How to Get Kidnapped and Sold
Growing up I spent a lot of time at the mall. I was that kid that reached my full height by age 12, which meant from ages 5-12 I was constantly in a state of growing out of all of my clothes and needing new ones stat.
Occasionally at the mall you would see signs that were taped up-clearly unofficial and not posted by a mall employee. These signs told me to call a number and I could be casted on Lizzie Maguire or Hannah Montana. I could launch a singing career with Brittany Spears or end up in the Mickey Mouse club.
At some point I must have mentioned one of these signs and the opportunity for my new life as a tv star to my mother who probably kindly reminded me that I cannot sing or dance to save my life.
She also called the signs a scam and a potential danger.
As I grew up, I understood more what she meant by that.
99% of the time calling the number would put you in touch with an expensive scheme-someone selling dance or singing lessons to kids who thought they were the next Selena Gomez. The kids' parents would likely fork over thousands based on a pipe dream that had no likelihood of coming true. These instructors were in no way associated with the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, which is often why the signs had spelling errors, like the one who asked for a kid to appear in iKarly.
The potential danger was the 1%. There were also signs that wanted the children to call in and meet the adult for ice cream to prove how cool and independent these kids were. Those children would be kidnapped, probably raped, and sold into regular slavery if they were lucky, sex slavery if they weren't.
My brother's Rebbe told the class once that sex trafficking spikes in the city where the Superbowl takes place. That means there are still children and young adults being trafficked and worse, that there are American men (and maybe women but probably men) who enjoy football and can afford a ticket to the biggest of games. Maybe your boss. Maybe mine.* Who after a great game and halftime show partake in the rape of a person held there against their will. Maybe not a person but a child. Maybe a child who called a number from a sign in a mall and met a grownup thinking he or she would become Taylor Swift.
*I don't think anyone I work with is raping children I just want to say that you never know and be suspicious of everyone. Especially men who have money and power.
Remember when this was a humor blog?
This was of course the worst case scenario, but the reason we were told to be careful. Notice if a car is following you. Don't speak to strangers on the internet. Be home by 8. Don't have relationships with grownups that your parents don't know about.
Now, thankfully, I am finally too old to be sex trafficked! The sex traffickers would look at me and go "No one wants a 26 year old! Ew! 26 is when those cute teens like Miley and Selena release their greatest hits albums because they are old garbage!" and they would sell me into some other type of slavery, and then they would murder me when they discovered my incompetence at all tasks that aren't done on a phone or computer.
But I am still careful. I try to get off the subway before midnight. I don't meet strangers from the internet in private locations-just at gymnastics meets with 30,000 fans. When someone emails me "Your Opportunity to Meet Simon Biles" I put that email in spam.
But then these dating events................................................................................................
I'll get an email or a Facebook post from an incredibly unremarkable account. Some of these include (and these are real): firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Often the graphic for these events will have no names or numbers, just this email. For security purposes only a neighborhood is given, and those who sign up receive an address sometimes only an hour before the actual event. Many of these forget to include important information such as the ages or types of the singles participating.
Let's take a look at a recent one:
They spare no expense on the master griller or mixologist. Luckily, they were able to spare all of the expense on the design. There are literally no details on here. This event could be for new baalei teshuvos in their forties or for under 25s fresh out of school. I actually Whatsapped the number and asked for the ages that would be covered.
That's an 18 year spread. There could be a guy who skipped third grade and then met his sweetheart in high school and was married to her a week after graduation and had a baby with her nine months later and then later divorced her when he had a midlife crisis that involved spending 19 hours a day playing Fortnite who decides to go to this event looking to meet his new sweetheart who appreciates Fortnite more and then goes over to a cute looking blonde to ask her her name and discovers that it's his daughter who hasn't spoken to him since the divorce. She's having a hard time in shidduchim because of her daddy issues and the fact that she was raised by literal children.
Plus there was no additional information given. Are these singles shomer shabbos? Are they black hat? Did they vote for Biden or Trump? Did they vote for Biden but still eschew Ben and Jerry's ice cream? Do they have careers? Have they been married before?
I could go on. And on and on and on and on.
This particular graphic is an outrageous example but even when there are names or more information given there is almost always something missing. The way these graphics are disseminated is also strange. There isn't a central shidduchim account, there are many different Facebooks and Whatsapps and no one is entirely sure who runs what. There are random stories texted through friends and emails forwarded.
Because of this, maintaining the purity of the crowd at these events becomes difficult. By purity I mean that an event for 23-27 year olds should not have a random 35 year old in attendance. An event for divorcees with children should not be attended by someone who does not want children.
And yet we continue to badly market these flyers that hearken to the mall flyers that convinced me I could be Hannah Monzana (typo on purpose to show the fakeness of it all.)
99% of the time I'm just going to end up at a bad singles event. I'll waste some time and money, like the kids in dance lessons to get on Shake It Up Chicago.
But in the back of my mind a bell is ringing that is saying "Archer. You connect with a random person through Whatsapp who has no profile picture and gives you a private address three hours before you arrive. You have connected with this person because of a flyer that was sent from a friend who saw a friend's story on Whatsapp and that friend only posted the story because she owed her cousin a favor. You have absolutely no idea what you are walking into and you could very well end up sold to a frustrated man whose entire life's purpose was defeated by Tom Brady yemach shemo AGAIN. And he is going to be angry and that will just be uncomfortable. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?"
Because I want to get married. Because I want 25 first dates on one night instead of 25 first dates on 25 separate nights. Because I think it's my hishtadlus. Because it gives my parents and therapists hope.
Is dating just ignoring all the warning bells that your parents so carefully placed in your head?
Is that what vulnerability is as well?
For me, the struggle is taking down my guard. Becoming less of an Archer and more of an open person who can give in a relationship.
But these events ring that bell in my head that tells me the chance of becoming Ariana Grande is not worth the risk of becoming a kid on a milk carton.
If I find one that looks convincing I might still go. I may practice vulnerability in a big way.
Just, if I disappear please look for me. I won't last long in sex slavery or domestic servitude.
Especially if I'm at the Superbowl.