Samantha: What’s your age ceiling for men? Carrie: Fifty. Samantha: Factor in millions and millions of dollars. Carrie: Fifty.
This conversational exchange occurs during an episode of Sex and the City about modern day fairytales. Samantha meets an extremely wealthy but much older man (72!) who has the power to make all of her wishes come true, at least where very expensive jewelry is concerned. Despite the fact that more and more women are becoming the primary breadwinners in the family, we still live in a world that glorifies being with a rich man as an acceptable and even glamorous path to a life of ease and luxury. (How many variations of Real Housewives are there now?) While this all plays out a certain way on TV (“reality” or otherwise), what about in real life?
This past Saturday night, I invited a friend to attend a college alumni mixer with me. I’d heard from several sources that the crowd at these events tended to be heavy on older men. Tired of jobless guys with no ambition, and always up for a dating adventure, I figured it would at least be good for a laugh. As we walked to the venue, I said to my friend, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I totally overhyped this and it’s all middle-aged women?”
This question guaranteed that as we walked in the door, the gender ratio was skewed heavily in the female direction. I apologized profusely to my friend, we made plans to meet up with someone else at a nearby bar, and just as we were about to leave, a man approached us and commenced small talk. Somehow my friend, a divorce attorney, turned the conversation to alimony payments, and he just casually mentioned that he was paying his ex wife an absurd amount of money a month, a number that meant his monthly income was close to what I make in a year, if not more.
Among the other things that came up in this conversation – his daughter’s choice of colleges. Yes, this guy had a college aged daughter. While not as young as I once was, the college reunion I’ll be skipping this year is my fifth, not my fiftieth. Nevertheless, when this man and his friend offered to take me and my friend to their private club next door for a drink, we accepted. We had a pleasant conversation, they showed us the wall of pictures of club members who were Nobel prize winners, the guy dropped into the conversation that he’d personally known Carl Sagan, and so, when he asked if he could call me sometime, I said yes.
He called me Sunday, and I agreed to meet him for a drink on Monday at a posh hotel bar, and spent the next 24 hours bragging to all my friends that I was going out with a guy who was almost certainly a multimillionaire. This was the stuff dreams were made of, I thought. Next stop, a private plane and trips to Europe whenever I wanted.
On Monday evening, I arrived at the bar, where I was the youngest person there by at least a decade. I suddenly felt incredibly uncomfortable. My date had taken the liberty of ordering a drink, promising me it was the house specialty. It was, in fact, an appletini, which would have delighted me if it was 2001 and I was a sorority girl. We talked, and when I say talked, I mean that I carried a conversation that wasn’t compelling whatsoever. He was a longtime resident of the city, and when I asked him what his five favorite things to do were, he named four things that could have been taken from a tourist guidebook. It turned out he didn’t know Carl Sagan so much as Sagan had given a few lectures at his club. He also brought up Sagan’s TV show on PBS. “I think that was before my time,” I said. “It was on in the ’80s,” he replied. “The only thing I was watching on PBS in the ’80s was Sesame Street,” I pointed out.
Things continued downhill from there. His ‘vacation home’ wasn’t even anywhere that good. He asked if I liked to travel, I lamented a lack of both time and money and he literally said to me “It sounds like you need a sugar daddy.” And that was the moment at which I realized I did not. This man clearly thought that having money meant he didn’t need to have any personality whatsoever, and it turns out that I’m not superficial enough to be okay with that. He suggested we get dinner, I feigned an urgent work project, and then headed to Trader Joe’s to do my grocery shopping. There, among the broke college students thrilled with their $3 bottles of wine, I felt I was back among my people.