The Gold Digger, Revised

I have never quite understood women who marry for money, because the price they pay seems to be painfully high. You sell yourself for a lifestyle and you take the lumps that come with it—a spouse you don’t love, a vapid social world, and children who may be seriously challenged in the values department. But despite all that, there are thousands of women in this city who still believe money can buy happiness, and they are doing everything they can to find rich men. They don’t see themselves as shallow or materialistic, but focused. And what’s surprising is that they are not working-class girls scrimping by, but professional, high-achieving women who do fine on their own. No matter how successful they may be, they want to quit to raise kids and send them to good schools, and they need a million-a-year guy to do it.

Catherine, a 33-year-old management consultant who makes more than $100,000 a year and owns her Gramercy-neighborhood apartment, says she’s looking for an equal who is more than a sugar daddy. “I come to the table with a full plate, so why wouldn’t I expect the same from my mate? I’m from an affluent background, I’m used to certain things, and I’d like to have the same life my mother had: Get married, stay at home, have some help, and care for the children.”

Catherine insists that it’s not only money that matters to her, but common interests. “I have my M.B.A., and I want someone with a graduate degree as well, used to working the crazy hours that I work, who likes to talk about finances, the market, and the economy.” She’s done online dating and knows how to weed out the wrong types. “If a guy writes that he’s an indie-film writer, I usually don’t respond, which is pretty shitty of me, and I admit it.”

To find appropriate men, she goes to social events at places like the Athletic Club, the Union Club, and the Ivy Club. Since many are for charity, there are suggested donations, which filters out the wrong types. “It’s always good when they have to spend more than just the cost of alcohol,” figures Catherine. She’d like a husband who makes a million or more, but “if I meet a guy who’s making even $200K a year, we’re okay—if he’s intelligent, has a good job and upward mobility.”

For some, money-chasing is a later-life shift, a conscious choice to pursue a different class of people than they did before. Jean, 39, a sales executive, made a rather drastic shift a few months ago, when, after dating women for fifteen years, she began to date men. Rich men. “There’s something really sexy about a man who knows he’s powerful in the boardroom. I don’t like a softie. It’s an issue of power. I’m not a pushover myself, and I don’t want to be pushing someone else around.”

As soon as she began dating men, she made a conscious choice not to pursue indie types. She hadn’t dated women with money, and didn’t want to make the same mistake again. “As soon as I started dating men, money was an issue for me,” Jean says. “Not because I want to have somebody foot the bill, but because I didn’t want to have to be the one who paid every time we went out. And not once has a guy assumed I would pay for my own drink or dinner.” She says it wondrously, like she still can’t get over it.

For women like Catherine and Jean, the ultimate question will be whether they pursue rich to the exclusion of nice or decent. Jean isn’t looking for anything serious, while Catherine is now wondering whether she will ever marry. “It never occurred to me that I would do anything but get married and have a husband to support me, just like my mother,” she says. “Now I’m coming to the realization that I could be alone for the rest of my life. And I’m fortunate that I’ve set myself up to be self-sufficient.”

The Gold Digger, Revised