Millennial Cult Leader

It can’t be something necessarily intended. Wielding control over a massive sect of people. It has to come about naturally and all of the sudden when an opportunity and a zeitgeist presents itself. In Robin’s case, of course, it was sheer happenstance. For she never tried too much at anything in her life, only the notion that saving as much money as possible would help her be freer sooner. In the 1970s, these types of strides toward financial independence were more difficult to make, for the sharing economy had not yet been fully invented as a means to make extra cash. But Robin, with her weekly acid trips, long flowing black hair and braless aesthetic, found much inspiration and interest in ways to “subsidize” her life. It started when she opened a bed and breakfast in her San Francisco apartment in the Haight-Ashbury district. While “bed and breakfast” now might conjure images of delicious Danishes, old lady decor and embroidered comforters, Robin’s version was much edgier. She simply opened her doors to anyone who required a room for the night, charged them $10 for a corner of space in the apartment and made them some haphazardly strewn on a plate eggs in the morning, then sent them on their way. Blammo, she was in business–and doing quite well for about six months. But right as she was on the precipice of squirreling away almost $1,000, the police caught wind of her operation and shut it down. Fucking pigs. Always sticking their snouts in where they don’t belong. It didn’t get Robin down though. She was briefly contented with the excess of money she had made. That is, until she was fired from her middling position in an office as a receptionist a.k.a. a glorified trained monkey.

Not wanting to spend any of what she had saved just yet, Robin resorted to a little light hookery, giving blow jobs in Golden Gate Park so often that she nearly got lockjaw. But it was a helpful transition career into her next gig: working at the front desk of the Legion of Honor Museum, which required her to do essentially nothing except look “stately.” That she wasn’t necessarily naturally “good at.” But with a few trips to the right thrift stores, Robin managed to create a section of her closet that screamed Melanie Griffith in Working Girl before Working Girl even came out. Thus, once she had mastered her so-called position at the Legion of Honor, she began to brainstorm other ways to make some side income when, out of nowhere, she received an inheritance from a long lost aunt in New York City she didn’t even know she had. It was with this modest sum that Robin persisted in working her regular job while also moving into an “intentional community,” which is where she got her first taste of the cult leader lifestyle. Under the guise of being ecologically beneficial, Robin was allured by Primavera, as it was called. “Nestled” (as many real estate agents like to use as a description) at the foot of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Primavera seemed, at first, to Robin like buried treasure she had had the good fortune to unearth. And the man in charge of it all, Lee, a gray-haired hippie in his mid-40s, was so nice, so approachable and understanding. Robin had, in fact, encountered him at the museum with a few of the members of Primavera. She could overhear him explaining in great detail the various works of art and the general importance of art to feeding the soul. It was touching to her at the time, but looking back on it, it rather made her want to retch. The term “mansplaining” hadn’t been coined yet to make her realize how pompous and self-important he was behaving. She was, thus, reeled in.

Her time spent in Primavera wasn’t completely for nought. It gave her firsthand experience on how to assert authority over others in a manner so “gentle” that they weren’t even aware it was happening. Robin herself didn’t know it was happening when she started to orate her money-saving tips to people in the “outside world” when they asked her how she had managed to retire so early–for she quit her job in 1987, the same week as the stock market crash. It was when she apprehended the potential goldmine in sharing her wisdom that Robin got it into her head to write a book. One that would become as similarly associated with 90s must-reads as Women Who Run With the Wolves. Except her book was entitled Don’t Spend Another Second Wasting Your Money. As straightforward as the title, Robin’s 220-page manifesto basically posits that you have to do as much possible while you’re young and amenable to suffering to save money. That to be tantalized by such frivolities as shoes, trips, dinners at restaurants, etc. was to cause more pain later on in life, when one needed their pleasures and free time the most–for there is nothing more taxing than being aged and still at the mercy of “the man.” Upon finishing the manuscript and having it readied for publication by 1992, Robin was both surprised and delighted to find what a runaway success it was. Not particularly because she wanted to help people, but because it meant that she had secured a lifetime’s worth of royalties from the endeavor that would only further assure her permanent state of retirement, coasting off these guardian angel funds from on high that had really only materialized more as a result of combined luck and restraint than any actual ability or acumen.

This is why she found it especially comical that, almost twenty years later, she should discover herself to be the subject of study and scrutiny from millennials–themselves the Queen Bees of Laziness–both those of the conventional professional bent and those coasting off the shared economy boon. She was first alerted to the renewed interest in and popularity of the book while recuperating from a minor leg injury in her Pacific Northwest residence. For where else but a town like Tacoma could someone with as little desire to work as Robin thrive in her later years? Because she was at the mercy of food delivery while her leg healed, she ordered often from the same restaurant, specializing in a clam chowder she liked. It was upon one occasion that the delivery guy, Augustus, she would learn his name was, commented on her own name, asking cautiously, “You wouldn’t happen to be the same Robin Denaro that wrote Don’t Spend Another Second Wasting Your Money, would you?” Robin smiled, for it brought her joy to be referred to in this way.

“Why yes, I am. Why do you ask?”

Augustus looked as though he might faint from bliss at having managed to find the guru that had been motivating him to hustle to no end and conserve finances to the point where it would seem that a homeless person probably spent more on food in a day than he did. Among other jobs besides this delivery one, as he was soon explaining to her after she invited him in to have some tea, he also worked at a grocery store, was an Uber driver and Airbnb’d his apartment while sleeping in the grocery store unbeknownst to the manager. “How commendable. You’re really implementing the tenets of my philosophy,” Robin encouraged, as she brushed aside a strand of her now bobbed gray hair. It was then that she had an epiphany. If she really was as followed and sought after by millennials as Augustus touted, maybe it was time to come slightly out of retirement for one last gamble on her good fortune.

So it was that Robin decided to pen a “much needed” update to her original edition of Don’t Spend Another Second Wasting Your Money. A few comma and semicolon additions here and the insertion of the words “community” and “vagabond chic” there and she was ready to go on a book tour to promote it. It shot immediately to number one on The New York Times bestseller list, with profits quadrupled from the original print run. Though it went against her philosophy, Robin decided it was time to use some of her retirement money to buy a house in the Hollywood Hills, nearish to where Sharon Tate lived.

Her literary agent suggested throwing something of a housewarming/book celebration to further promote it, failing to see that all that would achieve was the promotion of hypocrisy. But Robin was in too good of spirits to turn down his suggestion, and let him and his assistant handle the planning.

Walking contentedly through the sprawling 10,000-square foot home, Robin quickly got to know her acolytes, the task of which became easier the drunker she became. And as she got to talking about the inherent nature of what drives millennials and how they function, she found herself saying, “There’s nothing these young people can’t teach themselves on the internet. The one thing YouTube can’t seem to give them a tutorial on, though, is how to recognize a con when it’s staring you right in the face before pulling the wool over your eyes.” Robin chuckled as she took a sip from her glass of scotch and tsk’d at her fussing show dog. Unfortunately, the person she was drunkenly taking too many liberties with in terms of her confidences just so happened to be a hungry for success journalist craving just such a story of the exposé caliber.

He even tape recorded the conversation for good measure, and before Robin knew it, the story of her fraudulence was being printed in The Los Angeles Times, stripping her of the fortune she had casually worked for all of her life to make so as to avoid toiling during her senescence. Last anyone saw or heard from her, she was walking around Santa Monica with a shopping cart and repeating the same Dorothy Parker quote over and over again: “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

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