My mother once told me that it’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is a poor man. The idea being that all things equal, you may as well be with someone who can make your life comfortable rather than someone whose idea of fine dining is Kraft Mac n’ Cheese and a box of wine.
I always thought that I wanted to be with an older, wealthy man. Someone who could take care of me — pick up the tab at expensive restaurants, fly us first class on exotic vacations, swath me in a life of comfort and luxury. I wanted to be the object of desire, of affection and attention. Such a man would be the stamp of validation that I was intrinsically worthy of this type of lifestyle — bypassing the necessity to work for it on my own merit.
So when an older, wealthy gentleman offered to fly me cross-country to spend a weekend together, I said yes.
We had met three years ago at a house party in a beachfront mansion my girl friend brought me to. I was 22 at the time and desperate for attention and validation from men. He was there; older, manifestly wealthy, and interested in me. It was a heady combination. Nothing happened in the intervening years until he saw an alluring picture of me that sparked his renewed interest.
I knew that as soon as he bought my ticket that there would be expectations and strings attached to my visit. He said as much — he was interested in me in more than a friendly way. Insomuch as I was also staying with him, there would be nowhere to run if I didn’t like him.
He was the consummate gentleman that weekend. He offered the guest room to me the first night. He paid the bill everywhere we went — I didn’t even make the typical guise of reaching for my credit card (which would have been declined).
I was not physically attracted to him and he was older than I remembered — more than twice my age. Still, the combination of his kindness, generosity, and multimillion dollar home were seductive. I decided to try and see if I could like him, if feelings could grow from where there were none.
Our first evening together, I was his date to the wedding of his friend, an older man in his 60s with a deep tan and white hair who married a boy 40 years his junior. They had been together for three years. Guests toasted and congratulated the couple, and for a brief moment I forgot I was at a wedding and not a retirement party.
Their union was a more extreme version of our date. I could also easily be accused of trading love for financial reward. But in my case, it was something slightly different. It wasn’t his money that I prized above all else — it was his kindness and intellect that ultimately got me on a plane to visit him.
There are obviously people for whom money is an acceptable form of payment for love and affection. They’re the kind of people who derive some semblance of happiness from a new pair of shoes and write #blessed on Instagram captions of yacht photos.
While wealth can be an alluring advertisement, it’s not the money as much as the character of the person who earned it that is enticing to me. I admired the older man for his business acumen and success.
A friend of mine only dates wealthy men for the same reason. She says she’s attracted to their ambition and intelligence, though at the same time she’s not interested in a young man at the beginning of his career. She’s looking for someone established (preferably divorced or widowed) to furnish the lifestyle she’s accustomed to living.
I wondered, was I being shallow by going out with a wealthy older man who could afford to lavish me with things or the opposite by dating a man to whom I wasn’t attracted physically but engaged me intellectually?
His money was undoubtedly what intrigued me at first. Had he been the same person without the penthouse and investment portfolio, I wouldn’t have entertained the possibility of a relationship with a man 29 years older. But in our time spent together I could see his other qualities. I got to know him on a personal level.
If it were only a matter of physical attraction, I was sure that this could be overcome with time. I wanted to like him. It would make my life easier to have a man who wanted to support and love me.
That weekend, he talked about taking a cruise together on the Queen Mary, intimated that I could be his date to Saint Barth’s over Thanksgiving. He made it clear he liked me and wanted to see me again. All I’d have to do is make him believe that I actually felt something for him.
But I couldn’t. My heart isn’t for sale.