WHEN it gets bad, normally about the 16th of the month when my mortgage payment whisks out the bank account along with factoring fees, union dues and ludicrously high council tax payment (Band E?
Seriously? I don't even have a kitchen. I keep my blender in my bedroom and my crockery under the arm chair), I send up a resigned cry: "I need a sugar daddy."
It's not a serious aspiration but, y'know, if George Clooney came knocking...
But look, this is the internet age and in the internet age anything is possible. Spawned as the uncouth lovechild of internet dating websites and desperation, come sites designed for Sugar Daddies seeking, I can barely type it, Sugar Babies.
Seeking Arrangement is possibly the best-known sugar daddy/sugar babe website and it's just launched in the UK, though there are variants springing up every month. What happens is young, attractive women advertise themselves as bright, diverting, amenable companions for rich older men who pay them. They earn anything from overseas travel or shopping sprees to full-blown allowances. One wonders whether the money is left atop the dresser, Victorian-style, or perhaps they're given $50 for the powder room, a la Holly Golightly. Who am I kidding? It'll be done by electronic transfer.
I feel a bit sorry for the men in these arrangements. Of course there will be physical transactions, let us not be coy, but the sums exchanged are stonking (one chap's offering £12,000 a month to his sugar baby) and the women call it "living in the sugar bowl". The men must be very lonely or desperate or dull or emotionally pragmatic to be milked in such a manner.
It harps back to the days when women married for financial advantage; it's all very modern retro.
But maybe it is not as depressingly sleazy as it sounds.
I was just reading about a study undertaken by one Professor Richard Wiseman of Hertfordshire University who set up a speed-dating experiment, persuading some of the 100 daters to act like they were already in love; touching one another, whispering secrets, maintaining steady eye contact. The ones who acted like they were in love wanted to see each other again. "We actually had a problem stopping people. We had go around pulling couples apart," the psychologist said.
This has lead Prof Wiseman to speak warmly of arranged marriages. "We plan our education, our careers and our finances but we're still uncomfortable with the idea that we should plan our love lives. I think a lot can be learned from [arranged marriages]."
The interesting thing about romance is that it's the one area of your life where, even if you're demonstrably rubbish at it, those who love you push you to keep trying. Imagine if, at 16, I'd said I wanted to be a teacher. I'd then spent the next 13 years being sacked from every school I taught in or, indeed, never making it past interview. No-one would say: "Never mind. You just haven't been hired by the right school yet." They'd say: "Step away from our impressionably-minded young people and find a shop job."
We idealise romantic relationships over pragmatic partnerships. You can't mildly adjust an eyeball without your visual receptors scanning something related to Fifty Shades of Grey, the horrendously-written pop novel that's out-sold just about every other book in existence because it's got some rude nudity in it. But even with its main characters' predilections for bondage and spanking, it's basically harping back to the daft notion that a woman should find a bad man she fancies the socks off and tame him – because of the romance. That's the message and it's ruddy everywhere.
Between sugar babies and mummy porn we think we're being terribly modern, but maybe the message should be to take the sugar-coating off romance and revert to looking for something more practical. With divorce rates what they are, a change of tactic can't do much harm, can it?
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