What I Learned Dating The 1%

by Bridget Phetasy for Playboy.com

Four years ago I was sitting in a villa in St. Tropez. I had a private chef, a proper French maid, no financial worries to speak of and a doting man who literally gave me the world. I’ve mentioned before that I dated “Mr. 1%”–he was the one who screamed when he saw a mouse in Maui. We met while I was traveling around the world for two years, clicked instantly, and I became his travel companion for five months.


Porter Wagoner

It was fucking torture. Sitting on the balcony, overlooking the yachts floating on the Mediterranean, sipping Dom Pérignon, I felt absolutely miserable. My anxiety level was at an ALL-TIME HIGH. Remember this moment, Bridget. Remember it well. Here you are. At the top of the human pyramid, and you’re completely depressed.

My cage may have been golden—but it was still a cage.

Here’s what I learned dating The 1%:

I was 33 and basically retired. We played a lot of tennis. Went to a lot of late breakfasts. Cancelled a lot of tickets and plans. Now, this might sound great, and if you’re a gold-digger who depends entirely on your looks to get by, this life is the goal; but if you’re like me and feel driven to create something on your own, follow your passions to the end of the Earth, use your resources to be of service to humanity, travel the world and build your OWN empire…this lifestyle is not for you. Even when you have money, living lazily and lavishly probably won’t make you happy. It might sound wonderful in theory, and it was for, like, two weeks. Then I was crawling the walls and Googling for Third World countries where I could volunteer. One of the lessons I learned: Follow your dreams, or they’ll follow you.

When life is comfortable, the hunger subsides. When the struggle is real, the creative juices FLOW. There is definitely a balance because financial stress can be just as much of a block to creativity, so a day job is absolutely necessary, but week after week of living on soup and toast will motivate the hell out of anyone. A belly full of foie gras and Chateauneuf-du-Pape isn’t exactly going to light a fire under anyone’s ass. OK, maybe it motivated Hemingway’s fat ass. But not mine.

HE WHO HAS THE GOLD MAKES THE RULESDating the 1% Issulstration by Illustration by Sean Noyce
Here’s the thing about the super-rich—they don’t get to where they are without having to manipulate a shit-ton of people. They are also very used to getting what they want and throw ugly little fits when things don’t go their way. The more I pulled away from Mr. 1%, the more Mr. 1% wanted me; this of course, became a vicious cycle. It nearly destroyed our entire trip to Europe because instead of enjoying me he was consumed with having me. I chose not to medicate my anxiety with prescriptions because I saw it as a very useful warning system against ulterior motives and sociopaths. Despite all the gifts, the attention and the trip of a lifetime, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being bullied in a very, very subtle way.

Everyone will clean up after you and kiss your ass. Mr. 1% once said, without any irony, “I’m very independent. I have a team of people making sure of that.” The wealthy invest a lot of money in people who give them the appearance of being self-reliant. They aren’t. They can’t do shit by themselves, and most of them regard doing menial tasks like calling to make an appointment or doing their laundry as beneath them. In fact, for most of these folks, it takes a fucking village to run their life. They have assistants and maids and chefs and yacht crew and travel agents and and and… No one questions their authority, and no one calls them out when they’re wasting someone else’s precious time or resources. They are mini-economies. The staff is invested in keeping their boss happy, and the kids are invested in keeping the inheritance money coming their way. When you’re wealthy a reservation is just a suggestion, a placeholder to make sure nothing stands in the way of you doing whatever you want, whenever you fancy.

Mr. 1% didn’t even know when his mother’s birthday was because his assistant had been sending her flowers for 25 years. One day we were in the shower, and Mr. 1% said, “You know, there’s a level where you can always be happy, a place where you are free…” I thought he was about to say something unusually spiritual or insightful, and he goes, “…and it’s $250 million dollars.” I died laughing. “Oh really? Where does that leave the rest of us shmucks?” I asked.

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