No, this is not quite the Manga fairy-tale you might be thinking of. But we do have the real life answer to “How Sweet is a Sugar Daddy?”
On their first date, Kelly — a first-year master’s student — explained that she wasn’t looking for anything serious. “I was relieved when he said he wasn’t either,” Kelly says. “He was just out of a relationship, and he was twice my age. I kind of breathed a sigh of relief when he said he wanted something more casual.”
That’s when her date — an attorney — offered to pay for her meal and her train ticket back to her apartment. The next date, he let her borrow his luxury car for a weekend. On the third, he surprised her with an expensive Birkin bag she had mentioned seeing on her favorite TV show. And on the eighth date — about a month later — he wrote her a check to cover her rent.
Kelly, who opted to withhold her last name, admits she was pretty naïve about the whole thing. Looking back nearly nine years later, she explains, “He was rich. I was a poor grad student. I thought that this was how it was supposed to go. He was lonely and wanted someone to be with when he had a rare night off from his job. And in return for being together, I got to enjoy some of the perks.”
The “perks” during their 18-month, on-and-off relationship included vacations to Europe and Hawaii, a new car, rent for 17 months, her last semester’s tuition bill paid in full, maid service for her apartment, designer clothing, access to a premier car-rental service, and box tickets to concerts and sporting events. When asked how much she thought her boyfriend spent on her in total, Kelly estimates that it was well into the $500,000 range.
The History Behind Sugar Daddies
In popular culture, we often call this a sugar-daddy or sugar-mommy relationship. The term “sugar daddy” has its origins in a similar story: A wealthy candy-company owner married someone 24 years younger than him. He coined the nickname and named a chocolate candy after it, and it stuck.
Sugar daddies and mommies have had a sort of rebirth in recent years. Shows like Sex and the City portray upper-middle-class women marrying men with means. Reality shows like Real Housewives paint a somewhat realistic picture of how it actually happens.
Meanwhile, sites like AshleyMadison.com promote this type of lifestyle for both men and women seeking a relationship with benefits. And of course, the ultimate example of a sugar daddy in popular culture is Christian of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Sugar Babies Beware
While our culture may glamorize sugar babies' lifestyle, it’s not always as great as it’s made to seem.
Kelly’s relationship with the affluent attorney went downhill. “There was always this feeling that I owed him something,” she says.
“He would hand me a check for my rent, but then he would add some demand, like I had to wear a certain dress or talk a certain way. I had to make him dinner, but it had to be done in a particular way. It became controlling and, honestly, scary.”
Kelly also notes that the items that he upgraded for her — such as her apartment and car — became burdens for her when the relationship ended. When the checks stopped, she was financially responsible for the leases, as well as the related taxes and pricey utilities. When a robber broke into her apartment, her insurance refused to pay for the stolen jewelry that her sugar daddy had given to her because she had failed to get the proper coverage for luxury items.
Eventually, Kelly had to sell her car, her clothing, and the Birkin bag to keep up with the rent while she finished an internship and secured a full-time job. She describes the post-breakup period of her life as humiliating and tiring. “He would still come around, and when he saw I was selling everything, he only got angrier and more possessive,” she says. “To this day, I wonder if he is keeping up with me and my life. Money can buy you a lot of power over a person. It can be terrifying to look over your shoulder.”
Be Smart If You're Looking for a Sugar Daddy
Kelly has a word of caution for people thinking of entering into such relationships: Get to know the person before accepting or giving large expensive gifts.
Each party should know the boundaries and expectations. Kelly also recommends having a trusted friend or two who are in the know, in case something goes wrong.Plus, make sure that you understand the tax implications of accepting large sums of money or gifts and that you document every item that has a value of more than $1,000.
Having a sugar daddy is best done when you are financially stable and have confidence in your future. After all, dependence on a rich partner should never be your financial plan, regardless of how many gifts he gives you.