Should “Prince” Have Been Anything But?

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Was the construct of “Prince” any different from that of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust?

Before coming up with my alter ego’s talismans, I’d already taken some baby steps with her. In New York, I channeled the famous Princely gaze in an office elevator, in the airport and back home, in line at the post office. The puzzled and curious glances I got in return were reward enough, but I hadn’t considered that an alter ego could be more than a plaything. My reference point had been Prince’s image, but it’s taken me to mid-month to understand — yea, to know — that “Prince” the public persona was, in fact, an alter ego.

This is the part where celebrities can get messed up in the head. Chris Moon, the producer who co-wrote Prince’s first single, Soft and Wet, and who owned MoonSound studio in Minneapolis where Prince learned to record, has been sharing stories of Prince before he had a record deal on Facebook. People would be surprised to hear how intentional the branding behind “Prince” was, even back in the 1970s. Apparently, there was a lengthy process in choosing Prince’s name, as well as a strategic decision that Prince should be associated with a color based on Moon’s experience in advertising. And then there’s the story of Prince in his early days being seen on the street wearing jeans and looking unpolished, and two women passing him saying “Oh no, that can’t be Prince,” so that he never went out in public again without being fully dressed, groomed and in character. While this story and the fact that Prince dressed the part daily (and that’s why I followed his lead in February), I’ve started to wonder if Prince should have named himself something other than his own name, and whether or not he kept a mental distance from the character “Prince” that he played on stage — to great effect.

In The Alter Ego Effect, author and high-performance coach Todd Herman quotes legendary Hollywood agent Shep Gordon, who was asked at an event how he coached his clients to perform at a high level.

“I think each one is very, very different. I think there’s just one general rule that I used to try and give to every artist, whether they were chefs or they were entertainers. It’s that if you allow the public figure to actually be you, you’re never going to be happy. And you’re never going to be confident, because if you take the traits of who you are and develop that into a character that you understand, you’ll always know what that character should do, so when you’re in a press conference, you always know how to answer a question.”

“If it’s you personally, you never have the answers. It’s really tough, and when you take it personally, that’s when you start scarring. If a bad review is about that person, you change that person. If a bad review is about you, sometimes that wound can be very deep. So, I don’t think you can generalize, but if there’s any generality, I would say, if someone who’s in the public eye can understand that people aren’t loving you, they’re loving that character that’s been put in front of them. Even from my movie, I get people come up to me, “You’re the greatest. You’re unbelievable.” They don’t know me They know that guy. So, if you can keep that distance in your own brain, it’s much healthier.”

Living Like Prince means creating that safe separation between a public self, and a private self, and consciously distinguishing between the two. Because although a celebrity or entertainer or professional athlete has a clear use of the alter ego when they take the stage or get on the field or go in front of a movie camera, you have a use for this, too. You can step into your alter ego when you walk into a conference room for a sales meeting, or walk through your own front door and need to be a great mom, patient and kind and fun and loving, even after a long day at the office.

What I’ve learned is that while my alter ego is fun to trot out, she should be used sparingly. In other words, I don’t want to be her every minute of the day. But I want her qualities to give me some psychological separation from my everyday self so that I can step into the public eye and achieve what I want to achieve for myself.

The Talisman and the Tool

Weekends are filled with errands — that’s normal. But this weekend, I had a less-than-normal mission on my to-do list.

“Find totem,” the item read. That’s because, to activate an alter ego, many performers and athletes use a totem that they wear or carry. In Prince’s case, it seemed he had a lot of totems over the years. You could argue that when he zipped up on his four-inch heeled, pointy-toed booties, that was a totem that turned him into “Prince.” Or perhaps it was his guitar. But I also tend to think that a cane, and sometimes a wand, was one of his key totems. And he used a cane throughout his career, from the glitter cane he played with during the Lovesexy tour, to the silver cane he carried in the last years of his life.

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Here’s Prince with the silver cane, in 2014 at the Paris Open.

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Here he is in the 90s.

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At the Grammys in 2015.

However tempting it was to consider striding around Chanhassen with a glitter cane or waving it out the car window at interlopers in the school pick-up line, I decided a ring would be the best totem. It’s easy to slip on to become Aurora, and slip off to be me again, and easy to keep in a pocket. When I found this one at the mall, I knew it was the one. It reminded me of a third eye ring that Prince wore in a portrait that hangs in Studio B at Paisley Park.

And next, because I’ve had a fountain pen for decades and only recently got some new ink for it, I decided that Aurora should have this fountain pen as her tool — just as Prince had his guitar.

With Aurora’s personality set, her totems at the ready, I’m ready to take her out for a spin in the world this week.

In Which I Dub My Alter Ego “Aurora”

Last month, I wrote about giving yourself a Prince name. Since I published that post on a Friday and I’m all about celebrating Fridays, I decided it would be fun to offer myself as a Random Prince Name Generator for the day so that people could share their names and get a Prince name.

We wound up having a ridiculous amount of fun on Facebook that day. People shared names and I spewed out Prince-ified names in return. All totalled, I came up with about 35 Prince names. Whew! Here are a couple of highlights:

What I didn’t realize when playing the role of Prince Name Generator was that I would actually need a name for an alter ego the very next month. And in celebrating the fun of Friday and dubbing others with Prince names, I had inadvertently stumbled upon my alter ego: Aurora.

Aurora was birthed because it popped up when I plugged “Laura” into a “rapper name generator.” My mind loved that it rhymed with “Laura” and felt like it was in the realm of my given name while also having a je ne sais quoi that’s so essential to Living Like Prince. Emotionally, “Aurora” triggered a rush of childhood fantasies and dreams. When I heard the word “Aurora,” I heard a female narrator in my head say, “Aurora, which means `Dawn.'” followed by a tinkle of bells, which was a prompt to turn a page of a book. Unbelievably, I realized I had unearthed a voice embedded deep in my brain, thanks to a “Sleeping Beauty” record from Disney that I listened to incessantly as a little girl. If I’d given birth to daughters and not sons, the fact that Sleeping Beauty’s name was Princess Aurora would likely have been top of mind. As a boy mom, I was amused that my brain was able to retrieve that long-forgotten piece of data. Because I’m living like Prince, I then made the connection to the original fairy tale, where Princess Aurora sleeps 100 years until being awakened by the prince’s kiss. Prince? “Kiss?” Prince used the phrase “Welcome 2 the Dawn” on the back of many of his albums. Plus, Prince was a cosmic individual, and “Aurora” has a cosmic feel to it. “Aurora” it was.

Next up, I made a list of Aurora’s qualities, because how can I embody an alter ego if I don’t know who she is?

Hmmmm … why is it that Aurora’s traits are the ones I want to cultivate in myself?

According to my manual for Alter Ego living, The Alter Ego Effect, my next step should be to find a totem. When I put on the totem or carry it onto the “field of play” (which can be an office, a club, a restaurant — wherever your alter ego needs to operate), I will be transformed into Aurora. The totem can be anything you wear or can carry. Most anything can qualify, as long as it has significance to you. It could be a bracelet you snap on, or a ring, a pair of sunglasses, a hat, a pair of shoes, a necklace or … a cane. Wonder who used that totem? Guess I’ve got my homework cut out for me this weekend.

How Doing Something I Sucked at Gave Birth to My Alter Ego

It took approximately two billion, two thousand million shots to get this passable one.
Photo by the miracle-working @PhillipsPhotos

You’d think that being a writer for all these years would prepare me for doing something I sucked at without much trepidation. If writers are honest, we all suck at times, sometimes more frequently than “at times,” and particularly so in our first pass at a story — or, as writer Anne Lamott succinctly phrased it, the “shitty first draft.” Still, none of my shitty first drafts could have prepared me for my first photo shoot.

I prepared for May’s month of Cultivating an Alter Ego by doing a photo shoot in downtown Minneapolis. In the weeks leading up to the shoot, I grew more and more terrified. I couldn’t have done this when I was 30 years old, wrinkle-free and ten pounds lighter? I’m getting older, my skin is sagging, the scale is not my friend. There was a mitigating factor in that the stakes were not high, because no one was asking for these photos. Sure, I could have buried them forever under the bed and buried the guilt over the expense. But I was driven forward by wanting to do the Living Like Prince project so badly that I would tempt fate, April weather in Minnesota and certain humiliation to get the photos I needed for the month of May’s challenge.

Twice, I postponed the shoot. To be honest, I was scared and putting off the inevitable wasn’t making me any less scared, but even more than being a big scaredy cat, I knew I wasn’t prepared. The week before the shoot, I was speaking with Leisl AuVante about something unrelated, and in passing, I mentioned the photo shoot and that I had no clue what I was doing. Leisl jumped in feet first. Had I finalized my looks? (I put some outfits together and sent her photos). Who was doing my hair? Makeup? What was the inspiration behind my look? (Um, trying to look better than I do on a normal mom-working-from-home day?) On the spot, Leisl went into model mode and demonstrated how to pose sideways to the camera, turn at the waist, place one or both hands on hips, tilt my chin down, and look up with only my eyes. I practiced in front of her mirror but I couldn’t get the facial expression right. I looked too much like normal, nice, suburban mom me. Leisl, on the other hand, struck a post and effortlessly looked like a card-carrying member of the Prince camp, which of course she was. I needed to adopt an attitude. I mean, I didn’t choose “sassy” as my 2019 word of the year for nothing. That’s when Leisl gave me a mantra to say when I looked into the camera lens. (I need to be thinking of something other than abject terror when I look at the camera? Another revelation).

“I’ll collapse your castle with one look, if you fuck with me.”

Leisl doesn’t mess around.

Now you know what I’m thinking in this photo:

Putting my body into this unnatural-feeling-yet-badass pose and telling myself that yes, I had the power to collapse people’s castles with a withering glance caused something inside me to shift. It a moment not unlike the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes, but I already have a big heart (sometimes, too big, I fear). Instead, it was my sense of self-confidence and power that tripled in size.

By the time the photo shoot was done, I was no longer suburban mom Laura. I was Aurora, the name I gave my Princely alter ego, and I was having fun.

It took humility to do a photo shoot, all the while realizing that I don’t look the same as I used to, but to accept it while also refusing to hide and not allowing shame to creep in. I felt unsteady on my feet, both figuratively and literally (I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to walk in heels as high as the Prada peep-toed booties that Leisl loaned me. I still have much to learn!). Being a model wasn’t an easy fit, but I realized that I had been avoiding a whole part of life by not stepping into the spotlight and yes — crushing the castles of the haters. I’ll never be good at modeling, and so what! I felt a sense of playfulness lift my heart and I asked myself: Why is this thing I’m so bad at bringing me joy?

The only explanation I could find was a Princely one, indeed: Doing something I sucked at was freeing. By humbling myself, I freed myself from the fear of being humiliated. Being a model is never going to happen for me (believe me, that’s no revelation) but putting myself in that vulnerable position in front of the camera opened up a whole new world. With each shot, I got a tiny bit better.

Why You Need to Identify with a Superhero

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Wearing the mask of a superhero can give you the distance you need between your ordinary self and the self you aspire to be.

As mom of two little boys, I found myself on a first-name basis with a lot of superheroes (also, construction equipment, knowledge that comes in handy whenever I need to complain about a front-end loader blocking the road during road construction season in Minnesota). On any given day, I might walk into the family room to find Superman and Spiderman jumping off the couch with plastic swords while dueling with imaginary bad guys. Or perhaps I would be greeted by Batman (never Robin) and the Incredible Hulk who would instruct me to take cover behind a chair while they guarded me against marauding bad guys.

The boys had costumes with padded muscles in the arms and shoulders. They had masks, plastic swords, capes, and shields. They had a Fisher-Price Batcave with bat motorcycles and batmobiles galore. They were too young to watch many of the superhero movies that have a dark and violent side, but they loved superheroes. As kids, they were lorded over by adults all day long. As superheroes, they were in control. They had power. The act of exploring their superhero alter egos was a very healthy thing when it came to embodying the very best qualities of these characters, from bravery to persistence.

Prince, by his own account, was a childhood fan of Batman. I can imagine him running around the Northside neighborhood as the Caped Crusader. And the deep affinity for Batman continued throughout his life. But it seems that Batman was character that resonated with him until the end of his life. In his final shows at Paisley Park in January 2016 as part of the Piano and a Microphone tour, Prince took the audience on an autobiographical tour, including the theme from Batman. This is how Rolling Stone’s review published Jan. 22, 2016 described the moment:

“His voice was doused in heavy echo as he expressed the dreams and doubts of a child who sneaks down without permission to play his father’s piano. “I can’t play piano like my dad. How does dad do that?” he wondered, while attempting improvisations that, at one point, suggested Thelonious Monk teaching himself the theme to Batman.”

As an adult, Prince jumped at the opportunity to create the soundtrack to the blockbuster Batman film in 1989 by director Tim Burton. He set aside work on the Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic album and revamped some of the songs intended for that album to songs for the soundtrack. He seemed to revel in the opportunity to apply his skills to a movie based on a childhood hero.

It turns out that identifying with a superhero has benefits beyond hit records. Superheroes can be a way to create a healthy distance between who you are and the characteristics you want to embody. Identifying with a superhero can help you do hard things, and stay calm and cool in challenging situations. I never identified with a superhero, but I loved characters in literature, such a Jo March in Little Women. I loved Jo because she was a writer and reading while eating apples in a garret sounded right up my alley. I wasn’t a tomboy like Jo — I was much more of a girlie girl like her sister Amy. But Jo was spirited, and she loved horses and wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to be more spirited and be dedicated to writing, and I loved horses, too. I wonder if the fact that Jo wound up marrying a German professor who was much older might have subliminally influenced me to become a language major in college and also marry an older man. I also loved that she had two boys and reveled in being a boy mom. I thought I’d like to have boys, and when I became a mom to two boys, I thought of Jo March and her enjoyment of her boys. Ha! Be careful who you identify with! Jo’s inspiration made me see what I could be, and the qualities I wanted to embody, and in some very small ways, I did become Jo March.

All the World’s a Stage

Every expectation we fill in life can be seen as a show on a stage. Photo: Matthew Wordell

Would you consider yourself a performer?

You may not be a performer in the same context as Prince, but I’d have to agree that we each play a role on various stages in the course of a day. Or, as author Todd Herman puts it in The Alter Ego Effect:

You may not be “performing” in the context of a Beyonce, Ellen DeGeneres or David Bowie (or, hello! Prince. – editor), with thousands of people expecting a “show,” but if you think about “show” as simply a fulfillment of expectations, you’ll see the parallels very quickly.”

In other words, we each have roles to play on various stages during a day, and responsibilities to be performed in each role. Herman says we can equate the performance of those responsibilities with “a show.”

I went through my day today with the idea in mind that I was putting on a show in performing my responsibilities in various roles.

What shocked me was how many roles I played in a day, especially given my limited acting ability! Ha! I played the role of mom to a sick kid, at the doctor’s office. Concerned homeowner of an aging HVAC system speaking with the heating and cooling company. Pup mom at the park. Content consultant for a financial services company working from my home office. Member of a woman’s group. And an author and suburban mom living like Prince. But thinking of each of these roles intentionally made me show up for them. No hiding, no lurking in the background. No spectating in my own life.

The concept of an alter ego can be used to prompt you to show up as the “heroic” version of yourself, as Herman calls it. For beginners, he suggests choosing one stage or “field of play” in which to create your Alter Ego. I’m choosing the stage of this blog and Living Like Prince as the playing field for my Alter Ego, but you might choose parenting or your paddleball league. Wherever you want to see greater success, having the secret identity provided by an alter ego can help you do daunting things on your chosen stage.

The Alter Ego Is a Strategy for Success

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All of us have many responsibilities, particularly as we get older. We take on roles, and roles come with expectations. We have a role to play in our family. In our school. On our team. In the organizations that we join. With different groups of friends, we might even take on a different role in each group. And as the roles and responsibilities become greater as time passes, we lose parts of ourselves, or bury them, or forget they existed. According to author Todd Herman in his new book The Alter Ego Effect, those parts of ourselves become The Trapped Self.

On the other hand, Herman writes, The Heroic Self is the part of us that’s doing what she wants, when she wants, for her own reasons, and “you get caught up in the flow of activity.” Sounds a lot like Prince when he was making music 20 hours a day, doesn’t it? Or me, when I’m writing. Or you, when you’re running. Or drawing. Or playing with your kids.

The word “alter ego” is Latin for “the other `I.'” This weekend, I’m going to spend time sketching out my “other `I’.” I love the idea of using her to, as Herman puts it, “create some distance between how you currently see yourself and how you’d like to perform.” Because as it turns out, the alter ego is used by many high-achieving athletes and performers. I’m writing a list of the qualities I want my own alter ego to have. I’m thinking of her name. I’m brainstorming a prop that when I wear or carry it (think of Prince and his canes), BOOM. I become my alter ego. We’ll work on this together next week. May is going to be quite a ride.

My Alter Ego’s First Goal: Channel the Famous Princely Glance

The Princely glance formula: Chin down; freeze; look up with your eyes.

The terrifying yet exhilarating photo shoot I undertook in an effort to portray myself in a new light while attempting to embody even one iota of Prince’s mysterious persona was life-changing for many reasons. Mainly, it was so crazily out of character that it couldn’t help but change the way I felt. And, the photo session birthed my badass and mysterious alter ego — a side of myself that I’m cultivating this month, in the same way that Prince allowed himself to explore alter egos throughout his career.

When I returned home, still sporting my big Sheena Easton-style hair and dramatic 80s makeup, my husband and two teenage sons were waiting for me in the family room, because we were going to celebrate my birthday that night. Of course, I was late (what photo shoot ever operates on time?). The stunned looks on their faces were priceless! I hadn’t realized how different I looked until I saw it reflected in their faces. They nearly fell off the couch when I shot them a look that approximated this:

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Family, meet the Alter Ego. Ha! That was fun. Realizing that I had at least approximated, if not mastered, the sly, Bambi-eyed glances of Prince for the camera, I decided to push the experiment to its logical conclusion by test-driving the Princely glance into real-life situations and everyday people. Yes, I dipped my toes into everyday-life-Prince-posing, in the interest of science. Over the next few days, when out in public, I did my best imitation of the head-tilted-down, eyes-looking-up, slyly smiling (no teeth! never any teeth!) Princely glance. I tried it while leaning against the back of an elevator in New York City, standing in the line at the post office and sitting in the airport waiting for my flight. I pretended I had a secret that was not only mysterious but amusing and that I was committed to slyly keeping the joke to myself while inwardly laughing at the fools around me who were sadly, not in on the joke.

What surprised me was that people noticed.

People immediately clued into the fact that something out of the ordinary was afoot. And that’s saying something in the New York City elevator, as no one in New York is “normal” (I mean that in the very best of ways). People would glance my way in an effort to read me. Then they would glance again. I had become an enigma! This was a thrilling development.

It was surprising how behaving this way shifted the attention in the space from whatever normal interaction was going on — be it conversations between colleagues in an elevator or talking on a cell phone in line at the post office — to me. I’m not someone who others normally have to struggle to figure out. The Princely posing turned out to be a brilliantly effective and stealthy way of shifting power to myself. And it was a huge “aha” moment when it came to Prince. Walking into a conference room of music industry executives and deploying his Princely mystique wasn’t a case of “that’s just how Prince is.” Oh no. Prince was far more strategic than that. Princely posing was a weapon he wielded to get what he wanted.

Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Cultivating an Alter Ego

The month of May will see me embrace a neglected side of my personality in hopes of achieving new heights (or any level at all) of badassery. Badass photo by Phillips Photos.

We’re entering the fifth month of 2019, and I’m stepping into the month of May feeling dangerously as if I may have gained some wisdom. April was a bumpy month. On a personal level, our family was rocked when my father-in-law passed away. As a result, I made a last-minute cancellation of plans around Celebration 2019, the annual event that Paisley Park hosts to celebrate the life of Prince. That sad event, combined with the challenge of facing down insecurities I never knew I had, makes me feel as if I have emerged battle-weary, yet wiser, from April.

Still, the experience of replacing my name with a symbol in April was exhilarating, and as the month continued on, my new identity led me into what felt like an organic exploration of other sides of my personality. The experience inspired me to level up this month by cultivating an alter ego. I want to explore a side of myself that’s braver, more assertive, and more captivating than every day Laura.

Prince was a pro at expressing multiple sides of his personality through his alter egos, from the characters he created on film, such as the Kid in Purple Rain or Christopher Tracy in Under the Cherry Moon, to developing the personas and music for groups including The Time and Vanity 6, to the persona of Camille, who you can recognize whenever you hear sped-up vocals in stellar songs including “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” Finally, Prince used pen names to write music, such as Alexander Nevermind, the writing and production alias Prince used from 1981-1983 and to pen songs including “Sugar Walls,” sung by Sheena Easton. The man took the concept of an alter ego and refined it until it was an art form.

There’s a long-neglected side of myself that’s sly yet fierce, mysterious and sassy. She struts around in sky-high heels. She wears satin trench coats and dangles a Prince love symbol from a chain behind her back. I bet a lot of women have an alter ego like this, hibernating in a Rip Van Winkle-esque slumber. It’s time to wake up and embrace the side of me that I’ve repressed. This month, I’ll use my imagination to push boundaries and comfort zones and channel the power of my alter ego.

Symbol Life: The Good, the Bad and the “How-To”

Even my mail looked different in April.

As I wrap my fourth month of living like Prince, I marvel at how things that would have made zero sense to me as little as a year ago now seem like logical no-brainers. Erase my name and replace it with a symbol for the month of April: Why not!

The symbol experiment started when I took up painting during my month of color in March. The logical next step (and I use the term “logical” loosely) was to deploy my newfound painting “skills” (again, speaking VERY loosely) in the interest of April’s theme. That’s because it had come to my attention that there’s no possible way to live like Prince for a year without reproducing Prince’s ballsiest move in a career full of ballsy moves: Changing his name to the Love Symbol.


The immediate problem I faced as April opened was how to create the symbol itself. Fortunately, when I called my talented friend Michelle Palko Smith (who designed the cover for The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988) in a complete panic (she’s getting used to these calls by now), she cool-headedly pointed me to a method that you could dub, “Creating a Symbol to Represent Everything You Stand for … for Dummies.” After patiently listening to my ill-conceived scheme for finding a designer on a services marketplace like Fiverr who would magically come to understand me, my dreams and fears and aspirations through osmosis and email, and within a time period of 24 hours produce a symbol for me for $25 maximum, Michelle gently suggested an alternative: Search up some free clip art and trace it.

Tracing! Now here was an art form that was within reach.

Michelle is clearly a genius.

I knew I needed to incorporate a heart because I had come to love the heart mirror bracelet that my friend Michelle Kasimor Streitz had gifted me and that I wore throughout February. And then, perhaps spurred by a Vitamin D deficiency caused by a long Minnesota winter, I decided sunshine was also in order. I went to and searched up “sun heart” and voila! Several images appeared. I chose one, printed it and got to work.

Herewith, a glimpse inside my artistic “process”:

This was the point where I texted a photo to Michelle Smith and said, “Should I add the banner?” “No banner” came the reply. Michelle did branding for the likes of Quaker Oats, so who am I to question her judgment? No banner it is (and she was clearly correct).

While I was tracing, crumpling up tracing paper in frustration, using up Sharpies and running to Office Depot to buy more supplies, I had plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of my new symbol. During the month, I kept the meaning of my symbol secret, in true Princely fashion, but now I can reveal its hidden meaning (if everyone can act as if they’ve been waiting for this all month, it would be GREATLY appreciated). My symbol is of course love and sunshine, and it has a deeper meaning too, which is wholeheartedness, a word I’ve come to connect with Dr. Brene Brown’s work about vulnerability. My symbol is a reminder to me to be vulnerable and put my heart on the line, even if it’s inevitably going to be hurt at some point. My symbol reminds me that it’s a good thing to share myself with others even when it scares me. The fact that my wobbly, imperfect hand drew this and the result is a wobbly and imperfect symbol felt right.

On to the pros and cons of adopting a symbol as one’s name:


  • Adopting a symbol as my name felt mischievous and trickster-like.
  • I felt as if I was gaming the system, and winning.
  • It was amusing to see other people do a doubletake when I wrote my symbol on a nametag or asked them to write it on a Starbucks cup.


  • Some people responded by looking puzzled and practically squirming. I felt uncomfortable making others uncomfortable.
  • I hate asking for special treatment!
  • Doing something so far out of the range of “normal” drives a wedge between you and everyone else. It sets you apart in a good way, yes — but it also makes it clear that you have no interest being part of the group.
  • I worried that I’d get made fun of and that people would think I was weird. Guess that ship has sailed …

NEXT UP: I take the next logical step in my Princely evolution. Tune in tomorrow for the announcement!