Not every great “joining a cult story” starts with a long wait in a slow-moving line, yet that is exactly how my indoctrination began.
In a line of women so long that it snaked around the neighboring buildings with a vice-like grip that the frustrated commuters just attempting to make their way home on a cold Thursday night could not penetrate.
The energy vibrating around this tangled line was pulsating with expectation, excitement and hope.
But instead of members dressed up in long white robes, happily willing to sacrifice defenseless chickens to some unseen God, these particular cult members were there to worship at the alter of Matthew Hussey.
If you’re one of the few women in Australia who doesn’t know his name (for context, his Australian live shows sold out faster than any of his recent gigs, according to the man himself) Matthew Hussey is the world’s most popular dating coach and love guru.
The 31-year-old YouTube personality and best-selling author is also the star of Channel 7’s new dating show The Single Wives and has a fan base consisting of millions of dedicated women who believe his advice is the key to finding true love.
Before last night, I knew his name from the Channel 7 promos but had never laid my eyes on one of his viral videos or read his advice.
But once I heard the reverent way in which the women clustered around me whispered his name to one another, it quickly became very clear to me as we filed into the show that I was the odd one in this particular congregation.
I never got the chance to experience “Beatlemania” firsthand, but as Matthew made his way up onto that stage I felt as if I was transported back to a time when the world first experienced women fainting at the feet of their idols.
With the sound of thunderous applause pounding in my ears I slowly glanced around the room to check on my fellow worshipers.
To my left, two women who I'd classify as a mother and daughter were excitedly clutching hands as they gazed up at their chosen love guru.
The woman sitting directly in-front of me continued to shoot her seat-mate incredulous looks as the night went on. Her eyes may as well have been lit up with "I can't believe we're here" flashing neon signs.
That sea of women, of all ages, sizes, styles and backgrounds had all found there way into that room in different ways, yet they all had one thing in common.
On that night, the man who created the religion they have chosen to embrace was here to see them and so this beige-coloured conference room had now become their church.
From the moment Matthew launched into the sermon all these women had gathered to hear, I began to understand the hold this Harry Potter-doppelganger has over his followers. A hold that is only heightened by seeing him in the flesh.
Because boy, can that man preach.
He started off by announcing that there are only THREE rules you must follow in order to snag a soulmate and suddenly I was very ready to pick up what this Harry Potter-man is putting down.
Not just because I'm single and it would be nice to have a date for family Christmas this year, without having to accidentally fall into a bad rom-com and hire a man to pose as my love interest.
It was because having only three rules to get through sounded like a very concise way to speed through the evening.
At this rate, I thought hopefully as the woman to my right pulled out a notebook and pen, I could be on my couch with Netflix and a glass of wine within the hour.
Then, as if he could read my mind, (maybe the man was a wizard after all) the first love rule Matthew dished out was that you have to Flirt With Life in order to meet a man.
Which means that going directly from your office to your home each day and then spending all of your free time with fictional people while binge-watching TV is akin to marooning yourself on a desert island and then shaking your fist up at the heavens because you have not pulled a Meghan-Markle and met a prince.
(Look, the man has a point, but in that moment I bristled a little at his critique of my lifestyle choices. I was being tolerant of his religion, the least he could do was be tolerant of mine...).
The second nugget of wisdom involved starting conversations, and not just with desirable mates with whom you would like to procreate with.
Matthew rationed that if you're the kind of person who can strike up a conversation in any kind of setting with a potential friend, you can do the same with a potential love interest.
However, it was his third and final point that opened up a floodgate of emotion in the room.
His last rule was Say No To The Wrong People Faster, a seemingly simple phrase that carried a heft of emotional weight.
Now, up until this moment I have to admit I had entered that room both for work and for a bit of lark. To hear love advice and crazy dating stories and for a night that promised fun and frivolity and give me a cute story to write the next day.
But, here's the harsh truth about walking into a room packed with people who are there to find hope. It will also be filled with souls who have found themselves so lost in the darkness they cannot hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
One by one I watched as women stood up in their seats and, while clutching roving microphones in their hands, somehow found the bravery to tell a room full of strangers their most sorrowful stories and deepest fears.
And while it was at times confronting, inspiring and even uncomfortable to hear these stories, there was also nothing funny about it.
One women spoke about how she finds herself being rejected after every first date while, another asked if she'll ever find love again in her 40's.
There was also a woman who outlined in a shaky voice a situation with a man she was deeply in love with, one who refused to acknowledged their relationship was anything more than a casual.
"You don't have a relationship, that's the truth ," Matthew told her from the stage while the rest of the audience watched and then cheered along with his advice as if it was the gospel they had been waiting to hear all their lives.
Then, just as the night was about to come to an end and Matthew was making his closing remarks, he noticed a woman was who still on her feet. She was quietly yet resolutely holding the last remaining microphone in her hands, and after a moment of hesitation he gestured for her to speak.
She started to cry as soon as the first words of her story began to fall out of her mouth and with every second sentence her voice would shake and rattle with little suppressed sobs, but none of that mattered.
In that moment the audience was so quiet we could have all doubled as extras in A Quiet Place.
After a painful divorce and nearly a decade of being alone, this woman had met a man she loved to spend time with.
Except she only saw him for a handful of days each month, he never initiated contact and the further she delved into her story, the more it became apparent that their few "perfect" days together were marred by arguments and hurt feelings.
She said she lived with an ache in her stomach and in her heart whenever she wasn't with him, because she was worried he didn't love her while she was prepared to "take a bullet for him."
When she finishes speaking I found myself leaning so far forward in my seat to hear what Matthew would say to this woman that I was practically on my knees.
But instead of empowering platitudes or a life affirming speech, Matthew took a deep breath, looked her straight in the eye and said "you are going to die."
Now, it's a good thing I was already so close to the ground by this stage, because I pretty much fell off my freaking chair in shock.
"You are going to die one day," he continued. "And as far as I know, we only get this one lifetime. Is this really how you want to spend it? You could be here for another 50 years, do you want to live feeling like this?"
Say what you want about dating seminars and love gurus, but I dare you to have a more religious experience then sitting in a room while one person realises the love of her life does not love her back, and then another person confirms it's true.
"You have two choices here," Matthew said, striding across the stage. "You can chose to move on, to set an example for your sons of how a woman should be treated and you can find someone who can give you what you need. Or you can choose to be a whiny baby."
The advice was tough, but hey, no one ever said that zealous religious belief would ever be easy. In my faith, people can be turned into salt pillars on the reg and no one bats an eye.
I didn't expect to stumble upon a dating cult this week, but that's exactly what I did.
But after hearing all those women speak I have to admit... I think I kind of liked it.
You can see Matthew Hussey star in The Single Wives on Channel Seven, Wednesday and Thursday at 7.30pm.
For more stories like this, you can follow writer Laura Brodnik on Facebook.