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who's your daddy, $ugar baddie?
exploring the finan¢ial lines in sugar dating
by alex b (@Lexistential)

I hate Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Orange County." In general, I shouldn't watch it because every time I do, I feel a stabbing sense of hatred towards perma-tanned, older women with obnoxious boob jobs. Jealousy is not a good thing to nurture in my television-watching habits.

But, I can't seem to avoid watching rich reality-show train wrecks, especially of the May-December variety. This season's "Orange County" cast includes Gretchen and her fiancé Jeff. Gretchen is cute, 30, and blonde. Jeff is affluent, has been married four times, and looks like a decomposing version of Kenny Rogers. Appraised of the situation, fellow housewife Tamra cracks, "Hold on to your daddies, girls, here comes Gretchen!!"

I winced. Not only because Gretchen makes me want to hold on tightly to my father, but since Bravo's cocktail of age, youth, and affluence coincides with one of my friendships. Not long ago, a 25-year-old girlfriend described her new beau's age as "a little older."

When I asked if it matched a speed limit, she didn't deny it.

And, just as Jeff showers Gretchen with bling and designerwear on TV, my friend's companion also pampers her expensively. A three thousand-dollar Chanel bag? He offered her one their first date. A trip to Dubai? They had a Christmas shopping trip there. A house in Italy? My friend says he'd like them to get married there. Or on the property in England. (But, she isn't sure she takes him that seriously.)

So, as of late, I've had sugar daddies, babies, and finances on the brain. Not only because of my friend's relationship, but since I'm bombarded with offers to join Seeking Arrangement and Sugar Daddy For Me in my junk mail on a daily basis. Though I know Craigslist crawls with bored, would-be benefactors dangling offers to broke, struggling college students with hot bodies, even logging into Facebook brings me face-to-face with ads offering dating services with older and more "mature" millionaires.

It's tempting as hell.

Thus, given that I'm single and haven't decided to date anyone just yet, I can't help wondering if I ought to just sign up for a sugar daddy. The parameters of a sugar daddy-sugar baby relationship look workable, especially to my inner freeloader. Not having to work would be awesome. Boots from Jimmy Choo and Sephora shopping sprees would be fabulous. Most of all, not having to stress over the winter power bill seems downright fantastic. I wouldn't have to spend a dime. YES.

Though I'm thrilled with the thought of not spending any money, reality kicks out the bill-free fantasies dancing in my head, and I stop to think about the invisible strings that always accompany money.

Just as there's fine print with every contract, I'm aware that every sugar daddy-sugar baby relationship has clauses of its own, along with some fairly sketchy, Faustian motives. Sugar daddy-sugar baby arrangements seem to combine a man's financial arrogance with a woman's mercenary motives; in reversed gender roles, similar things can be said about a sugar mommy and male sugar baby. But regardless of whichever gender is in the financial driver's seat, financial arrogance and monetary hustling aren't appealing qualities. Combined, both make the ensuing relationship generally good to avoid.

Another reason why I think sugary interactions look pretty dodgy is because the relationship, like most sugar daddies' ages, could get old or ugly pretty fast. Since the purpose of the arrangement involves monetary support from a sugar daddy, he's the one who holds all the (credit) cards—and thus calls most of the shots where fairness is entirely subjective. Sure, a sugar baby probably receives more shopping trips and time off than she could ever want or need. But, she also risks the loss of financial support or being called a gold-digger at any given, fickle moment. She is replaceable, especially when a personal argument becomes financial.

Plus, given that the usual age of most sugar daddies is both a little too close to and past my dad's 61 years, my bias kicks in, and I can't think of them as genuine romantic prospects. Though I've liked an older guy here and there, I'm generally not interested in experiencing the generation gap that exists between Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Nor do I want to pull an Anna Nicole Smith and be known as a Corpse Bride. If I spend time with anyone slightly older, it'll only be a few years' difference, and not the kind that entails whippersnapper jokes with wheezing voices.

Finally, my instincts tell me that I simply wouldn't be a good fit for a sugar daddy-sugar baby relationship. Maybe it's because I'm far too used to taking care of myself financially, or unable to see myself as mere arm candy collecting installment payments or presents. But, it's mostly from knowing that I never like anyone who can threaten me with "you owe me," at any given moment. As much as I fantasize about Jimmy Choos, the aforementioned three words give me nightmares that shoes, money, and therapy can't fix.

So, given that the whole arrangement seems to encroach past my comfort zones, I'm probably not going to sign up for a sugar daddy of my very own. Though I'll avoid Bravo when "Top Chef" isn't on, I'm sure that my girlfriend's ensuing adventures will be more than enough to make up for it. I'm probably going to get a good laugh from whatever little anecdote she chooses to share about her not-that-new beau.

But, I'n also going to make sure to treat myself to something snazzy from Sephora—with my own money.


An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.

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robert melos
2.20.09 @ 12:45a

This is nothing new. The Eagles wrote about into 30+ years ago. "A rich old man and she won't have to worry."

Personally I want a sugar daddy. I don't like the concept, but when the options deplete to the level of desperation then a rich old man starts to look good. Well, maybe not "look" good, but as long as they have money and are breathing it can't be all bad.

alex b
2.20.09 @ 4:55a

Robert, here's the thing about sugar daddies: they only look good when you're broke. If something only looks good when you're in a state of desperation, then it's probably dysfunctional and lopsided in the first place. It might solve a financial problem, but it'll cause further issues.

robert melos
2.20.09 @ 6:57a

I just saw the morning news. How sad this is considered news, but apparently Gretchen was cheating on the sugar daddy with a 39 year-old. How sad, when you can't trust a gold digger to be faithful.

tracey kelley
2.20.09 @ 8:51a

Ugh. The thought is beyond creepy. When I was in my early 20s, an much older friend (and he was a good friend at the time - the brother of a guy I used to date) suggested that we marry for convenience. He promised to take good care of me and buy me any type of ring I wanted and he said he'd be honorable in our marriage if I would be, etc. I told him I appreciated the offer, but preferred to marry for love, if at all.

This friend was a financial lifeline for me more than once, but I made it a point to pay him back, even when he stressed I didn't have to. I was always grateful to him, but, you know, not THAT grateful. He loaned me money. I paid it back promptly. Debt done.

When I started dating Matt, this friend decided to fade away. After I married at 28, the friend married a woman younger than me. They had a child. They divorced. He was later jailed for insurance fraud. All very sad.

I can understand the desperation, and the need for security. But I'd rather live in a garage apartment and clean houses (which I did) and retain my sense of self-worth and independence than suckle on an arrogant rich man's wallet.

I've seen that "Housewives" show a couple of times, and it makes my flesh crawl.

sandra thompson
2.20.09 @ 9:41a

There are arguments for both sides. I have friends and/or acquaintances who've experienced both ends of the sugary paradigm, from utter disaster to long-term bliss. My good old Uncle Johnny used to say, "Anybody who marries for money earns it." The older I get the smarter my Uncle Johnny seems to have been.


alex b
2.20.09 @ 11:24a

Robert, trusting a gold-digger to be faithful is like believing Gretchen's a real blonde.

Tracey, I know what it's like to have a friend who provides financial help. We don't have a romantic relationship, but he has been there for me during emergencies like suddenly-necessary root canals. Because he's a genuinely kind guy, he never holds his help over my head. But, I know it's there.

Over the years, I've gotten a couple offers from guys who swear they'll take care of me, pay for everything, and never let me worry about a darn thing. The thing is, I just worry about the consequences of accepting that decision. The security is really, really tempting- especially in our current financial climate. But, I have my pride. And I don't think I want to know how it feels to be bought outright in a grace-and-favor relationship. (And, even though I think love is a little crazy and dysfunctional, I'm still not willing to give up the prospect of finding something that feels genuine and solid.)

Sandra, even though I'm largely against the sugar daddy arrangement, I wouldn't be surprised if there actually are a couple instances where the relationship wasn't necessarily about money, but where love (or something substantive) really is the glue. I wouldn't judge a sugar daddy-sugar baby couple if they were truly together for one another. But, I don't quite agree with your good old Uncle Johnny. People who marry for money might earn it, but they open their doors to a whole other batch of circumstance they may not like.


lucy lediaev
2.20.09 @ 1:17p

As I read this, I'm again reminded of the fact that old men with money can almost always "buy" younger women, leaving an uneven number of unattached women of mature years. Yes, women can date younger men, but the arrangement is much less common and not as well accepted as the young woman and the old man. In the population over 60, there are already more women than men, because men kick the bucket earlier. No wonder older women often seek and sometimes prefer the company of other women!

alex b
2.21.09 @ 10:24a

Lucy, I hadn't thought about how older women end up unattached because guys their age go for much younger girls. Nor did I think about how older women would rather be around other women as a result. If I were an older woman faced with a choice of spending time with another mature woman or supporting a sugar baby, I know what I would pick!

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