like this book, and I did! It covered many areas of the experience of unrequited love. I feel the author is spot on. Glad to have read it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    i am going to buy a copy myself so i can highlight all the bits i need to remember. this is an amazing book. thanks lisa a phillips

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rocambole.

    It is very cheesy but good.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mariana

    Hat off to Ms. Philips for daring to share her story, and for compiling a clear, enriching book on the topic of romantic obsessions.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Zsofi Borsi

    I enjoyed this book a lot. A mix of a memoir, self-help and cultural analysis. Would recommend it to anyone interested in the psychology of (unrequited) love.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lexy

    not sure how to rate this cause it's non fiction and sort of a self help book (?) but I did overall enjoy it and took some lil notes on interesting points. not sure how to rate this cause it's non fiction and sort of a self help book (?) but I did overall enjoy it and took some lil notes on interesting points.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Haeri

    Each chapter of this book starts with the memoir of the writer's obsessive past with her ex and how she romanticized or didn't realize the extent of her own destructive doing to both herself and the ex. Along with her own story, the book consists of the in-depth interviews with women who have experienced unrequited obsessive love varying in extent. The topic of the book ranges from the actual purpose of unrequited love as a mirror to one's desire, the physical and mental agony an unrequited love Each chapter of this book starts with the memoir of the writer's obsessive past with her ex and how she romanticized or didn't realize the extent of her own destructive doing to both herself and the ex. Along with her own story, the book consists of the in-depth interviews with women who have experienced unrequited obsessive love varying in extent. The topic of the book ranges from the actual purpose of unrequited love as a mirror to one's desire, the physical and mental agony an unrequited lover goes through, the danger of disregarding a destructive female stalker, and the role of unrequited love for teenagers and developing children. Well blended together, the book illustrates the complicated and often misunderstood nature of unrequited love and female obsession. One thing I can't wrap my head around yet from this book is how it tries to de-label stalking and domestic violence as misogynistic crime while it still admits that the majority of the stalkers are male and that of the victims are female. I agree that the female stalkers should be regarded seriously, but it can occur simultaneously with understanding the misogyny often intertwined with many "crime of passion." Overall, it was a great research book for a subject that is romanticized and ridiculed too often.

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