“We’ll have holidays in the Maldives.” Now there’s a pickup line. Aside from him being quite attractive in the dim light of my local student club, he also seemed intelligent and mature. He wasn’t a student himself. He’d graduated from the same university, though, and was back visiting friends. I thought it was cool that he had so much to say about his job as an “exploration geologist” working in Zambia – who doesn’t want to go on a luxury holiday with a handsome guy they just met? No, he didn’t ask me anything about myself, but I casually ignored that.
We never made it as far as that holiday. But the wealthy new man in my life did treat me to expensive dinners and shopping trips in which I felt guilty over every purchase. In return for working eight weeks out of every ten in an isolated part of rural Africa, he was making around $40,000 per month with options to rise up the ranks even further over the next few years.
From the way he made it sound, he owned half the residential properties in the small Irish town where he was from. He was 27. And I was bowled over.
I’d only ever dated fellow students. You know, first dates at Nando’s, that sort of thing. But I was on a different level of “craic” (Irish slang for fun) with my Irishman. We lived it up when he was on the same continent, and he changed flight plans specifically to spend more time with me. I felt very special — and a little intimidated. When he was away, we kept in touch via Facebook, and that felt romantic too.
Unfortunately, he also had a problem. I remember a distinct occasion where we visited one of his friends. The friend was casually taking a line up his nose in his bedroom when my boyfriend asked if I wanted to try. I didn’t. Apparently, that made them feel awkward. Without my knowledge, my boyfriend had agreed that we would be joining his friend, and now I was being difficult. He insisted that it would be a good time, but I stuck to my guns and left on my own. He followed a little later.
Putting that incident aside, he continued to spoil me, which made it easy to ignore the snide comments he made about other people. For example, he described retail workers as lazy and said things like, “you can tell how classy someone is by their shoes.” I felt self-conscious in my comfy trainers. I began to wonder why he was with me when I wasn’t particularly ambitious, or rich, or “classy” in my choice of footwear. But I was smart and crooned over him in appreciation of his generosity, so I suppose that was enough for him.
Looking back, we didn’t actually have anything in common. But I was 22 and in love with the feeling of “high status.” I got a bit lost in the fantasy of how things could be.
Over time, his little comments and indulgences started to grate on my nerves. I realized that he actually wasn’t a very nice person. I know that “nice” is one of those words that can mean whatever you need it to mean, so let me be clear: He was downright nasty at times. It became obvious that his job and relative wealth was a huge basis for his identity and he lived in a sort of ivory tower. He looked down on others as inferior.
He was a rich man stereotype and didn’t seem to know it.
So yes, while he treated me fairly well (when he wasn’t pressuring me to try drugs or have more alcohol, that is), I started to see his unkindness as a genuine turn-off. He was rude to a taxi driver once. I’m British — that is not okay. He also casually mentioned that he had hired prostitutes before and didn’t understand why I found that alarming. I made excuses for him, yet I kind of knew that his callous behavior wasn’t something I could change or tolerate in the long-term. I called it off after a few more months, and he responded that he found my attitude “off-putting” and that I was insecure. So, I guess it was a mutual decision?
He occasionally tried to make contact over social media in the years that followed, but I ghosted it. I’m sure I’ll make my own way to the Maldives eventually. I wonder if he liked me, in part, because I didn’t threaten his identity. If I had also commanded a similar income, would it have upset the dynamic? I know he enjoyed having someone to lavish his wealth on, but I wonder if he could have had a relationship with a woman on an equal material footing. There’s much to be said for how our partners behave around other people, and how far they treat their income as an excuse to feel better than others. I also feel that, sooner or later, his disrespectful attitude would have turned to me as well.
I don’t want to throw shade at people who earn a lot of money. I think that’s great. It’s obviously important to not let it go to your head, though. I learned that earning a lot of money can start to dictate your behavior if you’re not careful. While it’s good to enjoy your wealth, you should always be mindful of the good fortune you’ve had. I don’t believe career success is ever a result of pure choice. It’s always a combination of decisions and circumstances. And as the old adage says, “money can’t buy class.”
I wish I could say my experience isn’t representative of what it’s like to date a much richer person in general, but as I’ve only dated people who are somewhat wealthier than I am, I don’t know either way. I can imagine him saying I’ve gone back to my comfort zone, and I would agree with him there. I’m happier for it — and I still wear my trainers all the time.
Siobhan is a digital nomad who can be found exploring the Austrian Alps in her spare time, whilst touting the financial benefits of a vegan lifestyle. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @siobhan_writer. DM Siobhan for tips on creating a work-life balance on your own terms.
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