My Dad told me not to use the word “cult.” As Jews we had our fair share of being marginalized (see: all of history), and we weren’t going to marginalize anyone else. But then I matched with Jeremy on Bumble.
Jeremy spent years traveling to another country as part of a religious group named after This One Guy. When Jeremy talked about the group he didn’t talk about a text, or religious tenets, but just what This One Guy said. So while I hate to break Dad’s rule, “cultish” is the only way to describe Jeremy, and by extension our bonkers little affair.
Jeremy was so good-looking it was as if he were built in a lab. I texted photos of him to my friends, asking Can you believe I’m sleeping with this guy? And because these are good friends, the kind of friends who would show up with a tarp and shovel if you told them you murdered someone, they just silently added fire emojis to his photos and stood by in case I later fell apart.
Despite Jeremy’s hotness (or maybe because of it) I had a weird feeling from the start. During our first phone conversation, I told him I was in pain from a cosmetic procedure. He laughed a weird, slow laugh, like The Count from Sesame Street. “It’s funny that I’m in pain?” I asked. “No,” he said, his voice somehow now a tight southern twang, “but it is funny how much women in Los Angeles spend on their face.”
Jeremy, you see, was not from Los Angeles. No. He was from Denver. He rock climbed and spent decades on his spiritual growth by following around This One Guy. Jeremy would never live in Los Angeles, with its sybaritic lifestyle and lasered-faces. He was in town to help his brother with a carpentry job, and couldn’t wait to go home.
I should have ended it with the laugh. But my brain was fried — from Jeremy’s hotness, from the pandemic, from turning fifty— and somehow it didn’t occur to me how grim it is to laugh at someone’s pain, even if that pain is from paying a lot of money to peel a layer of skin off your face. Plus, he was in town for only a few weeks, and my life was falling apart anyway. So instead of cutting bait, I told him the laugh made me uncomfortable.