At the outset, let me point out emphatically that I have no first-hand knowledge or experience of today’s subject. What I shall share is based on readings; conversations, observations and various other sources.
I have been happily married for close to 50 years and do not need to know about the intricacies of the subject. It comes from a conversation I overheard between two females talking about someone referred to as a “gold-digger.” That label provides a reasonable clue as to her mission. What intrigued me was her willing companion. Do we still have “sugar daddies” like those back in the day?
Anyone not familiar with the term sugar daddy should reflect on Tina Turner’s hit, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” For the sugar daddy and the younger female he supports, love has absolutely nothing to do with it. The significant ingredient in the relationship is money. Some of you may remember relationships between older men and younger women where the women held jobs that did not support their fast-paced trendy lifestyles. They were usually well dressed, living in the right postal zones and driving relatively new automobiles. The older gentlemen were always around. It was not unusual for sugar daddies to live respectable lives across town, in a marriage of many years, but maintaining a secret young lover on the other side of town. Because the sugar daddy was never around on a permanent basis, we always thought they were relatives or very good friends. Sometimes these women lived in the same home as the older men. We thought they were daughters, but in actuality they were live-in lovers; the recipients of financial support from their sugar daddies. Such relationships were quite popular back in the day.
Conditions of the past made the sugar daddy more prevalent. Just reflect on the conditions of women back then. In the ’50s and ’60s, women were not in the job market as they are today. They did not have the well-paying jobs that many women now have. Women did not demonstrate the independence we see today. They were not out on the town unescorted, as they often are today. Even their going into a bar was through a special entrance. Thus, if they wanted some of the things women take for granted today, they turned to someone who had money and who would assume financial responsibility for them; ergo, the sugar daddy. His involvement did not stop with providing food and clothing. In some relationships the financial support included “walking around money.” Obviously, it took a certain type of man and woman to participate in such a relationship. Unfortunately, there was nothing permanent in the relationship. Yet, it was understood that she would be available at any time and for any purpose desired by the sugar daddy. When we observed an older man and a younger woman dining together, attending a play, sporting event or some other social activity, we concluded it was a sugar daddy relationship.
Several acquaintances tell me they may have helped their girlfriends financially in the past; however, they never qualified as sugar daddies. The reason, quite simply, was that they did not have the financial means. On the other hand, if they had had those resources, most confessed they would have had no trouble being a sugar daddy. They felt a sugar daddy relationship would have been less stressful, the rules would have been clear, the payout predictable, the benefits predetermined — and there would have been no surprises. Writer Nathan Koppel recently reported in the Huffington Post a rise in sugar daddy relationships. He recounted an interview with Brandon Wade, the CEO of SeekingArrangement.com, a website that facilitates sugar daddy relationships. Wade, who holds engineering and graduate business degrees from MIT, views such relationships as healthier and less exploitative than more traditional ones. He claims there is chemistry involved and not a one-time exchange of money for a “bedroom relationship.” He says it is not much different from a rich husband or boyfriend giving money to a wife or girlfriend. Now, I know most of our readers are not buying this view. The one person who confessed to being a sugar daddy some years ago pointed out that while he has no experience with such relationships today, he emphatically stated that they are not always good; or more specifically, that they were good and benefited both parties until they came to an end. The one who benefits from the sugar daddy’s finances, the person known as the “sugar baby,” does not always go quietly. Sugar babies age and sugar daddies die. So what happens to the sugar baby, particularly, when the process of aging makes her less desirable, if not obsolete? I know some of you have seen automobiles that were “keyed” and convertible tops cut. Some of you have been to funerals where the sugar baby sits in the rear of the church while the deceased sugar daddy’s wife and family, sit in the front pew. What, then, is the future of a well-financed sugar baby? This question can be easily answered by examining their lifestyles from back in the day. In many instances, they have become “has-beens” and faded into the sunset.
No discussion of the sugar daddy of the past can ignore the emergence of the “cougars” of today with their companions, or what has become known as their “cubs.” You must be wearing blinders if you are not aware of the trend of older women dating significantly younger men. These women’s companions are generally at least 15 years younger. Such age differences are not unusual. AARP The Magazine in February 2008 published an article by Jessica Leshnoff, entitled “Cougars and Their Cubs” which delved into this subject. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps people age 50 and over have independence and improve their lives. Using interviews with “cougars” who did not wish to be identified, Leshnoff points out that increasingly, they are widowed, separated or divorced, and are seeking young men for dating and companionship. These relationships make the older woman feel ageless and desirable. The younger companion helps to increase the cougar’s self-esteem. She also points out that “stuff of the past” may be what drives older women to younger men. Who wants to hear a companion talking about his ex-wife and his kids? The younger male generally does not bring all of this excess baggage. While many people frown upon cougar-cub relationships, statistics from a recent study in the bi-monthly publication by AARP supports the increasing trend of cougars coming into the mainstream. For young men, these relationships fit their lifestyles. After all, their cougar companions are not only older, but confident, sexually mature and have no inhibitions. I do not think that there were many cougars around back in the day.
Now, do not conclude that I believe the sugar daddy is a thing of the past. Perhaps we do not see them in the same manner today, but they still exist. I have heard stories of college women who describe themselves as sugar babies, seeking out sugar daddies for the purpose of paying their college tuition and expenses. Unlike back in the day, these relationships have gone high-tech. I understand there are Internet sites that specifically advertise the availability of “college tuition sugar daddies.” Thus, full-time college students seek out such sugar daddies to help pay the bills. Some who use the Internet seeking sugar daddies for college assistance identify specific monthly fees. Obviously, these relationships involve bedroom-type activities, but those involved do not view themselves as prostitutes. What they do know at the end of the day is that their college debt has diminished and they have money in the bank. So yes, the sugar daddy is still in our midst. However, the ease with which men can engage in relationships today coupled with the “freedom in which women now express themselves” has made today’s sugar daddy nothing more than a sugar substitute; not one who fits the sugar daddy profile of back in the day.
Alonzo Kittrels can be reached at or The Philadelphia Tribune, Back In The Day, 520 S. 16th St., Philadelphia, PA 19146.