Eve gets hit on a lot. At the gas station, at Home Depot, at Starbucks — almost anywhere. It doesn't matter if she's feeling totally frumpy or wearing pajamas. "I'm not, like, totally into myself; I don't think I'm super fine," said the 32-year-old single mother, who lives in Berkeley. In response to men's pickup lines, she has developed an entirely different system of dealing with the opposite sex. When a man she deems worthy of her time hits on her, Eve tells him where she has a job opening.
Where many women might evaluate men based on their potential as boyfriends or husbands, Eve evaluates them based on their potential as "sponsors" or "friends." "I tell them 'I have sponsors and I have a friend. No applications for friend right now, 'cause I have [a] friend. But I have sponsors,'" said Eve, not her real name.
"I tell them, 'We'll never have sex. I'll never kiss you. I may give you a hug, high-five, thumbs-up, something like that, but it'll never go any further. This is what we do, this is how we hang out.' And it kinda works. It's almost like having a male best friend with knowing that there's no strings attached." In fact, Eve has had a "gas sponsor," a "breakfast, lunch, and dinner sponsor," a "movie sponsor," even a "cuddle sponsor." At one point, she had as many as six separate sponsors.
Seeking goods and services from a mate or partner is by no means revolutionary. Browse through the Craigslist personals and you'll find plenty of women and men looking for sugar daddies or sugar mommas, as well as those offering financial assistance in exchange for companionship or sex. "In exchange for your fun, intimate companionship, I will be glad to help you with some of your financial expenses," read one such ad. Here's another: "I am looking to hookup with a cute smooth str8/bi white guy. I know the economy is down and a little extra cash would help. So i dont mind helping, as long as i get what i need." And, of course, there are dedicated sites for gold diggers and their sponsors, such as SeekingArrangement.com and SugarDaddie.com. But a gold digger she is not, Eve insists.
"I despise gold diggers," she said. "I think gold diggers are, like, pathetic. I think women are pathetic when they use their assets — the wrong assets — to obtain things. Because just your personality should be able to get someone to want to spend time with you or even want to buy lunch for you." Eve says some of her friends who are gold diggers haven't been as successful as her because "they're super shallow." Or, if they do get Gucci bags or paid vacations, Eve believes sex is most definitely involved. "They have to be screwing them," she said. "Like, girl, your convo is not that good, because if it was that good, you would've already married one."
Although none of Eve's sponsors would agree to be interviewed — Eve says they don't want to look like "suckas," though she stressed that they aren't — she says her sponsor arrangements have been successful. In fact, she says, all her former sponsors are now genuine friends. The key to keeping everyone happy, she believes, is honesty and respect. "I'm not a player, I'm just honest," she said. "A player has different schemes. And I don't have all of those things. The only thing I have is my honesty. So either you're just gonna take it or you're just gonna go, and that's okay because I'll probably go to the next gas station or to the next liquor store and someone else is gonna try to get my phone number."
Eve did not stumble upon this arrangement by accident. She got the idea nine years ago from her ex-boyfriend's sixty-year-old aunt, who was then newly widowed. "She was going to the movies with this guy," Eve recalled. "And then this other guy, he liked to buy her Coach purses. ... And then she had this other guy she went to the symphony with — that was her classical music friend. So I'm like, what's up with that? Then I knew she had a 'special' friend, so I kinda confused all the guys as one, and she's like, 'No, my friend is my friend.' 'Friend friend,' that's what she calls him."
So Eve decided to try it out for herself, in part because her past relationships had soured her on marriage. "I'm very skeptical about marriage because it doesn't have the same value system that it had," she said. "People aren't like my parents and like your parents. It doesn't mean anything. Everyone's into it for business or for the come-up, so I don't want to be someone's ladder."
In other words, it's not so much out of economic necessity as it is about practicality. She does not call her sponsors when her gas tank is low or when she's hungry, but if they're spending time together, it is understood that they have a specific activity they will do together — and the guy will pay for it.
These days, Eve has toned down her sponsor relationships, she says, mostly because she doesn't have as much free time now that she has kids. "Now that I'm a parent, I guess that kinda changed my outlook on things," she said. "So it's like my needs have changed. I don't really need all of the little minor things anymore. ... Like, the movie friend is more valuable now than the breakfast, lunch, and dinner friend and gas friend."
Ironically, Eve believes that such relationships — while admittedly set up to protect her from the very pitfalls she believes relationships have become — ultimately may lead to stronger bonds. "I've just matured to the point that I wish that other people had, and the people that had are my sponsors and my friend," she said. "And it's, like, not that I'm so exclusive, but I think if we all kind of thought like that, we would revert back to more like what our parents were in having long-lasting relationships that actually mean something."
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