Sexpert David discovers that the modern “gold-digger” might not be so modern after all.
It all started with a close reading of Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” which may seem like a particularly dull place to begin a sex column, but as I read the 16th century poem and began to think about the narrator’s dubious intentions, I realized that embedded deep within the verse was an idea relevant to contemporary society.
The poem is essentially some lower class shepherd dude trying to get it in with his sexy girlfriend (my apologies to the English department for this rash summary). Of course the guy flowers it up with some metaphors and nature imagery, but essentially this shepherd just wants to hit it and quit it.
But the idea for this column didn’t dawn on me until I started to think about the class constructs present within Marlowe’s time. Elizabethan culture had strict rules on class separations, with the powerful, ruling upper class and the uneducated, illiterate lower class (I’ll apologize to the History department for that synopsis). That’s when I had my Jimmy Neutron brain blast—If the lower class was driven by these primal sexual urges (case in point Marlowe’s shepherd), and the upper class was focused on hooking up with powerful and noble suitors, then who is truly in love?
The idea that class constructs affect our most intimate relationships is a concept still in existence. Sure, we may have traded noble blood for sports cars and trust funds, but the idea is still the same—always marry up. This notion dismantles the concept of love, and bears the question: are we all gold diggers?
I started to run through a mental Rolodex of my friends and their current significant others. Lindsey, who I consider my older and wiser friend, is currently seeing a guy who is pursuing his medical career with a residency at Florida Hospital. Sure, he is decent looking, but she has definitely done better. I said just that when she showed me a picture of him on her iPhone.
Her response was to frown and offer the justification, “He’s going to be a doctor. And whomever he gets engaged to is getting his grandmother’s antique engagement ring. It was recently appraised for 95 grand.”
While Lindsey’s intentions may seem clear, other friends of mine also seem to have subconsciously considered financial security when they coupled up. In fact when I started to think of all of my friends who are currently in relationships, I realized all of them were dating someone within a similar or higher-class bracket to themselves.
So I started to consider that maybe all of my friends are just gold digging sluts, but quickly I pushed that idea to the back of my brain because it can’t be entirely true. Of course an anthropologist would sum the whole thing up to the fact that the reason all of my friends are with financially secure individuals was because my cultural outlook is limited to financially secure people. But I think it’s an inherited concept, passed on from centuries of class constructs and unwritten rules of civility.
Even my single friends seek out partners with similar socioeconomic backgrounds. My friend Sean is always refusing possible suitors because of the cars they drive. His rule is: if they can’t trump his Lexus, then why should he even bother? Or there’s my friend Amanda, who refused to give some guy her number because he bought her a PBR when he went to the bar for drinks.
I wish I could conclude this column on some high note that rallies for love in the fateful decision between love and money. But the need to procure financial and class security within our relationships seems so ingrained in our cultural perceptions that I don’t think I can refute it. So to hell with love, I’ll settle down with anyone who clears 250K a year.