This is the fourth installment of the account of a journey into and out of scientology — written by one of our long-term readers. I hope you enjoy her insights, humor and style.
Lili also provided a glossary of terms.
Through the Bubble – Lili’s Adventures in Scientologyland
This is my quirky recollection of events. Others may remember things differently. Lingo is italicized on the first mention, capitalized after that. I’ve compressed complexities in the cult to simplify your reading pleasure.
It Girl, the Motorcycle and White Granny Underpants
I was encouraged, well Smiley Girl suggested, that I dress respectfully on the Communication Course. It wasn’t in the Student’s Guide to Acceptable Behavior, but you should set a good example and crap like that. She was a skirts and dresses wearer, very femmy. Is that a real word? But the femmy-est of all at the Scientology Center was It Girl. She’d gone straight from the Communication Course to Receptionist. I’m sure the sign-ups improved with her smoking brand of after-picture-awesomeness in the before-and-after-picture-of-anything fame. She didn’t just shave her legs, she wore make-up and freaking concealer. She didn’t just wear skirts; she wore pencil skirts. They made her look so sexy, like this girl needed any help. She oozed confidence. Between the difficulty of walking in a pencil skirt and doing it in high heels, she always looked like a tropical wind was blowing her to Fun Town.
It Girl was single. This cute guy Josh on a Course in the upstairs Course Room was also single. He’d hang out before Course started, alone, like James Dean without the cigarette, leaning on a landscaping retaining wall outside the Scientology building. Till right before roll-call. The rest of us socialized in the lobby. I’d say hi to him daily, outside the building, before every course time. I doubt he noticed me. No one failed to notice It Girl. I wanted him to notice me.
I went clothes shopping, got a short pencil skirt with a bright Hawaiian print, and a peachy-tone top. I got strappy sandals, too. That fateful day, I added, “what time is it?” to my daily greeting. Josh looked up at me and said, “I just bought a new motorcycle today. Want to go for a spin at break-time?” I said yes.
My excitement meter over-revved into the launch-into-outer-space/useless mode. I was so gassed-up to go on this ride, I botched the eyeballs-to-eyeballs drill. Lucky for me, the sweet-lady Course Supervisor, way better than the by-the-book-male Course Supervisor, offered to do the Bull Bait Drill with me about stuff Josh could say. Things like “girl, you’re so skinny, the wind could knock you over,” not that funny, and the scarier, “let’s just be friends.” I didn’t laugh, but I flinched or something and got multiple flunks.
The upshot was, my no-reaction armor was firmly buckled in place when break time rolled around. I didn’t do any giddy, over-enthusiastic, nut-case things. But there was a cockroach in my soup. I’d have to spread my legs to straddle Josh’s motorcycle seat. I pointed to something in front of him, hoicked my skirt to the top of my thighs, and bestrode his thrumming beast. We cruised conservatively down State Street on a bustling evening full of night revelers, between the shops, bars, and restaurants, with nary a look our way. Then Josh steered us into the right turn lane to return to Scientology in time for the post-break roll call. A purple low-rider Impala, with flames undulating along its length, with like six guys in it, pulsated its resting vibrato next to us at a red light. We couldn’t turn right because every ambler downtown was determined to switch sides of the street, in what I can only imagine New York is like at lunchtime.
The guys in the Impala started hooting, honking, and shouting Spanish our way. Josh no doubt thought his new motorcycle was the focus of their attention. Maybe the Spanish version of, hey baby, I’m in love, seemed an appropriate compliment for his red-gas-tanked Honda CB 360. I looked where they were looking and saw my puffy, high-top, granny underwear, in all its gray-white glory. My legs were completely exposed. I was mortified and surprised more people weren’t fainting dead away at my poor taste in underwear. It helped that it was 8:30 at night in February and the sun was down.
My next goal was to distract Josh long enough to dismount from his motorcycle, with time to jerk my skirt down before he looked back. I determined to trash all my room-to-grow-into, big-butt panties and get It Girl to tell me where to go to get me some lacy numbers. Luckily, Josh was distractable. I’d never ridden on the back of a motorcycle before, and I guess you don’t have to hang on quite so tight. Message received on his part that I was interested. We were soon an item.
We Own That Win, But You’re Responsible for That Loss
Josh blanked out the stars for me and checked other dream-guy boxes. I spent more and more time, read – nights, at his cottage-behind-the-big-house. Within two weeks, I was living there. When he suggested I move in, there wasn’t much left to move. I was so happy and in love that Scientology could have shown its shady underbelly, and I doubt I’d have noticed.
I visited Mom. I was eighteen, in love, and oh yeah, I was doing Scientology. Mom was happy for me. I said to her, two or three weeks after Josh and I got together, “He’s the one I’m going to marry.” She said, “Live together, have sex, don’t mention the whole marriage thing.” I took that bit of advice. She also said, “Don’t tell Granny.” I didn’t.
I’d planned to take a break after the Communication Course, but Smiley Girl thought I should jump onto the Personal Integrity Course because “it’ll help your relationship with Josh.” Well, I’d do anything to help that along. But it was something like $200.00. That was more than the rent I wasn’t paying. Would it be fair to Mom to let her pay my $125.00 rent while I spent my savings on a Course? I didn’t ask what Josh thought; we were still new.
I was kind of over the Communication Drills. But I still had to get that final pass on the Drills lineup before graduating. Smiley Girl was all hands-fluttering excited about my upcoming graduation. Like it was this big deal. She asked what I would say when I gave my Wins. “My what?” “You know, the what-have-you-gained-from-the-Communication-Course type thing. They’ll ask you to stand up and tell your Wins.” In Scientology, they’re real big on Wins and you sharing them loud and proud in front of other cult members, ah patrons, parishioners, or whatever the hell we were. “You should be prepared,” she said. “It will inspire the students still on the Course to power through to get gains like yours.”
“I guess I could say I learned to Confront better, to Acknowledge people, and to handle Communication with people better.” Her anemic nod told me I had food in my teeth or something. Oh, I guess I wasn’t done. “I handled a Communication at one of my cleaning jobs, and the lady thanked me for listening.” Smiley Girl was all, “oh, you have to tell that story.” I do? Then she asked if anything had changed in my life since I’d started the Course. Well, she knew it had, because I’d been giving her the blow-by-blow on a daily basis. New jobs, new boyfriend, better place to live, etc. She said, “Include that.” Huh? She pointed out that the Communication Course was changing my life, “isn’t it, Lili?” I… guess.
On graduation night, a bunch of Upstairs-Course Room students crammed through the doorway and joined us newbies in the downstairs Communication Course, Course room. Josh was there. The male Course Supervisor gave me a pretty diploma-like paper with signatures and impressive embossed Scientology logo stuff across the top. I stood up and embellished my handled-a-Communication story. I ticked off the many positive changes in my life. Josh and I exchanged meaningful looks. The clapping went on like I’d won a Golden Globe. Afterward, all these people patted me, smiled at me, and made such a fuss that I got that dopamine burst of achievement, earned or not.
Smiley Girl squired my still floating self away and sat me down in front of the Registrar. The Registrar sells Courses and Auditing (Scientology’s spiritual counseling) to people who sit in her chair. She was friendly, but not I-want-to-be-your-best-friend friendly. Not like Smiley Girl, who probably got a cut of whatever I spent. The Registrar knew all about Josh and me, Mom paying my rent, and my little house cleaning jobs.
Most people don’t go to a financial advisor unless A: they have a lot of debt. Or B: they have a lot of money. I was in neither situation, but the Registrar’s number-one priority was to sign me up for that Personal Integrity Course straight away. It was eleven at night on a Friday night. Josh was waiting. The Registrar arranged for someone to give me a ride to the cottage later. Oh. I’d wanted to leave and spend the rest of the night celebrating with Josh.
The Registrar mocked up my budget on a piece of paper to predict my future income and see where to cut my expenses. She noted every cleaning job I had and what payment I could expect. She asked me why I only did one job per day when I could double my income by doing two. And while we were at it, why charge only five dollars an hour when I could get ten. I could? This no-nonsense advice fit my catalyst-for-change mood. I’d just finished the Communication Course, so I should be able to Communicate my way to more jobs, at ten dollars an hour.
I got the new jobs, raised the old ones, except for my first ever house-cleaning job. I dropped that one because she said I wasn’t worth more than five an hour. Thanks, lady. I changed your worn-out garage-sale sheets, cleaned those two skanky litter boxes, and did log and splat patrol for your anally-challenged shit zoo. What? When in doubt, spell phonetically.
The Personal Integrity Course took me like three months. The Registrar told me it should take four weeks. Had I known it would take that long, I wouldn’t have let the Registrar push me into starting immediately. This instant jump onto the new Course happened because, A: the Registrar reminded me, I was doing so well and “you don’t want to lose your Wins.” B: she talked me into spending my savings. And C: she followed up on my idea (was that my idea? When did her advice become my idea?) of doubling up on the housecleaning jobs. And she helped me write the ad for Housecleaning, in the Services Offered classifieds.
Then I got into trouble. The Personal Integrity Course was delivered in the same downstairs introductory Course Room as the Communication Course. We Communication Course graduates were frequently called upon to help some newbie by Coaching them on a Communication Drill. God forbid the Course Supervisor helps the odd un-Twinned-up student. How then could they snoop? Er, Supervise? I was asked to Coach this twitchy lady I’d never worked with before. I thought I did a perfectly adequate job. Evidently, not. The twitchy lady left Course at night’s end and didn’t return. I was Responsible for this outcome. This ‘loss’ was on me.
Hello Ethics. Hello, writing up in detail my shaming transgressions. Time, Place, Form and Event. Just like L Ron Hubbard says to. Hello, having to be creative in writing up this crap. Why again is my Coaching technique so flawed? Is anyone going to tell me what I did wrong? Or do I just have to re-read those dense as dirt, L Ron Hubbard Bulletins about Coaching techniques? Bulletins are the official-looking, written-up teachings by L Ron Hubbard that I studied in the Course packs on my Courses.
I’ll just say I wasn’t paying enough attention to the student. Yeah, that’s it. How’s this? My Confront wasn’t up to the correctly needed gradient. I failed to notice that the student didn’t fully understand the Drill steps. And I didn’t take enough Responsibility.
Yeah, Ethics would eat that up. Though with that odd mole that seriously looked cancerous on her forehead, I could say I was distracted. But no, that might be considered Natter. Natter was a new word I learned that meant saying fucking anything that could be construed by Ethics to be unacceptable. Ethics would bust you for Natter if you made a jokey/rude observation; gee, I thought that was funny. Ethics might call it Natter if you revealed some sad angsty thing someone else shared with you. And by the way, no delving into your inner Reactive Mind sad self and talking about your own angsty pain. Yeah, you only talk about that crap with your Auditor. But come to think of it, since the Auditor doesn’t ask you what you want to talk about in session, you don’t even get to do that. And if your Natter was about anything tangential to Scientology or about another Scientologist, your life was over.
Say hello to using my newly-polished scrubbing skills and those kind of expensive cleaning products to scour those nasty three-stalled ladies’ and men’s rooms. Both of which suffered from a tragic case of deferred maintenance and lime deposits. This was my Amends project. Hours and hours of unpaid labor. Unfair. Why wasn’t the Course Supervisor who assigned and Supervised me while Coaching this twitchy lady also Taking Responsibility? Why wasn’t the Course Supervisor, ass in the air, helping me scrub those damn toilets? Welcome to the world of fairness, L Ron Hubbard-style. But hey, I was becoming a better, more ethical person, so that’s cool.