You Said What?

I was trying to find a couple of presents for Julie for Christmas. She is way more thoughtful than I.  I knew she’d creatively celebrate me.  She’s just so good at that.  We gave each other a weekend away as our primary gift, but I wanted her to have a few things under the tree to open on the big day.

One of my very stylish daughters asked for a pair of leggings she found online.  I ordered two, one for DJ and one for Julie.  I wrapped Julie’s and put it in her stack of gifts on Christmas morning.  When she opened the present, the name brand of the stretchy wear was prominently printed on the box:  SPANX.

“Oh honey.  I can’t wait to tell my friends that you got me Spanx for Christmas!”

We laughed.  She paused.  “Is there a hidden message here?”

“They’re leggings!!  Just leggings!  Because you’re so fit and do yoga all the time, you fit female you!”

The more I spoke the deeper I dug.

She really wasn’t offended; we all had a great laugh.  Since then, Julie and I have recounted the story and have started a list of things not to say or do when you’re trying to find your mate.  We plan to share these suggestions with our future sons and daughter-in-law.

Number 1:  Don’t give your girlfriend Spanx as a gift.  Ever.

I also learned it is not great when I complain about my weight loss: “Baby, I accidentally lost 4 pounds today.”  Sometimes it happens – well for me.  Apparently not for her, or the other four females in our home, and they really don’t want to hear about my sudden shedding of self.

Number 2:  Don’t tell your girlfriends when you accidentally lose 4 pounds.

I was thinking about what girls shouldn’t say to guys and remembered being at a bar in my early twenties with a buddy of mine.  We were sitting by two attractive women and Andy struck up a conversation with the cute blonde.  She asked if we played any sports.  He said he played football in high school.  Her response?  “But you’re such little men.”

Seriously?  I’m over six feet tall and have been since my sophomore year in high school.  I’m not overweight, but I’m certainly NOT little.  I still take offense at that comment.

Number 3:  Don’t tell a guy he is little – or that any part of him is little for that matter (unless you’re talking about his stomach).

These are lessons we will pass on.  Maybe our kids will have easier communication if we share our past mistakes.

To My Surprise

Kyle

I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the specific boy.  It is really irrelevant at this point and not appropriate for me to be expounding upon… yet.  But for the first time, my eldest is dating someone – although I’m not sure she used that term and if I get it wrong, I’ll hear about it.  Maybe they’re going out or courting or strongly connecting.  Who knows what they call it now?

I’m not saying she has never dated before.  She has.  This is the just first time it seems to be sort of exclusive save “The Donald” from 10th grade that lasted about a month and ended tragically, for him, at Moe’s Tex-Mex restaurant in Cameron Village, an upscale strip mall here in Raleigh.

Although, as all this has unfolded, I could totally be wrong.  She could have dated exclusively, and I had no idea what’s went on!  I continue to learn things about our kids that surprise me.  I don’t think the five of them are truly coming clean.

I’ve heard this guy’s name for two years now.  We’ll call him Harry.  It sort of went like this:

Me:  “What did you do this weekend DJ?”

DJ:  “Well, Harry and I watched a movie at his apartment.”

Me:  “Hmm.”

Next weekend –

Me:  “What did you do this weekend DJ?”

DJ:  “Well, Harry and I went to dinner and then a party at his Fraternity.”

Me:  “Hmm.”  Harry again.

I mean I’m not stupid.  Last fall I commented that she and Harry sure did seem to enjoy each other – or she was lacking in the friendship department cause every other sentence was Harry this and Harry that. I was assured they were just friends.  Yeah – and the hairs slowing taking over my temples are blonde, not gray.

The way I found out about this relationship was via a family group text.

Michelle shared a funny photo with the fam and bantering ensued.  At the end of the string of texts, coming from three different cities and four different people, DJ wrote: BTW (By The Way for my mom and dad) – Harry and I are dating.

I called immediately.  She did not pick up.  Probably in class or something, right?

Michelle wrote back – you serious?

Stephanie chimed in:  Yes!  She is.  She called and told me last week.

There are three problems here:

  1. This had been going on for several weeks, at least, and I was just finding out
  2. DJ told Stephanie before she told me

AND…

3.  Stephanie didn’t call and tell me the news (she swears she was sworn to secrecy but I thought better of her).

I’m good with all this – actually makes me very happy.  I’m just having to get used to all this going on without my knowledge.

One day I asked Stephanie what she did the night before.  She replied, “I went to Target.”  I do believe that is true.  However, her sister also innocently told me she saw a picture of Steph on her Instagram story at a party that same night.

Maybe the party was at Target…

And I can’t even guess what else is going on with these five offspring of ours.  Julie’s son is holed up in Athens, GA, or so he says.  One weekend he’s at a Fraternity party in Alabama, the next a sorority party in Memphis and the next spring break in Cancun.

Next time Julie and I want to get away, we’re just gonna tell them all “We’re going to Target.”  That’ll teach them!

Maybe it’s best I don’t know all that’s going on.  I like my peaceful life – sitting around watching DVR’d 60 Minute episodes thinking my kids are doing the same.  Ahhh – the joy of not knowing.

 

The Dadar

Recently I was asked to write an article for Carolina Parent Magazine.  This was my first attempt.  The article is in their February edition, and the month’s theme is dating.  

Several years ago, my oldest daughter, DJ, who was in high school at the time, came into the house at around 11 PM.  “Dad, you’re not going to believe what happened!”  Her enthusiasm peaked my interest.  I turned to see a quite anguished face.  “What?”  “Well, Sam called me and,” Sam was a friend from school, “OMG – when she got home tonight her mom was mugging with her boyfriend in the driveway!  Gross!  Why would old people do that?”

Sam’s mother is a widow and has been for quite some time.  Apparently mugging is making-out.  I too lost my wife, seven years ago, and I say “Go Sam’s mom!!”  I had to explain to my kid that although we had crested 40, we still liked to kiss, eat solid foods and go to the bathroom independently – all the regular stuff that she liked to do.

She scrunched up her nose, “Oooo.”

I actually have three daughters.  Two are in high school, the oldest now in college.  Their high school is all girls.  It limits their dating options.

DJ’s junior year brought our first real boyfriend:  Donald.  I referred to him as The Donald – it was pre-Trump presidency days.  After they declared their intent to exclusively date, my dadar (Dad Radar) went up.  I was no longer content with him doing a drive-by to pick her up.  “No more tooting the horn and you leaping out the front door.  The Donald needs to walk his butt inside this house, look me in the eye and shake my hand.  Yeah – that’s what The Donald is going to do.”

I found it interesting that the week before, a toot and scoot was acceptable to me.  Suddenly I needed to see his eyes and let him feel the grip of my hand.  You can tell a lot about a guy in those two gestures.

Although I got push-back, the following Friday night The Donald parked and entered.  His demeanor told me he was uneasy.  That made me happy.  I strove with all my might to convey through my nonverbals two things to this obviously inexperienced young man:

1)  She’d better be happy when she gets home

2)  Touch her and you die.

Their connection hearkened me back to my first girlfriend, Carolanne.  It was eighth grade, and we’d meet at her house, walk through the woods to the park and “mug” like Sam’s mom.  Later I learned her little brother and sister hid behind trees and watched us.  Her father wasn’t around very much and her mother was not very intimidating.  It was fun!  I didn’t want my daughter to have that experience.  She could have fun playing volleyball or something.

It’s interesting how our perspectives on things evolve through the years.  It’s interesting how as parents, we work to shield our kids from some of the exact things we did.  It’s interesting how our kids have a totally different set of standards for us than they have for themselves.

The Donald didn’t last very long.  A fairly amicable break-up occurred at the local Moe’s just a month or so after our first handshake.  And although he was the one whose heart was broken, I don’t think he minded all that much.  I believe he was more fit for a girl with a less attentive father.

Looking Up!

Bruce Julie Tux

It was a bit over a year ago when I told a close friend I was headed to Charlotte, NC, for a work meeting.  This friend suggested I contact a sorority sister of hers, “Danny, I think you’d really hit it off.”

I wasn’t resistant.  I’ve been out on a number of dates over the past five or so years and although I hadn’t found Miss Right, I’ve met some interesting women and had enjoyable conversations.  People are fascinating and mostly nice.

I wasn’t overly optimistic, but I certainly didn’t dread the date.  I could always use a new friend.  Besides, she lived two hours away.  This relationship could easily dissolve simply by staying close to the Wake County line.

What I didn’t expect was to be totally captivated by this incredible woman.  What I couldn’t imagine was that I would start a relationship with someone who would emotionally fill me up in a way I hadn’t been filled in a very long time.

My mom has prayed for this for seven years.  I guess I haven’t because I had my plate full with other pressing issues.  It seemed insurmountable to heal enough from my loss to ever be open to a relationship again.

But BAM – it hit me.  It hit me hard.

The past seven years have been tough.  Don’t get me wrong, my girls and I have had really, really good times together.  But there are roles that they can’t and should not have to fill in our family.  It’s simply not their responsibility to ensure my happiness.  I have to figure that out on my own.

I think I’ve done OK, but man, to share the emotional load, to open up, to laugh and cry with someone again – someone who really cares about me in a different way than my parents or my kids – it sort of rounds things out.

I had forgotten.  I had filled my huge void with busy – running myself ragged so I didn’t have to sit still long enough to in fact realize how lonely I had become.  My kids were moving forward.  My friends were moving on.  I was not.  I was simply running in place.  Stuck in the middle.

Now, I breathe again.  Not just short gasps.  No, because of Julie, I’m taking deep, thoughtful, life-filling breaths.  She is a beautiful, optimistic, capable, happy, ball of fire!  We fit.

Movement forward isn’t always easy nor steady, and I bring a lot of baggage to the table.  But I think, instead of pushing it aside, she’s going to help me carry it.  She seems to see things in me that I don’t even see in myself.

In my darkest days, I never imagined happy like this.  I can’t believable that I found it.

Bruce and Julie

 

I love some Michael Coors

michael-kors-michael-peep-toe-platform-sandals-leighton-high-heels-462906

It’s that time of year again.  Time to find the costume for the Winter Formal.  It’s in two weeks.  Both DJ and Stephanie have dates, which is no easy feat at an all girls’ school.  Appropriate clothing may be a more difficult challenge this year.

I took Stephanie to six dress stores last weekend.  If it had arm and neck holes, we tried it on.  Salesclerks give me the oddest stares.  I know they wonder why this dude is the sole adult with teenaged girls in their boutique.  I want to wear a sign across my chest:  Wife died, shut your pie hole.  Instead I try to act like I know what I’m doing, like Clinton from What Not To Wear:

“Texture…nice.”

“Shuuuut-Up!”

“Fit IS everything.”

“A line, much better than the B line.”

After a frustrating Saturday, I sent DJ on the prowl.  Within 30 minutes of their departure, I got a text with a pic of THE dress.  I thought Stephanie had it on backwards because the zipper was in the front.  Why would you need a zipper in the front?  It’s not a jacket.  You ain’t gonna need to get it off in a hurry!

Whatever…

This weekend we tackled shoes.  I took her to a store I thought was called DWI – but it’s actually DSW.  There were so many shoes there it upset my stomach.  I was overwhelmed.  I felt dizzy.  I didn’t know where to start.

I felt like a bird; I headed for sparkly shoes.  That’s what she used to like.

“Dad.  I haven’t worn sparkling shoes since I dressed up like Snow White, Halloween of 2004.”

Although she told me, I kept being drawn to shoes with jewels on them.

“Dad – DO NOT PICK OUT ONE MORE SHINY SHOE!  I AM NOT WEARING SEQUINS TO THE DANCE, especially on my feet!”

I pulled boxes off the shelf,she tried them on.  I then took pictures and sent them to DJ.

She responded to my first text:  “Put them back now!  They actually made me throw up a little bit.”

They weren’t that bad.

We finally settled on two pair, both returnable, both by Michael Coors.  I liked that cause he makes beer too.

When we got them home, I was told one pair looked like a 50-year-old lady and the other like a Hay Street prostitute.

“Well she must be good because these puppies were expensive.”

The crazy thing is that when DJ returned from her first dance at St. Mary’s School, I asked her if her feet hurt.  Her response?  “Oh no.  We took them off the minute we walked in the door.”

I’m gonna send her behind in bedroom slippers.  Shiny bedroom slippers.

Why You Got To Be So Rude?

There is a fairly new pop song that the radio stations play endlessly right now.  It’s called Rude, and it’s about a young man who goes to ask his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage.

It starts like this:

Saturday morning jumped out of bed
And put on my best suit
Got in my car and raced like a jet
All the way to you
Knocked on your door with heart in my hand
To ask you a question
‘Cause I know that you’re an old-fashioned man, yeah

Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life?
Say yes, say yes ’cause I need to know

In the music video, the father shakes his head and apparently says, “Nah, you ain’t marrying my daughter.”

You say I’ll never get your blessing ’til the day I die
Tough luck, my friend, but the answer is ‘No’

The young man then asks the dad, Why you got to be so rude?

Every time I hear that song, it takes me back to a similar conversation with Lisa’s father.  I’m not sure if it’s still an expectation in other parts of the country to ask a girl’s father for her hand in marriage, but in the south, it is.  At least in my circles.

So, I, being raised in a respectable family, knew what I had to do when I made the decision to take the plunge.  I called my father-in-law to be ,who I didn’t know very well, and asked him to go to lunch.  I admit I was a bit frightened.  It was a really awkward situation.  I was sitting there with a dude I didn’t really know, basically asking if I could defrock his daughter, spend Christmas with him, and go on his family vacations for the rest of his life.  All over a burger and fries.

I didn’t even know what to call this person.  He hadn’t told me I could marry his daughter yet so “dad” would have been presumptuous.  And, it seemed a bit formal to call my likely father-in-law Mr. Katsopolis – I’d likely see him in his underwear before the year was over.  But David or Dave was out of the question.  He was my elder, more than two decades my senior.

I don’t think I addressed him by name that day.  In fact, I don’t think I addressed him by name until there were grandchildren, at which time he became Pops, a comfortable name for all.

After small talk, he isn’t much of a small talker, and some awkward silence, I finally popped the question letting him know that I was planning to pop the question.

“Ahh, I think I’m gonna ask Lisa to marry me.  You OK with that?”  There was no going back now…

I was pretty sure he liked me but she was young, 23, and I was five years her senior.  I knew there was a possibility that he would beg me off for a while.  Surprisingly his response was rapid:

“Son, you don’t know what a burden you’re taking off of me.”

I gulped.  Were there things about my future wife that I didn’t yet know?  Did she have multiple personalities?  Financial baggage?  Perhaps an anger disorder?  Why was he so relieved?

As my mind raced working to figure out what I’d missed, Mr. Katsopolis gazed into nowhere, and as if his brain and mouth were one, his thoughts became audible:  “Her sister is going to be harder to place.”

If believe he picked up the check and bounced out of the restaurant as if he had just sold me a car without an engine.

I’m not sure how I’ll respond when some serious suitor comes to call for one of my girls, and I’ll have to admit I’ve wondered which of my daughters will be the most “difficult to place.”

Will I play hard to get with the fellas, or jump at the first offer?  DJ recently taped me singing my own version of Rude.  

I hope it doesn’t come to this!

Baggage That Goes With Mine

Gucci-Trunks-IIHIH

It was almost one year after Lisa’s death that an overwhelming desire to date came over my being. It was as if I saw this impending life of loneliness approaching, and I felt I had to develop a plan for avoiding the scenario that kept playing out in my mind.

I mentioned my readiness to a couple of friends and within a week or two, I found myself scheduled for a blind lunch date at a restaurant near my office.

I thought I was ready, but I thought wrong.

As the day approached I became more and more uneasy. That morning, I gagged in the bathroom toilet.

At 11:30 I went into a co-workers office, he’s also a very good friend.  “I can’t do this. I’m going to puke. I have to call it off. Do you thinking texting her is appropriate?”

This friend, who had walked by my side for the previous 12 months and had heard my rants about moving to a retirement community at age 45 simply to have a built-in social network, grabbed my shoulders.  “Get yourself together man! You’re going on this date! You don’t have to marry her, you simply have to eat with her.”

He walked me to my car.

“Take off your wedding ring. Get in the car. Don’t come back without a receipt. And there’d better be TWO entrees on it!”

I think the “date” lasted 45 minutes. She was nice enough, very easy to talk to, and I did not vomit.  But I just wasn’t ready.

It takes a lot of cahoonas to put yourself out there. I have single friends who have slugged out the dating scene for years. I think about what I have to offer, sort of like a newspaper want ad:

Single male looking for a date; skinny with slight love handles; works for a nonprofit; will always love his first wife, the mother of his children; lives on estrogen lane with his three teenage daughters; continues to find random hairs poking out of various orifices around his body.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to jump on that?

Year three I decided I was gonna be a “PLAYA”… was gonna date multiple women at once.

Yeah – not so much.

I found my calendar didn’t much support that kind of lifestyle.

Let’s see, I think I can fit you in the 17th of next month from 5:45 – 7:15 pm, after I drop off at ballet and before I have to be at the Stewardship Committee meeting at church.

Nah, going out with one person is plenty.

Two of the women I’ve dated are now in very serious relationships with other guys. One is engaged!

Date Danny Tanner, and fall in love (with someone else). I’m a good starter kit.

I’ve been on a number of first dates, even seconds and thirds. And then, when there are no sparks, I don’t know what to do. Call back and ask, “Are you feeling sparks? Cause I’m not really.” Or, “I’d love to hang out and be your friend but I just don’t think we’re moving each other romantically.” Or, “If you could do something about that annoying laugh, maybe this could go somewhere.”

And the worst is when I then see these women, who I just never called back, in the mall.

“Hey…” this is the most awkward moment of my adult life, “I meant to call you back but…that laugh, well…”

Seriously, they didn’t call me back either so I’m guessing they saw the six-inch white hair poking out of my left ear.

One friend told me I didn’t want to go out with a particular woman ’cause she had baggage.  Seriously?  I got a whole Samsonite 5-piece set!  I need someone whose baggage goes with mine.

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

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Daddy Vogue

jcrew tennis shoes

I don’t know if I’ll ever get remarried.  Perhaps in time, but I guess I’m not in a rush.

My mom says that she’s not going to die until I do.  If I want to keep her around, I should probably not – it might give her incentive to keep on trucking.

I have dated some.  The girls reaction has been funny.  They are supportive, but they find it difficult to believe that anyone would actually, without being under some sort of duress, would want to go out with me.

Me:  “DJ, I’m going out to dinner on Friday night.  Can you babysit?”

DJ:  “I guess.  What are you doing?”

Me:  “I have a date.”

DJ:  “Seriously?”

The seriously isn’t framed as I’m upset you’re going out.  The tone behind the word clearly conveys Poor, poor pathetic woman.  To be desperate enough to go on a date with my dad – even if he is paying.

Someone told me to try online dating.  There may be a day that I get to that – but it sure isn’t now.  I did, however, wonder what my profile might be:

Nearly 50-year-old widower

Skinny with slight love handles

Three teenage daughters (now that’s a selling point)

Works for a nonprofit ($$$)

Will always love his deceased wife

Might write a tell-all book about you at some point in the future

I mean, who wouldn’t be into that?

A few weeks ago I was heading out and went upstairs to give instructions to the troops.  DJ looked at me.

“Dad, are you meeting a woman?”

“Yeah.  Just a friend for a drink.”

“Oh.”

She continued, “Dad, I like your shoes.”

“Thanks.”

“I also like your pants.”

“Thanks baby.”  I am so very, very cool.

“However, I don’t like them together.  Go change.”

I began my defense, “These are cool tennis shoes and J Crew cords!  We’re just going to a bar!  It’s casual!  Uncle Jesse has shoes like this!”

“No.  No he doesn’t.  This situation,” she pointed to my lower extremities, “is not working.”

I wasn’t about to let a 16-year-old dictate my wardrobe.  I’m a confident man.  She couldn’t tell me what to wear!

As I walked through the kitchen, I complained to Michelle, “Can you believe DJ told me to change my shoes?”

She glanced down from the iPad and down at my feet.  “Thank God.”

As I slipped on my boots I was disgusted with weakness.

I really haven’t dated that much and am in no big hurry.  It is difficult to find time.  But it is nice to occasionally hang out with females who aren’t married to my friends or whose primary concern isn’t acne.

The Dress

Posted by Danny

What is $7,227.74? 

The amount of money I’m likely to spend on high school dances over a 12 year period of time for three daughters.  I accounted for two big dances a year and included 5% a year for inflation.  This does not include middle school dances, college formals or debutante balls.

I can see myself in thirty years – living in Michelle’s cardboard box in downtown Raleigh – a large picture book of my daughters, wearing my retirement, my sole possession.

It took two grandmothers, one aunt, three of Lisa’s friends, an army of saleswomen and me to find THE dress for DJ’s first formal.  The shopping started just two weeks out with family members dropping by every dress shop from Benson to Oxford. 

At one point I think we had four dresses on hold.

Finally, as the calendar grew tight, I stepped in – sort of the Godfather of shopping.  A decision had to be made.  I was strong and equipped, I’d just paid off my monthly VISA bill.

We started at North Hills – a store called Ubiquitous (or something like that).  They had nothing (under $300) that we liked.  We ran by Hayley’s – they were holding one.  The woman assured us this was the only one of its kind in the free world.  Grandma liked it better than DJ.

We hit another store on Oberlin Road – it cost me one $50 Sunday dress, but nothing for the event.

I was getting worried.

Two days later, it happened.  She found something else in North Hills and put it on hold.  We walked in together.  There was a comfortable black and white couch with a huge framed mirror propped right in front of me.  I looked good – graying at my temples, the black circles under my eyes hidden under the soft lights.

She came out in the dress – it was a darker shade of purple.  It was short. 

“You look beautiful but you’ll need to wear a bathing suit under that one.”

“It’s fingertip length.”

“Maybe your pinkie fingertip, if you’re slouching.  What are you going to do when you raise your arms?”

“Why would I raise my arms? It’s a formal, not a math class.”

“Don’t you raise your arms when you dance?”

“No.”

I demonstrate some of my basic moves – hands in the air.

“We don’t dance like that.”

“Oh.”

There were slits in the sleeves from shoulder to elbow.  “What are those for?”

“I don’t think they have a specific purpose.”

“They’re like air vents – they’ll keep you cool on the dance floor. Or, you could put your cell phone in there.”

The nineteen year old salesclerk assured me the dress was an appropriate length for a high school dance.  “Would your father let you wear it?”

“Absolutely.”

Liar.

The shoes were next.  We headed to Southpoint mall.  She knew what she wanted:  Nude (color, not a state of dress), patton (means shiny), pumps (unrelated to the gas station).  Easy to find – but expensive to me.

Ends up that all of the girls checked their shoes at the coat closet when they arrived at the dance.  That means that those shoes cost about $1 per minute of wear.

I think the best part of the evening came when at about 10 pm, Jesse texted DJ with these two pictures and the following message:

Who looks better in your dress? Michelle, you or me?

Yes – Jesse and Michelle had taken pictures of themselves in DJ’s formal dress earlier in the week with the sole purpose of harassing her in the middle of her date.

I cannot tell you how much joy that one act has brought to my life.

Conversation Starters by Michelle

Posted by Danny

On Monday, Jesse and I were on the front porch talking about life – not an unusual occurence.  Michelle can’t stand for two people to be talking without being in the middle of the conversation.  She sort of senses that others have congregated without her, and she quickly finds a way to jump in the middle of the conversation – and in the middle of your lap for that matter.

I’m not 100% sure how the conversation moved to dating, but somehow it did.  And she asked, “Jesse, what do you talk about on a date?”  Jesse responded, “Sometimes it’s easy to talk on a date and sometimes not so much.”  We laughed.

Michelle said, “Jesse, you ought to ask the girl if she can cook.  Because you need that.”  I concurred with her line of thinking and prodded for more.

“What else could Jesse talk about on a date?” I asked. 

She then proceeded to give him a list of ten questions that could be conversation starters.  These were her other suggestions:

Do you like sports?  Because you’re really gonna need to if you marry me?

Do you like weird guys who sing all the time?  

Do you mind guys who wear shirts with holes in them?

Do you like guys who wear black short socks all the time, I mean ALL the time?   Even to church.

Do you mind guys who rock out in a green, old minivan?

Do you like guys who go to weddings almost every weekend?  (wearing short black socks)

Do you like guys who can play any song on the piano, without the music?

Do you like guys who can do math?  Tell her you’re really good at math.

Do you mind a guy who stays out really, really late at night? 

I particularly like the first date opener that includes the reference to marriage!  Clearly a great way to start a new relationship. 

I think he should take these questions on his next date.  I’m not sure it would last that long but it would certainly be interesting to watch!

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