Mistress/Demimondaine/Gold-Digger — Nice Role Model!

Gigi (1958 film)
Image via Wikipedia

I recently watched a classic film, the 1958 “Gigi”, directed by Vincente Minelli (father of Liza), starring Leslie Caron in the title role. You may have heard its best-known song, “Thank Heaven For Little Girls.”

I had no idea it carried all the emotional richness of a rancher looking across a feedlot — the singer is an aging roue looking for the latest crop of fresh, desperate ingenues to seduce and abandon. Nice.

The story is the careful, deliberate grooming of Gigi, an impoverished Parisian turn-of-the-2oth-century teenager, teaching her the skills she’ll need to snag and keep a rich man’s attention: pouring tea, flattery, lighting his cigar, laughing prettily at his jokes.

It’s assumed she’ll never marry, but can, and must, ride the coat-tails of his wealth and generosity.

It’s based on a novel by Colette and portrays the world of the demimondaines, literally those living in the “half world”, women living by their wits, charm and beauty on the margins of polite, bourgeois society — the one in which men marry the right women and dally with the rest.

A new memoir, Sugarbabe, by Australian writer Holly Hill, describes her own life in this world.

From Random House’s website:

“Attractive, professional, well-spoken, well-dressed 35-year-old woman seeks sugar daddy. I live in Darlinghurst on a 17th floor unit with fantastic skyline views to the harbour. The unit also features very discreet and secure undercover guest parking. I am looking for exclusivity so will (theoretically) be available to you 24 x 7. I am single and don’t have any children. I am also a fabulous cook and can provide gourmet meals should you require them. I am a qualified psychologist so I make an excellent listener, and I have a great love of conversation. I have also worked for many years in public relations so am a clever, charming companion in just about any situation. I love sex. I will require a generous weekly allowance in return for all of the above”.
Holly Hill (pseudonym) gave up her job at the behest of her wealthy boyfriend – and then found herself dumped and penniless. After spending six weeks in bed pining for her lost love, she was encouraged by a friend to be ‘open-minded’ about her career choices – and ended up placing an online ad for a sugar daddy. She received an almost overwhelming response from all sorts of men, but most of them were married men whose wives had lost interest in sex.
As Holly interviewed the men and settled on a candidate, she decided to record what happened next. Those almost-daily observations became a journal documenting Holly’s extraordinary experiences – not just the men she meets, but the things she finds out about marriages, in particular, and what men need from them.
SUGARBABE is her real-life account of the emails, meetings, employment of and interactions with the applicants for the role, and the five men she eventually chooses (not all at the same time!).

Should women take guys for whatever they can get?

Gentlemen, how do you feel about women who survive largely on the generosity of wealthy men?

7 thoughts on “Mistress/Demimondaine/Gold-Digger — Nice Role Model!

  1. Desargues

    Much like P.T. Barnum, I sort of think it’s a shame not to help certain suckers part with their money.

    But this woman seems to have a lot of natural and acquired advantages. In a world that still (unfairly) over-values such things, she’s white and attractive. She was lucky enough — and hard-working, I presume — to acquire a good education. She’s not stupid, I imagine. So what’s her excuse for not succeeding on her own, by means of her own talents?

  2. Desargues

    Also: the demimonde was the medium half-way between between ‘le monde,’ the world, or social milieu, that solely mattered, and the ‘underworld,’ where the right people never went. It was the world of the semi-respectables.

  3. john

    Hmm. My cynical side agrees with Desargues, absolutely. But then my 14-yr-old side, the one that believes in love and all that stuff, says maybe not.

    A woman named Emma Goldman is attributed with the following quote, “If love does not know how to give and take without restrictions, it is not love, but a transaction that never fails to lay stress on a plus and a minus.”

    Your question seems to preclude love and takes for granted that relationships between men and women distill into transactions. Obviously, the larger issue here is one of survival and rightly pointing out that a woman is well within here right and ability to game the system back in her favor. I’m sure that there are fair number of people out there who choose to live like this. But that said, there is not a romantic among them. . . and personally, I find that rather sad.

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    I personally don’t preclude love….but I have met a few women like this and wonder, certainly in a lousy economy, what compromises are being made to get the bills paid.

    I think the unspoken issue in many relationships (which may not be classically ‘romantic’ but usually still present) is what the underlying transactions are — beyond, and of course ideally in addition to, love. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive and perhaps a little more clarity and candor about seeing and acknowledging ‘the deal’ — her paycheck, your athletic prowess, her cooking, your parenting skills, his beauty, her intelligence, etc. — aren’t so bad. Or perhaps mystery is preferable.

    You can adore your partner, and that’s the best, but each of us makes our marital and romantic choices for a variety of reasons. One usually must give something up, so what is being gained?

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