Brave girl, no? LOL!
- Helen was a middle-class girl from a loving family in small-town Cheshire
- But six years ago, she joined dating website sugardaddie.com
- She started meeting super-rich men who would pay for her company
- And she quickly grew addicted to a glamorous life of luxury
By HELEN CROYDON
At the airport I was met by a uniformed chauffeur and driven in a Mercedes to one of Manhattan’s finest hotels. I was checking in when Greg, the man with whom I was to spend the next three days, tapped me on the shoulder and greeted me with a big smile and warm hug.
Thankfully, he was as attractive in person as he had looked during our Skype calls.
It was the summer of 2007 and I was on a blind date with a 42-year-old Canadian property developer who had paid for my return flight from London and the hotel. All I had to do was turn up and hope chemistry would take care of the rest.
I was dressed casually in cut-off jeans, a summer shirt and flat shoes, and carrying a battered old suitcase that looked horribly at odds with the luxury lobby. With a kind smile, Greg said: ‘I’ll let you go to the room alone and settle in.’
He had sent me an email two months earlier after seeing my details on sugar daddie.com – a website that puts wealthy, professional men in touch with women willing to spend time with them.
We had Skyped several times, but I knew very little about Greg beyond the fact that he competed in triathlons and was newly single after a ten-year relationship.
All he knew about me was that I was 29, lived in London, was a TV news producer and new to internet dating. He was darkskinned, muscular and clean shaven. I felt excited and nervous in equal measure about my first international blind date.
I was in the mood for impulsive romance, but also taking my first perilous steps into a world where money and sex, not love and respect, are the currency of a relationship.
If anyone had told me six years ago that I’d be dating a man who, in return, gave me a four-figure monthly allowance in cash, I would have laughed in their face or given them an indignant slap.
But for two years that’s exactly what I did. More shockingly, I did it with three men, two of them simultaneously, and became addicted to a dating lifestyle of Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury travel. I couldn’t imagine wanting a full-time, committed relationship ever again.
So how did I, a middle-class woman from a stable, loving family in a small Cheshire town, become embroiled in this morally dubious world?
Six years ago, I typed ‘older men, younger women dating’ into an internet search engine. I didn’t want a serious or full-time boyfriend, having recently ended a three-year relationship. I simply wanted to meet men I found sophisticated and entertaining, without any obligations.
My ex-boyfriend was 29 (the same age as me), an out-of-work actor who did a lot of ‘resting’ while I worked hard in TV news. We drifted apart and I decided to see what else life had to offer me.
I’d always enjoyed the company of older men. I find experience and worldly wisdom are potent aphrodisiacs, and older men are more emotionally articulate than younger men, who seemed gauche and uninspiring by comparison.
So I joined sugardaddie.com and wrote on my profile: ‘I’m an attractive blonde, bored with men my own age. I want to enjoy the company of an older, wiser, more distinguished and more confident man.’
I went into the experience with my eyes open. I knew the man would bring money and power to the equation and he might expect sex in return, but I could make up my own mind how far I wanted to go.
I had led a sheltered life into my 20s, and at university I was quite prudish. This was the first time I’d felt aware of my sexuality and curious to explore it.
My first date, in May 2007, took me to a champagne bar in London. He was 45, newly divorced and attractive, but I had no interest in seeing him a second time.
After that, the dates were plentiful. I went to high-end restaurants and luxury bars with bankers, lawyers and businessmen.
I met more than 50 men over three years, though only six liaisons became physical. Some men were married and seeking a ‘discreet relationship’, but I chose not to answer their emails. I didn’t want to become someone’s dirty secret.
One of my dates told me the last two women he’d met through the site had demanded an allowance of £2,000 a month on their first dates. Perhaps naively, I was shocked.
‘What I didn’t see as I was tottering out of five-star hotels in Louboutin heels with more cash in my purse than I knew what to do with was how these experiences were warping my view of relationships.’
Then I received an email proposition that read: ‘Looking for weekly dinner/theatre companion with weekend trips abroad – can help with rent.’
I deleted the message, but I was intrigued. The money would certainly have come in handy, given my modest media salary.
Three months later, Greg invited me to New York. On a walk on our first evening, he said: ‘I’d like to buy you something.’ I smiled awkwardly, but he was insistent.
‘Who’s your favourite fashion designer?’ he asked. I didn’t dare tell him I was a Topshop girl. But he grabbed my hand and took me to the Prada boutique.
I was ushered into a changing room with a glass of champagne and a red dress, black leather and velvet panel dress, tailored trousers and silk shirt. Greg wanted to buy all four for me. It was flattering, but unnerving.
I was stunned when the bill came to $12,000 (about £7,900). I wondered what the shop staff thought of me, cooing over clothes I couldn’t possibly afford.
People will, of course, draw parallels with prostitution. All I can say is I went to New York with no expectations, material or otherwise. I saw it as an adventure.
But it was not without its darker side. The weekend was on Greg’s terms from the minute he produced his charge card. He held the power; I had none.
We didn’t have sex that evening, but only because I had jet lag and couldn’t stay awake.
When we made love the next morning, it was because I wanted to just as much as Greg did. We never met again – it had been an exciting one-off experience, but neither of us expected more.
After that, I found it easier to accept gifts from my dates. In a sense, a normal relationship is an exchange of intimacy and emotional support for exclusivity and companionship.
Instead, my dates compensated materially for what they couldn’t offer emotionally. In that context, being paid a monthly allowance didn’t seem shocking to me.
In August 2008, I met Matthew, a divorced 49-year-old advertising executive from Chicago. He emailed me one evening when he was working in London and invited me for drinks at the Dorchester hotel. We drank martinis and chatted about American politics.
Eventually he asked if I’d like to continue the evening in his hotel room. I agreed, but we didn’t have sex. Matthew didn’t want to rush things, so we just slept together. Next morning, he handed me an envelope bulging with £50 notes.
Of course, many women would have been insulted, but I felt flattered. I had chosen to spend the night with Matthew and enjoyed it, and now he was happy to pay me for my company. Where’s the insult in that?
Matthew became my first proper sugar daddy. He visited London four times a year and I’d spend at least one night with him each time.
He always gave me money, but to me it wasn’t prostitution because I would have dated him anyway.
The money was a bonus, but it wasn’t my incentive. Over the next two years, I had two more paying sugar daddies from the website.
When Matthew and I fizzled out, his replacement was a 42-year-old Malaysian divorcé. He visited London four times a year and I stayed with him in his hotel. I also stayed with him at his home in Kuala Lumpur on three occasions.
Our affair lasted two years. He told me: ‘If I have a friend I want to spend time with and they can’t afford to do the things I want to do, I would pay for them. This is no different.’
Then there was a 38-year-old hedge fund manager who worked 18-hour days. I asked him on our first date why he used the website.
He replied: ‘When I have to call at 7pm to cancel dinner because I’m stuck in the office, I really am stuck in the office – and I can’t expect a conventional girlfriend to tolerate that.’
He gave me a pre-paid Selfridge’s store card so I could dress well when we met, but we dated for only three months because I found him too controlling.
I never feared any of the men would turn nasty or violent. We always got to know each other a little on the phone and by email before we met, and my instincts are sound. If I had the faintest doubt about a man, I never saw him again.
What I didn’t see as I was tottering out of five-star hotels in Louboutin heels with more cash in my purse than I knew what to do with was how these experiences were warping my view of relationships.
Whenever a genuine, well-meaning man in the real world showed any interest in me, I was dismissive. On occasional ‘normal’ dates, it felt as if some vital frisson was missing.
But after two years, the thrill began to fade. In Brussels with Matthew one evening, I looked at the other couples in the restaurant – men and women in real relationships – and felt a terrible hollowness. I couldn’t hide from the mercenary reality of what I was doing.
I stopped dating sugar daddies three years ago, and last year I met a man who is 11 years older than me and with whom I am in a happy relationship.
We met through work – I’m now a journalist, he’s in public relations. He knew about my sugar daddy experiences because he had read my book about them and understands how I was drawn in by the allure of whirlwind romance. He says what I did ‘is just a small part of the jigsaw’ of who I am.
It was hard for me to adapt to a conventional relationship at first. I felt burdened by the responsibility of being someone’s full-time girlfriend, but I also enjoyed the freedom to be myself and the feeling that power was shared equally between us.
I’m now convinced that girls who become involved with sugar daddies risk damaging psychological consequences.
The flattery I felt was an illusion. The men were generous and respectful, but there was no love or understanding, nothing I could rely on or count as real.
What once seemed a fascinating youthful adventure was, in the end, bleak, unsatisying and desperately depressing.
Culled from dailymail.co.uk