There’s something really dangerous about social media. It gives you these little tiny glimpses into people’s lives, convincing you that the best version of things is always the real one, that the person you’re looking at has no problems, no real sadness, no sick secrets. We know it’s a lie when it comes to our own lives and our own profiles, but we somehow forget when we look at someone else who seems so perfect that their online presence is also, to a big extent, a lie. At the very least, it’s a lie of omission, leaving everything out that isn’t flattering or doesn’t fit into the story they’re trying to tell. I am this way about so many people I follow, and I know that I’m this person for many people who follow me. I have a social media presence that’s all about travel, adventure, beautiful things, and changing scenery. But the truth is that, in many ways, this life is paid for by sex.
Yes, sex. I am not an “Instagram Hoe,” although that term is very fucked up and sexist in itself, because I don’t post sexy pictures of myself, really. But I am a pretty young woman, and I have met through my old job (I worked in real estate, and still do to a very limited extent) a lot of very wealthy older men who wanted to take me somewhere after me showing them a property. I spent years struggling to rise in the ranks of my industry, trying to be noticed by the macho partners at my firm, trying to build up the nest egg it would require for me to branch out on my own. During all that time, I rebuffed the advances of the wealthy older men who would proposition me, and I delayed all the stuff I wanted to do for my personal life, much of which was travel and adventure.
And then, late last year, I said fuck it. I realized that I was closer to 30 than 20 and nowhere near where I wanted to be, professionally. Why not start taking these guys up on some of their offers?
And what are their offers? Well, it’s not sex work. I don’t get paid in any kind of direct way, and they are guys I’m technically dating. My friends and family will often know about these relationships, and they are for the most part good-looking, charming guys, even if they’re 20 or 30 years older than me. But the truth is that the relationships we have are very one-sided. They are wealthy men and I’m a young woman who barely makes any money on her own these days, because my “romantic life” is keeping me too busy. I date these men with no intention that our relationship will last a long time, but with every intention that it will allow me to live a much more sexy and interesting life during the time we’re together.
And oh, how interesting that life is! When I’m in one of my relationships, I’m able to travel more than I stay home, fly business class (or first class!), stay in the best hotels, go shopping each day, dine at fine restaurants, and generally never worry about money. My old boyfriend Nicolas (let’s call him that, anyway), a divorced 50-something Italian businessman, paid my rent for an entire summer back in New York so that we could spend the whole time cruising around on his boat and exploring. Of course it didn’t work out “in the long run,” because I actually have a “long run” in front of me with things I want — marriage, kids, growing old together — and he can’t have those things. He still emails me pretty frequently, and we meet up when we’re in the same city (I will always feel a certain love for him, and he will always feel he’s “in love” with me, but we both know the deal). Sometimes he just sends me gifts to say “thinking of you.”
Now, I’m seeing two different men, for different reasons. One is my “home” boyfriend, who is great for nights dining at Le Bernardin and walks through some of my favorite shopping streets downtown. The other is my “vacation” boyfriend, who flies me to visit him in Brussels every month or so, where we do various fun things around the continent whenever he has the time.
Both of them are married.
My goals, personally, have been to increase my work life until I’m at about 30 hours a week at least, bring my total active investments (on top of my emergency fund) to about $50,000, and eventually go back to school. I will be 30 soon enough, and I know that the way I’m living my life right now isn’t sustainable. Even though there have only been about six men that I’ve seen this way, I know that they have all been a means of escaping into a life that isn’t mine for a while, and delaying something more real. Even the two of the group that have proposed to me in the past (yes, two, I guess I’m hot shit!) haven’t been right, and I knew that. I couldn’t never settle down with one of these older Prince Charmings, because they’re means to an end for me, and I don’t delude myself into thinking I’m much more for them. Even if we did allow ourselves to get swept off our feet and marry, how long could that actually last? I’m not a naive girl. I know that it wouldn’t work.
But in the meantime, their affection is affording me a life I wouldn’t have otherwise. Our temporary relationships are about luxury, escape, and pure fun. They get to feel 20-something again when we’re together, and I get to live a life most people won’t know. We’re all trading on something, and this is my thing.
My closest friends (who know the truth) have asked me before if I would tell a man I met and wanted to be with seriously about this time in my life. The answer is probably no, because I know how harshly society (and therefore most men) would probably judge it. But I also don’t feel ashamed, even though I know many people would think I should. I don’t have the money to live this picture-perfect lifestyle, and my relationships provide that currency in another way. I’m living and enjoying my life, and they’re living and enjoying theirs.
Money is valuable, but maybe youth and beauty are more so.
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