I’d just moved back to town after a few months of traveling and while I was looking for a job, I turned to Tinder for entertainment. I might have been a little too open with my screening, I guess, because I ended up on a date with an ex-cult member.
He was tall and British. That was all the motivation I needed at this point in my life to agree to go on a date with him. Plus, he worked at a local charity organization with a reputation for being progressive. I figured it was worth a shot.
He seemed really suave and charming. When we were still texting in the app, I asked him what brought him to Iowa of all places. He said it was a long story, best explained over dinner. I was impressed with the transition at the time. So often app texting just goes on too long without actually going anywhere, so his ability to actually hold and steer a conversation won me over.
He actually picked me up at my house and opened the car door for me. Sure, he opened the car door partly because it was broken and needed an extra touch, but he was coming off as sweet and considerate. When he offered to pick me from my house, he also said he was happy to meet me there or somewhere public if I wasn’t comfortable sharing my address. What a considerate guy—and with an accent? I thought I was coming in hot.
Our conversation was slow to start but oh man, it escalated quickly. We made some small talk in the car but we waited until we had ordered before he launched into his “what brought me here” story. And so it began…
He was born in England and raised in a small Amish-like community. However, it wasn’t long before his family moved to the original group’s location in Germany. In all my travels, I never thought of using a cult as a way to get around. Maybe I should reconsider? After a few months there, he somehow caught a ride to a US settlement someplace like Pennsylvania or New York and stayed there until he was 21.
He said he “choose to get kicked out.” He explained it as knowingly breaking the rules so that he would have to leave. I’m not sure if that was the only way he could leave or if he just wanted to go out with a bang. Apparently it involved him doing something with a girl that’s prohibited before marriage. I remain unclear if he had sex with her or if it was something way more basic, but I didn’t really want to ask.
As soon as he started talking about the cult, he refused to stop. He barely asked me anything about myself and after a certain point, I really didn’t want to share anything about myself. He also wasn’t interested in talking about anything else in his own life. Just cult, cult, cult, cult. I understand this is a pretty big talking point, but it didn’t have to dominate the conversation.
I drank my wine much too quickly. We’d each ordered a glass at the beginning and the more he talked, the more I wish I’d ordered an entire bottle. Forget the cult thing for a minute—it was a major red flag that he never even took a sip of the wine he ordered. I happily would’ve drunk it. I didn’t want to risk ordering a second glass and giving the impression I wanted to extend the date. In any case, by the end of what felt like an eternal 45 minutes, I was overplaying a cough and asking to have the rest of my meal boxed up.
He missed the singing. Apparently while they were all being forced into unpaid child labor, the cult members would sing together and he really missed that element of harmony. I recommended joining a singing group or a choir. He said it was different because everyone knew the words. Maybe I don’t know how singing groups work because I really thought they aimed to sing the same lyrics. I didn’t bring up my other idea, which was to go sing basically any Disney song to anyone of our generation—bonus points if they’re drunk—and enjoy the ensuing harmonization. There’s also karaoke, but whatever…
I could’ve been willing to work with the fact that he was raised in a cult. After all, he had chosen to leave it and was living in normal society now. We can’t control where or who we’re born to. But he didn’t talk about it as a crazy past, he talked about it with nostalgia. And that, folks, was the real deal breaker.
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