Joining a Cult and Other Things on my Bucket List

The soundtrack to my early childhood wasn’t lullabies or nursery rhymes; it was the scratchy sound of AM news radio. Whenever I was in the car with my mom, or eating a meal at home, “All you need to know, KNX 1070 NewsRadio!” was on in the background. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t such a good idea to have the news on all the time in front of an impressionable young child when the big story of the day was how “The Night Stalker,” Richard Ramirez was breaking into houses at random and raping and killing families. And then my parents would wonder why I had such trouble falling asleep at night.

I remember one day there was something on the news about the anniversary of the Jonestown massacre (another totally appropriate, non-nightmare-inducing topic for a young child). This was the first time I heard what a cult was. I remember asking my Dad, “but why would those people all drink the kool-aid if they knew it was poisoned?” I don’t remember what his answer was, but from that moment on I was fascinated by cults.

A few years later I watched a story on 20/20 about the religious group The Family, which reportedly, sought to recruit new members through casual sex. At the time, I was probably in middle school, and to my developing pervert brain and hormone-besieged body, this group of sex-loving, music-producing hippies didn’t seem so bad (I mean aside from the doomsday stuff and the reports of child molestation… yeah, I was a stupid kid). But check out this awesome 80s-tastic video, “Cathy Don’t Go.” There are a lot more like this on youtube.

When I was in high school members of Heaven’s Gate committed mass suicide in San Diego. I remember thinking, “how could that many people be so fucking stupid?” At the same time there was a part of me that felt the tinniest bit of envy. That level of devotion and commitment were (and still are) entirely foreign to me.

I think this is what always fascinated me about cults. I never knew that sense of being so convinced of my beliefs that I was willing to give up everything for them. I know that’s probably a healthy thing, especially for someone like me who tended to get attached unsavory types.

Another thing about cults that appealed to me was the stories about people not being able to get out. I have never once been a part of something that wouldn’t let me out (those evil cable and gym contracts don’t count). Every boyfriend, every job, every friendship I have ever had, when I’ve tried to leave, they’ve let me. In fact their attitude is usually, “good riddance, bitch.” I’ve felt trapped in abusive situations before, but that was always because I was too scared of being alone or being without a job, not because someone else was preventing me from leaving.

In high school and college, I’d been approached by suspiciously friendly people at the mall or on campus asking me if I wanted to take a free personality test, go to a party, or take a free course. My internal safety monitoring system would always go off and shout, “Danger! Cult! Run!” I would politely decline, and later wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t.

This question of “what if?” combined with morbid curiosity for a topic that has fascinated me my whole life lead me into the belly of the beast this morning.

There is a religious organization that is pretty big in my city. I don’t even want to mention the name of this group in an article that also mentions the word cult, because they have a reputation for mercilessly going after any and all critics. Also, while I am fairly convinced this organization IS a cult, I don’t know for sure and don’t want to insult anyone’s beliefs. Unlike the cults mentioned above, this group still has many vocal, mainstream adherents.

In one of its centers, this group that shall not be named has a restaurant. A few days ago I found out it is open to the public on Sundays. Two of my favorite things: brunch and cults combined in one! I couldn’t wait.

Before my friend and I went, we were prepared. We made up fake names, and made sure we had cash so we wouldn’t have to use our credit cards. I also made sure to loudly say, “remember Sarah is expecting us in an hour” a couple of times in case anyone got any kidnap ideas. Paranoid? Yes, but you can never be too safe.

I was a little nervous walking in to the place. Everyone was super friendly and smiling. The grounds were absolutely beautiful and there was a lot more activity going on than I had expected. The restaurant was fairly banal and that relaxed me. It was just like a normal ok-ish brunch buffet. Afterwards they did offer us a tour, but weren’t pushy when we declined. Because I have ISSUES, I do feel a tinge of rejection that they didn’t lock the doors behind us and force us to stay. Like I’m not good enough for their stupid bullshit cult?!?! Assholes.

Oh, well. It’s their loss. Besides, if I was going to join any cult, it would be a sex cult.

How to Make a Man Disapear

One aspect of relationships I have always excelled at is pushing away men that were previously interested in me. Below is a tried and true list of magic phrases I’ve used to make a man disappear (usually not on purpose). Got a guy you’re trying to lose? Suck at breaking up with people? Try out one if these lines.

“The last guy I dated had a huuuge penis. Like, almost too big… The sex was amazing though.”

“What’s your ex’s name? I want to google her.”

“My goal is to get married within the next 6 to 12 months.” This one I would actually use to purposely get rid of overzealous suitors. Success rate: 100%.

“So, last night I was on (insert name of dating site where you met) and saw you were on too… I’ve noticed you still go on there a lot. I also found your profile at (insert another website, the more obscure the better). You’re on there a lot too.” This one requires some research.

“Once I dated this guy who had the smallest penis ever/always came really quick/could never get hard (choose the option you think might be his anxiety). My friends couldn’t stop laughing when I told them about it.”

“Do you think I’d be prettier if I lost a lot weight?” Wait for answer. Then start crying regardless of what it is.

“Don’t worry, I’m not looking for anything serious either…. So, just curious, in how long from now do you think you will be looking for something serious?”

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how do I rate compared to the other girls you’ve dated.” Then, “Only a xx! Why only a xx?” Act super pissed. This will work even if he says 10, because he could have said an 11.

“OMG, I don’t even know why you want to date me. I’m sooooo screwed up, like fucking nuts. You’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. It’s only a matter of time until I scare you off for good.” This line works best when drunkenly slurred through tears. Bonus points if he’s stone cold sober.

“I miiiiiiiss you so much, baby! Do you miss me?” Text this to him 45 minutes after he’s left your apartment.

“Tell me about the other girls you’re dating. Are any of them prettier/thinner/smarter/better at sex than me?”

“How many people have you had sex with?” Followed by, “That’s all! Why so few?”

Call him up late on a night you know he has to wake up early, crying hysterically. Tell him you are crying over (insert childhood trauma). Ask him to come over and hold you. Repeat the whole production a couple of days later, this time in the middle of his workday.

Try these out. Your guy will be gone in no time.

Feel free to add your own magic lines in the comments.

Jonathan and Archie

Today I really wanted to look up HC online, but that’s out of the question, so I did the next best (worst) thing. I looked up Jonathan and his stupid girlfriend, Archie. About five years ago I went to my first SLAA meeting and it was because of my obsession with Jonathan. I only went to one meeting. A few years later, after I broke up with another qualifier, I worked up to two meetings, and then a couple of years after that (present day), I finally started attending meetings regularly. I know I shouldn’t be looking up Jonathan and Archie, but checking up on them isn’t one of my bottom-lines. Plus, while it might not be the healthiest thing in the world; looking at these two’s Facebook profiles, which are both public (idiots) triggers in me  nothing but smugness.

The relationship I had with Jonathan doesn’t really get interesting until Archie comes into the picture. I met him on the classiest site on the net, Craigslist. He was 20 years older than me and he seemed like a nice guy at first (don’t they all?). He told me, numerous times, that I was the only one he was seeing. That’s really all the background info you need. I’m a bitch, so I’ll also throw in that, despite being close to 50 years old, he couldn’t last more than 45 seconds. He did give pretty good head, though.

After about 5 months I found out that Jonathan was still posting ads on craigslist, like constantly. Sometimes up to 20 ads a day. I don’t even know how he had time to do anything else. Then I did some more digging and found out about Archie. Archie was 19 and had been seeing Jonathan for a year. That’s right, he was close to fifty and started dating a girl right out of high school. I blew up at Jonathan, then found Archie’s contact info and emailed her.

Archie got back to me right away. To put it charitably, the girl wasn’t extremely bright. After our initial conversation, she said she was really confused and wanted me to talk to her best friend on IM so her best friend could tell her what to do. I had done my due diligence. I should have just said “thanks, but no thanks,” and walked away, but since I like to (used to like, at least) make bad decisions; I agreed to talk to her best friend. Since Archie was a 19-year-old girl, I kind of figured her best friend would be too. I figured wrong. Her best friend was a 35-year-old man who she had met online playing World of Warcraft. And the conversation I had with him, where he was supposed to be gathering information to help Archie make a decision on whether or not to leave Jonathan? It was basically him just asking me to send him photos and hitting on me.

The next time I talked to Archie she told me that she had ended things with Jonathan. Aside from the same bad taste in men, Archie and I had nothing in common. At one point, she had asked to see my pictures. Then she told me, “you look reeeeeeeeally good for your age.” I was 27. Yeah. I didn’t see any point in keeping in touch with her, but she continued to IM me whenever I would come online. After about a two weeks, she sent me an IM telling me that Jonathan and her had decided to work it out. They were now in couple’s therapy. Say Wha? Couple’s therapy? Did I mention that she was 19 and he was 47?

I know I shouldn’t snark on Archie. It’s not her fault I managed to fall for the same asshole she had already fallen for. The poor girl really is as dumb as rocks, though. I once spent 20 minutes trying to explain to her that an ad posted 12:01am, Saturday wasn’t actually posted Saturday night, but rather early Saturday morning. She couldn’t understand how Jonathan was posting ads Saturday at 12:01am when she had spent Saturday night with him. I recently spent some time trying to explain the same concept to a group of 3rd graders. The idea that the date changes at midnight, and not when they wake up in the morning, was a confusing notion to them too… but they’re 8. The 3rd graders eventually got it. Archie’s probably still a little puzzled on this one, though.

The real issue wasn’t Archie’s inability to grasp time and date, it was the fact that I spent so much time trying to convince this special needs case that Jonathan was still posting ads on craigslist. When she told me that she was trying to work things out with him, I became obsessed with trying to convince her otherwise. I would create fake email addresses and email the ads that Jonathan was posting on Craigslist. I would correspond with Jonathan under these fake personas, make plans to meet, then forward these emails to Archie. I spent months doing this. Archie may have been dumb, but I was fucking nuts. This consumed me. It was not pretty at all.

My therapist suggested I check out SLAA. I also got an Rx for Lexapro. At the time, I wasn’t quite ready for SLAA. I only went to one meeting. Back then, I had a tried and true cure for getting over someone — getting under someone else. Eventually that worked, and I managed to ween myself off of my Jonathan obsession.

I still check in on this couple once in awhile. She is now 24, and he’s 52. They live together. He’s still posting ads on Craigslist, though. I know this because back when I was still spying on HC and trying to find his ads on Craigslist, I would accidentally come across Jonathan’s ads. The two men actually have a lot in common. Even search terms.

The way I feel now about HC and his wife is the way I felt back then about Jonathan and Archie. The only difference is now I don’t act on my feelings.I don’t spend my time searching for his Craigslist ads. I’m not making myself crazy contacting her and trying to convince her that she is married to a cheater. I would never contact her. Does she deserve to know what her husband is doing? Absolutely. Is it my job to be the bearer of bad news? Absolutely not. All I can do is pray for these people — Archie and HC’s wife, and even Jonathan and HC. I can’t control anyone’s life but my own. Nor should I.