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The undeniable sweetness of a sugar parent

2012 June 10
by Zoe Strimpel

Anyone can become high maintenance when spoiled...

In the near-decade in which I’ve lived in London, I haven’t been prudish. Naturally, I have accrued a fair amount of experience with a variety of intimacy-inducing formats, ranging from sharing a round of drinks at a grotty local (“Next round on you!” is a form of closeness, right?) to more serious exchanges of mind and body.

If I were to look for a theme uniting the men I have romantically (or, often, unromantically) liased with, and then a theme for the contexts and logistics of those liasons (simpler folk might call these “dates”), I’d have to say: lack of money. Poor dudes, stingy dudes, generous but poor dudes and occasionally really, really hard-up ones. Drinks in the pub or drinks at my house/their house or drinks for free due to my work is the sort of thing. Which is absolutely fine – I’m not complaining due to never having had other expectations (some women won’t see a guy unless he takes her for dinner at Claridges or similar – at least, that’s what I hear.)

As for the logistics of seeing and then returning home from seeing these non-moneyed – though not necessarily non-lovely – men… Here are a few examples. 1) trudging through Hackney at night in the pouring rain with a scarf really needed for neck-warmth covering my head, along with a newspaper found on the train. 2) Disoriented, hailing the first bus that comes along in a bleary but sharp desire to get home, only to find you’re absolutely nowhere near anywhere or anything that remotely relates to your part of town. 3) Walking up the Finchley Road and then taking a bus that’s packed when it arrives after 40 minutes to get to a horrible bar in Camden with sticky floors and a greeting committee consisting of an army of Fosters-swilling men with excessive tattoos and piercings. 4) Taking – and then stewing on – the Northern Line all the way from Bank to Brent Cross on a hot summer’s evening (London used to have these) when you’d really rather go home and sleep, 5) waiting up to an ungodly hour, eyes drooping, while he makes his way to your house via 14 night buses because a cab is too pricey or  6) Walking and walking and walking and walking to god knows where (like some dark corner of Dalston) on the arm of someone, feeling cold, tired and vaguely lost. Oh, and later (perhaps in daylight) doing the same thing alone.

Chivalry schmivalry. That’s a nest of vipers, isn’t it, boys? So I’m going to leave it for now. ANYWAY, I wouldn’t even be thinking about this had I not recently tasted a rather different way of doing things…

OK ok. I do exaggerate a little – the men I’ve been out with have not exclusively been occasions for dangerous, freezing/wet walks through East London or endless Tube rides to Zone Fifteen. Once a guy drove me home on his Vespa; still another one on one of those rickshaws you can hire in Soho. The odd one has taken me out for dinner. Several have cooked – and very nicely, too.

BUT. I’m just going to come out and say it. I was sugar daddied – in a mild sense – recently on holiday.  And it was freaking great. The key is that the Daddy in question can’t be creepy or overly predatory. Or too old. Because the chances are it’ll get awkward/be unpleasant if you find him physically repulsive. A snog may be required – more may be desired.

I held out at first, I really did. Like a mouse too proud to take the cheese that’s just sitting there, beckoning. (Mice can be proud, too!) He (the man, not the metaphorical mouse) was a local celebrity but what was that to me? I’d never heard of him. I was not impressed. I didn’t think of it! Until…a compliment on my appearance popped out, followed by a footing of our drinks bill and an offer to drive both my friend and I to the beach the next day…”the best beach” an hour away….

And so the cheese-nibbling began.

But what I noticed was not just how nice it was to be materially pampered, eg driven around in a nice car and have dinner bought for me, but how nice it was not to worry about bankrupting someone and thus making a deal with the devil (if a hard-of-cash man insists on paying for you, you feel terribly obliged and anxious about what is expected). How nice not to worry about dodgy silences and radar fallings-off; sudden and mysterious changes of heart; bad timekeeping; flakiness. Could it be that one set of attributes (the cash/good car/generosity esp where pretty ladies are concerned) is related to the other (reliability/timekeeping/maturity)?

I wouldn’t bank on it. But here are some of the things that the man in question did and make of it what you will. 1) Responded promptly to texts with a consistent tone of friendly keenness 2) Paid for lots of nice things that both my friend I consumed, largely at his suggestion, eg good wine, good sandwiches, beach entry, more wine, fancy dinner, one or two shots 3) Had a car. A really nice car with an awesome sound system and leather seats. A car that was on hand in a genuinely useful way for both my geographical needs and those of my friend 4)Went out of his way to find me, so that I didn’t have to struggle to find him, at my convenience, to say goodbye.

As I said, this man did not particularly appeal at first. By the end of the few (chaste) days, though, he did.  I’d hate to say that his easy way with a bar bill, his promptness with a red leather-seated Alpha Romeo or the fact that fans kept stopping him made an impact on me. But if I didn’t, I’d be lying. Certainly, the next rain-soaked wait at the bus stop in the name of courtship is going to hurt.

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