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Hello, darling #Exvangelical fam. How are you DOING? I know I have been off my Dobson rounds here for quite a while and I am sorry about that. It turns out that being in school is one kind of crazy and being on break is another. Also I met someone and just... things are hectic!
But I miss all of y'all very much and I feel at least semi-ready to jump back into this nonsense again with you. How are you all doing? Tell me how holidays were, tell me how 2019 seems to be going so far. I want to hear all of the things! While you're doing that, let's start.
For anyone who has not been keeping up, we've been going through Dobson's Preparing for Adolescence book chapter by chapter. You can catch up here if you feel so inclined.

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As usual, if you are not feeling like you are in a space for a deep dive into traumatic evangelical background stuff, please be good to yourself, take care of you. We need you, you are important. The threads will be here later if you want.
If you ARE feeling like this is exactly what you need or are ready to get into, how exciting. I'm excited to take the trip (kinda), you're in the right place. We are gonna get into love and romance tonight, which Dobson knows NOTHING ABOUT, so good times all round.
As usual, these threads are really quite a lot of time and emotional labor for me and I'm a poor student. If you feel like buying me lunch, I'd be thrilled.
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All right! Let's go! Our chapter today is Chapter 4 - "I Think I've Fallen In Love." This is a great sign, as I'm sure you'll agree. No one has ever talked to kids about falling in love with anything but the greatest respect and honesty so I'm sure we're in for a treat.
We open right up with Dobson saying it is super common "today" to hear someone talking about falling in love. Okay, old man. Pretty sure that was common in your younger days too, we've not discovered you to be a literal incubus or vampire yet. It's not like this is a new concept.
But he wonders if his stupid audience have ever stopped to ask themselves (I may be editorializing a LITTLE but only a tiny bit) what this actually means? Like what changes take place and how do people know it's real and can they be tricked about it? What keeps love alive?
You know thank goodness that Dobson is bringing up these critical points because Celestia knows that no teenager in the history of time has ever asked themselves questions like how do they know they're really in love or what that phrase actually means. Unheard of!
Dobson always has this weird concept of like young minds just eagerly waiting to be molded or something. My experience with teens is that they think so much about all kinds of things. Certainly including love, although of course what that looks like varies from kid to kid.
I remember having a lot of thoughts as a kid about things like whether or not there was a "one" for everyone (I decided no pretty early) and all kinds of things. Whatever. We'll get there. In the meantime Dobson assumes most teenagers can't answer any of these questions.
He also thinks that the reason the divorce rate is so high is at least partly because newlyweds are so confused about "what love is, what it is not, and how to make sense out of their emotions."
The overwhelming emotion I'm having right now is irritation, it makes sense to me.
He says that although romantic love might not seem important to you now "unless you are a very unusual person, you are likely to become extremely attracted to members of the opposite sex in the years immediately ahead."
Sorry fellow queer kids and ace or demi fam. We're UNUSUAL.
He describes how by their 20's or so, most people start looking for the perfect person to spend their lives with. Once they find that person, there's a lot of star struck staring and dreaming about each other. It's amazing and he knows because "he's done it hundreds of times!"
Okay but no you have not, Dobson. You have not. Even your description of falling for Shirley in the biography that I JUST READ does not sound at all like you're describing here. Lot of power games.
(Feel free to catch up on that if it interests you.)
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Anyway. Apparently because people like this infatuation feeling so much they think they should get married. Gosh this feels so great, let's feel this way forever. I used to hear this ALL THE TIME, that this was something people did. I have not actually seen this happen much.
I'm sure it does happen but I've not seen it a lot. My friends have all been pretty aware and cautious of their decisions. When I have partnered with people, they seem to usually already be married so that's not really in the cards. Partnering can look so many different ways!
Strangely, that isn't the message Dobson is going for. He describes a wedding that does not sound great. The bride's mom crying the whole time, the father all tense, the "bratty little flower girl refuses to walk down the aisle" and a sentimental song about love.
So.... my parents had my cousin at their wedding as the flower girl. She was only a toddler and shy and she got like halfway down the aisle, saw her parents, and rant to them. No one called her bratty? It's a cute story they tell. Because that is the NORMAL RESPONSE DOBSON.
Anyway, whatever, fuck him. I just never get over how much he despises kids and how apparent it is. And how that is like the normal way evangelicals talk about kids. I suppose that's what really bothers me. That no one would think twice about it because that is how they talk too.
So this fictional couple gets married and everything seems good but basically right away things start to change. Marriage starts to feel a little like a trap and they both wonder if they made a mistake. I mean... okay. That's a sad way to spend your honeymoon, poor kiddos.
On the third day of the honeymoon they have a huge fight because she wants to go to a romantic restaurant for dinner and he wants to go to "Ronald McDonald's." Is that a thing we used to call McDonald's? Also... that's a BIG difference. Have these two not talked about ANYTHING?
So he says that although the fight was minor, they say some pretty mean things that do some damage. "They would learn to hurt each other more effectively in the months ahead." That is a TRULY ominous sentence. Jesus. This is a real horror story he's spinning here.
So 3 weeks after they get home they have a huge fight and it's a downhill slide from there and by the time the divorce actually happens there is also a kid who will never really understand why "daddy doesn't live here anymore." He is SO melodramatic.
So this is obviously a pretty intense disintegration of a marriage. I'm not going to say it never happens, anything CAN happen, but it seems like maybe not the norm. How did they even have *time* to get pregnant? It seems like they were practically divorced from the start?
And also wouldn't it have been better if they had lived together for a little bit, gotten a feel for each other, had a better idea of things? Then they would have known it was a bad idea OR learned how to navigate things better. JUST SAYING.
OR it would have been better if they had just annulled their marriage immediately or divorced. They were having doubts and huge fights RIGHT AWAY. Maybe get out while the getting is good? It just makes me irritated because he would never ever agree with these solutions.
He acknowledges this doesn't happen in ALL cases of marriage (thank goodness!) but it happens too often. The divorce rate, he claims, is higher than any other "civilized nation" in the world! The horror! Imagine!
Here's the thing. I'm having a hard time quickly searching divorce rates from 30 years ago compared to the rest of the world. Divorces WERE peaking in the US around that time. But we are DEFINITELY not the highest in the world *now* and divorce has been coming down for years.
At the beginning of 2018 we ranked 12th for divorce, which is... pretty low. There are a ton of theories around these things. This is an interesting article.
I think he could very well be just straight up lying. If anyone else can find numbers, lmk.

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But the idea of being super high in divorce rates plays into his beliefs and what he is peddling. People are being stupid and not LISTENING to him and also Jesus. He points out that 50% of all teen marriages end in divorce in the first few years! MY GOD. I mean.. yeah.
And I know that Dobson actually does not support teen marriage, it is one of his few decent stances. But he is speaking to a culture that by and large does, or if not completely support it, at least sort of nod indulgently or make exceptions. It's just frustrating.
So in order to examine romantic love and what it means, he has developed a quiz. Like most Christian quizzes it's transparent but let's go through and answer honestly, shall we? Or at least I'll give my own thoughts, you feel free to insert your own. <3 These are all true/false.
1) I believe that "love at first sight" occurs between some people.

True. Look, I can't explain it, I don't know what it is, and on a logical level it makes no sense to me. But I know people who swear it happened to them and are happy. I see no reason to deny their experience.
2) I believe that it's easy to distinguish real love from infatuation

I think this is something of a trick question. I don't have a true or false answer here. I think that infatuation is a word we use to write feelings off too often, particularly in kids. Love can be seasonal.
By which I mostly mean that there are times a relationship (romantic or otherwise) may only be for a period of time and it may burn out or it may no longer work for parties involved, but that doesn't necessarily mean the feelings weren't REAL. I dislike that premise.
3) I believe that people who sincerely love each other will not fight and argue.

False. Or at least if you don't fight it has little to do with love. I very rarely fight with people in general but that's not about my loving them or not.
4) I believe that God selects one particular person for each of us to marry, and that he will guide us together.

I mean... false on many, many levels. I reject most of the premise here. Aside from not believing in god I also don't believe in one person.
5) I believe that if a man and woman genuinely love each other, then hardships and troubles will have little or no effect on their relationship.

False. I mean, if like a child dies or something, it's going to have an impact, no matter how much you love each other.
6) I believe that it's better to marry the wrong person than to remain single and lonely throughout life.

False. ALSO maybe don't marry the wrong person AND also don't stay single and lonely for your whole life. It's fine to not get married, kids.
7) I believe that it's not harmful or sinful to have sexual intercourse before marriage if the couple has a meaningful relationship.

True! Or even if they don't! Have sex that feels safe and good to you in whatever way that is true for you. You are valid and loved. Fuck him.
8) I believe that if a couple is genuinely in love, that condition is permanent and will last a lifetime.

Obviously false, see my above statement about some relationships being seasonal.
9) I believe that short courtships, six months or less, are best.

False. I mean, really I just don't care what other people do. My instinct would be that it is better to be together longer but people should live their own lives as best they can, whatever that means for them.
10) I believe that teenagers are more capable of genuine love than are older people.

I mean... false. But I also don't believe they are any LESS capable of it.
In case you were wondering, Dobson tells us that this quiz is NOT a "highly scientific test." Thank goodness. He says some people might even have different ideas about the correct answers. But he will give HIS opinion on each of them, obviously.
So the first one, love at first sight. Obviously he thinks this is false and that it is an IMPOSSIBILITY. You only know the outer person, you can't be in love. I mean, sure. Whatever.
I do need to take a moment to point out he hasn't defined what love IS. So that's not ideal.
He then moves smoothly into blaming rock music for this tremendous confusion among teens. He quotes lyrics like "before the dance was through, I knew I was in love with you." Look, there's nothing wrong with those feelings, I don't know. Again, we don't know what love IS from him
"I didn't know just what to do so I whispered 'I love you.'" Dobson says how bizarre to make a lifetime commitment in a moment of confusion! I have said I love you to multiple people in my life and have meant it many times and it has not... generally been a lifetime commitment.
But Dobson feels this often happens. Things are awkward, the guy doesn't know what to say so he says that. The idiot girl is thrilled and says it back and then they go rushing down the path towards disaster together because they had confusing moments.
But his MOST hated lyrics are The Doors "Hello, I love you, won't you tell me your name?" I... look, far be it from me to point this out and perhaps I'm wrong! But I feel that perhaps, just PERHAPS, that is more about sex AND IS INTENDED TO BE than about "love."
He also quotes Debbie Boone (again with the VERY CURRENT REFERENCES) saying that love can't be wrong if it feels so right and smugly says he could point her in the direction of some divorce statistics that say otherwise, because he is, as ever, the absolute worst.
But to my mind that also doesn't inherently prove anything. Divorce doesn't prove to me that marriage was a mistake. I have other thoughts about the institution but that's not the point. If I break up with someone that doesn't mean our love was wrong. An ending isn't failure.
I don't know if this is coming from the "eternal perspective" nonsense or what. And I'm not saying I drop people left and right, I do not. I love my friends, my partners, I have every intention of keeping people around. But this measurement of "success" seems inherently flawed.
Number 2! Distinguishing love and infatuation! Obviously he thinks it is false and he thinks that because infatuation is so overwhelming that you can't think about anything else really. He explains when he was in college he was alone every summer because he didn't go home.
So every fall when the new crop of folks came back, he fell in love with a new girl. Whoever it was would be "forgotten and replaced" the following January. He was in his senior year when he got with Shirley. She might have been the January person? That's a hell of a pattern tho.
I get that he was lonely and one of many negatives about our culture in general and evangelicalism in particular is how few emotional outlets men have. So finding a female person to be crazy about and emotionally intimate with was probably his best bet. But also he's creepy.
He mostly points out that this love was self-centered and not real love. Then it goes into the difference between infatuation and love, which of course is that infatuation is a FEELING. And oh boy, do I remember this, folks. I bet you do too.
This idea that feelings change all the time, so they're inherently untrustworthy and nothing we can ever rely on. They're just kind of there. But love has to be a choice. He actually doesn't get to that here, but I know that's in the mix. I HATE this because it is so toxic.
Teaching kids their feelings don't matter is so damaging and concerning. Of course our feelings change and are somewhat transient, yes especially when we are teenagers. But they matter still. And they are still intimately connected to us. You can't just shrug them off like that.
And when you DO shrug them off like that, you create a real schism for kids. Because it is true that you probably shouldn't trust *just* your feelings, but your feelings should be a critical part of things. Your instincts, your judgment. Believe yourself. It's GOOD.
He's mostly just really condescending here about all those poor stupid couples in divorce court who had FEELINGS ONCE AND WERE DUMB ENOUGH TO THINK THEY WOULD LAST. He also reiterates that teens should never get married because they PARTICULARLY can't tell love from infatuation.
Number 3, do people who love each other fight? He says this may be surprising and the average person misses at least 3 or 4 of these questions. Would you have missed any growing up? I can't imagine I would have, they seem tailored to evangelical nonsense. Anyway.
No, obviously the answer is false and he explains how like maybe the father has been working all day and comes home and mom is exhausted from raising the kids all day and she tells her husband about a broken washing machine and the father is thinking about all those unpaid bills.
Around this point my brain broke from all the heteronormativity he was presenting.
Anyway, also they may disagree about money or where to go to church or important things like that. No matter how much you love each other there will be conflict, especially the first year.
I mean, sure. Getting to know someone in close quarters can be stressful. I feel some of this can be mitigated by certain things he won't consider like talking things through a lot more and living together first and all sorts of things but whatever. Conflict does happen.
He does not really give any advice for how to deal with conflict, which I find notable. He mostly just talks about how anything for selfish reasons won't work so be sure to be unselfish. Which is... sigh. Being unselfish is good but also it's not that simple.
4, does god pick a certain person and lead you to them? No, he does not think this. He is not a Calvinist, he thinks god gives people choice in certain areas of their life and if they DO think this they are setting themselves up for all kinds of trouble. I mean, I agree but...
I actually remember having this discussion with my parents as a kid, asking them how this exactly worked, trying to suss out free will. Their answers were unsatisfactory. The difference between god knowing what you'll choose and choosing for you does not SEEM substantial.
Also him making fun of the idea of god running a matchmaking service is a little obnoxious. After all, why doesn't he if he exists? He could actually stop you from making a mistake, yes? Why doesn't he ever do anything useful? God is so fickle.
It is ESPECIALLY annoying because he compares it to praying to god to heal a disease. God CAN heal it if it is "in his will" and you ask him but he "isn't obligated if you don't ask him." So if you don't pray it's your fault but also god might not even if you do. HE ALWAYS WINS.
It's such stacked deck bullshit. Look, if the wrong thing happens and you didn't ask god, then that is on you. But if you did ask god and bad things happen then god just had another plan or it wasn't in his will to do a good thing and we can't understand it. He can't be wrong.
5, will hardships have an impact on love? He assures us that they will and he tells us about working at a children's hospital and how love cannot conquer all if you don't work at it. Again, your fault if things go wrong, you should have worked harder probably.
6, should you marry the wrong person rather than stay single? No, of course not. He cites Paul, as everyone does. Even though Paul WAS married (and presumably a terrible husband). But don't do THIS. Even though we've created a culture with virtually no other options.
I just hate the hypocrisy of it. Obviously it is a culture that has been created that obsessively focuses on marriage and doesn't allow for any sexual enjoyment outside of it but if you marry the wrong person because of that, you're stupid and impatient. Again. Always on you.
7 is the one about sex before marriage and I think we all know what this one says. He actually opens it with "I certainly hope you know by now that the above statement is absolutely false." But obviously many dumb people have just decided THE OLD RULES DO NOT APPLY.
When people like Dobson talk about "the old rules" I think of the White Witch talking about "the old magic" and then Aslan enacting the OLDEST MAGIC on the stone table or whatever. Look, it's dumb and Christians would hate me using this really bad metaphor.
But I'm going to do it because... my thread. Spoilers for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe...?
In that story there's a whole Christ metaphor, if you somehow haven't read it. The White Witch and her demon things take Aslan, who sacrifices himself willingly. They kill him.
There's a whole big thing about it, about how she is using the old magics, magics that require blood sacrifice and that are too strong for anyone to break. Sacrifices have to be made. They basically crucify him (thorns, nails, etc) in a scene that was MUCH bloodier in my memory.
When the movie came out I went back and looked for the scene in the book and quickly realized that my mind had just filled in a lot of blanks. Anyway. Aslan dies while Lucy and Susan watch and then he comes back to life, breaks the stone table of magic.
When they ask him how he did it, he says that there is magic older than the witch, magic that is more powerful than what she can use. And then he goes and wakes up all the stone statues and stuff. It's all very thrilling.
But the idea of like using this old magic that we have decided has ultimate power actually still resonates with me. That's what I was taught. That there was this magic (that would not call magic) that is so old and so powerful and we have to LISTEN TO IT. There's no way around it
It requires SACRIFICE. It requires so much from us and there's no other way to read it. There's just not. Except that one day I found out that wasn't true. One day I found out the old magics were pretty new, that there was SO MUCH ELSE. Our ideas of morals and sexual ethics...
concepts of abortion, war, worship, theology. All the things I had been taught were old magic that restrained me and demanded sacrifice to keep it alive, was actually not. There was WAY older magic. What that looked like for me might look different than for you.
The metaphor isn't perfect by any means. But what I see here is Dobson doing this sort of thing. This like... look, here is the spell. Read in my book, read Hebrews 13:4. You CAN'T READ IT ANY OTHER WAY. The magic requires this, this is all that god has every commanded ever.
Of course that's not even true *in the book.* There is tons of extra-marital sex in the Bible. But if they tell you enough, you stop looking for it. If they are brazen enough, maybe you don't notice. Want to hear brazen? He uses SOLOMON for his advice giver here.
Solomon "wisest man" whatever. But also slept with... you know. Hundreds of women based on the story. We skim over that a bit. His whole tale of the "prostitute" seducing a man seems absurd to point to as evidence of anything. But Christians have no sense of the absurd.
I have some thoughts about identifying with the "wayward young woman" in that passage growing up and what that does to your head but tonight may not be the night for that. Right now I'll just say that it's bananas that he can say 'the Bible is totally consistent about fidelity.'
More scripture is quoted, more talk about the 'old rules' or old magic never going out of date. You're still held to this. Don't you dare look elsewhere. These instructions will never be out of date, there is no escaping this. Be cautious. Be aware.
All his quotes are out of the Living Bible, and he quotes from Colossions and one of the things it says is that "God's terrible anger is upon those who do such things." It's just a spell, y'all. Step out of line and he punishes you. You have to do it right.
But now he has to explain HOW God might punish you. Three consequences, apparentely. STD's, unplanned pregnancies, and strong emotional attachments. He lists these as consequences. I think it's weird to put strong emotional attachments in the same space as STD's but sure.
He is VERY concerned because of numbers predicting that 7 out of 10 girls and 8 out of 10 boys will not be virgins by age 19. I wonder if that holds true. Regardless, who cares? Other than Dobson and all the Christians. I just want to know they are having good and enjoyable sex.
So first, STD's. He talks about mostly AIDS here. He talks about how it is 100% fatal. Which is a lie. We've already talked about this in another chapter. This is not true. It wasn't true then. He is lying about this to scare children.
However! Good news! He assures you that if you and your partner follow the rules and only have sex with each other, you will NEVER HAVE TO WORRY about an STD. This is nonsense, of course. What if you are assaulted? What if you follow the rules but your partner doesn't?
I swear I will never forget a presentation when I was in undergrad from our local clinic that treats HIV/AIDS. They talked a lot about how much better treatment has gotten, how people live basically a full lifetime at this point, it's not at all a death sentence.
But the guy explained that the only time HE had seen people die from AIDS in the last however many years was several cases of women who had been given HIV by their husbands, generally men who were sleeping with men AND also IV drug users. By the time they came in it was too late.
I think about that way more than most things in undergrad, it is weirdly haunting to me. Haunting because of what men do to women and how little is done. But just in general the idea you could be betrayed THAT badly. Betrayal could kill you. Following the rules isn't enough.
He tells kids that just because they can't see symptoms doesn't mean they're clean. True enough. You know what he doesn't say? Go to a doctor and get checked out. He recommended that for ACNE but it is never mentioned here. Just... just saying.
In terms of unplanned pregnancies, by the time the second version of this book was written (not that it matters, he didn't change literally anything), we really were at a hell of a point with teen pregnancies. Real crisis. Happily that has dropped DRAMATICALLY since then.
Of course the reason is mostly because of more comprehensive sex education and access to birth control... but Dobson will never talk about that and would probably still claim the problem is as bad as it ever was, I imagine. Things getting better doesn't fit the narrative.
This is a pretty short section overall, just talks about how kids are still figuring themselves out, not ready to have a child. How sometimes the mother's body actually can't handle it, there's a higher rate of miscarriage. It's mercifully brief.
Finally strong emotional attachments! This goes into the types of things you probably expect to see. There is a lot of gender essentialism, talk about how boys and girls have such different responses. The language is often troubling at best.
"Boys tend to respond in a much more physically demanding way than do girls. Girls tend to respond more to the emotional needs of security and closeness." Okay, we all know this pitch, but this has a darker tone to it than it sometimes has and we need to take a minute on it.
"Boys will sometimes pressure their girlfriends with words of love in order to fulfill their physical desires. Girls respond to loving words and close physical contact to satisfy needs for intimacy."
Obviously the idea that boys are going to be "physically demanding" or "pressuring" as if that is just the norm is DEEPLY upsetting and problematic. But beyond that, he is following that up with that girls are "responding" to needs for closeness AS IF THAT IS THE SAME THING.
It's despicable to tell anyone that these things are comparable, it is PARTICULARLY despicable to tell children.
This is followed by a bit about how "men don't respect easy women and quickly become bored with them" and "women don't respect men w/only one thing on their mind."
lol I have very rarely not slept with someone on the first date as an adult (at least by Dobson's standards) when I knew things had clicked. No one's gotten bored of me yet. But boy did I believe this stuff when I was a kiddo and trying to figure the world out.
He wants you to decide ahead of time what to do if you are in a sexual situation because it's so hard to decide then. I had this very firmly in my mind as a kid, that you could suddenly just FIND YOURSELF HAVING SEX. That has never been my experience but I didn't know that then.
He points out that most sexual relationships when you're a teenager don't last, which is again back to that weird definition of success. Look, I had a love of my life in high school and that didn't last and I'm glad it didn't. But I don't regret him. It was what I needed then.
He assures us that if you break up after you've "shared your body" it will be profound and traumatic. Pretty sure break ups can be profound and traumatic no matter what but sure. Whatever. Also it'll fuck up your future sex life because you may not trust people or you'll compare.
So much of this is self-fulfilling. You may not trust people or compare people in negative ways because you are TOLD YOU WILL. It is so hard to know. There's no alternative response given though, so it's not like you can be really sure. How else can you feel?
Number 8 is that a couple being in love will last a lifetime, which he's basically already answered. Not a thing. But of course this is focused on how hard are you working to make it last, not that SOMETIMES things just don't work out.
9 is about short courtships and he is very opposed to that, he thinks that they should be probably at least a year or two in length to be very certain that it is real love after all. That's a tough call when you are holding off on sex, sheesh.
And 10 is about teenagers being capable of greater love than adults. He says this is false because "genuine love requires a certain amount of maturity." Basically he says that it is extremely uncommon for teenagers to be unselfish enough to be truly loving.
This is (predictable) nonsense. Just because an experience is different at different times in your life does not make it less real. A teenager's experience of loving someone is not a less loving or real experience because it is different than a 40yo's. Bullshit adultism.
He would like to say that kids should not try to get out of a bad situation or away from their parents or whatever by getting married. That's just jumping out of the frying pan into the fire or whatever. Escaping from mom and dad is one of the worst reasons for marriage.
This is mostly frustrating because if a kid is that desperate to get away from home, chances are there is something they feel like they need to get away from. I'm not saying marriage is a great option (probably not) but maybe a great time to address abuse? No? Cool.
He talks about his relationship with Shirley, how their love grew and evolved together or whatever. He does NOT talk about how he like worked to win her back after she rejected him. He talks about how they don't always feel super in love with each other, sometimes they fight.
But even during those times, there is still love there. Emotions are not the point, instead it is "an iron fisted determination." I mean... sigh. Obviously relationships do take work and I believe that but they shouldn't be so hard as Christians make them sound.
And he closes out by saying that real love is caring for another person "almost as much as you do for yourself." Because you are becoming one person and such. I think it's interesting he says ALMOST as much as yourself. That's actually a slight step over the bar, sad as that is.
I heard people tell me plenty of times it should be as much or more as I care for myself. I wonder what the almost would be? What would that look like? How do you determine what the right amount is? Questions that will never be answered, as we are DONE with the chapter.
I hope you... enjoyed this. We'll be back next week for Dobson to talk shit about emotions. Yay...
I love you all. Please feel free to comment or DM or whatever you like. I love hearing from you. <3 <3 <3
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