Some might call it prostitution. I call it a "mutually beneficial arrangement" that pays for my killer wardrobe.
Mutually Beneficial Arrangement. That is the polite term that popular culture has coined for the type of relationship I'm in. Had one asked me if this was the sort of relationship I could see myself being involved in a few years ago, the answer would have been absolutely not.
I am a college student in suburban Pennsylvania. I grew up here, in an area called the Main Line. For those of you who have seen the movie The Philadelphia Story, you're familiar with this nook of the country, where the blood is as blue as the sky, and the wealth as abundant. My family is composed of traditional Irish Catholic Republicans, a family in which sex and money are taboo topics that need not be discussed. But one thing my background has provided me is an invaluable tool for success: I was blessed to have been raised with class, sent to the best schools, and taught to be well-read, well-spoken, and well-traveled.
But when I got to college, I spent the first two years straining for financial independence. I tried working, but in retail, surrounded by temptation all day, I spent more than I made. Waiting tables was exhausting. I went on several job interviews, but all of the internships were unpaid. As my years in college wore on, it was evident that the job market was sliding into decline. When the economic climate grew worse, my friends panicked that their resumes and high GPAs wouldn't be enough to give them a leg up on the competition, and my goal became getting my foot in the door before everyone else.
And then, just such an opportunity presented itself. During my job hunt, I met a potential employer. He was in his early 30s, single, and successful. He didn't hire me, but he did suggest a position that seemed perfectly suited to my attributes and skills: He proposed that he become my benefactor.
From the outside, a mutually beneficial, or sugar daddy, relationship seems immoral. Maybe even the distant cousin of — dare I say it? — prostitution. But truth be told, women have used their wiles and charms to get ahead for years.
There's even a social networking Web site that connects sugar daddies and their beneficiaries. This man told me about it: SeekingArrangement.com. He had been referred to it by a close friend who was a hedge fund manager. At his urging, I logged onto the site and looked at his profile. It didn't have a picture, for privacy reasons. But it did contain information: his marital status (single), the industry he worked in (media and communications), and — a key element — his salary (seven figures). I was encouraged by the fact that the Web site vets its clients and offers only Certified Sugar Daddies, whose tax returns have been carefully examined so you know what you're getting. I also learned that he was attracted to bright, smart women — he wasn't in the market for the dumb bombshell. His profile said he wanted more of "a Jackie Kennedy than a Marilyn Monroe." I fit the type.
It presented me with an opportunity I never would have thought to consider. Being in a relationship that was like a business arrangement? Where was the romance in that? I toyed with the idea for a few weeks, mulling over the possible repercussions. The pros were evident: This man was a successful professional in the media community who could provide me with excellent connections. But there was the social stigma to consider. And did I even like this guy? I wasn't sure. So I agreed to meet him for dinner to discuss how this should go, if it were to happen. I also had several questions I wanted answered.
So we had dinner, and I was surprised to find that he had questions for me. He wanted to know what newspapers I read, what my favorite book is and why, where I stood on the political spectrum, and how I liked to spend my Saturdays. I was intrigued when many of our answers were similar.
He was a likable person, and by the end of the evening I found myself very attracted to him. I laid out my ground rules and he laid out his. He was looking for this type of a relationship because his past girlfriends hadn't understood that his work would always come first. He valued their place in his life but ended up resenting them because of the stress and pressure they placed on his already hectic lifestyle. Then, much as I could imagine him doing while standing at the head of a conference table in a boardroom, he presented what I'll call his financial package.
He offered me a monthly allowance, guaranteed a steady stream of desirable gifts, and promised regular vacations. He offered to send my friends and me on girls' weekend getaways to spas and resorts. Other trips, he said, could be working vacations for the both of us, some fun mixed with some hands-on learning for me. And yet others could be just the two of us seeing the most amazing and beautiful places in the world. We discussed places we had both been and would like to share with each other. When he learned I had never been to London he was dying to have that experience with me.
My stipulations were that I wanted to wait until I knew him better before we had sex, and I needed distance between him and my family — they know I have a relationship with an older, well-established man, but they don't know about the financial arrangement. I never felt it was necessary. For safety reasons in the beginning, I told my very best friend about him, and that was it. I told her I was going out with an older man I had met while interviewing for a job and where I would be. I also gave her his business card and cell number in case something should happen. Also, our relationship could never interfere with my schoolwork.
We started out on a trial basis, but in the first month I was already swept off my feet. He was very busy with work so we only saw each other in person a few times, but he put effort into the relationship nonetheless. We went to Atlantic City for a weekend and stayed at the Borgata, the poshest hotel in town. We spent the day on the beach, and even took a nighttime tour of the city by helicopter. When we finally had sex, it was at the right time — I waited three months before I felt ready to make a physical commitment to him. This was no different from any of my other relationships. We've now been seeing each other for a year.
As for the allowance, he doesn't just cut me a check. He simply ensures that I need never worry about expenses. I rent a $1,600 apartment in the city, for which he pays the rent in full. I carry an AmEx Black card in both our names, and use it for things like shopping, spa trips, manicures, and tanning; the bill goes to him. And the company car I drive costs him around $700 a month for the lease and the insurance. I've even managed to build up a little nest egg over the past year — at his insistence — putting away around $12,000. All in all, he probably spends in the ballpark of $5,000 a month on my lifestyle.
He didn't hire me for the internship position, but because of him I have had several internships at well-known PR companies, and have plenty of networking opportunities, shoring up my future prospects for when I graduate this spring. Besides career advancements, he's given me a chance to live the type of life I never would have experienced on my own. We went to London and Paris last spring, where we saw the sights and shopped at stores like Chanel and Dior. How many other college students are wearing Christian Louboutins to class?
Probably very few. And I'm well aware that this is the kind of relationship where there are no guarantees for your heart, but it's helped me prepare for the future and thrive in the present. And when our time together is through, I will part with a lifelong friend, a great career, and a killer wardrobe.
Melissa Beech, a pseudonym, is a college senior in Philadelphia majoring in journalism and economics, and is an intern at a public relations firm specializing in crisis communications and media relations. She hopes to work in broadcast journalism after completing a graduate degree. Reprinted from The Daily Beast (thedailybeast.com). Copyright 2008 The Daily Beast.