During a post movie watching critique session of THE NOTEBOOK (It was the first time I had seen it- I know I live in a box- whatever, it is done now.) the other night, a male friend posed this question, “Why is it in romantic movies it is the scruffy, working class male who gets involved with the high class daughter of a wealthy family? You rarely see the revers.” We pondered this and could only name one film where the socio-economic roles of the lovers were reversed (in love stories where there is an economic disparity).
As a possible solution, I offered up the concept that when women are the party on the low end of the economic stick it is considered “gold digging” if she gets involved with a wealthy man. That is almost like saying she is a prostitute in our culture.
Although I am a big proponent of both men and women having some source of income in order to feel independent in a relationship AND I feel that staying in a bad relationship for the sake of access to money or financial stability (an illusion) is horrific and demoralizing,it is important to remember that income is only one factor in a relationship and should be considered as such.
Money is an important subject in the dating arena but like sex, it is a taboo topic of conversation. And just like sex, money or the lack there of can be a deal breaker.
I had a few conversations with a potential date recently about money. He is a doctor and I am a freelance writer/yoga teacher. He expressed a concern about being pursued solely for his income. Seeing as how he knew nothing about me, I forgave him for suggesting that that might be the case with me since our incomes were so utterly far apart and said something about how character is more important to me than income (leaving out the part that someone with more attractive character might be more tactful and get to know me better rather than making such a statement). But frankly I get tired of defending my choice to date men with higher incomes than mine- which would include anyone whose annual income exceeds that of an third world factory worker.
I have been accused, more than once, of being a gold digger for that very reason. It is true, I have dated some wealthy men in my life. But if I didn’t marry the guy with the ten million dollar trust fund, the guy who had twenty-six million dollars in the bank from a very sweet business deal or the brain surgeon with an income of almost seven figures annually (and no kids), WHY on earth would I marry a man who was bringing in around $350,000.00 annually simply FOR HIS MONEY!?!?! Plus my track record shows that I tend to marry financially challenged men.
I get that no one wants to be pursued solely for their money just like no one wants to be pursued solely for sex. But it is a sticky situation. I am offended when men seem to focus on sex when they pursue me but conversely I want any potential long term partner to find me sexually attractive. I want him to like that part of me as well as other attributes. How much money you have is part of the total package rather than a singular motivation for a relationship.
Marilyn Monroe had a brilliant line as Lorelei Lee in Gentleman Prefer Blonds regarding being accused of being a gold digger by the father of the rich man she wants to marry:
Lorelei Lee: If you had a daughter would you want her to marry someone poor?
Mr. Esmond Sr. (Father of Rich Man): Of course.
Lorelei Lee: Then why is it bad when I want to marry someone rich? Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?
Mr. Esmond Sr.: Say, they told me you were stupid! You certainly don’t seem stupid to me!
Lorelei Lee: I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.
After years of struggling as the wife of an alcoholic with an income constantly in flux and teetering on the brink of financial ruin, then scraping by as a single mom, of course financial stability is a requirement in a potential mate. But it is far from a singular motivation to be with someone.