*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission. Names have been changed.
It was a rainy day. Pete approached me in the cafe where I was writing. He told some jokes. I let him sit down. He was at least ten years younger than me. He confessed that he liked to date older women.
I was single at the time and open to new experiences. Pete invited me to a bar to meet some friends. We set out on foot to walk there. Huddling under my umbrella to keep us dry, the mist around was still romantic.
Pete suddenly stopped in front of a shoe store to ogle the expensive sneakers in the window. Then he did something that made my mouth drop open. He asked me if I’d buy him a pair.
“Um, no,” I said, and he laughed. I thought it was just another one of his jokes. But it also made my BS detector light up. Maybe I shouldn’t have accepted Pete’s offer to get a drink.
But look, the bar was right next door to the shoe store. Let’s just go inside. It was raining out, after all. His friends were already seated — two of them. We made our way to their table.
One friend was also a writer, Pete had said. The writer friend and I talked shop while Pete ordered beers. He threw back a couple quickly. Suddenly, he swung his arm around my shoulder.
“I’m falling in love with you,” he said.
I realized that it was definitely a bad idea to have come here with him. Yes, I was single and a bit lonely, but this time I didn’t think what he’d said was a joke. Or if it was a joke, I didn’t like his sense of humor. Pete was coming off not as “funny haha” but funny effing weird.
Time to jump ship. I asked the waiter if I could pay for the single beer I’d drunk.
“Can you pay for mine too,” Pete said.
“My ex-girlfriend always did. She paid for everything.”
“No,” I said, feeling humiliated that I’d allowed myself to be lured here with him, that I hadn’t made my stage right exit back when he’d asked me to buy him shoes. It hadn’t been a joke at all. He was feeling me out for how generous I was — if he could actually make me buy something for him.
I wasn’t rich at the time but I had enough to pay my own bills and then some. His move was deliberate. He was profiling me. He was a freeloader — perhaps even a gold-digger.
Maybe you’re like, “Wait, men can’t be gold-diggers!” Think again. Thanks to an article I recently read by Medium writer Vanessa Torre on the subject, I learned that men can be gold-diggers, too. According to Torre’s research, “…men (54%) are more likely to be gold diggers than women (46%).”
What? How? Torre writes this is because today’s women “not only make what their male counterparts make but in several places, they actually outearn them.”
While Torre asserts that a gender pay gap does still exist, “keep in mind that the gap widens with age as that whole family/kid thing is usually what tanks a woman’s earning potential.”
But women are now waiting till later to get married and have children. A good chunk of their adult years is instead spent on their careers.
Sure, the Boomer woman was much more likely to marry men for money because society pushed her to wed young, become a mother, and stay home with the kids. This hindered her ability to bring in her own income.
Society has changed. But while the female gold-digger may be in decline, the male gold-digger may just be getting started.
As more women become even more independent in the coming years, women will need men even less to survive. The danger of hooking up with a male gold-digger may only increase. All women can do is educate themselves to avoid freeloading men, like I did Pete.