If you have been a fan of itchysilk, you will know a while back we had a writer Semtex who would ignite our synapses with her rather incendiary words. Well she is back. How long she is with us we do not know but for now Semtex brings her own inimitable view on life-we fucking love it.
When it comes swinging back and forth between the pendulum’s extremes, I’ve experienced two different kinds of financial circumstances in relationships. In one, I am the breadwinner. This happens in my twenties when I’m still obsessed with the idea of a “career” and “success,” not yet knowing that everyone is doomed to become miserable when they end up having to do something for compensation. Even when it starts out as “a passion.”
When money comes into play for a “job”—the very nature of the word suggesting obligation, therefore resentment—the expectation on the part of the person paying you becomes too high for pure enjoyment to result on the part of the worker. But anyway, the point is: I Was a Twentysomething “Success.” In a relationship with someone who was not on my wavelength financially (or otherwise, I would later find out). Let’s just say he had the benefit of “pay-rents” a.k.a. parents on his side to make life in “the big city” radiate the same comfort as a suburban cocoon.
I resented the shit out of him for having the cushion of Daddy’s dough to get him through life without stressing about money. He would never really have to do anything, even if he was pretending to in his phony bid to be classified as an “artist.” That is, extremely gifted in the art of debasing me. Worse still, I woke up each morning with a glowering look on my face while dressing (particularly in the dead of winter)—for he was still cozy in bed with an afternoon of leisure ahead of him.
At this point in my “working life,” I had long ago bought into the false notion that the sooner I could work, the better. That’s part of why I rushed through college, graduating two and a half years early. Because if I was out of school, I figured, it would mean I had transcended into “adulthood,” ergo total independence. But no matter how many middling office jobs I went through, I still felt rudderless—in search of someone or something that could make me feel “whole.” And that’s when I made the mistake of becoming codependent when the opportunity presented itself. As soon as he displayed his ardor, I made this boyfriend my entire raison d’être, and treated what I would funnel my finances into accordingly in order to “keep” him. Not just satisfied, but to full-stop keep him like some sort of object to be had. I think I was terrified of feeling lonely again, not realizing until after it was over how lonely I really was in that relationship. Which is, of course, the worst kind of loneliness. But maybe “keeping” him would’ve worked if he didn’t already have a rich father to fall back on when he got bored of me. That’s the thing about being a sugar mama or papa: you have to make sure the person you’re lavishing has no other financial resource to turn to. Then they’re as good as “yours.”
When this guy who I spent a shit ton of money on FreshDirect for (among other bougie entities) ended up leaving me anyway despite all my best efforts, I felt like I was in total freefall mode. Why bother working at a job I hated to come home to an empty apartment? Why bother doing anything at all without someone to do it for? To share experiences (which are usually costly) with? I think that’s when a complete about-face occurred in my mentality. I would never be self-sacrificing again. It could only backfire. Just like quitting my “cush” job to follow said ex across the globe did.
When I finally got the proverbial memo (that essentially read, “Get a fucking clue, you dumb bitch” at the top) that it wasn’t going to work out, I was well on the path to destitution. And, truth be told, I haven’t gotten off it since. Which is why meeting a different boyfriend who seemed so willing to foot the bill felt like the “shock treatment” I needed to de-condition myself from what had happened before.
Things seemed to be going along swimmingly for about a year until the total meltdown phase. I thought the arrangement we had was: he paid for things. Specifically, everything. That was the precedent that was established when he said he wanted to take care of me and that I would always have a place with him wherever he lived. But evidently, there was some kind of turning point when I was supposed to transmute into an “adult” again and figure out how to “earn my keep” in ways beyond the sexual. It was like he totally reneged on the sugar daddy role that he himself announced being comfortable with. I felt betrayed, to be honest. Like, once again, I had lost my footing in a relationship I was doing all I could to sustain. Except now I wasn’t sustaining it in the way that truly matters, in the end, to everyone: financially. That’s all we ultimately are to a significant other, it would appear—just a convenient monetary buttress when the sex fizzles out.
In a season two episode of Sex and the City called Games People Play (1999), Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) confesses to Seth (Bon Jovi), a fellow patient of her short-lived therapist’s that she briefly dates, “I pick the wrong men.” Or rather, they seem to pick her, and she just sort of runs with it. I was starting to think maybe that was what my fate was as well. That no matter what my financial circumstance (read: perpetually dire), I would always end up driving men away. I was the girl who could make them see that they could find something more “stable” or “substantial” in a relationship. Though I have to admit, I am curious to know what it would be like to have a right proper sugar daddy (one that doesn’t randomly decide to backtrack on the role). In the same way I’m also curious to know how much power I could truly wield over a man who had no financial recourse (as that first ex did in his father) if I was in the middle-class sugar mama role again. Would I be able to keep a man then? Would I, at long last, “magically” find someone who believed in “forever”? Probably not. For there seems to be no amount of money that can transform people, especially men, into being anything other than betraying, reneging arseholes.
As I pack my shit up to leave the bum sugar daddy’s apartment, he claims he wishes he could “keep” me. In effect, he’s claiming that if he actually did have the cash flow to do so, he would. But I don’t believe that’s true. I feel he genuinely thinks he’s ready to move on to someone more “adult”—something I have never been viewed as, even when I was a corporate shill. It’s like I’m Kate Mosley (Jennifer Aniston) in Picture Perfect (1997) and no matter what I do, it’s still not enough to be seen as “appropriate” employee or girlfriend material. And then, I think of another 90s movie: Casper (1995). In it, the eponymous ghost asks Kat (Christina Ricci), “Can I keep you?” On the verge of sleep, she says, “Mhmm.” In reality, however, the answer in this scenario is: “You can’t afford me.”