General Question

kalrbing's avatar

Should a 21 year old, college graduate be afforded the opportunity to make her own decisions?

Asked by kalrbing (287points) February 20th, 2011

I recently graduated from a 4 year University, in 3.5 years. I have a teaching license, but being a December grad, it is difficult to get a job. So, I am back at home substitute teaching. I would move out, but I do not have the means to logically support myself. With all of this being said, I am having the hardest time getting through to my parents about my ability to handle myself as an adult. I am scolded when I mention that i am going to visit a friend. As a 21 year old, I feel that is more than enough to tell where I am going. I souldn’t have to ask permission, should I? I do have a boyfriend, and now that I have graduated, we have to work with a long distance relationship. They have stated that at this age, I should have nothing more than a best friend. This is very unrealistic, to me, because they both had relationships at my age. My mother was actually married, already. I am completely aware of parents wanting the best for their, but I am fed up with being smothered. I feel that my parents take advantage of my not being financially stable enough to move out. It is like they rub it in my face with the things that they do and say. Am I wrong for feeling this way, or is it just something that I should understand at my young age?

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36 Answers

Seaofclouds's avatar

I don’t think you are wrong for feeling the way you do, but as long as you are living with them, they can set rules for their house. Sure, it sounds like they are over protective and a bit naive with their thoughts about you having a relationship, but until you are ready to move out, you’ll have to deal with their rules. You could try talking to them about it and try to meet in the middle on the things that are making you feel smothered. It may or may not help, but you won’t know until you try.

chyna's avatar

Welcome to Fluther and congrats on getting your degree early!
I do think your parents should not be as hard on you as they are, but that is my opinion and I can’t change their mind, only you can. Do you contribute to the household in any way? Do you pay certain bills and help keep the house picked up? Maybe they just see you as their baby and until you actually move out and are making it on your own, they can’t see you any other way. I think you should talk to them about how you feel, that they are treating you as a child when you are, in fact, an adult and ask them to compromise. If it doesn’t work, you will have tried and just remember this won’t be forever. Just until you get a full time job and can afford your own place. Good luck.

kalrbing's avatar

I appreciate that seaofcloud. I have tried a bit, but I am overtalked most of the time. I will keep trying.

BarnacleBill's avatar

You might ask them if they feel like they were good parents. If they did their job well, they should have confidence in the product (you) their parenting practices created. If you have been away at school, you have been making your own decisions, and seem to be no worse for it. There is this sense, as a parent, that you have somehow forgotten to teach something important, and perhaps that’s what’s going on with them. Perhaps they need you to thank them for doing such a good job, and that you feel confident that you have good judgement.

I think when adult children come back home for financial reasons, there should be an exit plan, they should have regular chores that they do at home (and do them without being asked), keep their own room neat, do their own laundry, wash their own dishes. Even working part-time, a nominal rent should be paid. Telling your parents where you are going and when you expect to be back is a courtesy that should be extended to anyone that you live with.

augustlan's avatar

If you assert your independence, will they kick you out? If you’re confident that they won’t, stick up for yourself. Be polite, but firm. “I appreciate your concerns, but I am an adult, and fully capable of making my own decisions.” This is not to say that they shouldn’t have some rules and/or expectations of you while living in their home. But anything that doesn’t affect their lives in their home is really none of their concern.

kalrbing's avatar

Thanks chyna and BarnacleBill. I do not presently help with bills, because I still have to pay rent on an apartment back at school. My mother insisted that I get a 12 month lease when we knew I would be graduating in December. She expected someone to take over my lease, but it didn’t happen, even when I advertised all over campus and online. So my money goes to my apartment and gas for daily driving. I do keep my room clean and help with house keeping. I also babysit my sister several nights a week. I try to make sure I hold my weight around the house. I will try to speak with them on moe specific terms.

kalrbing's avatar

Augustian, I have tried to assert myself when they have tried to discuss their expectations with me. At the moment My father is not speaking to me, and my mother is only doing it half way. I get so infuriated with this, but I will ask to speak with them once this week. Thank you for the help.

WasCy's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.

I can see their point of view – a little – but generally I agree with you.

You should be making your own ‘rules for living’, and living by those rules (or modifying them as experience and judgment dictate) yourself. But they may feel that if you’re “living under their roof” (and after all, they raised you and took care of everything, one presumes) until fairly recently, that they still have the same rights that they did when you were living there daily while in high school. “Being a graduate” hasn’t really changed much of anything for them; this is a new status that you feel, but you haven’t truly gained your independence – until you really do that.

I think that you should definitely assert yourself and tell them that “This is what I intend to do,” ... and make plans and be prepared to move out on short notice if things boil over. You don’t indicate that your parents are extremely short-tempered, unreasonably obstinate, dictatorial or abusive – they’re just parents trying to adapt to their kid growing up and starting to flex her wings.

I’m their contemporary. My daughter recently attended and graduated from an out-of-state university and started her own business, and my son has been married (and out of the house) for several years, too.

As long as you’re going to be dependent upon them for support, in the form of rent, groceries, debt repayment, transportation and other financial dealings, then you have to be prepared to compromise a little or a lot, depending on what you feel you need (and are willing to accept). That’s why freedom is so darn expensive.

kalrbing's avatar

WasCy, My father is very short tempered. He does not physically harm me, but when he gets upset with my mother or I he gives the silent treatment for sometimes months at a time. It hurts so bad, but it has gotten to be old. I like to talk things out!!! I went to school on all scholarships. I do, although, eat dinner with them each evening. I will keep this in mind. My plan is to move into my apartment back at school when a I take a maternity leave for a teacher in that town, in April. For now, I will make much more money at home, than in my school town to save up for moving on.

6rant6's avatar

Yeah, what you’re describing is a problem. And I’m sure it’s frustrating.

I’d suggest though that what you’re going through is an adult problem. Most of us, I think, often feel that the people around us take an unfair amount of autonomy away from us. Our partners, our children, our bosses, subordinates, co-workers, friends, insurance agents, doctors, parole officers, banks, the IRS… all want to take away choices we feel we ought to be able to make.

It’s about picking your battles and negotiating well. And sometimes being a good loser.

Instead of focusing on what is naturally unsettling, focus instead on identifying what is really important to you and then how you can get it.

kalrbing's avatar

6rant6, that is an excellent way to look at it. I will try to transition my focus on it :-)

blueiiznh's avatar

These are your feelings and just remember that your feelings are yours. You have a right to feel these things.
I suspect they may be having difficulty seeing you grown and in the thought of letting go. They certainly have a right to their feelings and when living under someones roof can ask for help, financial etc…
However, you have an ability to make your own choices on your future, who you see, what friends you choose, etc.
Congrats on making it through college and getting your degree. Are you certified to teach in your state or others around you? As a new teacher, you will more than likely have to substitue for a period until you get offered a full time position. I hope it come swiftly for you so that it can help make your choices a bit clearer.
Make the choices on your future for you.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s only two more months. I’m not sure I would pick any more fights. Just go along to get along. Stay out of their way. Look forward to your maternity leave job. And don’t plan to go home again. I think that it may be at the point where you just have to do what you have to do in order to stay out of their home. Except maybe on holidays.

If you and your boyfriend do eventually have children, or you have them with anyone else, I would seriously consider keeping them away from your parents—at least on an unsupervised level. My father and mother were pretty shitty to me in some ways as I was growing up, and I ended up with some serious problems.

When we found out from our kids that my parents were trying to do the same thing to our kids that they had done to me, we decided not to let our kids visit them alone again. I say this because of the way your father handles problems. If he gives people the silent treatment for months, that is very unhealthy. It’s not a place you want to be, and it’s not a place that kids should be for more than a few hours.

mcbolden's avatar

As a fellow very smothered young adult, I know where you are coming from. I don’t think that you should feel bad for the way that you feel. We are all entitled to our own opinions and feelings, but it’s when and how we convey them to others that is important. I think that you’ll never be able to completely understand your parents. But it is important to sit them down and discuss your thoughts, that alone will hopefully allow them to see you in a more mature light. You just have to make sure to let them know that who you are now is different from who you were when you originally left home and that you respect their values and opinions but would like to come to some consensus on the living arrangement and rules regarding it.

Judi's avatar

My daughter worked in a steak house as a waitress before she got her first teaching job. Her independence was that important to her. She supported herself quite well and actually took a pay cut when she went to teach.
There are alternatives, but while you are still relying on them for your support, weather it’s right or wrong, they will always have a say. The question is, are you willing to sacrifice some comfort and live a lesser lifestyle, have less spending money etc, in order to determine your own destiny?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@kalrbing If you are still paying for your apartment at school, why not stay there? Is there any way you could work it out so that you could be living there on your own since you are paying for it anyway?

YARNLADY's avatar

Only if said college graduate is entirely self supporting and not dependent on someone else for money.

Zaku's avatar

I think you are utterly justified in your point of view. In fact, you could have your own life at 18. Your parents are abusing your financial weakness and their patronage and previous parent-child relationship to belittle you and inflict their mores on you, for whatever reasons they may have. Realize that they are the ones acting inappropriately, determine their patterns and then choose what to do. You have every right to stand up to them and do whatever you want, but they can act like asses and be nuisances and withdraw their support and hospitality.

Jenniehowell's avatar

That predicament sucks – sorry you’re having to deal with it. The rents sound like they’re a bit on the obsessively controlling & overboard side of things. Perhaps they need lives of their own so they’re not occupied or fed by yours or perhaps they’re annoyed that you’re there & they’re trying to push you out of the nest & motivate you via negative methods & annoyance.

In the end though life comes down to my personal tag line “he/she who makes the moolah is the rulah” – however unfortunate, money talks & whoever pays has the say cause they’ve got the puppet strings in their hand. It’s a good lesson on why not to be dependent on anyone else as an adult.

I figure if you’re old enough to mate, vote, drink & pay taxes then you’re old enough to do whatever the heck you want but the money is the freedom.

I’d suggest you work as hard as possible renting that place so you can free up your money & work just as hard to find a job so you can increase it & when you get a good stable financial situation get the heck outa there & when free – make sure not to do anything stupid that would justify them being able to say “I told you so”.

In the mean time I’d keep my life as private as possible from them so you don’t have to deal with their resistance so much & see about sitting down with them & coming up with an agreement that may be able to be negotiated as a compromise. For instance, if you were my kid – I’d tell you that you can be treated as an equal & an adult in the house when you contribute equally – which means you either pay your portion of the bills, mortgage, innsurance, food etc in money or you pay it in work by cleaning the house spotlessly & doing whatever other chores need done at a fair rate & if you couldn’t complete your part of that then you’d be either finding a new place or dealing with less freedom & privacy. It sucks but it’s best to get the lesson now that we have to earn those things rather than being stuck dealing with it later coming from a husband, roommate, employer or even worse the police or some other government rep.

Good luck & sorry your parents feel the need to go so overboard with controlling your personal life – even that would be off limits for me – you could have a boyfriend but you’d still be stuck with a curfew & a bunch of chores so you may not get to see/talk to him much lol. Again – the more you keep from your parents the less you’ll have to hear their crap but just be logical & safe about what you’re keeping from them cause no parent wants to have to rescue their kid from harm or even worse not find out about it until it’s too late. Safety first – convenience after that.

skfinkel's avatar

The thing about parents is that it’s a life-long relationship, and of course better to work out things sooner rather than later. However, 21 may sound young to your parents, even if not to you. Given what you have described, I wonder also about you staying in the apartment you are paying for anyway. You will have to pay your own food, but you will be on your own. On the other hand, trying to work this out now would be best for you—but it might not be possible with the way your parents are feeling now. You could still work out the dynamics of the relationship from the apartment, and then you can be very clear about what you think. This is hard on parents, though, and takes a lot of maturity on their part. I do believe that while you are in their home, however, you really should follow their rules. All you really can do is make those rules more reasonable and appropriate for who you are.

klutzaroo's avatar

I’m 26 and my mother called me a slut the other day for staying the night at my boyfriend’s house. Their childish behavior when it comes to your behavior won’t stop, no mater what you say or do. Whenever I’m home, even though I have proven that I’m more than able to take care of myself, they’re in my business and trying to make me follow rules more suited for someone a decade younger than me than a proven adult. The bitch of it is that my little brother, a 25 year old loser, has screwed up more than I ever have, has proven himself incapable of taking care of himself, and has fewer rules to follow and more freedom… just because he’s a boy. Hopefully this will all change in a few months for me when they know how much my situation has changed. They are unaware that the boyfriend they’ve met a few times is almost a fiancé and that times and things’ll be a changin’.

Bide your time. You’ll be able to move out again soon and then hopefully you won’t ever have to go back.

lillycoyote's avatar

I haven’t read the whole thread so this may have been said before, but… convincing some parents that you are a fully functioning adult capable of making your own decisions and running your own life can be difficult under the best of circumstances. There are people who are married, have their own houses and their own children who still have trouble convincing their parents that they are grown ups. You are living in your parents’ house, at the age of 21, having graduated from college. Personally, I see nothing wrong with that. I had to move in with my parents after a personal and financial meltdown when I was much older and had a masters degree so I am not judging you. But they may see that as an inability to manage your own life. And parents are forever parents and god bless them for it. The fact that you are living in the house with them just means that you are present and there to be worried about. My mother had no reason to worry about me until I moved back into the house, I was 3000 miles away and she had no idea where I was or what I might be doing at any moment. As soon as I moved back into the house she was mom again. I might have been 36 but if I said I would be back around 9:30 and still wasn’t home by 10:30 she would be pacing the living room and peeling back the curtains to check on whether I was coming down the street or not. That’s just what parents do. If you don’t want that then you have to get your own place. That’s the bottom line, I think.

kalrbing's avatar

Wow, I really appreciate you all responding with of great ideas and comforting scenarios. I now understand from an outsider’s point of view that my parents are not too different from others.
Yeah, @wundayatta my dad takes it overboard when he gets angry, but he’s 56, I don’t think he’ll change that anytime soon. On a positive note, I have a 9 year old sister who he does not do that to. He actually spoils her. As long as he doesn’t give her the silent treatment, I can actually deal with it sometimes. We have two older brothers who he did it to in the past. But, as you said before it is only 2 months, so I guess when you look at it like that, I will have all that I need when that becomes my situation. I believe that is the most intelligent advice that I have heard, yet.
@klutzaroo , our 2 older brothers both messed up with school very early, but of course, they were given the freedom that they wanted. This was even so when they both lived in the house until 25. It’s a losing battle, now that I look at it.
@lillycoyote , it didn’t take the whole thread for you to hit the nail on the head. I understand , now, that once I’m out I have my own reign, but they will be parents to what is made visible to them. Thanks for sharing your situation. That actually made it make a lot more since.
@Jenniehowell , what you are saying makes perfectly good sense. Once I’m out, I plan on staying out. I want to show them that I need their moral and emotional support, but I can handle the finances and life responsibilities.
To those of you asking me why I will not move into my apartment that I am paying for, I cannot sub in that area until my preliminaries in their school system are clear. Without a job, I cannot make rent down there. The only guaranteed job down there begins when I take the maternity leave (April 11) for the teacher. So I think I’m just going to “bite my tongue” until that time comes. Once I’m out of the house, if these behaviors continue, then I’ll address them further. The stress and turmoil between us is so unhealthy. I believe my sanity is more important at this point. I have to get in front of a new class every day, and that is hard enough. Thanks for all the help :-)

klutzaroo's avatar

@lillycoyote @kalrbing I know one woman… Her son is 25, has 3 kids and a wife, an excellent job, a house… proven adult for years. But she still obsessively posts on his facebook and calls about whether he’s getting enough sleep and crap like that. This is on top of the fact that she doesn’t respect the “kids” as parents and refuses to follow the rules for their kids, even in their house. Some people are crazy and will never recognize their children as adults. Eventually their children are going to lash out at them and its not going to be pretty. But its just how these people work. Nuts.

cazzie's avatar

It sounds like they are going to treat you like a baby, whether you live there or not. I don’t think living there is the biggest problem, but it certainly exacerbates it. Some parents, regardless of how old a child gets, still sees them as a 9 year old. The belittling remarks, the judgements….I would leave the house as soon as I could. Not healthy. Get a job waitressing… (according to @Judi, it pays better… geez that is disgustingly shocking) to get out of the house.

A parent using money as a controlling leverage is a very poor parent indeed. Same rule goes for a spouse that does that.

House rules are house rules and MUST be respected and obeyed. No boyfriends over night, stereo/TV off at certain times… don’t hog the bathroom, be tidy… THAT kind of stuff needs to be respected, because, now, in effect, you are a guest in the house, albeit you are also their child.

I think it’s their parenting style we all find a bit shocking.

My father had a saying and he worked it in both ways. There were nine of us kids and then we all grew up and left the nest. One sibling would go chat with Dad and start complaining about another sibling or over some issue or another.. and Dad would just answer….‘You’re older than 3 times 7. (meaning….You’re old enough to sort this out yourselves.) You don’t need to be telling me about it and I don’t need to get involved.’....

We still use that saying. ‘Come on. You’re 3 times 7.’ My dad was smart.

kitkat25's avatar

It does sound like you are perfectly capable of making your own decisions. You were able to get through your schooling early and you are working towards supporting yourself. Your parents should realize that at your age you shouldn’t have to ask permisison for everything you do like when you were a child. But on the other hand you are living under their roof and so you might have to make some compromises also.

Just keep looking for a full time teaching position so that you can afford to move out on your own. Or for now you could look into a roommate situation in order to move out of your parents house.

lonelydragon's avatar

As the others have pointed out, for right or wrong, it’s “their house, their rules”, but as an adult child, they should be more respectful and open-minded towards your point of view. As long as you are not engaging in unsafe or illegal behavior, there’s no reason for you not to have a life outside the home.

As for the boyfriend issue, I’m close to your age, and have noticed that some people in our parents’ age bracket are dismissive of any relationship that’s not a marriage (even if the couple is engaged). I don’t think you are wrong to have a serious relationship at your age. Have you tried gently pointing out (matter of factly) to your parents that they were married at your age? They may not openly agree, but done in the right manner, you will have given them food for thought.

Overall, I agree with the others. Try to find a job, any job, even if it’s not on your career path, and move out ASAP. Your parents sound like they’re on the controlling side, and would probably infantilize you no matter how old you are.

MrItty's avatar

” I would move out, but I do not have the means to logically support myself. With all of this being said, I am having the hardest time getting through to my parents about my ability to handle myself as an adult”

Do you not see the inherent contradiction in these two statements? You CAN’T handle yourself as an adult. If you could, you would have already moved out. You lack the ability. Until you gain the ability, suck it up, and get down on your hands and knees and kiss your parents’ feet for allowing you to live in their house, when they have no reason to do so other than the goodness of their hearts.

kalrbing's avatar

@MrItty , I meant in that statement that I do not have enough money to move out, but I am treated like a child. In this I mean that because I do not have enough money to move out, I am told who to see outside of the house and what job I need to take in town. It is not a contradiction, simply looking for some kind of medium when I have shown my worth and ability to make DECISIONS for myself.

MrItty's avatar

I understood you perfectly. You have the mental capacity to make decisions, but not the physical financial ability to care for yourself. Therefore, your parents get to make your decisions for you. You might not like it, but frankly, that’s tough. Once you are able to support yourself, you are more than welcome to say “No” to their advice. Until that day comes, you do what they say, or you stop living off them and move out onto the street. Those are your options.

cazzie's avatar

I disagree with @MrItty. any parent who controls their child with money is being manipulative and destructive in the relationship.

What they are doing is wrong, but knowing they’re being abusive doesn’t help.

Like I said. You need to adhere to their house rules but you should do what you can to get out. Seriously. The way they are treating you is demoralising.

Bite the bullet and get any job you can and move out.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@cazzie I may be putting words into @MrItty ‘s mouth but I don’t think the point was that the parents aren’t manipulative & destructive to the relationship due to their emotional immaturity etc. The point as I interpret it was that any child who does not have the ability to care for themselves on all levels (not just the mental and emotional ones) is in a beggars can’t be choosers predicament. There’s two choices in that scenario A- the one most people here have advocated which is figure out a way to get the hell outta there in the healthiest/quickest way & B- deal with it because beggars can’t be choosers

In the end – no matter which angle the kid in this predicament would argue it – they are not able to handle themselves as an adult if they can’t actually do the basic things a person who can handle themselves as an adult can do (such as live on their own, hold down a job, pay bills and taxes etc.) I could quote you a million laws but that doesn’t make me a lawyer – what would make me a lawyer is passing the bar exam. In this scenario (though it does not mean she is less a person) @kalrbing can’t handle herself as an adult right now or her question would be something more like… “how often should an emotionally mature and stable adult child visit her imbalanced and manipulative parents now that she’s out of the house and living with her boyfriend?”

She seems like a good, intelligent & mature young kid who is in that unfortunate limbo scenario of gaining her own footing vs. being dependent on the parents. Being dependent doesn’t make her less a person and I don’t think that is what @MrItty was insinuating because most kids straight out of college deal with similar situations and it’s quite normal to have some speed bumps along the road to independence – I think most of us living as functional adults now can remember the limbo days where we were moving toward independence and still teeter tottering between following/trusting our parents advice and coming to the realization that they’re not always right. That’s a hard place to be in emotionally and physically both and there’s nothing wrong with it, but our empathy toward the scenario won’t change the facts of what @MrItty is saying which is if you’re not able to be out there functioning as a stable adult then you’re not just not able… As the saying goes… If it quacks and waddles….. then consider it a duck but if not…. I think that @kalrbing has got the quacking down and now she’s working on her waddle before passing muster as a whole and complete duck that’s all.

klutzaroo's avatar

@Jenniehowell I think that since @kalrbing is indeed working to pay the rent on an apartment, even if she can’t live there at the present time and make enough money to stay there (a predicament that many adults find themselves in with this economy, not just her), that she is indeed handling herself as an adult. A functional adult. Just like the hundreds and thousands functional adults that are working miles and miles from home because of where the jobs that are open to them are. Saying that @kalrbing is not “handling herself as an adult” at the present time just because she’s staying with her parents for a little while until she is able to gain employment in her field doesn’t mean that she’s any less of an adult than you people on your high horse or those people who are doing what they have to do to pay the bills and survive. Looking at it in that manner is willfully ignoring most of what we know about @kalrbing and focusing on one fact out of many. Bad form.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@klutzaroo I’m not sure what the rest of everyone was taught growing up so I can’t speak from that view point, but I can speak from my own. I grew up in a household & community where each of us were taught independence as we grew up & were expected to be out of the house and functioning in society when we turned 18. Additionally, we were expected to be on our own out of college though there was an understanding that we could come home if needed due to time frames of getting a job depending on the economy and so forth.

There is nothing wrong with living with your parents if you have to as many people do it whether straight out of college or after a divorce or after losing your job in a crappy economy etc. There is nothing that makes us lesser as a human being in that scenario, but no matter which way one looks at the scenario a person who is a fully functional adult with regard to what I think most were taught growing up, is a person who is able to live on their own, pay their bills in full and on time, pay their taxes & not be dependent on others in any way with regard to their survival in society etc. as a minimum. Of course, even better if a person could save a bit for vacations, rainy days and emergencies but not all of the world can manage that depending on various scenarios. Any sort of dependence on others for sustenance, survival etc. cancels out the “fully” functional part.

There’s a difference between being an adult in the department of age and being one in the department of function/independence in society. Much like I would say that there is a difference between being a father biologically and being one with regard to function by actually being a healthy, fully independent presence in a child’s life. Age & breeding are just scientific markers for adults or parents, but function is an entirely different category. There’s not any sort of high horse judgement about it (if I have high horse judgement it’s more about @kalrbing ‘s father & his emotional immaturity than it is about @kalrbing ) -

It’s just a fact of life function is function. A pair of pants is still a pair of pants even with a broken zipper, but functional it is not. You can call them pants, but you’d probably be looked at a little funny wearing them out and claiming them as functional LOL. I would find it odd if a person were to think I was being judgmental or on a high horse just simply because I pointed out that their pants weren’t fully functional as if the presentation of simple/logical facts are judgmental or a personal attack/insult of some sort. What is and isn’t functional seems to be a pretty black and white definition in each category of life & to abide by that definition in whatever category isn’t an insult to someone as a person/human or a position of high horse etc. it’s just a simple fact. You could call me out of function because I paid my car payment late this month – it’s not a judgment, it’s a fact simple as that – getting defensive about it would simply indicate that I was having some level of emotional insecurity or self judgment about the situation and that would in turn indicate a weakness in the function of my ego. Facts aren’t personal so why make them so?

klutzaroo's avatar

@Jenniehowell You wrote a whole lot to try and convince yourself and everyone else you’re right.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@klutzaroo check my responses all over fluther – I’m rarely ever short on words LOL

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