Frustrated with her stalled career as a broadcast journalist in London and uninspired by naive and needy guys her own age, Helen Croydon joins a website to seek an older man.
She only expects it to be a few fun dates in some fancy bars, but finds herself propelled into a world of Prada shopping trips, fine dining, first-class travel and fascinating, powerful men.
But underneath the glamor, Helen discovers a secret world of men who are prepared to pay for girlfriends – men so busy they consider cash and gifts a surer way of maintaining a relationship than emotional investment.
Helen Croydon’s confessional memoir, Sugar Daddy Diaries: When a Fantasy Became an Obsession (Mainstream, 2011) charts Helen’s journey as she set out to explore her penchant for older men.
So where has it taken her?
I spoke with her recently to find out.
Here's an edited version of our interview:
GlobalPost: When did you develop your penchant for older men?
Helen: I have always had an affinity for older men. I was always quite embarrassed about it, actually. My friends were into guys that looked like they’d stepped out of a boy band and I seemed to be the odd one out. In university, I was a bit of a prude when it came to sex. But when I was 29 and just came out of a stifling relationship, something changed. I felt like I discovered my sex drive. I wanted to experiment, I wanted the thrill of dating, the dinners, romance…
And 30-year-old men couldn’t keep up?
Younger men bored me. I had a huge crush on my older boss at work and that ignited the fantasy to meet somebody older, sophisticated – I imagined sipping a martini in a fancy bar over intelligent conversation. But working in the media with mostly young people, I never had access to these men, so I joined SugarDaddie.com. For three years, I was like a kid in a candy store. Men who were interesting and they didn’t try to tie me down. I never knew this whole ‘culture of allowances’ even existed. I never imagined men paid women for something that I was happy do for free.
You wrote a book about your adventures with sugar daddies, using your real name. How has that changed your life?
I was bracing myself for all kinds of reactions. I kept my sugar daddy dating quite secret before and it was a big decision to use my own name. But I felt comfortable enough that my story went deeper than anecdotal dating stories to use my real name and the response was surprisingly positive. Men don’t view me any differently than before. Friends don’t. Perhaps my mum and sister feel strange about it. They just avoid talking about it.
You are now 34. In the US, sugar daddy dating websites have become popular for much younger women. Some female college students use the “allowances” from sugar daddies to pay for college. How do you feel about that?
I wouldn’t recommend it. Not so much because of their ages, but because the motivation should never be “you want to pay for college.” Yes, I accepted material gifts, too, but there were a lot of steps that led me there. I was doing it primarily for the thrill of adventure and to meet somebody interesting. The money was a side effect. Women who get into this for money are doomed for failure.
You are British, but you had a chance to meet a lot of different nationalities of men in London. What did you think about the American sugar daddies?
I noticed that the Americans were far more comfortable with the idea of an 'arrangement' as it is called in that world. They accepted - tacitly or openly - that in order to secure the luxury of youth and femininity within a low-maintenance relationship, there is price for that. British men would dither and stall and ramble on about how they didn't want to pay cash allowances because it makes it 'something else'. American men never considered the idea of paying for a woman disparaging. I think that is a result of Americans generally having more emotional awareness. My heart would lift if I was contacted by a New York banking high flier because I knew there was a high chance he would be emotionally articulate, open and not too hung up on his own ego to be generous with the 'arrangement'.
A lot of people are saying that terms like “dating arrangements“ and “compensated dating” contribute to the doom of traditional long-term relationships. With all the choices people have today, do you think traditional relationships are doomed?
They are doomed if we try to fit them into the very restrictive mold. We live in a much more autonomous era, yet we still expect our relationships to be like they were in 1950s. We have become consumed by the fairytale that our husband needs to be this person of all things: somebody to go on holidays with, to share a house with, to have sex with, somebody to fix things, be at our side at all times… There is this idea that if you date somebody, or marry them, you own them. You clam your claws into them. At first, it’s all wooing and romance and the next thing you know they are demanding you must call them every day from a business trip and tell them who you are having drinks with. But why? Why the compromise? If you like to go skiing and your partner prefers the beach, why wouldn’t you just go separately? We need to change relationships to fit the world we live in.
How do you envision your perfect relationship now, after everything you have tried already?
I’ve done it all already. That’s the irony of it. It’s almost impossible to impress me now. I just keep thinking: ’Gosh, I have done this before.’ All of the adventures have left me pretty disillusioned with dating. Now, I would only date somebody who would completely blow me away. Somebody who would blow my mind. I always give the same advice to anybody: If somebody doesn’t give you butterflies, you are better off alone.