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Making pancakes, as I learned at AP's birthday bash at the beach this weekend, is an unbelievably tedious chore. I don't know why I...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Toddy's Age, The Rope, and The Cult

This is really three posts for the price of one.

The three most popular questions from my last post concerned all of the above. I'll elaborate a bit on each, and then you can let me know if you still have questions.

My age is 38. In a couple months I will be 39. The picture on this blog is just over two years old, but I don't look much older now. I still get carded often. I was at a restaurant/bar on Friday, and the server asked to see my ID. I laughed and told her I was nearly 39, and she seemed flabbergasted. After she told me I looked damn good for 39, I tipped her 30% on the bill. I owe my youthful looks to a Scandinavian heritage and my, um, healthy lifestyle. Yeah, that's it.

Mostly, I like looking younger than my age, but I usually can't get cast in some of the roles that most people in their late 30's could play. Maybe when I am 50 I can play a 35 year-old.

I sleep with a rope as sort of a game. I have never slept with a rope before, but I am making friends with this particular rope and find great comfort from it. At first I was worried I would strangle myself accidentally in my sleep, so I wrapped it around my forearm several times before dozing off. I have learned that my rope will not strangle me, as it is a benign rope. So now I drape it over my body or wad it up and hold it by my face when I sleep. My rope serves as a heart connection to someone and also fuels some fantasies that may someday be acted out. Or not. Either way, it's better than a teddy bear.

I was in a cult in the early 90's. You can read many testimonies of other people who had a similar experience with the group at this website. It was not a "Heaven's Gate" or "Unification Church" sort of cult. In fact, definitions vary on what actually constitutes a cult. According to the book, Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, the organization I belonged to meets most characteristics of a cult. We confessed everything to one another, including a casual lustful glance or momentary episode of shyness (which was condemned as sinful because a shy person is really just being "self-focused"). We also were called upon to give huge amounts of money to the church and believed that only by being a member of this group could you be spared the fires of hell. We could not date or marry outside the group. We singles lived with other church members and were discouraged from living with anyone who didn't belong to our church. We had a unique vocabulary and, until a couple years ago when I sought therapy, I couldn't say the word "awesome" because of the way that word triggered flashbacks in me.

The entire cult story takes about four hours to tell orally. I don't know how long it would take me to write about it, but I'm sure it would be quite a lengthy process. In this church, we were told who to date (and were sometimes told who we could not date), where to live, what job we should have, whether or not we should visit our families, and, in my case, whether or not we could participate in certain activities such as theater. Our instructions were called "advice", but if we did not follow advice, there could be serious repercussions. My most dreaded punishment was called a "breaking circle". In a breaking circle, I would have to sit in a circle with the other leaders as they each took turns trying to break me of my sin. Each brother would tell me how weak I was, how sinful I was, how prideful I was, etc. After he spoke, another brother would attempt to break me. I broke every time and usually expressed my own self-loathing by joining in with them to gang up on myself: "Plus I'm lazy. Don't forget lazy".

I joined the group in an attempt to become what I thought God wanted me to be - a straight man. I left the group after a few years when I realized I was becoming no straighter than I was when I joined. Sure, I was the leader of the music ministry and the singles ministry and was practically engaged to a woman and had no sexual experiences with men (or women) unless you want to count that one French guy who was a bodybuilder in Washington DC. Actually, I do want to count it because he was beautiful and muscular and climbed on top of me like I was a futon. And he was French, as I've mentioned. However, I was removed from leadership for that little slip-up. You can imagine the breaking circle I experienced after I confessed that encounter.

One night I took a walk around my apartment complex and begged God to free me from homosexuality. He answered my prayer in the negative by posting a naked young man in a window over my head. The guy was staring at me and playing with himself as he stood in front of his window. After I figured out which apartment was his, I went up and asked to use his phone because, even then, I had absolutely no game. He invited me in, and I left knowing I probably was not going to give up men anytime soon.

The worst part of being a former cult member is that I have a very hard time with boundaries. I do not always know where to draw the line when it comes to sacrificing my happiness for others. Becoming a doormat is often my first instinct, although, over the years, I have become better at standing up for myself.

The best part of being a former cult member is you can say things to your friend in the grocery store like, "When I was in the cult, the other brothers introduced me to this kind of pancake syrup. It is so good!" You can watch as people quicken their pace when they push their shopping carts by you. Plus, you also know of a really good syrup you would never have tasted if not for being in a cult.

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