Monday Roundtable: They Would Never Have Guessed

There are things many of us are used to hearing when we’re first meeting new people, the characteristic about our appearance or personality that people often comment on. What about what comes later, though, the thing that has people saying, “Wow, I had no idea you ______” or “I would never have guessed.” What’s a fun/interesting/challenging/surprising reveal about you that isn’t immediately apparent? What happens when it comes to light? Find out what other people get wrong about the Autostraddle team before they really get to know us!

Riese, Editor-in-Chief

Almost nothing is immediately apparent about me to total strangers, which’s one of many reasons why I’ve always found small talk with strangers so daunting. As soon as we get into seemingly innocuous questions about who I am and what my life is like, it’s like I’m gay! My Dad is dead! My Mom is gay! I own a website with a name that sounds like vehicle porn! Anyhow, I’m probably not the only one in this roundtable who will note that I’m rarely clocked as gay, although that specifically has vacillated over time depending on my personal style of the moment. If pressed, nobody ever guesses I’m from the Midwest. And nobody, not one single soul, in my entire life on this planet, has known that I’m Jewish without me telling them. It’s crazy the shit people will say around you when they don’t realize who you are or what you’re about. I’ve had to cut people off to save them the embarrassment of saying something homophobic or transphobic in front of me. As soon as I mention being gay, though, I usually receive a story about that person’s gay cousin, although lately it’s more likely that I get stories about their trans friend or relative in which they botch pronouns. If I mention an ex-boyfriend, things get even more confusing. I’m usually assumed to be a student, maybe ‘cause I wear sneakers? But the main thing people say they could’ve never guessed about me after knowing me for more than a minute is that I really like kids and want to have kids! I think ‘cause I seem hostile and like a Career Woman and also a Professional Lesbian.

Creatrix Tiara, Staff Writer

People seem to be most taken aback at my age. I’m 32 now but everyone always assumes I’m somewhere in my early 20s. A lot of my social circles are mid-to-late-20s so I get lumped in as one of the same, and I also look and dress fairly younger than what someone in their 30s would look. (Brown don’t frown, y’all. My family overall looks way younger than they are.) It gets especially intimidating when I’m around people who are super accomplished or successful and then I find out they’re 27 or something — how dare you! I do feel like I lost 5 years of my life somewhere in some time loop, so maybe I am younger than my ID suggests, who knows.

Vanessa, Community Editor

People always seem very surprised to learn that I hate going to the movies. I don’t know why that is so surprising because going to the movies is objectively terrible, so. I’m surprised that you all actually love going to the movies, how about that?!?!

Alaina, Staff Writer

People always seem really surprised that I have a music degree and that I’m a classically trained soprano. After they find out they almost always ask me to sing for them, and I tell them that I only sing for Jesus or for cash, so unless they’re the alleged son of God, I need $50.

Mey, Trans Editor

This is hard for me because pretty much my number one personal brand thing is that I’m wildly open about my life and emotion and motivations and likes and loves. I don’t have guilty pleasures or hidden talents, because when I like something or I’m good about it, I talk about it a lot. One thing, though, is that a lot of people know me as a witch, but I usually talk about my witchiness in a fun, pop culture or aesthetic way. And I love all those ways to be witchy. And I also love astrology and candle magic and crystals and things like that. But what people don’t know, is that I take the heart of my witchiness extremely seriously. I’m a catholic, and I worship La Virgen de Guadalupe and Santa Muerte. I love them with my whole heart. I joke about stuff and wear La Virgen earrings and am a twitter witch, but also, I take these two beautiful women very seriously and they mean more to me than I can say in a short roundtable like this. These two make me feel like it’s not just ok that I’m a woman and a Latina and queer and trans, but they make me feel like it’s good that I’m all those things. La Virgen is a woman and a Latina and queer like me, and Santa Muerte sees me as an equal to the Pope or to Mother Theresa or John The Baptist. That’s real. That’s important. That’s in my heart, even when I’m joking about which animated witch I’m most like.

A.E. Osworth, Staff Writer

I’m not actually one hundred percent sure how to answer this question. I look exactly how I look in photos; I sound exactly how I sound in email. I project the essence of someone who will walk up and talk to anyone, and that’s totally true. No one’s surprised by my sign (Gemini, Gemini Rising, Leo moon). I once had a friend look at me and recite my exact Meyers-Briggs profile. I am, perhaps, the least shocking person out there. I’ve done weird backstory stuff I guess? So in conversation I’ll drop one of the following facts, and usually someone says, wait, what? I: speak French, used to study circus arts, am a published erotica writer, used to work for a billiards league and am a vegetarian who doesn’t care for mushrooms.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Staff Writer

I really am a goddamn open book. I feel like people figure me out pretty quickly. Almost everything there is to know about me can be found on my Twitter. I think I used to strive to be more mysterious and unreadable for dumb reasons, but I got over that. Occasionally, people won’t know that I’m Indian, and I’ve definitely been in situations where people have said racist things about Indians in front of me, having no idea about where I’m from. And then there are, of course, the annoying white people who ask “what are you?” STOP DOING THIS!!!

Heather Hogan, Senior Editor

People who meet me in real life without knowing me first on the internet are always shocked to find out I’m an introvert. I’m not quiet or shy or reserved. I usually feel at ease with myself wherever I go. I can carry on an animated conversation with anyone about pretty much anything, one-on-one or in a group. I really like people! I like talking to them! I don’t even mind public speaking. So I think folks find it weird that I actually don’t go out much or that when I am out — not matter how much fun I’m having — I’m getting exhausted and am going to need major alone time to recharge my emotional and physical energy reserves.

Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor

I think people are surprised to find out I’m actually quite an introvert. With a solid sidekick to play off of and a little bit of liquor, I can play the part of an gregarious human being with some semblance of social skills (see: me at A-Camp) but in general I’m quite shy, don’t like to go places I’m not explicitly invited, tend to assume I should stay out of other people’s business, very rarely make the first move. I tend to prefer quiet one-on-one meetings with friends over large crowds and generally need a lot of alone time to recharge after being out in public. Sometimes when I get uncomfortable in social situations I think it reads as rude, dismissive or aloof, which crushes me. I think it takes new friends at least a few months to figure out how to hang on my very anxious wavelength.

KaeLyn, Staff Writer

There are the obvious things. I’m Asian, so I don’t look 35 and people regularly assume I’m a college student. I’m femme and don’t get acknowledged as queer in non-queer-normative spaces. But what I think is most hidden from sight when people first meet me is that I do, in fact, experience emotions and have feelings that can, in fact, get hurt. Whether people interpret me as a boss bitch or as super friendly and gregarious, most also see me as impenetrably strong, mainly because of the walls I choose to put up around my own boundaries. I’m not mad about it. It’s what I want you to see. Sometimes, though, people forget that I’m a person who might have my own emotional needs and insecurities and say or do shit that really cuts me and I end up obsessing about it and processing it and over analyzing it for days and weeks and years. But I’d never let them know… :resting bitch face:

Molly Priddy, Staff Writer

Upon meeting me, I present pretty solidly as soft butch, and wear more masculine-of-center clothes and have short hair and don’t key in on other socially marked ideas of “femininity,” which is a general bummer of most people subscribing to a heteropatriarchal binary and all the socialization therein, but it’s always kind of funny when someone gets to know me a bit and are surprised when they find out I’m really, really good at baking. Like, my pecan pie will make you weep. Another surprise — thanks again to gender expectations — is when I say that I’d be a great stay-at-home mom. Except I usually say my whole vibe is more stay-at-home dad.

Valerie Anne, Staff Writer

People are usually surprised to hear things about my past, like how I was a cheerleader, and in a sorority, and a dancer, and in musical theatre. Maybe because I’m not the archetype of a preppy cheerleader they had in their heads, maybe because I’m extremely out of shape now, maybe because most people in my life now have never seen me in a dress, I’m not sure. I still get people who are surprised I’m gay upon meeting me, even a year into having an undercut. I think most recently, things that people who know me relatively well are surprised to find out, is that despite my geekery and open nerdiness and obvious love of all things sci-fi and fantasy, I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movies. Not really by choice; I never took an adamant stance against them. I just…never did. /shrug

Erin, Staff Writer

I think based on how often I’m taken aback when I remember that I used to be very sporty, I think people are surprised to learn I used to be very sporty. For 15 years straight any free time I had outside of school or family matters was dedicated in some way to a sport. I don’t think my presentation now necessarily screams “NCAA participant,” and yet. The duality of life.

Natalie, Staff Writer

True story: One fall evening during my freshman year in college, my friend, Mike, and I were camped out on my dorm room couch trying to make sense of our Calculus homework, when I got up to answer a knock at my door. It was my mom, who handed me a tupperware of rouladen and spaetzle — my favorite dish that she makes–and was out the door as quickly as she came. I stashed my food in the mini-fridge and, begrudgingly, went back to work.

“Who was that and why is she bringing you dinner?” Mike asked, as I reclaimed my spot on the couch next to him.

“Oh, that’s my mom,” I answered nonchalantly, before rattling off the answer I’d gotten for next question. Concerned that his silence meant I’d gotten the answer wrong, I reviewed my answer to see where I’d gone astray before adding, “well, what’d you get because I clearly don’t know what I’m doing?”

It was only then that I looked up and saw the disbelief on his face.

“Your mom’s white?” he said, clearly taken aback. “I’ve known you for three years… how did I not know that?”

So, suffice to say, people don’t realize I’m biracial once they first meet me and I rarely, if ever, volunteer the information.

Raquel, Staff Writer

Almost no one ever knows I’m bisexual, or a person of color, or Brazilian / a 1st-generation American, struggle with depression, grew up super, super-Christian, and am probably about five years older than they think I am. I also think of myself as a pretty introverted, overthinking person but I’ve previously been described as “bubbly,” which really just confuses the hell out of me. On the other hand, my current partner told me they were worried I was a super serious, aesthetic designer-type and were really overjoyed to discover I’m also a nerd and a big weird goofball. I think I can come off a lot of different ways, depending on how I’m reacting to my environment.

Laura M, Staff Writer

Same! Almost no one ever knows I’m bisexual, or that I’m Filipina, or that I’m probably about five years older than they think I am. Pretty much every first impression people have of me is incorrect — but my favorite one is this: on meeting me the first time, everyone thinks I’m this sweet, innocent girl. The first time I met my fiancé’s family, for example, that’s exactly what they thought. Then we played Coup together, and I slayed every single one of them.

Alexis, Staff Writer

The most common surprising thing that isn’t apparent about me (I guess if you don’t see my posts and stuff) is that I’m just a huge nerd. I try to keep it on the down low (sorry I couldn’t think of a better phrase) when I first meet people because they don’t need to be all about my business. But, the longer I get to know someone, the more likely it’ll peek out sooner rather than later. I remember at work, they thought I was a chill person because I try to make the most bored face ever and not talk because I’m really shy and panicking internally, but someone quoted Spongebob and I finished the sentence, and really, it was all over from there. Aside from general nerdness, my absolute love of theatre tends to throw people off. Which makes no sense to me because most of what I sing/hum are musicals, even absentmindedly, and if it were possible to marry rounds (perpetual canons (don’t even LOOK AT ME ABOUT THIS ONE)), I’d be hitched by now. Oh, when it comes to light, people just avoid bringing up things I will not shut up about which is more fun for me because I gotta figure out how to bring that stuff up myself. Talking about pencil pushing? Remember that episode of Spongebob where he was procrastinating his homework and sharpened his pencil down to a nub? Remember how Timmy Turner’s dad was literally a pencil pusher? Pencil pushing reminds me of Matilda the Musical when they did the Alphabet Song and also Revolting Children, were you a revolting child?

Like that.

Reneice, Staff Writer

If someone has only met me over the phone and/or via email, they are always surprised to find out I’m not white. That’s super fun to navigate over and over and over. In terms of in person revelations, people are endlessly surprised to find out I’m a Slytherin. They’re always denying the possibility because I’m nice and I smile at people and bake them things and make them feel comfortable and cared for. They have the false beliefs that Slytherins are all poison and that I am all sugar and sweetness, and just can’t come to terms with the fact that there is in fact a grey area that allows me to be all those positive things and still rep team green. No one believes me. Well, until they hurt me or someone I love. Then it’s crystal clear.

Carolyn, NSFW Editor and Literary Editor

I’m more afraid of other people than other people are of me, which no one ever believes any more but which is also probably the truest thing about me. I didn’t know how to make eye contact properly until about 2017, I still don’t totally know how to talk to other people, and if it seems like I do I’m probably pretending I have a job to do.

Laneia, Executive Editor

Brand new people who meet me never realize I’m as old as I am, and they’re always shocked that I have kids. Both of these things are annoying, I think because I’ve been blowing people’s minds with my age/parenthood for nearly 20 years, so it’s just really old by now! And then watching people do the math in their head when I tell them my age and my oldest kid’s age is like, UGGHGH YES I WAS A TEEN MOM HI, CAN YOU PLEASE JUST RING UP THIS BOX OF CEREAL. It’s invasive! I hate it. Megan says most people wouldn’t realize I was as into college football as I am, but I think a truer statement would be that most people outside of the SEC states wouldn’t realize that. Growing up, everyone thought I was a massive snobby bitch, but really I was just self-loathing and painfully withdrawn! Hahahaha!

Abeni, Staff Writer

I have no idea. I wonder what people assume about me by looking at me. One of the things that people tell me after knowing me for a bit is that they thought I was “intimidating” when we first met, which is… not accurate at all? I am a sensitive, tender little sweetheart, but I guess since I’m over 6’ tall (and trans…) people are intimidated by me?

I guess people think I’m straight since I’m a trans woman? That stereotype is weird because all of the trans girls I know are queer or bi. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-straight trans woman in media, so I see where the stereotype comes from? But I’m super gay!

Yvonne, Senior Editor

I’ve been told that when people first met me they thought I was the following: cold, boring,  awkward and a weirdo. But then later they found out that I’m actually really cool, funny and a great friend. I think this is pretty accurate because I don’t reveal my true self until I’ve warmed up to a person and get to know them some more. It makes it difficult for me to make friends really fast but I promise, if I like you and if you stick around a while longer, we can have some good times.

Rachel, Managing Editor

Like Yvonne, it takes me a while to warm up to people or for them to get to know me; even when I do, my vibe is pretty serious, straitlaced and Type A. This isn’t a wrong impression; I cleaned the kitchen today in order to relax and unwind! But maybe because of this people are often surprised when I’m… fun? Taylor and Kip visited me in 2009 and were so shocked when I took them out to a gay bar that they talked about it for weeks. Y’all! Come on! I can contain multitudes!

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45 Comments

  1. “people outside of the SEC states wouldn’t realize that” TRUTH.

    though it might be more SEC/Big 12 states. I know there ARE people from Oklahoma who don’t care about college football, but it’s gotta be hard to be them.

  2. I get the age thing all the time but it’s not what gets under my skin. People are often surprised that I am rainbow flavored even though I wear a rainbow lanyard that says “forever proud” people are often surprised that I a pretty hard femme is handy with things like electrical, plumbing, carpentry etc. that I can fix cars and such and often I get “good for you” and you are so lucky to have those skills”

    But the the one thing that people whom I just met seemed to be surprised at is that I’m Trans Femme. I don’t carry a trans flag but if it comes up I’m open about it. Never once did someone’s attitude didn’t change after they hear it. Then I get to experience the joy of have my to hear “I never would have guessed” “ But you’re so pretty” “but you have such a female air about you”. Then comes “did you have THE surgery” and “are those implants” and a host of other Passive aggressive BS that is demeaning and painful.

    I have learned that the only people worth hanging out with are the ones that say “congratulations”. It’s also the main reason I identify as “Rainbow Flavored”

  3. Since I’m striving to be a real life Superhero, I have this double life thing going on:
    The good, nerdy doctor by day, I keep adding Superhero skills to my resume at night. Learning languages,lifting weights, volunteering for the lost and cooking sumptuous, multi course meals, while hanging out with my motley crew of friends and fellow superhero nerds.

  4. I’d say only two things really surprise others about me: the fact that I’m an introvert, and the piece of trivia that I was suspended for two days in grade 9 for calling my gym teacher a a fucking bitch ?

    The suspension thing usually makes more sense to other people once I explain the circumstances. And the introvert thing is understandable because usually the only time I meet people is when I’m out and feeling gregarious and making a concerted effort to meet people. New friends don’t see the hours or days I have to spend at home recharging AFTER we hang out. It takes a while for friends to see that side of me, and only a true inner circle ever really gets close enough.

  5. Well, the majority of the people I spend time with are my co-workers, who pretty much know nothing about the “real” me, who identifies as both bi- and asexual, isn’t rude/aloof/moody, but is very introverted and has anxiety issues, writes slash fanfiction and loves sci-fi (but not fantasy).

    The “me” they get to see is the one who also loves watching cricket (which they find weird) and American cop shows.

  6. I have to drop so many bombs on people I just met I’m surprised the UN hasn’t put sanctions on my apartment.

    That I’m an adult.
    Also a woman (I mean, sorta, but)
    No, my last name isn’t Chinese, or that’s not where I got it anyway.
    Also, I’m from Alaska.
    Yes, this is my natural hair color.
    I have no idea what my parents thought of me moving here, or even where either of them are.
    No, I’m not in school for anything.
    Yes, I ride the motorcycle all year, even when it rains.
    People also like to point out the first time they see me cuss or eat, I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to mean

  7. I feel like surprising people with my age is my main party trick – I’ve looked young for my age for at least 25 years but now that I’m 48 it really seems to surprise and delight people.

    Other things that surprise people – that I’m bi, that I have a semi-snarky sense of humor, that I read romance novels and my favorite movie is The Matrix.

    Apparently I appear to be very sweet and serious and not into genre fiction.

    I’m also part Italian and because I don’t look like the typical Italian American, that can surprise people when I talk about my Italian grandfather or Italian cousins. I’ve had a couple cases of people saying ignorant things to me about Italian Americans without realizing. Which gives me a lot of sympathy/ empathy for those who experience that kind of thing more often. It sucks.

  8. I guess I come off as a pretentious nerd. I’m a nerd, yeah, but definitely not one that gets straight As or stresses about getting 100% on a quiz. More like a nerd who loves discussing politics and and indie rock and hip hop and queer culture.

    People are always surprised to find out I’m the oldest sibling in my family since I’m pretty short.

    It’s obvious that I’m Asian, but I’ve been told I look “ambiguously Asian” so it’s unexpected when I tell them I’m Vietnamese and Chinese.

    Other than that, people can never tell that I’m bisexual at first glance. I suppose it’s an occupational hazard of being a femme.

  9. People are always shocked when I say I never finished high school, or more specifically, that I failed out. Here I am though, at the edge of finishing a phd! My first year uni students are usually especially surprised.

  10. Apparently things that people don’t guess about me are that I go to stores/ out to eat with my wife, not my mother/sister/twin.

    Seriously tempted to reply next time “Oh you’re mistaken,this week it’s my turn to be mommi.”

    Just for the confusion factor.

  11. People don’t get my ethnicity right at all, but that’s less them being taken aback and more them trying to fight me on it as though they know better than me what my answer is.

    Oh and re introversion: people are very surprised to learn that I’m very socially awkward and often shy, despite being an extrovert. “You’re not shy!!!” Ok, if I’m at a conference or volunteering or something interactive with a main reason for being, I’m pretty good. But at a party? Oh good lord. I thrive on company, I just hate initiating contact because WHAT IF I FUCK IT UP AND COME OFF AS TOO WEIRD OR SOMETHING GAH

  12. People assume that I am in my mid-20s, either form a Slavic/former Soviet Union country, or Armenian, and male. As I have aforementioned before on this site, I’m Mizrahi Jew(Iran for me) trans woman-ish, person in getting closing in onto their mid-30s. Oh, and I once got mistaken for a Lawrence brother on a dating site. This was like 2003, still deeply in the closet, and she replied to how are you with how does it feel to be the Lawrence brother not famous(this was when Boy Meets world was still in tv and Joey whoa was still familiar) or talented. Yup, glad I am queer all around now.

  13. I always think I’m a very open person, because I do feel that way. But I am not the kind of open where I tell people everything (this surprised me!), it would seem that I feel open because I feel like I have this sunshiney heart that embraces everything around me and perhaps I’m like… an open blank book where people lay down their stories.

    So people seem to be surprised by me a lot.
    They’re surprised to find out that I’m adopted.
    They’re surprised that I can lift heavy things (but for real).
    They’re surprised that I have ever lived on a farm, with chickens and ducks and turkeys, oh my!
    They’re surprised that I’ve had a lot of sad things in my life.
    And… in workplaces… they are surprised at how much I know (do not underestimate me, I’ve been called Mr Wolf for a reason)

    …and to counter that sunshine above… when people get really close to me, they are surprised at how ….unfiltered? I can be.

  14. Be Jesus or gimme $50, I love it.
    I don’t what the fuck it is with people but once they learn you have performing arts skills they get all “Dance puppet dance!” and get pissy when you don’t perform for them. Like suddenly we transformed into not a person but source of entertainment that won’t load on demand.

    There’s too many fun/interesting/challenging/surprising things and just plain things about me that aren’t immediately apparent which just life when you’re a very special INTP gemini nb bisexual snowflake.

    The most common and mundane one is my height, I’m much shorter than people think I am. My resting bitch face is more of an ice sovereign face that radiates something that tricks people into thinking I’m Wonder Woman height than say Poison Ivy or MCU Black Widow height.

    One thing that I guess covers most the surprising unapparent things is that I’m “funner” than I appear to be. I’m like deceptively boring looking or something, a “brain”, sound very serious, don’t smile just cause, and I don’t get drunk/like much in the way of drinks so when I’m having fun(dancing at will not on demand) or it’s been revealed sex is a thing I very much enjoy people are all kinds of shocked.

    The best people just roll with and continue the fun, maybe had a second of wow who’d thunk but for the most part just get back to the fun.
    The worst act as I’ve been having them on and interrogate me interrupting the fun.

    Wait no the actual worst are the men who act like I’m a superfreak nympho down for what ever floats their boat because I’ve revealed I know how to move my hips when before they just treated me like a sexless being unworthy of their sensual attentions.
    Yep those are the actual worst.

    Not even scandalised people who thought I was “good” are that bad.

  15. I think some people are shocked when they realize that I’m not this nice person they can push around, usually because they’ve tried to push me around and have become acquainted with my diamond-hard core.
    I’m not alpha, I’m not a type A, I definitely don’t wear power suits. I’m unassuming, polite, affable, respectful. I am yielding – when it is appropriate, but I’m not submissive. I have authority, I can lead.

    Another thing : anglophones are often surprised I’m a francophone, and francophones are often surprised I’m an anglophone.

    Hmm, there’s a pattern here…

  16. I’m another one that would say the thing people find most surprising about me is my age. I was at a high school graduation last May for my cousin, and multiple people asked how much longer I had until I graduated… high school… I was 27 at the time. I did manage to suppress my the initial response “oh, about 9 years ago” that came to mind after I got over the shock of being asked the question and just told them my age. I know I look young, but I forget people still read me as THAT young.

  17. When I can bothered/feel like shocking people/expanding people’s world view, I will clue them in on my sexuality. I have a pretty femme kind of look and work for a pretty heteronormative company – on the surface at least, so I’m read as straight 100% of the time. I never tend to ‘come out’ to colleagues, but rather drop small comments at the lunch room table like “I was on a date with this girl” that leave them wondering. It’s always fun to watch their expressions move from confusion to shock to realisation.

  18. Okay so what is this thing about people thinking we are all way younger than we are? Im nearly 26 and got a under16s ticket on the bus the other day.

    But why is this such a universal experience?

  19. People always tell me that they wish they had my icy confidence. Whenever something goes to hell, either online, offline, at work, or at home, I’m considered the most confident and reliable person to run to. Hahahahahah.

    I’m actually a nervous wreck. The reliability? It’s because I’m empathetic enough to imagine myself in the situation, and this means I’m going to be inclined to help. The confidence? It’s just a product of internalizing everything and projecting an expressionless face to the world.

    I’m not actually confident and I’m not actually particularly reliable. I just play those things on TV, and the world is a stage.

    Case in point? I started writing this yesterday, curled up into social nervousness and decided to wait until it wasn’t as active (I can socialize but no one will ever judge me now!!). Real me is shy, introverted, and would rather just sit around sipping tea all day while reading manga, Sci fi, classics, mysteries, and trashy romances.

  20. Oh my gosh, Laura M, I thought I was the only stealth Filipina! My Filipina workmates mostly pegged me as Chinese before either someone else tells them, or I laugh at a joke that was only in Tagalog, or I bring sinigang for lunch, or something – a couple of them managed to go months out of the loop.

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