The next morning after another ragged night, my eye was clogged with conjunctivitis.
“What do you think?” B messaged with a collection of sunflower emojis. “Did you watch the links?”
“I think I have my hands full,” I sent back. “It’s not for me.” I shared a photo from the doctor’s office where I was with my son, who now had croup.
“I’ll check in with you when you guys get better,” she sent with two cross finger emojis and a kissing face.
Except she never really did.
Over the next few weeks, I got included on emails for discounts on cleansers and two more invitations to join in webinars. Her social media also pivoted and started pushing people to come join her ‘Dream Team’.
I had my suspicions about what this was. I’m certainly not the first woman to have someone befriend them in the name of multi-level-marketing.
I wasn’t a potential friend. I was a mark. We were both links in a chain that went across the world and formed a pyramid, with post-birth, lost and lonely women as easy targets. Of course everyone craves flexible work with a community of like-minded women. It’s just that this version is a mirage.
These are canny structures that prey on vulnerable women. She wasn’t going to make real money from selling products. What she really needed was to recruit other people below her. That’s how these schemes flourish. The products, even if they work are mainly window dressing. And when they run out of people to recruit, the money dries up too.
Listen to this episode from The Well on female friendships. Post continues after audio.
Once I stopped buying the products and said no to joining the team, she stopped reaching out. She had other people in her sights. I did see her once more before they eventually moved back overseas. We were lining up for coffee at the kiosk at the mall. We had some brief chat. She impressed on me how well she was doing, how fabulous things were. I saw that in one of the webinars too. ‘Always project a vision of success.’ That’s another way to lure people in.
The problem was, I no longer really trusted what she said. I just kept on waiting for her to find another pain point to press. I just kept waiting for her to try to close.
I eventually put the most expensive eyelash serum I’ve ever bought into the back of my drawer. All it gave me was gunky eyes. Eventually, with a little more sleep under my belt I could see the world clearer. I went back to writing; working on novels; one of which is about the impossibility of trying to do it all, with threads of social contagion, multilevel marketing and the temptation of optimizing relationships woven through it.