Belinda calls me over to the window. She looks concerned as she watches a Mormon twosome approaching the building. They always march in pairs.
"Why would the Mormons be here?" she says in a near whisper.
She sounds scared.
"Well, there are numerous reasons why they could be here, Belinda. It's not like there's a law forbidding them from entering the building." I laugh. "Why? Do you think they're coming for you?"
It turns out the thought has crossed her mind.
They seem to seek her out where ever she goes, especially at her home where they come knocking on a regular basis, which is partly her own fault. If you feed a stray it will invariably come back. Sometimes, if you don't set up firm boundaries from the outset, the stray will go further and muscle his way right into your house. Make himself at home.
But make no mistake.
He is not interested in having you domesticate him. He is using you and will come and go as he pleases. But you're an innocent and will think with self-satisfaction that he's grown to love and respect you. He has not. He mocks you when you aren't looking.
The Mormons kind of work like that, although I imagine they are for the most part unaware that they are mocking anyone. They believe they are the righteous ones and that it is the rest of us who are confused, not them. Also, they have a manual of strategy and are prepared with circular reasoning to confound you even more.
If you're not careful, eventually, if the Mormons are successful with their door-to-door, boots on the ground strategies, planting seeds of cognitive dissonance and confusion, they will lead you right from your home into theirs, which is more of a lair than a "home". You won't know what hit you and they will have a new brick for their wall.
I don't know how effective their approach is, and I would be interested to know their success rate, but you see Mormon and not to mention Jehovah Witness pairs everywhere so they must be catching at least some of their prey. But they are nice enough people, so if you are going to be drawn into a cult-like scenario anyway, you could do worse.
Belinda, however, is too much of a contrarian to ever be lured into a cult or be persuaded by fundamentalism of any kind. She will never be one of their caught prey, but it doesn't stop them from trying. They mistake her natural curiosity, compassion and willingness to listen and engage with them for weakness they can exploit. But Belinda is no saint and as it turns out she's the one exploiting them, even though exploitation was never her intention and she feels bad about it.
After Belinda's initial introduction to the Mormons, which amounted to several hours-long conversations standing in her doorway, she wanted them to leave her alone. She had no plan to use them for her own means. She isn't that kind of a girl. Belinda is a giver by nature, a leaver, not a taker and definitely not a receiver.
Basically, the Mormons charitable ways are changing Belinda, corrupting her.
And it wasn't that she didn't enjoy those early marathon conversations with them, helped by the fact they were mostly young, attractive, affable males in handsome suits who darkened her doorway. But it was getting to be too much. There are some repetitions in life that are pleasurable every time you experience them like laughing at a Seinfeld repeat, but the same conversation with a self-assured religious weirdo intent on converting you is not one of life's pleasures -- at least not as far as Belinda is concerned.
Personally, I enjoy the weirdos.
But you have to have boundaries. Even Patience has a right to die, especially after a long life of self-control. She gets tired. Give her a break.
In other words, if you are going to have weirdos, especially religious ones, in your life, be kind, be amused, be willing to accept they might have some insight to share, but do not be a doormat. Or as I like to call a female trapped in the role of lipsticked-android, one programmed to obey and conditioned to accept abuse: a Dormata.
To avoid becoming a Dormata yourself, you unfortunately have to at some juncture allow your patience to run out and override your programming. You must have it within you to slam a door in someone's smug face, hang up a phone mid-sentence when you realize the superiority of the prick on the other end is beyond reason, and scream at a person whose willful stupidity has reached a level of absurdity that no longer amuses you and now pisses you off.
And if all that fails, you're sick of taking the highroad alone, and you don't have the brain or inclination to think up some Machiavellian scheme that will ruin the person's life and have him end up in a mental institution or destitute and living in a rodent-infested hovel, shove that asshole down a flight of stairs, along with all his belongings and a few of your own you no longer want. Kill two birds with one stone that way.
You will also help out the oxymoronic men's rights movement by justifying their insipid arguments and otherwise "hilarious" jabs that, for instance, there is a critical need for transition house funding to shelter an epidemic of raped and domestically abused men. Keep them safe from all those scary women wielding a broom with one arm and doing biceps curls with the weight of a nursing baby in the other.
But don't actually kill a bird or a person and there is no epidemic problem of women raping and assaulting men. People are way too literal.
Belinda is too decent of a person, however, to even be rude to a Mormon never mind physically hurt one. Her favorite tactic when dealing with potentially awkward social interactions is avoidance, which I support. Despite the bravado above, in reality I'm more a neurotic Dormata like Belinda than a trigger happy black mamba snake, although if I'm pushed hard enough things can get ugly. There is a lot of suppressed rage swept under my doormat patiently waiting for an opportunity to express itself.
With regards to Belinda, a woman who is neither abuser nor victim, when avoidance is impossible because the Mormons, for example, see her peeking out her curtains, she reluctantly answers her door. But she likes to steer their conversations away from dogmatic themes to secular ones. Up until recently, this worked well and the Mormons would follow her lead.
They would spend most of their early conversations discussing topics such as the weather, geography, tourist attractions, local wildlife, the state of the public school system and "children these days".
At some level Belinda knew their willingness to skirt the real reason they were talking to her was because they were first establishing a good rapport ( an essential ingredient in any relationship where one side has an agenda that doesn't include brute force) before going in for the final kill.
So she was not necessarily surprised when they started slipping in their true agenda between commenting on the rain with interjections about "God's plan", suggestions that her "good feelings" were a direct result of the Holy Ghost working on her at that very moment, and testimony of the divine authority of one Joseph Smith. Most alarming to Belinda was their mention of the second coming, which they seemed to imply could happen at any moment. Did she have her spiritual house in order?
To help with that spiritual order, they invited her to pray with them and Belinda, feeling like a deer caught in headlights because she isn't the praying type, apologized, saying she couldn't pray right now because she had groceries in the trunk of her car that she had to bring inside. Her ice cream was melting.
They offered to bring the groceries inside for her and that was how it started. From then on, any time the topic got a little too "religiousy" Belinda would say she had to go. They would respond by offering to do something for her, she would reconsider that she really "had" to go just yet and would relent, allowing the Mormons to do chores for her, which they did with a smile. How could she resist such cheerful, free labour? She couldn't, especially since her house was looking pretty spiffy as a direct result of their volunteer work.
Nevertheless, there came a day when she had had enough of the Mormons. Belinda had no more errands for them and she was worried if she continued to let them come around she'd end up at their church because she had no more excuses left and didn't want to hurt their feelings. She felt she was at risk of becoming an accidental Mormon.
As a consequence, the last time they asked if there was anything they could do for her, which by this time she felt guilty if she didn't come up with some chore for them, instead of drumming up business in her own house, she blurted out that her brother, Jimmy, had recently bought a house across town and needed help with renovations.
Fast forward to several hours later and Jimmy is furiously trying to get a hold of Belinda. It is an angry text, phone call and email Belinda has been expecting. She doesn't answer any of this and ever since has been in self-isolation-lock-down mode. Nothing will make her open her door now. Nothing.
She knows she no longer has to feel guilty because the Mormons are occupied with Jimmy now -- Jimmy, who like Belinda, having been raised in the same household by the same parents, finds it hard to be mean to nice people, no matter what their cult-agenda. At least she thought the Mormons were busy with Jimmy until seeing them outside our window.
"You really thought all their time and energy was being spent on one potential convert, Belinda?" I look at her doubtfully.
"Yes, I did. His house needs tons of work."
She seems to be hyperventilating and goes mute, her mind slammed shut by sheer panic.
I reassure her that we are behind three password-protected, security doors. The Mormons aren't getting in without permission and there is no conceivable reason to give them permission. She is safe.
Then the phone rings. Belinda screams.