Annie and I are watching a news story about billionaire George Soros on television. His 27-year-old ex-girlfriend, miffed that the financier gave a New York City apartment he allegedly promised her to another woman, is suing him for fifty million dollars.
“That’s disgusting,” Annie says.
“What’s disgusting about it?” I reply.
“The woman’s a gold-digger. I mean, c’mon. No pussy is worth fifty million dollars.”
Ann laughs. “That’s sweet of you, honey. But you know what I mean.”
“I think Soros owes the girl something,” I say. “Not fifty million, but a good chunk.”
Ann looks at me wide-eyed. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“No. The girl deserves to be paid.”
“She did nothing to earn it! That’s his money!”
“How many eighty year olds do you know who are banging girls in their twenties?”
Annie furrows her brow. “None.”
“That’s because you don’t know any eighty year old billionaires.”
“Give me a break.”
“George Soros didn’t make all that money by being stupid,” I say. “He is a self made man. To achieve that level of success he has to have a good sense of what incentivizes people.”
“So he has to understand gold-diggers?”
I sigh. “Soros is surrounded by people who want something from him everyday – employees, charities, business partners, venture capitalists, politicians, media types – they all want a piece of him.”
“That sucks,” Annie says. “Wondering if people like you for you or your money.”
I shrug. “That’s the price of fantastic wealth. If you don’t make peace with that early in your fortune making, you’re in big trouble. And he leverages what people want from him in order to further his own interests. And when it comes to pussy, money gets you a lot of leverage. Money has its own kind of sex appeal. And George knows that if he were running a paprika stand in Hungary, twenty-something vixens wouldn’t look at him twice.”
“So a girl can’t fall in love with an eighty year old?” Annie asks.
“She could,” I say, spreading my hands. “But my experience tells me the odds are low. And I refuse to believe Soros is naïve enough to think otherwise.”
I don’t know George Soros. Other than his vast philanthropy I couldn’t tell you a thing about him. At this point in my life, I think twenty year olds are almost babies, but if Soros wants them hanging on his arm, that’s his business. I can’t judge. Call me when I’m an eighty-year-old billionaire.
“But,” I say, “If he just cast this woman aside, gave her nothing, which I seriously doubt, then he’s at fault. He knows the deal. All guys know the deal. Pussy is never free.”
“You’re cruising,” Annie says.
“George wants young women,” I say. “So he has them for a few years, the best years of their lives maybe. He isn’t going to live a whole lot longer, so why shouldn’t the women get something out of it? They should get what they need and then move on, with a nest egg perhaps, and then start their own lives. When you’re a billionaire, not to set your mistress up is unethical.”
“I wouldn’t take his money,” Annie says.
“It’s tough to be rich,” I say. “Imagine if you won the lottery tomorrow, scads of cash, how would you respond to the financial needs of other people? Would you ignore your brother if he were underwater on his mortgage? What would you do about a lover who needed cash? If your friend’s business was failing? I’d be writing checks left and right. But giving people money changes relationships. If you help someone out they will probably feel indebted to you. So it is up to the person on the receiving end to refuse.”
“What?” Annie says. “I don’t follow.”
“When you’re rich, you are obligated to give. It is the recipient’s judgment call to accept that money or not. Soros must give the girl the chance to say, ‘I don’t want your money.’ If it was you, and I know you, you wouldn’t take it. But that doesn’t mean no one should.”
“It can’t be all about money,” Annie says.
When I was in the seminary I was taught that one of the few things in the Gospel we can be sure the historical person of Jesus said was the Lord’s Prayer. Now us Catholics use the “Forgive us our trespasses and we forgive those who trespass against us” formulation. But as I’ve gotten older, I think truer translation is “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Relationships are filled with power dynamics. We gave this to so and so. They owe us this and that. We expect this. I didn’t get a pony so cough up. Over time this can breed resentment and drive a wedge between the closet friends and family members. The currency involved is often emotional, but it seems to find its most conscious expression in coin. Look at most divorces.
But to be able to say, “You don’t owe me anything,” is really a profound act. Redemption is basically picking up the check with no thought of future payback. It means letting go without even the expectation of gratitude. It’s taking a hit so another person can be happy. Sometimes that means giving someone money and saying “Have a nice life.” And sometimes it means not taking that money. Every situation is different and complex. I don’t know what Soros’ situation is. But it would be nice if love got involved somehow.
“So how much should Soros give her?” Annie asks.
“I don’t know the situation,” I reply. “But five million sounds reasonable.”
I say, “If I was an eighty year old with a penchant for young things I’d call my accountant and ask, ‘How much should I keep in reserve for pussy?’”
“Well honey,” I say. “You’re never going to have that problem with me. I don’t see being a billionaire in my future.”
Annie grins. “But if you do become rich,” she says. “You will remember I fell in love with you when you were poor.”
Yeah, that’s an indebtedness of sorts. But the nature of the human condition is that we’re always in hock to someone to some degree. It’s how we handle those debts that define our character. And there’s no one I’d rather be in debt to than Annie.
“But it’s important to note something,” I say.
“What?” Annie says.
“You almost never hear about rich women screwing their young lovers out of money.”
“That’s because women are smarter than men.”
No argument here. God probably is a woman.