23 December 2010

On marrying rich guys

There's this receptionist at my dentist's office who is both very sweet and very decorative. She also sports one hell of a big rock on her significant left ring finger. She's married to a well-to-do guy about fifteen years older than she is.

     He gave her a set of tires for Christmas.

     She was disappointed.

     Now, in the guy's defense, a good set of tires for your required SUV or Euro import will start at $600, so it's not a cheap gift. And, you can argue that it shows care about her safety and well being. It is undeniably practical.

     It is not, however, the sort of gift that makes a woman's heart beat faster.

     And there's the dilemma. Now, I'm going to launch into a horrible set of generalizations. Many of them will be easy to cite counter examples for, but my arguments are based on my experience and observations. Real life, that is, and that's not easy to come by.
     I have met many women who tell me they want to marry a rich guy. This was annoying, frankly. My financial status varied from destitute to pathetic, followed by a brief gust of prosperity, then back down to solidly middling -- in many ways, the worst spot to be.

     So, when I heard the dozens of women tell me this, their little glittery Cinderella fantasy, I'd get angry. Yes, it is true, I'd think, all women really are whores at the bottoms of their black hearts. Willing to marry for money -- what filthy materialists! Then, when I had some money, I realized it's pretty nice. You can't blame someone for wanting money, as long as it's not the only thing they want. And maybe there's an overwhelming urge, forged in evolutionary psychology, for women to crave security.

     Wealth offers that illusion.

     I put aside my bitterness. Then I also noticed how many women would take up with guys who had no money at all -- musicians, bad boys, or cases like me. My wife, for example, was the soul of generosity when we met.  So, women are not all gold diggers, not at all. Nothing in the universe can be more kind that a loving woman who gives her affections freely.

     So, I've admitted my bias -- that of a guy who's never been particularly rich, and that of one who really likes women.

     In that spirit, ladies, I want to offer you some advice.
Don't marry rich guys. Date them and take them for every penny they have, because I am in solidarity with the great socialism of pussy. But do not marry them. Why?

     Think for a moment about what it takes to become rich. Not that I'm an expert, but I've met several affluent men, read a few books, studied the species. You can rely on me as an objective, outside observer, maybe lacking a certain insider's insight, but yet, with certain exactitude you couldn't get from one on the inside.

     So let's break it down. There are two ways to get rich. You make it. Or you inherit it.

Now, it's a commonly observed fact that trustfunders are generally spoiled and troubled. Probably troubled because they're spoiled. Without any opposition to struggle against and the weight of previous achievement smothering them, they have some massive psychological issues.

     The best you can hope for, really, is some one who takes the philanthropic route -- you know, who founds a foundation or gets heavily into nonprofit work. These guys are no fun, and maybe even earnest vegetarians.   

     Often, they're simply victims of the Puritanical genes that helped fuel their families rise.

     On the other hand, you have the notorious drug addicts, alcoholics, psychos and thrill seekers, probably also the victims of the same risk taking gene that propelled their ancestors to prominence.

     Either way, it'd be a bad deal on a human level.

     Take the fate of poor Carolyn Bessette. She lived the dream in its purest form marrying the prince, John F. Kennedy, Jr. Handsome, smart enough to pass his bar exam after a few tries, a publisher. Really, about the best it could ever get in the rich dude game.

     And what happens? Dude crashes the airplane doing a stupid maneuver.

     You die.

     If you're still not convinced, consider Laura Bush. Now, I hate that fucking pseudo hick George W., but women find him attractive, and he was pretty rich. So you're a librarian, and you see this rich guy, and he likes you. You like reading, and smoking an occasional cig. BAM. Next thing, this guy who no one ever expected to go anywhere except to hell in the bottom of a bottle ends up being governor, then president.

    Pure torture. You'll never be left alone to read Jane Austen for years and years.

Those That Make It
Okay, so much for inheriting it. What about the guys who get rich on their own? Middle class money is not too hard to achieve, but it's not as easy as it looks on the outside. Achieving real wealth is hard.

     "Wealth" of course is a pretty fluid idea. A rich guy might mean a dude with a working truck and roof over his head if you're homeless. Wall Street defined it in typically charming fashion as "fuck you" money -- a while back that was $10 million. So, let's say a rich guy would be one worth more that a million or so.

     To a lowly serf like myself, that seems like a lot of money, but it's not really -- it's enough so you don't worry about basics, but it's still tenuous, still subject to folly, still . . . insecure. (If that seems outrageous, just check out a recent New York Times story about a guy who blew through his $14 million share of a company sale in just a few years. No excesses, except for the fatal one of real estate. That amounted to some ridiculous estate in upstate New York and a place in Somerset -- nothing totally crazy. Otherwise, he got trashed by the stock market.)

     Wealth, even self-important glossy money underscored by Lear jets and lovely homes, can disappear as fast as a genie's dream.

     Still unconvinced? I'll lay out for you what it normally takes to get rich. Sure, you'll hear about a few stories of fairy tale riches. But those are the ones that make the media, because they're fun to talk about and fantasize about. It happens, but so seldom, you can't really factor them in.

     Nope, what it takes to be a millionaire is a lot of hard work, discipline and a certain wealth in connections. Usually. A few years ago, a bestseller came out called The Millionaire Next Door. Its point was that the way most millionaires made their stash is just fucking incredibly boring. They worked a pretty good job. They didn't spend a goddam dollar they absolutely didn't have to. And they invested their money shrewdly. That means: a modest house. A modest car. No designer clothes. And tires for Christmas. And flowers three times a year, tops (unless you found those ATM receipts from the local strip joint in his pants).

      So that's one route.

      The guys who start their own businesses also have to be obsessed for it to go. (That counts the same for businesses that fail, too.) They have to put all their brains, time and sweat into the enterprise, or it isn't going to take off.
     That's not fun, either. Unless you share that obsession, then you could be very happy -- but that's not really the fantasy benefits of marrying a rich guy, is it? Working 60 hours a week making the auto repair shop or the liquor store or the software company go?

     And here's another dirty little secret -- the more boring the business, the greater the likelihood that it will succeed. Because most people want to do cool things, like start a restaurant or a graphic design firm or, hell, a boutique. Bad idea. Because lots of other cool, smart people want to do the same exact thing, and there's only so many buyers interested in your designs, your amuse bouches, or your take on Marc Jacobs.

      The real-life millionaires I've met made their money in such glamorous fields as software design, mechanical engineering, retailing minerals, restoring cars, repairing cars, or slicing and dicing demographic information. Still awake?

     Okay, you say, forget the entrepreneurs -- how about a nice professional in law or medicine?

Same deal, only they work in a clinic or law office. Worse, they are surrounded by women in there. Women who are often driven, Machiavellian and, particularly in the legal field, amoral. Nurses are an even bigger threat, because they are both smart and very caring. Who wants that kind of person taking your prospective hubby's emotional temperature? By the way, one of the jobs where people cheat the most? Nursing. (And real estate, too, something I didn't mention as a path to wealth because all those guys are sucking wind just now.)

Or, Up the Ladder?

     Another route is corporate America. Now, the system is brutal, but mixed. At the top levels, though, there is often a layer of sociopathic behavior that is breathtaking. Being a corporate honcho means you're willing to sacrifice just about anything -- partners, the people who work for you, your weekends and evenings -- to make it. Often, you'll notice, that list includes the first wife. Or the second. If you hook this dude, you'll have to have some mad discipline of your own.

     Not all the guys at the top of the pyramid are total assholes. But, and in my experience, this is universally true: they are all mindfuckers. I use the term mindfucking very precisely. Trying out synonyms like games players or manipulators or teases doesn't match the behavior. They like to dismantle, test and mess with your mental and emotional gears, find what strings to pull and then, for sport, yank them. Hard. That is, if they care about you for some reason, which usually translates into wanting something from you even if it's just a little bloodsport over single malts.

     Imagine that mentality put to work on you during some nasty spat about, oh, a credit card bill or the pool boy.


     So I'd say follow your heart's affections. Leave the gold digging to the professionals -- and if that's your gig, more power to you. Money comes and goes: just ask Madoff's victims. Or Madoff's wife for that matter. If your marriage fails -- and more than half do -- it will fail for reasons that won't embarrass you. And who knows, that shaggy haired layabout might even make a cent or two.

    After all, as Hemingway said, what you get, you pay for.

    And at least you'll have some fun along the way.

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