I waltzed into the hair salon with the giddy anticipation of a woman on the edge of a personal transformation. “What are we doing to the color today?” the stylist asked, and I raised my hands and sort of waved them around my head as if my barely-contained excitement was pulsing out of my own follicles in crackling-static waves. I used words like DRAMATIC and TOTALLY DIFFERENT and LET’S JUST CHANGE THIS WHOLE THING UP. Blonde, baby, blonde. I hear they have more fun.

We came to an agreement and even did a mini high-five to celebrate the New Me who would be walking out of the salon with, like, Betty Draper hair (but not the whoah-black-Betty, bam-ba-lam version in season 6), and for a very very very long time she did her thing: foils, foils, more foils, a thousand and one foils applied in meticulously painted crinkly folds as I thumbed through a stack of women’s magazines and did the embarrassed fast-flip past the articles titled 10 Surprising Sex Moves That’ll Leave Him Begging for More (appropriately enough, surprise #2 is always stick your finger in his ass).

Eventually she rinsed everything clean and led me back to the chair and before I had a chance to look she said, “Soooo. Um. The color didn’t really turn out like I’d hoped.” The mirror confirmed it: the roots were lighter, but everything looked mostly the same as it had before. Sort of brownish. But with a new unattractive yellowy-gold tone that added a deeply sallow note to my complexion.

She apologized, said she’d made a mistake with the bleach or dye or whatever it was and that I wouldn’t be charged. I stared at my reflection and worked to suppress the horrifying watery sniffle that I could feel aching in the back of my throat. I mean, who cries over an imperfect highlighting job? Sometimes a salon error is just a cigar, I lectured myself. Stop thinking about tigers and their stripes.

I left feeling vain and stupid and disappointed. A week into it, my new hair — somehow darker than before, glinting with a cheap brassy hue — seems more and more like a metaphor for bad decisions. Not exactly the glamorous fresh-start New Me I’d been hoping for.

Comments

70 Responses to “Tones”

  1. Emily on August 18th, 2013 11:49 am

    The thing with hair is it always grows back. Chop it all off and start over, I say.

  2. Jenny on August 18th, 2013 11:52 am

    Two words — CORRECTIVE COLOR. A qualified colorist can fix what the first chick botched. I speak from pine-tree green hair experience.

  3. MichelleH on August 18th, 2013 12:07 pm

    Like everything else, it can be fixed!

  4. Alison V on August 18th, 2013 12:08 pm

    Yes – find someone with experience in corrective color. Also spoken from experience (overall color that was way too dark plus highlights left on so long they turned white – it looked like I was a mousy brunette going gray in dramatic streaks – horrific).

  5. Angella on August 18th, 2013 12:24 pm

    Reason #487 that you guys need to come visit: My hairdresser has been doing my hair for fifteen years and teaches others how to color hair. She can also fix ANYTHING.

  6. Jen on August 18th, 2013 12:26 pm

    Oh dear heavens, do not live with that shit. Sure hair grows back/out/whatever, but doesn’t mean you have to walk around like you’re part of the brass band. Get thee self to a qualified colorist stat and stop looking for meaning here!

  7. Kris on August 18th, 2013 12:36 pm

    Dammit – what a letdown for you. I agree with the others, though. You don’t have to settle for less than beautiful. Find a corrective color specialist and get it done right.

  8. Alison V on August 18th, 2013 12:50 pm

    Also – please don’t feel vain or like this is some allegory with far reaching meaning. As women it is drummed into our heads that our value is based almost entirely on our looks, but if we admit that we might actually care a little bit about our appearance, suddenly we’re vain and ridiculous. This drives me insane. You’re perfectly entitled to good hair. Sorry – end rant.

  9. Erin on August 18th, 2013 12:57 pm

    Get thee to someone who can fix this–and quickly! The only meaning here is that the colorist needs more practice–but not on you.

  10. Penne on August 18th, 2013 1:20 pm

    Dammit. But you didn’t have to pay – which means you can go to someone and make it what you wanted in the first place. I know the feeling of walking in and thinking you’re going to walk out someone else…I’ve actually fantasized that eyelash extensions would make my nose look smaller…so I get it. BUT! It is fixable. Get a good recommendation and have someone who knows what they’re doing give you the oomph you were looking for. You deserve it. And also? I felt the pit in my stomach reading this…you have such talent. Major major talent. Buy a hat and write. :)

  11. Meghan on August 18th, 2013 1:23 pm

    I agree with everyone else, go get it fixed. By someone else. It’s great she didn’t charge you, that means you can put the money you would have spent toward getting it done right. Good luck!

  12. Margaret on August 18th, 2013 1:58 pm

    I agree with the other commenters who are saying to get it fixed. No need to look in the mirror every morning, sigh sadly and think, “Oh yeah. That.”

    Though, as someone who has been trying to reroute my own personal journey with entirely much, much less success than I thought I would have by this point, I super appreciate your story and am glad you shared it.

    Maybe, the moral is that Rome wasn’t built in a day and personal satisfaction is a multi-step process?

  13. Jennifer on August 18th, 2013 2:15 pm

    Oh that sucks!! How disappointing….
    Get that shit fixed up. You deserve it!

  14. Lauren on August 18th, 2013 2:26 pm

    I guess I’m the only one who didn’t think this post was only about hair. You’re a gifted writer.

  15. Kim on August 18th, 2013 3:29 pm

    This actually made me cry a little, as I’m sitting here with Feria on my head, waiting the requisite 25 minutes and hoping a brighter color means a brighter outlook. It’s only hair, yes, but also a lot more.

  16. Laura on August 18th, 2013 3:32 pm

    Your hair is not a metaphor for anything! Things that happen and disappoint you are not interconnected; this is a mistake that I make – I will start thinking that every bad thing that happens is connected to the thing before it, and it all means something, and then I’m overwhelmed and depressed.

    This was a bad highlight job caused by a chemistry mistake. Please get it fixed and please DON’T think you need to wear it to punish yourself.

  17. sooboo on August 18th, 2013 4:09 pm

    Came here to say what Laura above me just said but I would add that in addition to a chemistry mistake, an inexperienced hairdresser is to blame too. Taking brown hair to blonde is not for amateurs. The only time I tried it was in a professional setting and it left me with painful scabs on my scalp that turned itchy, that lasted for weeks. It did look cool though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be so painful.

  18. Megsie on August 18th, 2013 4:41 pm

    Hi Linda,

    I mostly lurk, but I love your writing so much. I was moved to comment today because I want you to know that I am thinking of you and cheering you on from the sidelines. Just sending love your way. I am so sorry you have been struggling lately. (BTW…I agree with Laura too. It sucks but it is fixable. And, I cried when I colored my hair too light once and it was exactly what I said I wanted. So there.)

  19. Danell on August 18th, 2013 5:19 pm

    Dang, girl! Who’s that really pretty chic you post pictures of with your family, if it’s not you? Because that girl has been pretty in EVERY picture you’ve ever posted…with or without makeup, pregnant or not, sweaters or lovely sundresses…you’ve looked great! (And if your hair is annoying you and you need a distraction JUST ADMIRE YOUR LEGS OMG YOUR LEGS ARE TO DIE FOR.)

  20. scantee on August 18th, 2013 7:33 pm

    What everyone else said. This is a problem that should be easy to fix. You’ll have to pay to have it fixed but a good colorist will know exactly what to do.

    I got bangs this week after not having them for many years. It’s as if I said to myself, “my hair is looking too damn good, what can I do to mess it up?” Only six more months until I no longer look like a weird six year old!

  21. kim on August 18th, 2013 9:32 pm

    Last February I went to the hairdresser with a picture of exactly what I wanted. And maybe the final result matched if I had also said, “this picture but 4 inches less hair!” Instead of a layered, shoulder length do I had a near pixie-cut that did no favors for my round face. I wanted to cry – I looked better BEFORE the haircut and the new haircut was going to be the beginning of a new me. Instead I wanted to spend the next 3 months hiding out at home, waiting for it to grow. I need a cut now (finally, what’s 6 months?!) and am afraid to try again. :(

  22. Koa on August 18th, 2013 9:33 pm

    So this one time, a week before I was to be ‘the blonde bridesmaid’ at a wedding I went for a trim and highlights, to my longstanding and NYC priced though Eugene based stylist, and I said ‘let’s warm it up’ and a while later she was like ‘oh fuck’ then i was like ‘that’s really red’ and she was like ‘um’ then I was like ‘no worries just fix it’ and she was like ‘if i tone that back to your original blonde your gair might fall out’ then I was like ‘oh fuck.’ Anyhow. Two days and 3 trips back to the salon i was strawberry blonde, the bride was mostly ok with the change of bridal party hair color scheme and I totally got that it’s just hair. Also. I have an amazing colorist in Eugene. Not the one who made me red. Let me know if you want to try her out. :-)

  23. mlegreenberg on August 18th, 2013 10:00 pm

    I get it…and I feel ya. You had yourself all jazzed up for this New You and then when it fell flat it was a big let down. You are putting all this effort in to change and to have what should have been an easy change not work out…well it can feel futile. But keep striving. You are worth all the effort and I hope you can sense the support your readers feel for you even if its not in person or expressed in more tangible ways.

  24. MassHole on August 19th, 2013 4:55 am

    I’m with Lauren.

  25. Val on August 19th, 2013 6:02 am

    Sounds like you need a good ole spa day with someone who can fix it and then get a little extra pampering.

  26. Karen on August 19th, 2013 6:05 am

    I can’t count how many times I’ve gone in for “the style” with varied results. You know “the style.” It’s the one that will finally have you feeling like you have all your shit together, look fabulous, and just … fix everything by giving you this amazing outlook on the world.

    I don’t know why we put so much belief in these mystical hair styles, but we do and when it fails it’s so sad … it can turn into shining example of “see, my life isn’t all that I want it to be and further more I’d a freaking moron to think it can be!”

    Basically this is my long winded way of saying “I get it.”

    Hang in there! Sometimes failure is really just backing up for a running start.

  27. Nimble on August 19th, 2013 6:26 am

    There should be a word for the fervent conviction that a new hair style and color will fix all of life’s challenges. We’ve all felt it. And the disappointment when even new bangs! doesn’t produce a different career/nose/partner/life direction. Maybe the Germans can build a word for it. Google tells me that haarschnitt is haircut in German, that’s a good start.

  28. nicole on August 19th, 2013 7:05 am

    I always go brassy or red when they start lightening my gross ashy blonde natural hair color. BUT then it is always followed by a blue/silver rinse to tone out those colors to a nice blonde color. No magic, no special talent required, just the knowledge so I am sure that your hair will be back to gorgeous in no time at all. If only everything was so simple, right? (or is it…)

  29. ememby on August 19th, 2013 7:46 am

    I once turned my own hair orange and then dark purple in the course of one night… it eventually washed out or toned down (or maybe I just got used to it).

    But there is just something about leaving the hair salon without achieving the transformation you were hoping for… there is no denying it.

  30. jen on August 19th, 2013 8:12 am

    Ugh. I am so sad for you. I am so specific about my hair and having it screwed up is so tough. Hopefully you find someone awesome to fix it for you stat.

  31. C on August 19th, 2013 8:25 am

    Get it fixed.

    As someone who’s only recently overcome lifelong (I turn 40 next month…aghhhh!) hair-related issues (thanks Mom), there is definitely a link between our hair and self perception (and projection). It’s worth the price and effort to love your hair.

    And Mom? I look fucking fabulous with long hair!

  32. Maggie on August 19th, 2013 9:02 am

    My hairdresser moved out of town two years ago and now getting my hair cut has become almost as hated as shopping for jeans. I go in hopeful that this time I’m going to get a stylist who really knows what she is doing. This time I will have a decent haircut that really flatters me. This time unicorns and rainbows will fly out of my ass. I really wish my hairdresser would move back because I’m so sick of the hair thing.

  33. Christina on August 19th, 2013 9:12 am

    I felt the same way this past weekend about my new I am gonna feel so good about my hair once it’s colored color and oh you know like the past few years about my life. Here’s to moving forward, away from this sense of value and worth. That a hair color or a weight loss or whatever is not going to change the interior rumblings. Until I actually take care of those interior rumblings, I will be left feeling poorly about the exterior no matter what color my hair is…

  34. Mia on August 19th, 2013 9:58 am

    This sucks, but like everyone says, it’s fixable, by the RIGHT person. I totally get the HUGE let down though. Every time I get my hair cut and colored I’m positive that I’ll walk out of there 50 lbs lighter, with thick, sleek, perfect, LONG, blonde hair. Then what the shit, it’s my same thinning, 6 hair having, fat self, with some blonde streaks, and my wallet is the only thing that lost any weight.

  35. Molly on August 19th, 2013 10:16 am

    Been exactly there ……

  36. Joanne on August 19th, 2013 10:19 am

    Pictures? Kidding! I am with everyone else, just get it fixed! I feel kind of mad at the stylist for not helping you find someone to fix it, good God. Corrective color is just that, you can find someone to do it and do it fast before it hurts your feelings anymore. If it’s going to be a good story in the future, let’s make the future now!

  37. C on August 19th, 2013 10:48 am

    Like everybody else said: Get it fixed and tell yourself how awesome and cool you are. ‘Cause you are, and you deserve it.

    Metaphor I wish I could relay: I wish I could run this race with you.

  38. Renee from GA on August 19th, 2013 11:00 am

    I left my salon in tears a few weeks ago and have been sad when mirror-proximate ever since. If you knew me IRL you would probably tell me, “Go get it fixed, woman!” A supportive and reasonable response.

    So I say to you, go get it fixed, woman! Life is too short for sad hair. There are enough battles to fight as it is.

    P.S. I just made my appointment.
    P.S.S. I’m with Nimble up above; we should call these feelings “the haarschnitts”.

  39. J o s e y on August 19th, 2013 11:02 am

    Ugh, my self confidence and mood is SO tied into my hair. This reminds me I haven’t done my hair since January. DAMMIT.

    Go get it redone, and get that new mood and confidence you’re looking for. Hang in there lady!

  40. Em on August 19th, 2013 12:00 pm

    That is the WORST! So disappointing.

  41. Christine on August 19th, 2013 1:47 pm

    Corrective color! Yes, yes. Still such a disappointment when you finally get the time away from life to go all BIG CHANGE!

    Plus, I thank you for getting the “whoa black Betty, blam ba blam” song stuck in my head although I liked it best when she was fat and I would sing WHOA FAT Betty, blam a blam. In fact, that’s how I still prefer to sing it to myself. :)

  42. Amanda on August 19th, 2013 1:48 pm

    I think we all know how that goes. What a fucking bummer. I obviously don’t know you, and there’s nothing I can say that won’t sound trite, but I want to tell you how incredibly brave I think you are. Just always, with everything you’ve written. Jacked up hair won’t change the fact that you’re an incredibly beautiful person. It might take the wind out of your sails, but instead of seeing it as a metaphor for things that are going wrong, maybe turn it into a metaphor for your ability to make something ugly that doesn’t represent you into something that’s beautiful and vibrant and good..? I dunno, man, but when I think of the years I’ve spent reading you and the stories and life changes we’ve watched you go through – that strikes me the most. You’ve never been afraid of a goddamn challenge, and if you WERE afraid, that fear didn’t stop you. This, too, shall pass, and all of that. Go out and get your wig busted. It’ll help. I promise.

  43. Annabelle on August 19th, 2013 2:31 pm

    Well, shit.

  44. MuthaTeresa on August 19th, 2013 2:34 pm

    I have cried over bad color more than once, and held my teen-aged daughter when she cried over the same. Get a good recommendation & get it fixed ASAP!

  45. Jennifer on August 19th, 2013 2:44 pm

    I once accidentally colored my hair purple (since when is Black Cherry code for purple??). Anyway, I was trying-not-to-cry on the phone to my friend and he said “Ah, don’t cry; I’m sure it looks GRAPE.” :) Sometimes you just gotta laugh!

  46. Rachel on August 19th, 2013 3:42 pm

    Oh, hon, it’s okay. Sometimes a dye job is just a dye job, you know? I’m sure right now it feels like a metaphor for how things are shit despite best intentions, but it can also be a metaphor for picking your ass up out of a fucked up situation and forging ahead into a less fucked-up tomorrow, all you need is corrective color and the will to say that you aren’t going to stand for it.

    Call around to salons and get some recommendations. Cute as you are blonde, personally I think you’d look exquisite with a warm, light, reddish brown.

  47. Nancy on August 19th, 2013 4:05 pm

    Get it fixed by a qualified colorist. I used to love my hairdresser who did pretty simple stuff with my hair. When she went on to her next career, I followed a recommendation from a friend and the lady I see now blows me away with her knowledge and talent. It can only get better :-) Chin up!

  48. Jess on August 19th, 2013 6:19 pm

    I went to the salon yesterday, all excited to get refreshed and pretty. My short hair needed a trim and shape to make it look curly and bouncy how I was used to.

    I left the salon with man hair. Not even a pixie, but a man haircut. It’s just. I don’t even know. My kids stared, transfixed, at the horror on my head, and then tried to tell me it looked nice.

    Thank God for headbands. I feel like an infant whose mother shoves a monstrous pink bow on their head to let everyone know they’re a girl. I feel like I need to wear pink or something. (I don’t own pink)

  49. aibee on August 19th, 2013 7:36 pm

    Igora Iceflower.

    Brassy hues need a toner, and this’ll do it now and then after you get a colour correction.

  50. Victoria on August 19th, 2013 8:24 pm

    Oh…. hugs.

  51. Birdy on August 20th, 2013 2:52 am

    Been reading since before the babies….I had a similar experience in Eugene (college) 23 years ago. As the stylist called it “Ohhhh SCREAMing Yellow.” :( Definitely find the professional who will get it put right for you…sometimes we need a little guidance as we embark on our big trips…a shove-off, if you will. And God-damn are you deserving! I adore and support you, my stranger-friend!
    ~L

  52. Jessi on August 20th, 2013 7:02 am

    First off, when you posted pictures recently, I wanted to comment on your hair length. It looks great on you!
    What a let down, though. I’ve totally been there. Agreeing with everyone else – find someone to fix it.

  53. Dianne on August 20th, 2013 8:21 am

    You’re so BRAVE.

  54. Jenny on August 20th, 2013 9:13 am

    Ooof, this reminds me of the time I asked for “something different” and came out looking like a freshly shorn sheep. Good luck getting it corrected. I would try not to interpret it as a Sign from the Universe (other than to not go back there again, I mean).

  55. Jo on August 20th, 2013 10:22 am

    Call the salon, explain what’s up – they should have a “master stylist” or whatever – who will make it better.

    Or look over yelp and go to someone who has a lot of good reviews.

    Go fix your hair girl. No need to live with something you don’t like!

  56. Trippy on August 20th, 2013 10:50 am

    My first colour job turned my hair orange (from its natural black). One day before my sister’s wedding. And to top it all off, my outfit was also orange. OY.
    I let mine grow out since I was afraid of getting anything more done to it. Had a number of memorable nicknames at college around that time, too.
    Get it fixed, I say.

  57. jools on August 20th, 2013 11:47 am

    We’ve all cried about it. It is the worst.

    Return to that salon but honestly, there is no shame in driving to another city to get it fixed. You don’t have to live with it.

    I once had a hairdresser give me second degree burns on my neck during an perm. Result: Bad perm, crispy neck.

  58. Shannon on August 20th, 2013 1:14 pm

    I home-dyed my hair once without my parents permission (age 12). Instead of a lovely auburn, my waist-long blonde hair turned fire engine red! A neighbor came in as I was frantically rinsing my hair in the kitchen sink with bleach (I was THAT desperate!)and exited quickly “before your father comes home and sees this”.
    As punishment, I was not allowed to have it fixed or cut until it grew out entirely, which took over a year. At the worst point I had three bands of hair colour- fire engine red, pinkish, and blonde going down my back which clashed horrificly with my rainbow-coloured coat. I cannot express to you the humiliation!
    FIX IT NOW LINDA!!!!
    And also relate to mystical power of hair transformation—was hosting a major corporate meeting today in my office on a critical new initiative when my hairdresser’s number came up on my phone–I had been waiting for an appt for weeks and omg I was going to miss the call!!! . For a flash of a second I seriously thought about stopping the meeting! If it had been an all women meeting, I might have, as they would have understood. Good hairdressers and the power of a good hairstyle are like unicorn- horn!

  59. NancyJ on August 20th, 2013 5:21 pm

    I have been there in the past where I think “I want this change – I want to change ME! – This haircut/new outfit/new whatever is going to make me (somehow) better (or sadly “good enough”)”.
    It never did….it was the inside me that didn’t change even though the outside me looked a little different.
    I don’t think it represents bad decisions as much as you feel like you need to change YOU. Just be you – I think we’d all agree we love you just the way you are.
    I’ve finally learned (and I’m probably 15 years older than you) that I have to be happy with me inside because no matter what I do to the outside, if I don’t, I won’t be happy.
    Oh so deep on this evening! xoxo

  60. jen on August 20th, 2013 8:28 pm

    There are some good purple shampoos that can really help brassiness. Schwarzkopf Bonacure Color Save Silver Shampoo saved me once.I sympathize.

  61. Gaby on August 21st, 2013 10:51 am

    Oh, dammit. It takes so much effort sometimes to haul ourselves out into the world (or to the hair salon), to have pep talked ourselves into trying something new, to allocate the time that it’ll take to achieve this new thing (and giving yourself permission that you deserve to take this time just for you), and then for it to not work out? Heartbreaking.

    Sure, you can try to tell yourself it’s just hair, it can be fixed, but now you’ll have this extra baggage associated with the next appointment, and that sucks. Now you’ll wonder if it’s worth it, if YOU’RE worth it, if it’s all just a big waste of time because you’re never going to change…suck.

    I’m sorry it didn’t work out. I hope you’ll feel brave enough to try something new again. You DO deserve it.

  62. Gaby on August 21st, 2013 10:52 am

    Oh, and hey! SPOILER ALERT on the “10 Surprising Sex Moves That’ll Leave Him Begging for More” article! I hadn’t gotten to read step #2 yet ;)

  63. melanie on August 21st, 2013 1:10 pm

    Go get it fixed – you don’t have to live with hair you hate. And then get your nails done or a 15-minute chair massage or something, to make yourself feel even better. Seriously. I read a great article by Lauren Slater about sprucing yourself up to feel better inside – it’s not just makeup or hair or clothes, it’s a little bit more confidence. Seriously:
    http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Depression-Makeover-Lauren-Slater-Essay

    It totally resonates, and you realize, hey, I am worth it. I am worth good hair and eyeliner and cute shoes. You totally are!

  64. sara on August 22nd, 2013 9:52 am

    Girl, get that fixed! You DESERVE to feel fabulous! And trust me, its not being vain to wanna look (a little) good! I have two kids, 2 and under, and i didn’t get my hair done for the better part of 3 years cause i was either pregnant or i had a newborn and it seemed like a waste of money and time etc etc.. FINALLY i went back to highlighting my mousey hair and it really does have an effect of my mood that i dont look totally awful! I think you’d look great as a blonde and that it’ll be a nice pick me up!

  65. Mandy on August 22nd, 2013 1:22 pm

    I think that is totally something worth crying over!! I mean, sure, not the end of the world, but still very disappointing.

  66. Jolie on August 22nd, 2013 2:37 pm

    The first time I got my hair ombréd it took three tries and two stylists. I cried twice because I was like, “THAT JUST TOOK THREE HOURS FOR NOTHING AND THIS IS YOUR JOB HOW CAN YOU NOT GET IT RIGHT.” I totally get it. And I saw your hair in the newest picture on twitter/IG and thought it looked really good :)

  67. Frannie on August 22nd, 2013 8:35 pm

    I’m SOO glad you’re doing something bold. I know you’ve got that in you. Believe me, it’s tough finding the right colorist, ideas, the stars from five different galaxies have to come together and align..my hair is dark brown-so when I say, Make me Blonde..I know it’s a) a process that takes a couple sittings and b) experienced colorist. I am glad she was professional. Good luck. ♡

  68. Frannie on August 22nd, 2013 8:38 pm

    I try to be kind to hairstylists though. It’s a tough job trying to make everyone pretty, and dealing with people on a level where their image is at stake. I’ve cried too though.

  69. Maggie on August 27th, 2013 6:30 am

    I feel your pain! My sis wanted ombre highlights and she and I looked it up on You Tube and I did hers for her to the tune of about $7. I decided I want them too, but I will let my fancy stylist do them, I can afford it. Well $200 later and I looked like Dee Snider from the Twisted Sister days. It took 2 more trips to the salon and even getting a cut to get it anywhere close to what I wanted. Should have done it at home!

  70. Lena on September 7th, 2013 9:00 am

    This wouldn’t help with the color, BUT it seems to work well in reducing the brassiness and add shine.
    http://www.maskcara.com/maskcara/2013/09/03/4027/

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