When we talk about currency, we talk about the gold standard. When we talk about women who use men for personal gain, we talk about gold diggers. Today I'm here to talk about another gold standard -- a double one, the one by which men look for women with beaucoup bucks, and the standard by which men rarely get cited for their own parasitic and gold digging ways.
I rarely write, or even speak, about money. And there's a reason for that. Although I do have real financial struggles and worries about my future, they are often far removed from those so many other divorced single mothers suffer daily that to fret about how I will finance my daughter's summer teen tour or our next family vacation seems, at a minimum, insensitive.
But, by the same token, women like myself who are supported almost entirely by the alimony and child support awarded them from their prior marriage do have a problem that goes by largely unnoticed. And that's the inability to consider marrying a man of lesser means, a man who will be unable to support her once she loses that main source of her income.
Before you get all up in arms and start telling me how I should go out and make my own money, please know I'm working on it. Easier said than done. I, like so many women, missed my best earning years while at home raising children. Today I'm 42 years old, and though I hold a law degree, I never worked as a lawyer. Opting into an alternative career immediately after graduation with my husband's guidance and financial support backing me, I knowingly took a pay cut, believing I would one day recoup those losses in a job that I not only loved but in which I excelled.
One miscarriage later, the subsequent births of three children within five years, a workaholic husband who rarely lent a hand, and a three-year tour living overseas in furtherance of my husband's goals, I suddenly found myself nearing 40, about to be divorced, faced with full physical custody of my three kids, and no immediate means to support myself and my family on my own.
Unlike so many others, I'm fortunate because my divorce settlement affords me some time. Time to heal my emotional wounds, and time to nurture and grow the career I know I was always meant to have. With that said, I wear handcuffs, and not the 50 Shades of Grey kind. My handcuffs are golden, and they prevent me, to a large extent, from dating men with any real eye to the future whose earnings will not allow me to consider leaving the security I presently have, the security I earned by forgoing a potentially lucrative career to stay home and raise my children while my then husband built his own.
Currently I'm being compensated for the opportunity cost of working as a stay-at-home mom, a decision my husband and I made together, and for the privilege I have today of raising three children almost entirely by myself.
From a financial perspective, my decision to date only successful men makes perfect fiscal sense. By every calculation, the numbers support it. However, from the standpoint of finding everlasting love, I'm confronted with a theorem that on its face appears not only cold and shallow, but is difficult to prove as well. That's because our culture tells us love conquers all.
But does it really?
At first glance, many may dismiss me as a gold digger. But, in actuality, that's not the case. What I truly seek is love and a deep connection with a lifelong partner, not expensive dinners and gifts. But the realities of my situation, my current inability to support my children and myself without spousal support, force me to consider the financial stability of the men who contend for that role in my life.
So when I ask a man what exactly it is that he does for a living, it's not because I'm looking for someone to shake down for a new designer bag or a lavish vacation. I can make those purchases on my own should that be the way I decide to prioritize my spending, which it's not. The "toys" I sport -- jewelry, handbags, and a sizable wardrobe -- are remnants of a former life, a life in which I was subsidized with gifts instead of the love and intimacy I desired.
Yet somehow when I show up to a date I'm often met with financial questions that, if I should be the one to ask them, would immediately place me in the category of gold digger. Questions including: How do you support yourself? Did you get your house in the divorce? Is that wristwatch a Cartier? How many square feet is your home? What kind of car do you drive? Do you own or lease your SUV? Who designed your... bag, sweater, or boots? And the list goes on.
Are these guys digging for gold? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Early on I have no way of determining that. But, the bottom line is, men have as much a stake in knowing what they are potentially getting into as women do. Fair enough. I need to be privy to such information myself.
The trouble is, when this line of questioning comes from a man, it's not immediately perceived as gold digging but, rather, due diligence, good business acumen, and a sign of his intelligence.
To that I call bullshit.
I would like nothing more than to meet some hunky contractor who not only can rock my world but who can do home repairs as well. What a little slice of heaven on Earth that would be! Or a middle management executive who leaves work at a reasonable hour, doesn't need to travel for his job, and isn't always attached to his email. But right now, that's simply not a risk I can afford to take.
It's not that I want what's yours. It's that I don't know if I can give up what's mine.