Golddigger Hustle: A Tale of Dating Men for Free Dinners

December 2, 2011  |  

Last year I wrote a post on my personal blog called dating for marriage or martinis about how one of my friends always encourages me to go out with guys I’m not really interested in for the sake of free food and drinks. For me, the tradeoff never seemed worth it. I’d rather come out of my own pocket and enjoy my own company than sit across from a man I have no desire to be with as he tries to impress me for two to three hours.

The first time I tried that, I ended up having to go dutch with this fool who started freestlying at the table while we ate. (It was truly like the scene in “Daddy’s Little Girls.”) The second time I called up a man I knew would foot the bill but I ended up feeling guilty the entire night for killing this man’s budget on cocktails when I was only there because the person I was originally supposed to go out with stood me up.

The Business Insider recently ran a story on a woman struggling to make ends meet in NYC on a $45k salary who started dating men on match.com for free meals.  Minerva McGonagall (name changed to protect the dishonest) ate out five nights a week with men she met on the site, sticking to one golden rule—no more than five dates with the same guy. By the Insider’s calculations, she racked up more than $1,200 a  month in free food—going from spending $500 a month on dinners alone to having someone else drop an average of $60-plus per night on the golddigger outreach program they unknowingly were participating in. That amount more than covered the cost of her $50/month membership fee to the site.

When Minerva’s roommate got in on the idea, the two got professional with their approach. They made spreadsheets with names, photos, and profile details of each guy who took them out for drinks and/or dinner and set two ground rules: they would always let each other know where they were going for the night and never let guys pick them up at their apartment.

The backlash to the Insider’s story was so strong that the site had to disable comments and conceal the woman’s identity (her real name is Jessica Sporty). Jessica/Minerva eventually gave up her online dating hustle saying it was “exhausting”—which I’m sure is the only reason she came forward with her story, in addition to the fact that she got a boyfriend (he better watch out). Many commenters called Jessica’s behavior unethical because she misled the people on the site into thinking she was into them when she wasn’t, and I have to agree.

I don’t want to knock her hustle because, honestly, it’s a pretty good one. But the fact that Jessica was so calculating definitely crosses the line between going out with Andre because he asked you out and at least you’ll get a free meal out of it, and telling Sean you can’t go out with him because you’ve already gone out five times and he might actually want more when all you want is free food.

I also have an issue with the fact that this girl couldn’t survive in NYC on a $45K. Yes, New York is an expensive city, but I managed to survive on $30K with my own place when I got my first job here. Jessica couldn’t survive because she was paying $1,475 a month for an apartment in Murray Hill and she had a mountain of credit card debt. Plus who spends $500/month on dinner. Cook much? What this girl really needed to do was downgrade instead of golddig to get the extra $500-1,000 a month she said she needed “to survive.”

As for the rest of us who aren’t trying to live off of someone else’s earnings, it can be tempting to be wined and dined by a suitor you can’t really see yourself with just for the sake of visiting that sushi bar you really wanted to check out, or taking a break from takeout and I think that’s OK. But when it gets to the point that you’re supplementing your income by dating men, well, I think you have to call a spade a spade.

What do you think about Jessica’s online dating hustle? Have you ever gone out with men just for the perks like free food and drinks?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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