Underneath my yellow skin

Author Archives: Minna Hong

Boundaries are only effective if I actually enforce them

As my parents’ trip comes to an end, I find myself ruminating over the concept of boundaries. Why? Because they are unheard of in my family. Or rather, they are set up haphazardly and followed only when the person feels like it/wants to/can be stuffed to do it.

Let me start by saying my mom is a psychologist. Theoretically, this should mean that she knows about boundaries and is enthusiastic about setting them. The reality is much different as she is often the worst offender for many reasons–which I’ll get into later. In addition, she’s Taiwanese, and the culture is different when it comes to boundaries. Family is paramount (though it might be changing as all cultures change), and children are expected to put the needs of the family first. I remember one time several years back when I was still in therapy and my mother expressed concerns that my therapist was putting a wedge between us. It took all of my will not to blurt out that it was necessary and that my therapist was keeping me from screaming at her all the time. This was during the time where talking to her (or my father) for more than ten minutes made me want to poke my eyes out, and it’s not hyperbole to say that it depressed me for hours after each time.

That’s part of the problem. Yes, the Taiwanese culture has more porous familial boundaries, but my family is also dysfunctional. The two are not mutually exclusive, but I didn’t realize any of this until I was in my twenties. Of course, you think the childhood you grow up in is normal until you get out of the situation and then you realize that your family is banana crackers crazy. For example, my father has a bizarre idea of saving face. Now, most people know that saving face is a big thing in many Asian cultures. My father takes it to an extreme, however, and it’s partly because of his narcissistic personality. I remember a time when I was a teenager and one of my parents’ friends called to ask for my father. I innocently said he wasn’t home because he was playing tennis. My parents were big into tennis when I was a kid, playing with their friends from church. When my parents got home and I gave my father the message, he exploded at me for telling the (female, and it’s important) friend that he was out with other friends. He went on this rant on how it made him look bad and she would feel excluded. Even as a teenager in my dysfunctional family I knew it was out of line, but I didn’t really suss out why he freaked out to that extent until much later.

You see, my father is a serial cheater. He’s been having affairs ever since I can remember. I can’t tell you when I first realized this fact about him, but I know he started staying out until midnight ‘working late’ when I was as young as six or seven. My parents had epic fights over this until my father gradually accepted this was the price of admission to her marriage. I figured out in the tennis situation, not only did it feed my father’s rabid obsession with his personal privacy (only for him), the woman who called was probably his ‘special lady friend’ at the time, and he was probably playing with another woman who could be considered attractive. To clarify, he and my mom were playing, but that never stopped him from paying special attention to his lady of the moment.

Everyone knew. It was a poorly-kept secret, but no one ever talked about it. People in my extended family mentioned they knew, and it’s only been fairly recent that I have had discussions about it with my mother and my brother (separately). He currently has a mistress, possibly two, and, yet, my mother still dances around him, catering to his every whim. I will get to that more in a minute or maybe in another post depending on how I feel after writing about boundaries.

The background: My parents get up much earlier than I do, so by the time I get up, they’re ready to chat. To be fair, my mother is ready to chat all the fucking time, but I’ll put that aside with difficulty. And, as they’re getting older, they’ve become more clingy and needy. I understand that part is natural of the aging process, but I just can’t handle it the minute I wake up. I live alone, and I can go days without actually speaking with someone in person. They would pelt me with questions, requests/orders, and whatever else was on their minds. I finally had to tell them that I needed to do my morning routine first before I was in any shape to talk. I enforced this by going downstairs to do my morning routine. Did that help? Yes and no. Yes because it kept them away from me in general. No because if they really wanted something, they just went downstairs to present me with their pressing (to them) concern.


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A plethora of choices and two obsessions

I have an obsessive nature that if I don’t rein in, can run rampant throughout my life. It’s especially apparent when it comes to pop culture. I don’t like much, but when I do like something, I suck the blood out of it. Which is apt because I played as a Supervampire yesterday and died in the Mayor’s Village to a bullshit situation. I was trying to use an item, and then hwen I went back to actually playing, either my fingers were off or the keyboard wasn’t properly responding. Or, what is more likely, it somehow reverted back to Dvorak. Any rate, the Supercops killed me before I could figure out what went wrong.

What game am I talking about? Streets of Rogue, of course. The game I was going to quit before, several times, but then get sucked back in when I win a run. That high is almost comparable to beating a Dark Souls boss, but not quite because there is more RNG at work than in beating a DS boss. Yes, there is some RNG there, but it’s instances, not whole floors. In SoR, I often feel whether I win a run or not is based on items I get, traits I get, and which missions I get on which floor. Also, which character I play. Cop is the easiest (Supercop is cruise mode) with Soldier being a close second. (I would argue Supersoldier is easier than Supercop, especially with Infinite Ammo.) Assassin, once I got the hang of her, was super fun, and Vampire was fairly chill as well once I fully embraced her nature–and was able to chomp on people even when I was fully healed. It still surprises me that I won as the Shopkeeper, but I basically played her kitted out with as many guns as possible. And, since she got great deals on everything, I had enough money to buy ammo every floor.

So far, I have won with Soldier, Cop, Shopkeeper, Vampire, Assassin, and Doctor. I finished the Big Quest with the Slum Dweller, but got ripped apart in the Mayor Village.

Side Note: I’ve seen a recent spike of people using ‘apart’ to mean ‘a part’, and it makes me rage every time. One of my personal pet peeves (in English).

When you finish the Big Quest of the Slum Dweller, you become an Upper-Cruster. The other Super Special Abilities versions of the characters are way overpowered. This one seems like a joke because the only two positives I can see to her is that she starts with a tidy sum of money and she can use the alarm buttons during the later levels to summon a Supercop. This I know by reading about it because I have not made it very far as the Upper-Cruster. With the other souped up characters, I sailed through the game. Either I’m doing something wrong with the Upper-Cruster or she really is just a joke character (a poke at wealthy people being useless). Oh, Upper-Crusters run from conflict so having friends of your own class is not helpful in this situation.

Side Note 2: Teleport-Happy is god tier as a Trait. I didn’t value it much at first, even when Norrtherlion mentioned people telling him it was god tier. You can transport anywhere anytime as long as no immediate danger is president. Why is that a big deal? I’ll tell you why. Because you can avoid much of the mayhem on the Floor 3s, and you can transport to the Exit from wherever (with a few small exceptions). You can also teleport from indoors which you can’t do without it, which means once you finish the last quest, you can just teleport to the Exit. It’s fucking amazing, and it’s the reason I got at least two of my wins.


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Falling in love…with my sabre

The first time I learned the Sabre Form, I was high off learning the Sword Form, which is my favorite thing in the world. Well, at least in the top three. The sword was like an extension of my hand, and I naively expected the sabre would be the same. I mean, it’s a sword, but bigger, amirite? I dove in with enthusiasm, only to find it wasn’t the same. At all.

I struggled with it. I can admit it now. The sabre felt clunky and unwieldy in my hand, and I was instantly disappointed. Let me tell you one of my biggest flaws: I will quit something that I am not good at in a heartbeat. I don’t like to look stupid, and I get embarrassed beyond all measure when I’m flailing about. There is also some childhood background on this. My parents were typical Asian parents in that they were way more apt to harp on my mistakes than to praise me for something well done. An example. I graduated magna cum laude from college. Not bad, right? My mom immediately says, “If you had done better in your first semester, you would have been summa.” Years later, when I confronted her about it, she denied saying it. Then, she added if she *had* said it, she meant it to comfort me in case I was upset about not making summa.

Well I wasn’t until you mentioned it, Mom, but I am now, thanks! That’s my mom, though. She has selective memory (putting a rosy tint on everything), and she allows her anxiety to overcome her common sense. I actually understand the latter because I have anxiety as well. I just learned to keep most of it to myself.

Anyway, I didn’t feel as if I couldn’t do the Sabre Form. One of my assets (which is also a flaw) is that I learn things really quickly. (That’s one reason I give up easily if I don’t catch on right away. Like badminton. It’s also one reason video games have been good to me. All the games I really like are ones that had steep learning curves.) The first time with the sabre, I learned the postures, now movements, easily. There are six rows, and we got to the end of the fourth row. I didn’t sweat the postures, but I felt as if I were doing them by rote.

The sabre never felt alive in my hand–it felt like dead wood. With the sword, I felt as if I were dancing with a partner. Every cell in my body would sing as I moved it around. Or let it guide me around. My teacher was asked by one of her classmates about if the sword should lead or the person should lead the sword (in the context of a certain movement). Her response was that there is a movement called ‘Step Forward to Unite With the Sword’. It’s in the beginning of the form, and she explained it’s meant to bring the two together so they work as one. Her classmate did not appreciate the response, but I did. It neatly summed up my feelings for the sword, and it was sorely lacking with the sabre. Granted, that movement isn’t in the sabre, but I still wanted it to feel the same way.

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Shadow, my little cat ambassador

all the love.
My favorite pic of brotherly love. (S, left; R, right.)

Shadow and I are a duo and have been for almost three years since we lost his brother, Raven, suddenly one cold and grim Saturday night. I’ll never forget it, and I think about him every day. Sometimes, only for a flash, and sometimes, for longer, but he’s still in my heart.

Shadow took it badly. For six months, he clung to me in a way that he had never done before. He was more my aloof cat, wanting to be near me on his own terms. He would disappear for hours, only showing up when he wanted to. Raven was more a ‘I need to be on you’ cat, and it was hard to adjust to once he was gone. Shadow would cry out for him, and any time I was outside to smoke, he would put his front paws up on the sliding glass door that separated us and howl.

He’s changed in other ways. He never used to meow at all, but once Raven was gone, he became more vocal. I slowly realized it was when he wanted food and that he had let Raven do it before. Once Raven was gone, Shadow took it upon himself to let me know it was breakfast or treat time. It didn’t matter how many times I told him he would get both regardless–he still meowed. He still does. He’s also more assertive and confident, though that started when he first met Ian, and he’s more affectionate as well.

Anyway, my father, who has never shown any interest in my cats while Raven was alive, has taken quite the shine to Shadow. It started either last year or the year before. Year before because it was when they were in their apartment. We went to visit my niece and her then-boyfriend, now husband, and their adorable Shibu Inu. He was a puppy then, which meant he was highly exuberant. He was all over us because puppy energy, and my father was not happy about it at all. I could tell by the set look on his face, and on the way home, he commented about how nice it was that ‘we’ had a pet who was quiet.

First of all, it’s MY cat, not ours. Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with a puppy being a puppy.

This summer, my father has really become enamored by Shadow. I mean, Shadow’s adorable as fuck, but I don’t get why my father is so fascinated by him or why now. My mother said it’s because it’s in contrast to Raven. Her words (paraphrased): Raven got on everything and was noisy. You didn’t have to worry about Shadow taking your food (watch your meats, though), and he was quiet except when he wanted food.

Yeah? I guess? Raven was his own cat, but he wasn’t doing anything extremely untoward (including, unfortunately, stress-peeing outside the box). One thing I loved about him was that he was bull-headed, and he didn’t follow the (cat) rules. When he was a young cat, he loved sitting on top of the refrigerator. It gave me a heart attack every time I saw it, so I read up on what to do to deter him. There was a suggestion to put down a piece of cardboard with loops of masking tape on it because cats don’t like tape on their fur. I followed the suggestion, and the next morning, there was Raven sitting on the tape loops with a, “What now, bitch?” look on his face. I also couldn’t do the squirt gun thing because he liked the feel of water on his face (he drank from the tap). He once started gnawing on a Prozac pill I dropped before I could wrestle it from his mouth (and I did get it out), and he loved to chomp on dental floss.

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The dark side to love

This week in video game sexual harassment has been a particularly harrowing one. It started with two women accusing Jeremy Soule, a video games music composer, best known for Skyrim, of sexual misconduct up to and including rape. Three more women have said he put pressure on them to date him as well, and it turned out badly (career-wise) when they turned him down. Then, Alexis Kennedy, creator of Sunless Skies was accused by several women of using his position to pressure them, younger women, to date. He has a history of dating women who work for him, and they claim he abused them during those relationships. There were more, but the one that hit me the hardest (and was revealed in response to the Jeremy Soule accusation in support of Nathalie Lawhead, the victim) was Zoë Quinn declaring that Alec Holowka, one of the developers of Night in the Woods, had lured them (preferred pronoun) to his place in Winnipeg after they started a long distance relationship, then through a mix of emotional abuse and intimidation, isolated them from their friends and made them afraid to leave.

Zoë suffered through this for a month, and then left. They broke up with Holowka over email, and he proceeded to blacklist them from the industry. This was early in their career, and they said he’s done it to a certain extent. At first, they didn’t name him, but two women asked them if it were him. That’s when they realized he had done it more than once.

You may be thinking that the name Zoë Quinn sounds familiar. It’s because they were the victims in a case of revenge that kicked off GamerGate. They were vilified and dragged through the mud, and it showed the very ugly side of the gaming industry and how it was still steeped in misogyny. At the time, Zoë identified as a woman, and the hatred for ‘her’ and her perceived gender was gruesome.

Once the allegations came to light, Alec killed himself. His sister, Eileen Holowka, released a statement of shock, disbelief, and distress, but also support for the victims. Ian was covering the news (the link is his), and he broke it to me gently when I messaged him in the morning. He set it up by talking about the other accusations, and then he said one was going to be especially hard to me. That’s when I knew, and I had to brace myself for it. When he told me, it hit me in the gut.

Side Note: I have never had to face loving something by a person who has done something so heinous. I will get to that in a minute.


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Point the finger back at me

There is a theory in psychology that something about another person that really bugs you is because you’re projecting, and it’s something you do yourself. It’s a simplified theory, of course, and it’s only one of the reasons, but I’ve found it to be true. The other night when I was pointing out to my mother that she wasn’t the savior of the world and that the world wouldn’t end if she wasn’t the one to help whomever it was in crisis at that particular moment. She came back with reasons why she HAD to do it, and I shut my mouth, even though I was fuming inside.

Of course, you can see where I’m going with this. I am the same way myself, especially with her, and while I can advocate setting boundaries all I want–I can’t do the same with her. In my last post, I talked about the period of our relationship when I held her at a firm arm’s length away. It was because I couldn’t set reasonable boundaries, so I just threw up walls. It’s actually the earliest stage of setting boundaries, and I thought I had moved past it by cautiously lowering the boundaries until they were appropriate.

I was fucking wrong. One and a half weeks to go, and I feel beat down. I’m so worn, and it’s because I can’t enforce reasonable boundaries with either of my parents. With my father, it’s because he’s a petty tyrant. If you don’t do what he wants when he wants it in the way he wants it, he either throws a major tantrum or he gives the silent treatment (which is where I get it from. Though I don’t go to the extremes he does, my immediate reaction is to shut down or lash out, the latter if I feel cornered). The latter can go on for hours, and he’s like my cat in that he makes it pointedly obvious that he is ignoring you. Unlike Shadow, however, my father is neither adorable nor lovable when he does it.

I have learned to choose my battles with him and only stand firm on the important things. One was the thermostat thing. I was not budging on it, no matter how pissed off he got or how ‘hurt’ my mother got. But, with other stuff, I just give him as minimal information as possible. Like today, for example. He wanted to get into his gmail account. He was trying to type in the password, and he asked me how to put a space. I told him that passwords usually don’t have spaces. When he asked me again, I told him to press the space bar. In my head, I added, “Like you do on a fucking computer”, but I refrained.


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Fool me a hundred times

My heart is heavy, and I’m grieving the loss of a relationship I never had. Or rather, two relationships. Or one relationship with two people. My parents. My relationship with my father has ranged from nonexistent to frosty to cordially distant. Right now, I would classify it as parent-child–with me being the parent. His faculties have diminished to what I suspect is early onset dementia, but it’s hard to say because he refuses most testing in that area. Funny because he’s a hypochondriac who goes to the doctor at a moment’s notice, but like most hypochondriacs, if there is a potential serious issue, then he refuses to go. And if it’s something that has a negative connotation about his brain, well, forget about even mentioning it.

To be fair, my mother told me that Alzheimer’s is looked upon as a personal failing and weakness in Taiwan, so I can understand not wanting to open yourself up to that. I suggested he get tested here, but his English is nowhere near as good as it used to be, and it wouldn’t be fair to use a test he took in English as a barometer. On the other hand, the longer he goes without treating it, the worse it’s going to get.

Do you notice how I immediately started talking about my father? I meant to talk about my mother as a starter, but my father is such the focal point of the family, it’s hard to avoid, even here. Why am I grieving my relationship with my mother? Sit back with your favorite cup of tea because this is going to take some explaining.

If you asked my mother, she would say we are really close. She made me her confidante when I was eleven, pouring out all her woes about my father and her marriage into my very unwilling ears. She would cry about how he treated her (very badly), and I would listen until I couldn’t take it any longer before telling her she should divorce him. Then, she would shift to how he wasn’t that bad. I would feel like a dupe, and I would vow never to say anything again. She also told me how depressed she was and how much she hated her life. Not in those exact terms, but that was what she meant.


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Get your gate-keeping out of my games

Recently, in the RKG group, there was a post by a guy (gender relevant) which stated that it may be an unpopular opinion, but you cannot say you truly beat Bloodborne unless you do the Chalice Dungeons and beat all the bosses (paraphrasing). I posted my opinion which basically is who the fuck cares? I was more diplomatic than that, but it’s what it boils down to. I hate gate-keeping in…well, anything, but I notice it most often in things I care about, naturally.

First of all, just fucking state your opinion. That’s tangential to my rant, but it irks me when someone starts anything with ‘this may be unpopular’. Own your shit! Who cares if it’s unpopular or not? Of course, I might be particularly cynical in this instance because all of my opinions are unpopular. Well, not all, but many of them. In addition, my whole lifestyle is unpopular in one way or another, so I’ve become inured to it. In addition, it has a whiff of excuse giving in the beginning. Kind of like, ‘I’m not racist, but’ blah, blah, blah.

Again, that’s just a side note to the real irritation–men who unilaterally decide the markers that make someone a TRUE whatever fan. I later tweeted on Twitter that while I loved the Souls games, I hated this aspect of ‘the community’.

Side note: I love the Souls games with the intent to replay them. I love Sekiro, but it broke me. I intellectually thought Bloodborne was a good game, but I didn’t love it. I would replay it if it were on the PC, but I don’t like playing on the PS4. I would replay Sekiro until the cows came home if I could co-op. I understand why I can’t, but I’m not willing to spend ten hours on bird daddy or the last boss once again. So when I’m talking about the community, I mean the FromSoft community in general.

Anyway, I know the gate-keeping thing isn’t specific to FromSoft games, but there’s something about this kind of game that brings out the extreme toxic masculinity. I think it’s because the games are difficult to begin with, so if you play them, it’s easy to get an attitude about it. I will say beating a FromSoft boss is unlike any other feeling, especially after hours of failing against the same boss. There is a dopamine hit unlike any other, and it’s why I continue to play the games.

Part of my disgust is because who gets to be the keeper of the gate and why? Historically, it has been men. Mostly white straight cis dudes who hang every  part of their identity on their knowledge of a certain thing. It’s a way to keep people out, and it’s similar to a ‘no girls allowed’ sign. It’s a way to make someone feel better about himself.


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Family dysfunction in real time

My self-esteem, which is never really great, takes a beating when I’m around my family. My brother was over yesterday, and I could feel myself regressing more and more the longer he was there. I love my brother. We get along well these days. But. He’s still my older brother, and there’s a firm pecking order that we cannot escape.

Ian once commented that my mother listens to my brother when she doesn’t listen to me. It was validating because I had known it on some level, but was never able to articulate it. I’ve always felt it, but I never allowed it to come to the surface until Ian flat-out said it. Later on, though, I realized it was a bit more complicated than that. My mom is a questioner as I am. She also suffers high anxiety as I do. I’ve joked that her constant chatter is like the voice in my brain. It’s gotten worse in the past few years (for her), and I think it’s because my father retired so he’s around their house much more. He’s a petty tyrant with wildly variant moods (I come by it proudly), and she’s catered to him for fifty years.

Anyway, she always needs a second, third, and fourth opinion. I think it’s partly because my father is so set in his thinking, he can make you question yourself. He’s very good at gaslighting without even doing it directly. If you say something to him, there’s a high chance he won’t even respond. You know how the good social thing to do when someone is talking to you is to nod or look or them or say goddamn anything? Oftentimes, he won’t do any of that. He doesn’t even change expressions, so it’s hard to know if he heard you.

That’s one of the issues–he’s lost his hearing and refuses to wear his hearing aids at home. I’d bet he doesn’t always wear them outside, either, as he’s vain. If he can hear you, he may not understand what you’ve said. There’s two reasons for that. One, his English isn’t great. He hasn’t lived here for over a quarter of a century, and he doesn’t use English unless he’s here. Two, his comprehension is going. His mental faculties aren’t what they used to be, and combining that with his loss of English means that oftentimes, he just doesn’t understand. I think he feels bad when my brother, my mother, and I are babbling at each other because we talk at top speed, and he can’t keep up. Last night, my mother had to talk to him in Taiwanese and him respond in such before she translated it into English for us. Third, he hates admitting he doesn’t know something. So, he’ll agree to something or say he knows or that he remembers when it’s clear that he has no idea what is going on. You can’t point it out, either, because he’ll either double down or go back to being silent.


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Thoughts during a lovely wedding

My niece got married Friday night. I’m still digesting the fact that she’s no longer running around the lawn, screaming, giggling in glee as she babbled incoherently about whatever. She was such a happy, energetic child, and I marveled at how perfect she was. I know it’s trite, but I couldn’t believe that she had grown up enough to actually get married (just as a matter of time) even though I had seen it happen over the years. I mean, she had been living with Nick for several years, first in his parents’ house during the week, then in their own apartment, and then a house. They adopted their dog, Obi, who was their ring bearer with a pouch tied to his collar (and the groomsman using a spoonful of peanut butter to lead him down the aisle), and they both had full-time jobs–at the same place! I’ve seen her during all these stages, so it’s not as if she went from two to twenty-one without me noticing it. She told me about the wedding nearly two years ago, so it’s not like it got sprung on me.

The whole event was surreal. My brother called me up at 4:20 p.m. (bro) and asked me if we could be there by 5 p.m. My parents were sleeping, and that wasn’t doable, anyway. Apparently, they were doing family photos beforehand, and I told him we would be there as soon as possible. I woke up my parents, and sure enough, my mother freaked out. She’s an anxious type to begin with, and throwing a monkey in the wrench (heh) made it even worse. We managed to leave by 5:10 p.m., and we made it to the venue (the groom’s parents’ backyard) by 5:30 p.m.

There was only one picture taken (my mom for the grandmothers and niece pic), so it was kind of silly for us to be there so early. It was nice to snag a parking spot right across the street, though. Funny story before we left. I was wearing a sleeveless shirt with spaghetti straps (black) and a floral teardrop skirt (also black) that reached my knees. I had my hair down because I wanted to look nicer than normal. I had no idea what I was supposed to wear because I missed ‘church casual’ on the invite (which wouldn’t have helped me, anyway. I haven’t attended church in thirty years), so I decided to just do the best with what I had. It wasn’t a problem because people were dressed in everything from jeans to long dresses and everything in between.

Anyway, my dad looked at me and asked if I were going to bring a coat. I looked at him if he had lost his goddamn mind. It’s fucking summer. Who the hell wears a coat in the summer? Granted, it was going to be outside at night and the temperature was predicted to hit a low of 59, but that would be at like three in the morning–and I still wouldn’t wear a coat. I said as calmly as I could that I’d be fine–this is a long-running issue between us. Ever since I was a small child, he has been haranguing me to wear a fucking coat because he felt cold. This time, he said that seeing me without a coat made him feel cold for me. I said with a laugh that he could wear two coats and feel warm for me. He wisely let it drop, but it shouldn’t have come up at all. Later in the night after the sun went down, he asked if I was cold, and I said I was still hot. He refused to believe me, but I was.

It’s one of the most frustrating things about him–if he doesn’t feel/think/believe something, than he can’t fathom someone else could possible be different, especially his spawn. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but it’s still frustrating.


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