“Can I see your ID, Hy?” he said suddenly.
“Yeah. Lemme see it.”
I dug in my wallet and handed it to him, his thigh pressed against mine in the horseshoe booth. He fumbled with something then pressed it back into my hand. There was a $100 bill there now.
The tears I’d been holding back for the last thirty minutes sprang to my eyes. What a relief! We could finally talk about money now, I thought.
“I want to show you something,” I said and pulled out my phone and opened my banking account. A little working wheel spun as we watched together.
“You have no idea how badly I needed a little help,” and then with tears streaming down my face I explained to him the nightmare experience I’d been having with my bank and credit card over the past four days and how I had only $50 in my wallet until that moment.
I felt relieved, safe. I don’t believe in white knights, but maybe I was wrong.
Will and I met on a sugar daddy site, a place where men seek [usually] discreet relationships with women who, in exchange for whatever kind of relationship everyone is comfortable with, receive monetary support.
The way the site is set up the SDs report their net worth and yearly incomes and what monthly expenditure they’re willing to provide. The money ranges from “negotiable,” which has no value listed to “minimal” (a $1000 a month) to “high” ($10k a month and up). Will listed his net worth at $2 million with a $250,000 yearly income, and as with most SDs had chosen “negotiable” as his desired support level.
When we first connected online I wasn’t interested, but his confidence and sense of humor won me over. He asked why someone as beautiful as me was on a site like that one and I opened up to him like a cheap novel spilling all the dirty details.
How my divorce and staying home to start a family then start a new career had devastated my finances; how I sold stock, cashed out some of my 401k, and take on any and all side-work outside of my regular job I can possibly get in order to cover my bills; how I now make enough money to owe the IRS, but not enough to live off of; and how despite all that, my monthly expenses went up $1000/month last fall and I’ve been struggling to make ends meet ever since.
He told me he was impressed and reassured me that I’d done everything I possibly could. I liked that this stranger’s sentiment countered my deepest fear of being a colossal failure. “Life is hard sometimes, Hy,” he’d said. “I’ve been there.”
When we met after three weeks of emails and texts I hadn’t planned to let him slip bareback into me while bent over my front seat, but I was overcome with passion. We’d talked for hours and sipped our drinks in a plush hotel lobby and he assured me that he wanted to help in any way he could. Later that night he’d text me “Don’t sell yourself short. I can help you in so many ways.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant, but was encouraged nonetheless that he might be my fairy godfather of finances in this desperate time.
Accepting help from anyone in any form is difficult for me and asking for money is even more revolting; the situation in general puts me on my heel and while talking to potential SDs I felt raw and vulnerable discussing what they’d get from me in exchange for essentially being on their payroll.
Will had set himself apart quickly by not treating me like an object and so far everything he had said and done backed that up. Everything was falling effortlessly into place: We liked each other. I genuinely wanted to sleep with him. He genuinely wanted to help me.
I stared at the $100 bill wishing my life were different, but feeling relatively lucky all the same; it was humiliating, yet overwhelming, a little hopeful. I might really make it through this with his help.
I had cried en route to meet him, fearing rejection and humiliation at having to finally bring up our financial arrangment, but it was all for naught. It was going to be ok…
And then, it wasn’t.
“You know, Hy,” he said as I closed my bank app and set down my phone. “I’m so glad you waited to tell me about your situation until after I gave you the money, because had you opened with that, had you led with needing money, I’d have given you the $100 (because I’d already set it aside for you last week) and walked out and never spoken to you again. That’s really wonderful of you because now I know you’re genuine and more importantly, you know I’m genuine.”
I couldn’t believe my ears.
The next hour the tears continued as we debated the logic of his words. “I don’t know why you insist on being upset and ignoring my compliment!” he argued.
“It’s not a compliment, Will, because I was only lucky just now. I came here knowing I would have to ask you for help because I’m so desperate and you’re telling me that had I done that you’d have walked out on me without discussing a thing with me and that’s shitty and wrong. You have no idea how hard this is for me!”
“But why is it ok to ask me for help and none of the other guys from the other sites??” he asked angrily.
“Because,” I said between sniffs, “I already told you, those other sites aren’t set up to discuss financial situations. Seeking Arrangement is! I can’t tell men I meet on AFF, ‘Hey, I need help with my bills this month,’ they’ll think I’m a fucking prostitute!”
He talked to me slowly and calmly, like I was the village idiot; I shut down. Nothing I said could convince him of my vulnerability or how what he said was so belittling, disempowering, and outright appalling. A woman he met on a sugar daddy site is not allowed to discuss her financial situation with him first lest she piss him off and he take his ball and leave. Screw you, Hy, for having needs and making them known to me before I asked.
I absentmindedly watched the bartenders do their busy work and wished I were somewhere else.
He reminded me that we’d only met twice and to have some perspective when I couldn’t stop crying. But how could I possibly stop the river of emotions that had spilled over the dam? Humiliation, degradation, guilt, rage, helplessness, embarrassment, sorrow, fear. Each one a torrent in its own right.
I felt deflated as I sat beside his bulk. Something had just been bludgeoned between us, the little flame of hope and friendship was now a black, pulpy mess. He was mad that I seemed to be deliberately missing his magnanimous attitude towards me and I was crushed that I was treated like an ingrate with no agency.
Numbly, I let him walk me to my car. He made an inappropriate joke about fucking me by my car again. I kissed him and tried to flirt, but I felt broken and listless. I sobbed on the way home and opened a bottle of red wine.
Deep into my cups I reached out. “I’m free Friday after all.” He laughed and said he wished he was fucking me right then.
I felt lost.
What was I doing?? What was I trying to salvage? This is not the arrangement I seek, to hope that the guy I’m seeing will toss me some cash because he’s in a good mood. If I were financially stable, that would be fucking amazing, but I’m terrified each month that I won’t be able to pay my bills and I had made that abundantly clear to Will. I want a friends with benefits who understands his cherry to the situation sundae is money as I understand my cherry is discretion and companionship.
Money is a delicate, powerful thing and it reminds me of anthrax. It rips families and friends apart, destroys business partnerships and marriages; I’ve been reduced to tears because of it all week. Money isn’t everything, but when you don’t have enough it’s all-consuming because it equals survival. Money equals safety.
One thing that has become abundantly clear to me through all of this is I am wholly unprepared for how other people feel about their money as it relates to me. Will became defensive and dismissive because I suspect he feared I was only there for his money and the irony of where and how we met appears to be completely lost on him. It appears I wasn’t cut any slack.
In that booth with him, weepy eyed and defeated, I watched helplessly as he moved away from me, my tears and ingratitude driving him away and I felt even more sorrow because in that moment I realized that I had somehow also hurt him. I didn’t hear from him the entire next day.
Clearly, neither of us are fit for this sort of arrangement.