I hate mushrooms. I have been expanding my vegetable horizon a ton in the last 2 years, getting over my dislike of onions, asparagus, and eggplant, as well as overcoming my fear of pomagranates. I now love all these foods and eat them regularly, which makes me feel like I am making healthy (adult) decisions. But mushrooms are a whole other ball game. Fungus weirds me out.
This weekend in New York, Jay and I went to the famous Grimaldi’s – a pizzeria in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. We stood in line for 30 minutes, ordered our pizza once we were seated, and waited for another 50. Our mouths were watering by the time it arrived, but there was a slight problem – the entire pizza was covered in mushrooms. While I often pick them off with ease and pass them to my mushroom-obsessed husband, the mushrooms on this pizza were small and very numerous, baked under the cheese. So, like a 4 year old, I began to pick them off one by one. Jay sat there, annoyed and probably embarrassed, as I meticulously slaughtered my slice.
And then I saw it. A camera. Pointed at my plate. Two girls at the table next to ours were filming me pick at my meal, trying to hold in their laughter as they zoomed in on my plate as well as my concentrated face. All of a sudden, I realized that my moment of immaturity was probably going to be posted online somewhere for the world to see, and I felt extremely embarrassed. Not only that, but I was reminded of the fact that while I sat there picking at my meal, children around the world were digging through garbage to find something edible to quell their aching bellies.
I was silent as we walked to the subway. I was afraid that this video would go viral and be seen by thousands of people. If this video of me gets put online and I never find it, I can’t even respond to it. I felt ashamed. And I felt violated.
As the train rushed into the station and screeched to a stop, a horrific realization dawned on me. Traffickers often make pornographic videos of their victims, and use them as a tool for absolute submission.
“If you try to escape, we will show this to your family.”
“If you don’t comply with our demands, we will spread this around your village.”
“If a customer complains, we will put this on the internet.”
Take a moment and think of the most shameful or embarrassing thing you have ever done, and imagine it being videotaped and sent to everyone you know.
It might cost you your reputation, your job, your friends, your future opportunities. Or, if you are part of a loving, healthy community, they will love you despite what they have seen you do. Unfortunately, in many cultures, protecting one’s family honour results in victims to bowing to the threats of traffickers.
As much as I hate the discomfort of learning lessons in such a tangible way, I want to thank those girls for filming my childish, embarrassing moment at Grimaldi’s. It has allowed me to walk in another’s shoes and humbled me immensely.
So, if a youtube video with a frowning blonde picking mushrooms out of her pizza goes viral, take a moment to remember those who are being sexually exploited and manipulated for profit. And let’s all become the kind of community that loves others despite their shameful moments, whether those moments have been forced upon them or resulted from poor decisions.