Advice

"I am in a long distance relationship and sometimes I only get to see my girlfriend one weekend per month. Her best friend lives closer and sees her multiple times per week. How can I work on not being jealous that she gets to spend more time with her than I do? Also, how can I just be better at long distance?! It's so hard."

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Alyse Says:

Thanks so much for your question! I completely understand how difficult long-distance relationships can be. Shortly after we got hitched, my wife and I had to spend a year and a half living in different states, visiting about once a month. It’s tough, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I honestly think that our time apart made our relationship much stronger and healthier.

Let’s start with your question about jealousy. There are two different types of jealousy you might be feeling in this situation, so I’ll address both. The first kind of jealousy is the kind where you’d be jealous of anyone who gets to see your girlfriend—her best friend, her co-workers, her cat, the cashier at the grocery store—because you love her so much and wish that you could see her, too! That kind of “jealous” is more connected to a feeling of longing, which is a totally natural way to feel when your sweetie lives far away.

The other type of jealousy is dicier. If you find that you’re only jealous of your girlfriend’s best friend, and not anyone else your girlfriend sees, then you might want to consider why you feel that way. Are you suspicious or distrusting of this friend? Is there something about their friendship in particular that makes you uneasy? This kind of jealousy is connected to uglier roots, like insecurity and fear. And it can do really bad damage to a relationship, since relationships are built on trust and fail without it.  

If you’re jealous of your girlfriend’s best friend because you don’t trust them together, then you need to think hard about why that is and how you might be able to work past it on your own. Because if your girlfriend has to feel guilty every time she sees her best friend, or has to feel like she must choose between making you feel jealous and sad vs. seeing her best friend when she wants to, then after awhile this could build into resentment. Especially because she may be seeing her best friend so much because she misses you and being around her best pal cheers her up!

When my wife and I were apart, we both saw our friends way more than we would have if we were still living together, in large part because we were both a little lonely, and also just because we each had more time on our hands. And guess what? It was so good for us. We grew as individuals and could therefore grow together in our relationship. By nurturing friendships and staying focused on our own separate lives, we practiced independence, which made us both stronger people. This, in turn, made our relationship stronger, too! It’s kind of like if Batman and Robin both started working out and practicing their ninja skills separately—it’s not going to detract from their Dynamic Duo crime-fighting chemistry one bit. It’s just going to make them a stronger team.

So with all that out of the way, let’s talk some more about long-distance relationships. By far the most helpful tip I can offer is to encourage you to shift your perspective about this time apart. When my wife and I first began our LDR period, I was bummed. I knew I’d miss her so much, and I’d been living with her already for five years—how was I going to adjust? But then I started to focus more on why we were spending time apart—for her to follow her passion and begin a PhD program in poetry and for me to follow mine and start a teaching job at my dream school. When I focused on that, I couldn’t be sad we were apart—only joyful that my wife was doing what made her happiest in the world, and proud of her for going for it.

You can also reframe all this in your mind by focusing on how great an opportunity this is for you both to grow individually in exciting ways. Change is a good thing, not something to be afraid of. Remember that old saying that “Real gold is not afraid of the test of fire.” You have nothing to worry about here. Your love is real, and it’s awesome, and so is this time in your life and relationship.

Second (and related) biggest tip: stay in touch regularly and consistently, but not constantly. Live your own life and respect your girlfriend’s independence by letting her live hers. Try not to be clingy or controlling; again, stay positive and see this as a time of independent growth for you both—growth that will ultimately make your relationship as strong as Batman and Robin’s.

Here are a few other quick tips:

  • Have some kind of ultimate plan and/or end date in mind for when your time apart will be over. It’s way easier than thinking you’ll be apart indefinitely.
  • Likewise, always know when you’ll see each other next for an in-person visit. It gives you something to look forward to. Cute-barf alert: I gave my wife a jar and always kept it full of Hershey’s Kisses equal to the amount of days left till we’d see each other again—a kiss a day. Pinterest has lots of other pretty adorable LDR ideas if you’re into that kind of thing. Also, if she has roommates (or maybe that best friend of hers?), they can be great co-conspirators on cute surprises you can pull off while you’re away.  
  • Be clear on ground rules and expectations. How often do you each want to be called or texted during the day? Do you always want a goodnight call? That kind of thing. This will avoid a lot of arguments.
  • Do things together, especially Skype dates. Watch the same movie at the same time (you can use a program called Rabbit to share a screen), be in a book club together, have dinner together—be creative! There’s also an amazing app called Couple (and a bunch of other good ones, too) that lets you do “thumb kisses” where you can kind of virtually touch each other.
  • I also recommend being “Skype roommates” if you’re both hanging out at your homes at the same time. Just have each other open on Skype and be “together” without even needing to talk. I found that if I was folding clothes in the bedroom and had my wife on Skype in the living room while I talked to her, it gave a pretty believable impression that she was really just in the next room over!
  • Send handwritten letters in the mail. Send postcards. Send little gifts. Send care packages. These are your opportunity to be physically there with your partner in some small way.

My brilliant friend Rosie and I made this mixtape for you to listen to while you’re pining for your sweetie. Music is so good for these kinds of feels. While you’re listening, keep in mind e.e. cummings’ beautiful reminder that even when you’re apart, you’re always with the one you love: “I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart).” Good luck, friend! I’m with you all the way.

ICarryYourHeartWithMe


 

Alyse Knorr is the author of Mega-City Redux, Copper Mother, Annotated Glass, Super Mario Bros. 3, and two chapbooks of poetry. Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Greensboro Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review, among others. She is an assistant professor of English at Regis University and co-editor of Switchback Books. 

Rose Campbell is a public historian at Regis University in Denver. Her work focuses on war experience and how narratives about war are constructed and conveyed. She also researches and writes about Colorado’s music history as a consultant for the History Colorado Center. She received her M.A. in History in 2017 and is currently pursuing her MFA at Regis.

Cover Art designed by the incredible Isabella Rotman!

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“What can I do to support a trans friend who has shitty parents and no real support system?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Mahdia Says:

The answer to this one is very simple, but not very easy: When your friends are struggling and support systems are failing them, you have to come together and be that support system.

This is painful, heavy stuff. The things that society tells us are meant to be unbreakable can be shattered by ignorance, repression, and fear. Last month, Grace wrote a great piece (and made an excellent mixtape) about coping with shitty family, so I want to focus on this other side of the coin: the love, beauty, and magic found in the chosen family we make for ourselves.

One of the greatest blessings that we are given as queer and trans people is the opportunity to redefine the institutions that just don’t work for us. When our given family leaves one of us in the dirt, we build our own with the people who are really there for us. Chosen family is one of the most important things you can find in this life, and it starts right in the here and now.

This is an imposition: The world can be cruel to people like us. Sometimes we are cruel to each other. It is our duty to be there for one another when it feels like the world is falling to pieces and other safety nets have failed. We find those people who need community and we build that community together.

You know that saying “Blood is thicker than water,” right? Do you know the other version of that statement? Well, this is the truth: the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. In other words, the bonds that we build—those people that we choose for ourselves—are the strongest relationships in the world.

As queer and trans people we are given the opportunity to radically redefine relationships from the ground up. We get to decide what family means. I’m not saying that we all have to hold hands and get along with anyone who happens to be LGBTQIA. But growing up takes time, care, and compassion. No one can go it alone. Everyone needs space to learn, to fuck up, and to get better without fear of losing everything. Time, care, and compassion.

For the trans person out there growing up at a loss for love and support, I want to tell you a bit about myself: When I was younger, I thought things were all my fault. The fragmented relationship with my given family, the relationships that burned away when I came out as trans, the daily struggle of connecting to others while navigating disability and neurodiversity—it was just so, so much for one person to go through. I didn’t have anyone to look to where I saw someone like me. I carried that weight around with me for a long time.

Life was really hard for a while. In those days I could never imagine much of a future for myself—but looking back today I am so, so grateful to have made it through. At a point in my life where I could barely imagine making it to next week, it was time that saved me. In time I found other people like me, and where we felt all the hurt where society let us down, we built something better together.

I was nineteen the first time I met my sister, at Camp Trans. It blew my mind to see so many trans people in one space, but she and I bonded immediately—two genderweird trans women bonding over bad folk-punk and happening to live near one another. She was the first person in the world in whom I actually saw myself. In time, the circle of people in my life who understood each other grew. We built something new together. We became a family of our own making.

I am overflowing with love and pride for the family we made for ourselves. In the last decade we’ve been through it all. Grief and joy, weddings and breakups, hospital beds and baby strollers. I am who I am—I am alive at all—because of my chosen family. This is what I want for you and your friend. It starts today.

Make a commitment today to be there for the people who need you. In time, friends become chosen family. It’s a relationship forged over years, and it’s one of the strongest bonds in the world. The people in your life now can be the people you grow with; the people you hurt with; the people you heal with. Be there for one another. Make something new.

I made this mixtape for you in celebration of chosen family (with a lil side of fuck you for the bigots). If you’re having a rough go of it or struggling today, I strongly recommend blasting “Battle Cry” on repeat and remembering that “the time we spend in darkness when the rain comes is where we often find the light soon as the pain’s done.”
GivenAndChosen


Mahdia Lynn is the founder and Executive Director of Masjid al-Rabia—a women centered, LGBTQ affirming, pluralist mosque in Chicago—where she has spearheaded unprecedented programming in support of marginalized Muslims. Mahdia’s prolific career as a community organizer has centered transgender liberation, disability justice, prison abolition, and youth suicide prevention. Her Black and Pink Crescent program provides services for hundreds of incarcerated LGBTQ Muslims across the globe. Mahdia lives in Chicago where she is a senior caregiver and works as a freelance writer, speaker and educator. You can learn more about Mahdia and her work at mahdialynn.com or on Twitter @MahdiaLynn

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“I came home to find my mom sitting at the kitchen table with a 'mom' look on her face, when i asked how her day was i was terrified and taken back when she said "you're not a lesbian" because my worst fear had finally come true and i had no clue how she knew. I sat there tears rolling down my face as she told me that god didn't make me this way and it was just a phase, i ran up to my room and to find not one but all my journals on my desk just open. I don't know what to do or how to bring it up.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Grace Says:

Hey there, friend.

I am so, so sorry this happened to you. As a lifelong journaler myself, I get a pit in my stomach thinking about your privacy being violated in this way. Journals can be such important spaces for us to explore our feelings, to document our thoughts, and to find clarity about who we are and who we want to be. I am angry at your mom on your behalf for not only disregarding your privacy in such a personal way, but then using that information to hurt you even further.

It’s ok for you to be angry, too.

I really encourage you to not bury your feelings about this horrible situation, but rather to do whatever you have to do to bring them into the light of day. Do you need to sit on your floor and scream and cry so the whole neighborhood hears? Girl, I’ve been there. Do you need to put on your heaviest shoes and stomp around the block? Onlookers may wonder what cool new sport you’re training for, but feeling your feet hit the hard earth may help ground you in the present rather than reliving that “mom” look over and over again in your head. Take your time working through these emotions, and allow each one to come and go as they do. Doing any of these things will help these feelings work their way through your system until, eventually, you feel strong enough to tackle the next phase of this horrible mess your mom created.

Here’s the truth: your mom doesn’t know shit about who you are. It’s true. Parents like to think they know everything there is to know about the humans they created, but what they forget is that they created autonomous humans who lead their own lives and have their own thoughts and are allowed to have a secret or two. Your mom cannot tell you who you are. You know who you are, at any given moment, better than anyone else ever will. And who you are, at any given moment, is exactly who you should be.

There were quite a few years in my life when my greatest hope was to passively coexist with my queerness. I thought if I could get to a place where I wasn’t beating myself up for it everyday, that that would be good enough for me. Now, I say with 100% certainty that I love my queerness, without a single apology or condition. Being queer has taught me so much and brought so much joy, knowledge, reflection, understanding, and fierceness into my life that I would never want to be anything else. My greatest hope for you is that you get to this place as well. Know that you have a worldwide LGBTQ community here to lift you up and be your family every step of your journey.

Now, what should you say to your mom? I think you have some options and should do whatever you feel most comfortable and safe doing while taking care of your own wellbeing first and foremost. Humans have an enormous capacity for change if they’re willing to open themselves up to new truths, and I happen to know many parents who did just that and are now incredible advocates for the LGBTQ community. This may be the case for your mom, too. But even if it isn’t, and whether that process unfolds over a week or a decade, it doesn’t mean your mom is right, or, more importantly, that you’re wrong. It means that she is a human who is flawed and has her own histories that she’s wrestling with, and isn’t able to be the mother that you deserve right now. Nothing more.

If you’re comfortable, you can encourage your mom to visit My Kid Is Gay, our site that gives advice and support to parents like her who are struggling to understand their kid’s LGBTQIA identity. We even have a whole section dedicated to discussing religion, which seems to be a major sticking point for your mom. Here are some pieces that might be a good starting point:

Additionally, you can sign your mom up for Coming Out with Care, our e-care package for parents whose kids have recently come out, and set a copy of This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids (with a whole chapter about religion!) on her nightstand. Both are incredible resources for parents in her exact position.

Confronting a parent—or any adult, for that matter—about how they have hurt us can be an incredibly daunting task. It may feel enticing to never mention the journal reading or the resulting encounter ever again. However, I really encourage you to think about what it would be like to confront your mom about how she hurt you. Writing her a letter detailing how you feel is no less valid than having a conversation face-to-face. Addressing what happened and making your voice heard can be incredibly healing, which is exactly what you deserve. Healing.

However you decide to approach your mom about this, I hope you do so standing firmly in the truth that you know you, and no one gets to tell you that who you are is not who you should be. I also hope that you listen to this mixtape, which I made to encourage you to put your middle fingers to the sky and say to the world, “Fuck you, I know who I am.”

YouKnowYou


Grace lives in Portland, Oregon and drinks a lot of coffee as a result. She works as the Senior Managing Editor of My Kid Is Gay, a site that provides advice and support to parents of LGBTQIA young people. She enjoys Vitamin D (in the form of sunshine, please), podcasts, intersectional feminism, and talking to people about their life goals. Follow her on Twitter @gracemanger

Cover Art designed by the incredible Isabella Rotman!

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“How does one hookup? No strings attached. Is it different for different genders? Im a girl and she’s a girl. I’m newly in an open relationship and I’ve literally never just hooked up with anyone ever and I’m curious about it; but have absolutely no idea how people do it?! With complete strangers, too. I feel like Jess from New Girl with her fancy underwear and weird voice characters… Eep!”

Gaby Dunn Says:

FIRST THINGS FIRST: you absolutely do not have to be casually hooking up if you don’t want to — even if you’re in an open relationship.

Is what you’re feeling the usual discomfort that comes from trying a new thing, or is this discomfort based in pressure to do something you’re not wired for? Being in an open relationship is about options and about honesty. It’s not about sexing everyone all the time, whether or not you’re into it. If you’re the type for whom sex and feelings are intertwined, don’t hurt yourself in some misguided attempt at being “cool.” Every “sexpert” I know is a nerd and a half. No one is cool.

Assuming you’re into the hook up, let me spin you a story: When I suddenly found myself single a couple years ago, I hit up anyone who’d ever seemed down to clown to ask, “‘Sup?”

These were friends I was interested in turning into one night stands, and then continuing the friendship. Whenever I texted a cis male buddy, he was at my place within the hour. The female friends took a little more schmoozing—an invitation to drinks before the hook up. (Which is great! They’re my friends first! It’s not a punishment to hang out before doing it.)

With friends you want to bone but don’t want to date, you have to make it VERY CLEAR that this is one-and-done, and you have to be telling the truth about staying friends. That doesn’t mean hanging out hoping it happens again or bailing entirely on the friendship post-bang. It means hanging out. As friends. And if someone flips this on you, you’re well within your rights to call them out or stop being friends. Choose these people carefully!

With total strangers, you have to be honest about your gut instincts. If something feels weird or sketchy, it probably is! Prioritize your safety and happiness over seeming “chill” or “polite” to a stranger you met on OKCupid, Bumble, or Craigslist. If you get even one bad vibe pre-meet up, don’t go. If you feel a little scared entering their home, don’t go in. You know deep down when you feel safe.

The movies make anonymous sex look spontaneous and sometimes, it can be. But it also requires protecting yourself. Always let a friend or a roommate know the address you’re going to, and a time when you’ll check in via text. If you don’t check in by that time, they should call the police. If someone is coming to your place, get them on the phone and voice verify that it is them and not someone who sounds completely different (for instance, that it’s a 25-year-old woman and not a 58-year-old man). If you can meet in a well-lit public place like a coffee shop beforehand, that’s even better. That way if you change your mind, you can ask for help. Do not get into someone’s car. If there’s nowhere for you guys to hook up, tough nuggies. Do you want to end up on the sex offenders registry or get driven to the desert and dumped? (None of this sounds very sexy, but better alive than sexy.)

A safer middle ground for sex with strangers is going to sex parties. Register for a Fetlife account and search “events.“ Check if the party is 18+ or 21+ so you don’t go and get turned away. Usually the parties have different hooks so make sure you find one that fits your desires. They’re completely anonymous. (I’ve never given out my last name and some people use fake first names too.)

The question I get a lot about sex parties is if you have to hook up. You never HAVE TO do anything in a sexual situation. Especially at these places. You can go solely to watch. You can only touch women and tell men “no thank you.” (At some parties, men can watch even if you tell them no touching, but showing off can be hot!) You can leave after 5 minutes. (Women usually get in free. Straight couples pay. Single men pay more.) The ones I’ve been to have more of a consent clause than a regular bar: any guy seen as bothering a woman is reprimanded and/or thrown out pretty swiftly. (They don’t want YOU to leave so they’d rather he go. Women, in my experience, have all the power.)

There are also less intense “sex” parties like the female-only Skirt Club, which hosts orgies, but also gentle meet-and-greet cocktail hours where women interested in casual sex with other women can drink, exchange numbers, and have a low pressure flirty time.

You can also take some friends and go out to a bar, drink VERY responsibly or not at all, and do a flirt with strangers just to get the hang of it. You can even partake in some making out in the safe space of the bar and you never have to go home with anyone. (Scandalous!)

If you’ve never done any casual anything before, you can start extra slow and meet an anonymous sexting buddy on an app like Tinder or Her. Some people don’t want to meet in person, and are happy to keep your sexy-times digital. This relieves any worry about catching feelings and/or putting yourself in harm’s way for a slap and a finger-bang. For this I recommend exchanging Snapchats, which can be anonymous and tells you if someone has screenshotted you. (If they do it without asking, SHUT IT DOWN.)

I hope this was helpful and also a little bit salacious! And if you find a stranger or a friend to hook up with, I even made you this sexy playlist called “GET YOUR FREAK ON.” Take care of yourself out there, soldier! Safety first!

getyourfreakon


Gaby Dunn is a writer, comedian, YouTuber, and author living in Los Angeles. She is the host of the Bad with Money podcast and author of NY Times Best Selling novel I Hate Everyone But You. The Bad with Money book comes out from Simon & Schuster in Fall 2018!

Cover Art designed by the incredible Isabella Rotman!

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“Okay, so, it’s another new year and this time I JUST WANT TO DO IT RIGHT! I feel like every January I organize things and have all these goals of being healthier and more positive and more productive… and then by March I’m back in my same habits again. How do I make actual change that will actually last?!”

Question submitted by Anonymous

Reneice Charles Says:

Let me tell you a story. Years ago I decided one of my resolutions would be to get back into doing yoga three times/week. Of course, I bought an entire “new year, new me” luxury yoga kit: a Luluemon mat, cute activewear sets, fancy sports bras with the cute criss cross straps, two water bottles, and yoga blocks.  I also got two Groupons for classes at popular studios in LA. I made it to approximately 4 classes before relinquishing yoga time for happy hour and Netflix time, leaving all my new swag–some with the tags still on–to collect dust.

About four months later, my motivation was renewed and I headed to what I thought was an advanced yoga class. I was in the mindset that jumping in at the level I was before I fell off the wagon, despite being way out of practice, and struggling at something that used to be easy for me would definitely get me motivated. I got to the studio, unrolled my lavender mat, framed it with my freshly unwrapped rainbow yoga blocks, and started stretching while waiting for the instructor to arrive. A few minutes later he came in, introduced himself, and thanked us for coming to the beginners flow class. I was pissed.

I wanted a challenge. I hadn’t been a beginner at yoga for eight years, and was definitely not interested in spending 90 minutes learning things I already knew. I was about to quietly pack up and leave when something told me to stay. I’d already made the effort of getting there, what was the harm in easing my way back in with a simple beginners class? I listened, I stayed, and let me tell you, that class kicked my ass. By the end I was exhausted and drenched in sweat. We held every pose for what felt like forever as the instructor walked around making minor adjustments to our form that made a major difference in how many muscles were engaged and how long they could hold out before the shakes set in. He explained that he had us in the poses for so long, and took such care with modifications because he didn’t want us leaving his class with weak foundations. That, he said, cheapens the entirety of your practice for the rest of your life. I was floored.

I left that class feeling so disappointed in myself. How could I have struggled that much in the class for newbies? More than I had in any advanced class in years? What was going on? As much as I wanted to brush the whole thing aside as a fluke, the instructor’s words stuck with me. I already had the answer: I’d been practicing with a weak foundation. Sure, I knew I could go to the advanced classes and complete the sequences, but I also knew that I’d eventually hit a wall with every pose that I couldn’t figure out how to move beyond. That was not for a lack of strength or ability, but simply because there’s only so much that can be built on a weak foundation.

So many of us have rolled into a new year with a mile-long list of resolutions that we are determined to succeed at–never mind that half the list is the same as it was last year; that was the “old us”, and this is the “new us”. All of a sudden we’re going to drink half our weight in water daily, wake up early for jogs, then make the green smoothie that we prepared ahead of time! We’ll also read more books, be more productive, go on more dates, and be nicer to our parents. But really? We won’t. We might try, but inevitably we’ll add yet another year to our history of made and abandoned resolutions and wonder “why do we always do this?” whilst returning to our old habits in defeat.

Here’s the thing: At its core, a resolution is simply a decision made mindfully to do (or not do) something. That’s it. It is one instantaneous item in a much larger overall process. That’s why so many of them go unfulfilled. Resolutions are easy to change, ignore, or give up on (especially if they’re overly optimistic)—plus they’re prone to ambiguity. Goals, on the other hand, are concrete, detailed, driven, and realistic. They have timelines attached for motivation and are much more than a snap decision scribbled on a piece of paper. We have to throw out our lists and see resolutions for the empty unnecessary promises they really are. We have to start a resolution revolution.

After my experience in that yoga class, I decided never to make a resolution again. Instead I’d set goals focused on internal improvement. I started to examine my cracks, identify patterns of behavior, and seek the root cause of my inability to achieve things I set out to do. The evidence all led back to one crucial place: I didn’t have the beginners level skill set needed to turn thoughts, hopes, and aspirations into dreams, then into goals, then actions, and finally achievements. The same is true for so many of us!

What you might need, instead of those detailed lists, is to work on a foundational principle: self-discipline. Without self-discipline you’ll never get to the achievement phase. You can read every self-help book in existence, go on every retreat out there, and still never take a step toward improvement if you don’t realize that somewhere along the way you never learned and strengthened the skills needed to make change occur.

So, to answer your question: “how do I make actual change that will actually last?’” Take the time to examine the cracks in your own foundation, then take what you find and practice! Practice self-discipline, practice self-awareness, practice mindfulness, practice confidence, practice self-sufficiency. Work only on those basic things first and I promise the rest will follow. All that practicing will take a lot of time and motivation, there’s no way around it. Fortunately there’s no lack of musical inspiration to help keep spirits high and minds on track while we work toward self-improvement, so I made you this playlist of some of my favorite songs to listen to on the way to crushing another goal. Play it, make a plan, and get ready for some change that will finally last.

 

resolution revolution


Reneice Charles is a just another queer, liberal, woman of color using the Internet to escape from reality and failing miserably. She received her MSW from New York University and is an Entrepreneur and Vocalist living in Los Angeles. She spends her spare time wishing she didn’t have to use her spare time convincing people that everyone deserves the same basic human rights.

Cover Art designed by the incredible Isabella Rotman!

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