Content warning: cult
...when the question is, “Can life get any weirder?”
So the other week, I was having a difficult day after getting a disheartening text during a work meeting. A coworker noticed that and tried to cheer me up. They kept dwelling on the topic, and though I really wanted to just ignore it and get through with my day, they seemed to have good intentions.
When the meeting ended, they told me that they were part of a group that helps with their self-confidence, and that they’d like to tell me about it some other time. I don’t need help with my self-confidence, but seeing the warm smile they had on their face, I just smiled and nodded politely and went on with my day.
The next day, I half-joked to Anaïs that I was worried that they were going to invite me to a cult, but I also told her that I was probably being (sidenote: I’m often wary of people who seem to want to befriend me very quickly. I usually suspect they have an ulterior motive. )
So, “some other time” came last night.
They called me, asked how I am, and went straight into raving about this “professional/personal development program” called Landmark Forum. I listened politely, but felt that my initial suspicion was right.
Despite it clearly being a sales pitch, they attempted to make it a two-sided conversation by asking awkward, somewhat invasive questions. For instance:
“How do you feel like you’re handling your problems?” they asked.
I laughed a bit. “I think I’m doing (sidenote: One might even say, “prettay, prettay good.” Life is feeling like a nightmare Curb episode lately. )
They were taken aback by that confident answer. They started stuttering through what otherwise seemed like quite a rehearsed speech. Self-confidence, inspiration, goal-setting, blah blah blah. I was zoning out and I searched up “Landmark Forum cult” and got plenty of results.
“You know,” they suddenly said, “I’m sorry—I feel like I’m trying to get you to join rather than you wanting to join yourself. ... Do you mind if I end the call to try and collect myself?”
Oh, so they could tell I was onto them. I told them, “Stay well, goodbye,” and expected that to be the end of it.
Twenty minutes later, after I had texted my friends what happened, they called me again.
They went right back into Landmark. I clearly stated that I wasn’t interested and that the conversation was making me uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry I floundered earlier. I actually wanted to thank you for being patient with me. It’s just that (sidenote: What I heard: “I thought you were a real sucker!” ) at this opportunity—”
I was trying to be polite, but this ticked me off. I told them firmly, “I never want to speak about this again.” I hesitated about saying this, because it feels mean, but I told them, “Frankly, this sounds like a cult.”
There was a long pause before they started scrambling for words. “Okay! I get it, you feel offended, this seems like a cult—”
“This conversation ends now. I never want to talk about this again. Stay well. Goodbye.”
I’m trying to extend grace to them, and understand they may be brainwashed by what can most kindly be described of as a pyramid scheme, and most severely as a cult. They may genuinely believe they were being helpful.
At the same time, WTF?
You either die at the bottom of the pyramid or live long enough to see yourself climb up to a slightly thinner tier.