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How to Look Like You Weren’t Just Crying in Less Than Five Minutes

Sometimes you need it to be a secret that you were just bawling.

Illustration by Marjainez

I’ve always been a crier.

Not like a crybaby, exactly, but…from the time I was a little kid to right now when I am supposed to be an adult doing adult things like going to work and being responsible and having my shit together…I don’t hold in my feelings—I still cry whenever I’m sad. I cry when I’m really really happy. Or when something is super beautiful and there’s nothing left to say.

I’m an easy crier. My god, the lion reunion video alone was an entire travel pack of tissues.

I cry when I’m angry and fighting with someone and can’t think of exactly what to say to make them see how wrong they are. And then I get furious at myself for crying, and then I cry harder.

And it’s OOOOOOOK I just have a lot of feelings. And it’s fine to cry! Let it out! There’s nothing wrong with crying.

But…sometimes you need it to be a secret that you were just bawling. Sometimes you need to make it look like you totally were not just crying. Um, RIGHT AWAY.

Guuurl lemme get you a Kleenex. Here we go.


Uh-oh. You’re getting teary? You think you’re gonna cry?

The most important thing at this point is to just let it happen.

Don’t fight crying—this makes it worse. When you try to hold it in you end up making weird gasping noises and your face turns red and everyone in the nearby vicinity is alerted to the fact that something’s up with you.

You’re going to cry.

Walk calmly (don’t run—it’ll give you away) to a bathroom. Immediately. I cannot stress this enough. Get thee to a lonely bathroom. Lock yourself in a stall.

While Crying

This part is easy. Just start sobbing! It’s OK! Let the tears flow! No one can see you! Put your feet up on the toilet seat if you’re concerned someone will come looking for you.

There’s only one thing to keep in mind while crying, though, and that’s:

REMEMBER TO BREATHE. This is the #1 key to your after-cry recovery. In order to prevent extreme facial redness and splotchiness later, breathe evenly through your mouth (your nose will be too stuffed up) as you cry. Holding your breath and letting it out in little shuddery gasps and hiccups is what makes your face that telltale I-was-crying red color.

Immediately After Crying

Take a few really deep breaths. Steady… steady…

Blow your nose lavishly. Do it again.

Check for other people if you’re in a public bathroom.

Once the coast is clear, c’mon out.

If you’re wearing eye makeup (or were wearing it), fold a piece of toilet paper in half and dab daintily (DON’T WIPE) underneath your eyes.

Now, in movies, this is where the main character splashes cold water on his or her face. That’s fine if you’re not wearing makeup, but hello? Those of us wearing makeup can’t be splashing water all over ourselves. Here’s what you do:

Run cold water, stick your fingers under the tap, and then gently pat cold water underneath your eyes, where it’s all puffy. This cools you down and constricts the blood vessels under your eyes that are causing tattletale swelling. Splash some cold water on your wrists, too. It helps, I don’t know why.

OK, your nose is red and shiny, I know. DON’T POWDER IT. I know you want to, but really don’t. It will look so much worse, you won’t even believe how much worse—like you’re trying to cover something up and it’s not working at all. If you powder it, you will have a red powdered cue-ball nose. Just leave it—it’ll go away in a minute.

A few more deep breaths, and now it’s time to leave the bathroom.

You still might look blotchy. Much, much better, but still a li’l…cry-y, right?

Here Are Your Two Final Weapons

1. Flip your hair over your head and rumple it up, like you’re trying to add volume. Then flip it back and fluff it out. I learned this trick from my expert stealth-crying friend Alison, who says: “This will make you look like you are only flushed because you are so windblown and carefreeeee.”

2. Juuuust as you’re about to walk back into a room with people in it, do like my sneaky friend Jen does and pretend to sneeze, loudly. That way no one will think, Oh, she’s crying—they’ll think, She just had a sneeze attack, that’s why her eyes are watering and her nose is so red.

And finally, if you’re me? Visine in the purse and waterproof mascara on the lashes. Every day.

You just never know. ♦


  • MissKnowItAll March 23rd, 2012 7:15 PM

    Need this, especially after I fight with my parents and I start to bawl.

  • LeavesThatAreGreen March 23rd, 2012 7:20 PM

    Omg thank you.

  • callie March 23rd, 2012 7:25 PM

    this is gold. im such a cryer! but i tend to cry not when im really sad, just when im frustrated, kind of like a three year old. Does anyone else get that? also i cry in arguments all the time! thats basically why i decided not to take law at university…

  • dk March 23rd, 2012 7:26 PM

    psst…the reason the water-on-wrists thing works is because your skin is extra thin there, so your blood is closest to the surface. Cooling this area cools blood quickly, which then cools you off in general.

    Also, as a 34yo bona fide adult, this article is Very Helpful.

  • Susann March 23rd, 2012 7:29 PM

    Okay, this is SO helpful for me – I cry in public much too often..


  • Adrienne March 23rd, 2012 7:34 PM

    This is absolutely brilliant! Like you, I’m a crier too! This is so helpful. I’ve always been embarrassed after a good dose of crying, with my red watery eyes and uncontrollable sniffs. I bet I even have pics of me post-crying, and I look horrible! Especially with that forced smile that kind of looks like I’m about to murder someone.

    Oh, and that link you posted, the Pass On, poem, is so beautiful! :)))))


  • aliceee March 23rd, 2012 7:35 PM

    “I cry when I’m angry and fighting with someone and can’t think of exactly what to say to make them see how wrong they are. And then I get furious at myself for crying, and then I cry harder.” THIS IS ME. Also when I’m confused, which is awful because then I get confused why I’m crying & can’t explain it to anyone else… I am going to use this advice so often!!

  • erin March 23rd, 2012 7:36 PM

    I heard that not crying is bad for your skin, because tears have chemicals in them and stuff that, if not shed through tears, get all up in your skin and make you break out or something.
    And I use sneeze trick all the time! only I use it when I’m about to cry, so people think, “oh, her eyes are all watery because she’s sneezing uncontrollably.” I like to think it works.

    • Lascelles March 23rd, 2012 9:58 PM

      I don’t think that’s right. Tears do contain (clears) toxins and stress hormones which are bad for your skin but I still don’t think that’s (not crying is bad for your skin) right. I think crying is good but I don’t think trying to stop yourself from crying or not crying is inherently bad for you in any way. I personally think crying, emotional crying, is like a valve that tells you, you are out of control. So, trying to stop the cry is less about the crying than getting yourself under control. That make sense? Oh, and allergies. That’s the best excuse ever :D

      • TheGreatandPowerfulRandini May 30th, 2012 5:06 PM

        Contacts are a gold mine. I love having contacts.

  • kittenmix March 23rd, 2012 7:53 PM

    ‘blow your nose lavishly’ is advice I’m going to take on board for every day, not just crying situations. Actually I think I’m going to start doing EVERYTHING lavishly. With lavish. Laaaaviiiissssh.

  • cherrycola27 March 23rd, 2012 7:55 PM

    I am such a crier! I’ve heard that if you don’t want to cry you should look up, so as to stop the flow of tears (by not blinking, I guess?). But that’s dumb because then I just look up for ten minutes, then blink and look down and cry anyways.
    It’s EMBARRASSING though when I’m talking to someone and out of nowhere I start to tear up. Thanks for this, though. I’ll for sure use it.

  • gato March 23rd, 2012 8:02 PM

    haha this is perfecttttt

  • Emily Condon March 23rd, 2012 8:03 PM

    Reading this, I felt like you were inside my mind. It’s funny – whenever I’m crying in public (which is extremely often and sometimes for a rather extended period of time), I always feel like no one else cries in public. It’s so helpful to have evidence that other people do this too!

    Other tips: Sunglasses can be a lifesaver. When you’re wearing them, you can just sort of walk around and cry, which sometimes is necessary. The lenses fog up after a while, but a quick swipe with a scarf and you’re clear. Scarves are also helpful for tear absorption, in a pinch. And my #1 rule when I leave the house is: carry kleenex. Those little $1.50 travel size packets keep them sanitary, in one piece, and easy to locate in emergencies. They’re key.

  • missblack March 23rd, 2012 8:03 PM

    YESSSSSSS this is the kind of stuff that teenage girls need to know!!!!!


  • neon_rattail March 23rd, 2012 8:13 PM

    I’m not sure what this says about me, but this is SO helpful! I’m a constant cryer and I can’t control tears when something hits me just right. I have way too many bouts of empathetic tears, like I hear something about someone that is sad or really hard to deal with and I WEEP for them. Kind of crazy. The sneeze trick especially is gold! Thanks!

  • ivoire March 23rd, 2012 8:16 PM

    This is so ultra helpful. I cry over the tiniest things.

  • rainingmay March 23rd, 2012 8:39 PM

    This is one of the most helpful pieces of advice I’ve ever heard! I’m just really sensitive and I cry a lot and so this is just really great. Thank you!

  • starsinyourheart March 23rd, 2012 9:00 PM

    THIS IS WHAT I’VE ALWAYS NEEDED TO KNOW. I JUST CRY. i just cry so much and i hate it but have come to accept it as just being me. but it’s nice to know that i can cover it up if i need to aha! x

  • Hannah. March 23rd, 2012 9:12 PM

    Krista! I can’t even tell you how relevant this is for me! I have an awesome life, but I still seem to cry all the time. My citrus green pillow case is black splodgy from mascara stains. It’s really important to me to keep my emotional instability a little bit under wraps. This article actually cracked me up, and I will definitely be using these tips! Thank you! XX

  • Limey March 23rd, 2012 9:12 PM

    So true! I also ALWAYS pinch my cheeks for some reason. I’m not really sure if that works, but I feel like someone told me that once…

  • cleobea March 23rd, 2012 9:14 PM

    This is me!! I’m just like that. I can cry at songs. Not because of bad (or good) memories connected to them, but because they’re just gorgeous. I cry at memories, I cry at beauty, I cry at the wind, the missed opportunity, the pictures, the past; and now the wind.
    Yesterday night my friends and I went to see the Hunger Games midnight premiere, and I cried from the reaping the to the announcement they’re victors (sorry if those are spoilers for any of you). Because it’s sad. Just the idea of the Hunger Games, a game where you play till the death to remind the people of the revolution, of war and sadness, televised makes me want to cry until I have no tears left in me (But that will never happen) And they tease me, for felling.
    So thank you, for your advice, but then again I wish I didn’t have to be ashamed of crying.

    And, god that video is amazing!!!! Get me some kleenex.

  • puffytoad March 23rd, 2012 9:15 PM

    If you don’t wear makeup, you can splash hot water all over your face and then cold water. The hot water makes it go from being unevenly puffy to evenly puffy, and then you unpuff it with cold water… or something. My ex-girlfriend taught me that. I think it works!

  • Sasssquatch March 23rd, 2012 9:35 PM

    This is ABSOLUTELY perfect. thank you so much

  • Casey March 23rd, 2012 9:38 PM

    Thank. The Lahd. This is the article I totally needed!!! When I get upset I get so wrapped up and start crying and it’s just a horrid mess.

    Also, what worked for me once: If you’re just about to leave the house but you’ve just finished crying and your eyes are still puffy, I snuck an ice cube and pressed it under my eyes..This of course only works if someone else is driving you or something. ;P


    • KinuKinu April 6th, 2012 3:36 PM

      Hee heeeeeeeeeeeeee .The Lahd……

  • KinuKinu March 23rd, 2012 9:47 PM

    THANKYOU SOOO MUCH.I hate when people interrogate me when I’ve finished crying.Now that all goes away.SNEEZING =BEST TRICK EVER.I will do this whenever I need to vent and don’t want to show. Thank you ♥♥♥♥♥♥♪♪♪♪♥♥♥♥♥♥

  • Abby March 23rd, 2012 10:24 PM

    OH MY GOD WE’RE THE SAME PERSON. I cry at EVERYTHING ha. Also, thank you, because I’m an ugly crier haha.

  • zoey. March 23rd, 2012 11:23 PM

    Actually super helpful. I work at a job where getting punched or assaulted by kids or screamed at is common and sometimes, I just can’t be tough about it and I gotta cry, but I gotta go back out really quickly and look like nothing is wrong at all. I need to memorize these tips!

  • Meepychan March 24th, 2012 12:07 AM

    Hey. This was very entertaining to read. I love your writing style so I read it out to my friends and they all think you are brilliant. Keep it up. ^^

  • SweetThangVintage March 24th, 2012 12:26 AM

    THANK YOU! I’m a cryer also. This one time I was at a party and we were playing some game and this guy laughed at me and I just started crying, and I was trying to stop, so then I cried harder. So I was just sitting there in front of this big group of people bawling my eyes out and we just keep playing whatever game it was. Oh goodness. I just love memories.

  • mickeyf19 March 24th, 2012 12:32 AM

    WHOOOOAA no way this is exactly me.

    One time in Language Arts, our teacher asked a really simple question about what just happened in Macbeth, and I had to go to the bathroom for like, 5-10 minutes because I started crying. Because this question was so simple. I was frustrated that I wasn’t getting the hard part, it was just soo simple. The only problem is that everyone kind of noticed that I was crying about our Macbeth question, and I felt like a dork. -__-

  • juliette March 24th, 2012 1:50 AM

    criers in the hoooooouse

  • Tasya March 24th, 2012 2:46 AM

    WOW i thought i was the only one who cries all the time! thanks for writing this, totally gonna need it

  • equinox March 24th, 2012 3:17 AM

    that poem video.
    i watched it four times today.
    i cried every time.

    • Krista March 24th, 2012 12:44 PM

      I know, right? I can’t stop with it!!

  • Dayzee March 24th, 2012 4:51 AM

    I really needed this, but I would never have been so clever to think of writing this article. genius!


  • Mila March 24th, 2012 5:21 AM

    this is so good. now i’m gonna cry, haha.

  • lucycat March 24th, 2012 5:29 AM

    Bless this post.

  • whodatgal March 24th, 2012 9:04 AM

    Omigod this is going to help me so much. I weep all the time. I always use that white frying powder you put on after you’ve bathed though- to make myself look less blotchy…Bad idea? This is a brill article by the way.


  • starcollector March 24th, 2012 9:20 AM

    This is definitely useful when you’re one of those girls who gets all misty-eyed when she sees something beautiful. This also happens when something I see inspires a story in my head that I like so much I start crying.


  • purplebabaushka March 24th, 2012 9:26 AM

    Thank you!! I’m kind of a crier too- this was really helpful!


  • AllieBee March 24th, 2012 9:29 AM

    I wish I read this yesterday, when I thought I lost my sketchbook filled with 1-year’s ideas and evolution of my artwork in my highschool where someone would steal it and probably throw it away! I need that thing for my portfolio!! LOTS of crying as I ran ALL over the school for two periods, and had half-run half-slide because my necklace was making too much noise and people could hear me coming which would surely give away my crying. *SIGH* apparently my mom moved it in our HOUSE so I wouldn’t get food on it. Thanks, mom.


  • sttefaaa March 24th, 2012 11:33 AM

    This will so work for me.
    I`m a crier. oh yes I am.


  • insteadofanelephant March 24th, 2012 12:25 PM

    sooo helpful. my emotions are uncontrollable. tears for everyone!

    instead of an elephant

  • willow March 24th, 2012 1:25 PM

    One of the great things about being a brown girl is that I don’t have to worry about the red face. But the other tips are perfect, especially the sneezing one!

  • Billy March 24th, 2012 2:12 PM

    OMG THANK YOU!!! I am literally always crying in public it’s so ridiculous…

  • FlorenceEyre March 24th, 2012 2:23 PM

    I need this article right now!!! I recently ended a facebook conversation with a really nice guy (the first conversation) and I am going to cry right now-w-w and I need to look normal :D :D I am sooo happy-y-y-y :D Thank you for this post!!!!!

  • marineo March 24th, 2012 4:31 PM

    This is probably the most useful rookie article for me personally.
    It perfectly captures what sucks about being a person that can’t help but cry during arguments and hard tests etcetera. the problem is that once you start crying, you get embarrassed and then you cry more and then if you are me, your mother will make fun of you for being a high schooler that cries and then you cry even more.

    but one things that helps me is to look at the ceiling if i am in a place where i can’t readily access the bathroom. i’m not really sure if it really helps, but it seems to.

  • mayaautumn March 25th, 2012 3:28 PM

    sooo helpful! ive always been a crier too, and for some reason I always cry on my birthday or on Christmas – usually because it’s so lovely and I get overwhelmed….I dunno!


  • caralion March 25th, 2012 4:59 PM

    Thank you. Now I don’t have to deal with, “WHATS WRONG WHY ARE YOU CRYING?!” *everyones heads turn my way*

  • emilyowls March 25th, 2012 6:07 PM

    ok but what do you when you start crying and you CAN’T go to a bathroom?

    here’s my problem: i cry almost every time a teacher talks to me one on one.

    this has only been a problem since i got to college… but its a big one. my professors approach me in a way that makes me feel like im inferior… even when theyre being nice. maybe its because their job is to judge everything i say/write… then of course this leads me to the most childish reaction there is – tears. and so far whenever its happened ive literally just stayed there talking to them, trying to hold in as much emotion as possible before they dismiss me. i think i end up making a lot of horrible faces during this process. WHAT DO I DO??

    • Emily Condon March 26th, 2012 10:13 AM

      hey emily owls,

      I also struggle with crying when I feel condescended to, and/or if I feel angry that the person I’m talking to doesn’t get it. I’ve found that something that can be helpful is to pick a word – mine is “calm” – and just repeat in inside your head over and over. Also take very deep breaths, through your nose if you can, and make sure you’re exhaling all the way. Usually I time each “calm” to each breath. Of course you still have to be listening to the teacher, but you can do this at the same time. Deep breathing can do wonders in terms of keeping you in control.

      The other thing is even if a couple of tears slip out, don’t beat yourself up over it – it’ll only make it worse. Try to laugh at yourself and say something like, “sorry, clearly I have a lot going on right now and am feeling a bit overwhelmed. But I totally hear what you’re saying etc etc etc”

      I’ve definitely found that as I care less about the fact that I cry in public and as I get better at making self-deprecating jokes about it, it helps me feel less bad about it and actually has helped me do it a little less, too.

  • chloelou March 25th, 2012 10:38 PM

    Yes yes yes. God I cry at everything. In fact, I was crying 10 minutes ago. I cry when I’m talking about missing home or when I watch the lion king or when I think about watching the lion king and when I remember high school and oh god the tears.

    thank you.

  • teen goth March 26th, 2012 6:50 AM

    thank you for this.

  • CigarGalaxy March 26th, 2012 11:42 AM

    Is there no way to stop tearing up? because that seems to be what people always notice and point out, sometime my friends try to make me laugh whenever I tear up, but it does not work very well.

  • homemadepepsi March 26th, 2012 1:35 PM

    I’m sorry… was this a joke? I can never tell when things on Rookie are supposed to be satirical or not. It might work as a joke, but I’m afraid that I’m right in thinking it’s not. Are we, as women and girls, supposed to continue to hide our emotions, to think of others’ “discomfort” at seeing our tears, bleary eyes, flushed faces or other signs of distress before we think of how we really want or need to express ourselves? How is that feminist progress, Rookie? Shouldn’t we be seeking to surround ourselves with people who encourage us to express ourselves, who support us and validate our feelings? How is running off to a “lonely bathroom” in an attempt to save face going to help? I know most readers of this website are younger than me, so maybe this was helpful for them, but I still felt the need to point this out.

    Girls, ladies, young women, please: express yourself as freely as you need to. Ask for help. Don’t worry so much about what others think of your tears. And don’t label yourself a “crier”! After years of feeling guilty for my own crying tendencies and internalizing messages that I was “dramatic,” I am only now beginning to realize that there is nothing wrong with me. And that has actually resulted in less crying.

    • MaggietheCat March 26th, 2012 2:19 PM

      I agree that women of all ages should feel comfortable to freely express their emotions, and that we shouldn’t hide our emotions to save others from discomfort, but sometimes (like at work) it’s just better to hide the fact that you’ve been crying.

      • homemadepepsi March 26th, 2012 3:47 PM

        Better for whom?

        • Tavi April 19th, 2012 12:58 AM

          um, better for the person who doesn’t want to share their personal life with their classmates, coworkers, whoever? this isn’t about LADY TEARS, it’s about privacy. i don’t want people to see i’m crying because i don’t want them asking about my business. this article doesn’t say to make it look like you weren’t just crying so as to not inconvenience or make uncomfortable those around you. sometimes you just don’t want people to know about your personal life.

  • homemadepepsi March 26th, 2012 3:36 PM

    It really is stifling, though! It really is about feminism! How is it not? Isn’t that the basis of Rookie’s mission in this world of debased, anti-woman/anti-girl media? This article is encouraging women and girls to be dishonest about what is really going on within themselves. The central theme is “Make sure nobody knows you’re about to cry, that you are currently crying, or that you have just been crying.” Nowhere does it suggest that we seek out a caring, understanding person that we trust to help us get through our crying “episode” (whether in person, text, phone or otherwise). In our patriarchal society, crying or any display of emotion is seen as a weakness that should be hidden. If a woman (or man) cries and others see it, they are looked down upon, called “oversensitive,” or, in my case, given birth control pills by a male therapist at the age of 15 to manage “PMS symptoms.” I will ask once more: how is this not about feminism?

    • homemadepepsi March 26th, 2012 3:37 PM

      hmm… I think the comment by Emily that I intended to reply to was removed?

    • MaggietheCat March 26th, 2012 4:57 PM

      Obviously I can only speak for myself, but there have been situations in my life where I felt more empowered by hiding the fact that I’ve been crying than I would have if I’d let anyone see me sweat.

      No one is saying we should bow down to patriarchy and hide all of our emotions, just that masking the signs of crying can be a beneficial tool in the arsenal for today’s young, modern, feminist women.

    • TheGreatandPowerfulRandini May 30th, 2012 5:16 PM

      I don’t know about you, but I’m not too keen of crying in front of the bullies throwing food at me after a crappy test and lots of stress.

  • Homebrew March 26th, 2012 7:07 PM

    A friend and I were just discussing how the lovely Zooey Deschanel always looks like she just had a good cry. I think looking vulnerable is a part of her appeal, actually. Which is kind of weird to consider. I wish the world were a more safe place for people to be open and vulnerable, and I try not to make things worse for a person who is crying. Sometimes I don’t know what to do, though! I’d love to see an article on how to be kind to a sad person when you don’t know them that well.

  • bigdreamer March 26th, 2012 8:19 PM

    this is really helpful, i’m such a crier. always bawling my eyes out for no reason.

    thanks :)

  • emcarls March 26th, 2012 8:30 PM

    hahaha i clicked the link to the lion reunion video and i started sobbing too. i cry easily too so this is really helpful


  • Tassium March 27th, 2012 1:59 AM

    My instant reaction to any intense emotion is to cry. Can I get this article on flashcards?

  • Milkyway April 2nd, 2012 3:01 PM

    Aww! I loved it and it’s going to help me a lot! Thank you.

  • smarty April 20th, 2012 10:39 AM

    I’m sitting in my office…I clicked the lion reunion…why? why did I do that??? Guess it’s a good chance to try out the technique…

  • eliselbv April 25th, 2012 1:58 PM

    This is just the most useful Rookie Post Ever ! I used to do ALL the wrong things before reading it (including not using waterproof mascara)

  • Nerdy J May 11th, 2012 10:10 PM

    I love that you attached that spoken word piece to things you think are really beautiful. Joshua Bennett’s 10 Things I Want to Say to a Black Woman made me feel the same way– I think Michael Lee might have drawn some inspiration from that, the way he numbers things. Please check out my soulmate— I mean, Joshua’s poetry some time if you haven’t already. Miles Hodges has some beautiful stuff too.

    Also I’m so stoked that somebody finally put into words/ steps the technique I thought I invented for making it look like “those damn trees again, making my allergies act up.”

    Thank you <33

  • indigosunday May 23rd, 2012 3:25 PM

    “I cry when I’m angry and fighting with someone and can’t think of exactly what to say to make them see how wrong they are. And then I get furious at myself for crying, and then I cry harder.”
    I do this exactly. I just get so intense. And I wish I had read this earlier, before I threw a bulb holder and yelled at my science teacher and vice principla. and it’s good not to let people know you’ve been crying because not all people can handle all that emotion, and also people will come up with rude terms like crybaby or mrs cry a lot which will cause you to get more angry and cry. which isn’t as beautiful as it may sound. but then again I cry all the time, like when I watched the Hannah MOntana with David Archueleta and she ditched that boy so she could sing with David, I cried for the boy who got ditched when he was so excited. YEs…and in School of Rock as well

  • Aurora June 22nd, 2012 3:56 PM

    Ahh I love this article. I get so overwhelmed sometimes and just start bawling, which makes me angry, and then I bawl harder. I have had one of my guy friends drag me to my advisor because I was crying so hard I couldn’t explain what was wrong. It was bad.
    i will use this piece forever as reference.