A cautionary tale for sugar babies

Silvio Berlusconi once infamously told a story about a woman who asked him what she should do to find a job. “Find yourself a rich man,” he replied. One woman who may regret taking similar advice is Melania Trump, the third wife of a man who makes Berlusconi look like the model of chivalry. She certainly doesn’t seem exactly thrilled to be First Lady. Indeed, the New York Daily News notes that at public events, such as last Friday’s inauguration, whenever the new president turns away from her, “his wife’s encouraging smile gives way to a scowl as despondent as the grey rainclouds overhead”.

Despite this cautionary tale, one website specialising in matching “sugar daddies” with “sugar babies” claims to have “5.5 million members in 139 countries”, reports Lucy Bannerman in The Times. Indeed, there is so much competition for the affections of older men (and a handful of older women) with bottomless wallets that one woman runs seminars devoted to the art of “sugaring”. Her sessions are filled with such mantras as “you’re not gold digging, you’re goal digging” and “the world is full of salt. It’s your responsibility to find the sugar.”

This is not prostitution, the organisers argue. “If people want to be escorts, there are plenty of other sites for that.” Still, when Bannerman asked one attendee what lessons she had learned, the “baby”, whose “work” had estranged her from her family, replied “never accept cheques”. It’s not just women who are doing this. One 20-year old man claims to earn £6,000 a month from his three “cougars”, all aged between 39 and 44, with occasional bonuses like “free sky-diving lessons” thrown in. At the other end of the scale, one participant claimed she was paid as little as £200 a visit.

This is all sordid enough, but the case of fashion designer Alexandra Subris is downright bizarre. According to the Daily Mail, she was the girlfriend of bankrupt businessman and fraudster Guy Brudenell, who stole £75,000 from women he met on the Sugar Daddy website. Alexandra in turn used these ill-gotten gains, “to fund a jetset lifestyle including trips to Dubai, Marbella, the Dorchester Hotel and Ascot”. Overall, she helped him launder at least £113,000 in cash, treating his affairs with other women as “an occupational hazard”. Having dreamed of “the chance to rub shoulders with the aristocracy”, she now faces a two-and-a-half-year holiday at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

Bad as things are, generally, actual prostitution is at the least discouraged. The Russians have no such qualms. Asked about the existence of tapes detailing the leader of the Free World engaging in extracurricular activities in a Moscow hotel room, Putin couldn’t resist boasting that his country’s hookers “are undoubtedly the best in the world”. “Natasha”, interviewed by the New York Post, agrees with this. “We like sex, and we love money. I know a lot of Russian and Ukrainian girls who come here, stay here for a few months and leave having made as much as lawyers do in a year,” she says.

Tabloid money… how on earth will we get by without courgettes?

• “I secretly admire the kind of people who take packed lunches to work and refuse to buy crisps unless they’re part of a multi-pack,” says Camilla Tominey in the Sunday Express. “Take self-professed ‘professional tight-a***’ Michelle McGagh.” The journalist and author cycled everywhere, even 120 miles to a wedding, gave up wine and budgeted 51p a day for lunch to save £25,000. She said she “lived more” by visiting free museums, swimming “wild”, and hiking around Epping Forest. “A year on, she has reassessed her priorities and realised that being content with what you have makes you much happier than craving more.” After all, says Tominey, “the only void that’s ultimately filled by consumerism is the one in the attic”.

• Amal Clooney, the human rights barrister who married actor George Clooney at a £3.5m wedding in 2014, was honoured last week in Davos at a dinner for “Women of Impact”.
“Why on earth is she being feted in this way simply for doing her job?” asks Amanda Platell in the Daily Mail.

“At the event in Davos, Amal was wearing a £9,875 Chanel dress, enough to rebuild an entire Yazidi village. But that’s small fry compared with the £34,000 of couture outfits she wore in just two weeks last September while working as a human rights lawyer… I’m sure she spends as much time on her legal briefs as she does on planning her wardrobe,” but “what really sticks in one’s craw” is that “so many other great women can’t get a look-in because they don’t swan about like Amal in celebrity circles”.

• As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, now they tell us there’s a world courgette shortage. “Something to do with bad harvests,” says Rod Liddle in The Sun. “How the hell will we cope without these long green things which don’t actually taste of anything?” What next? Chives? Then we’d really be for it, says Liddle. “It’s almost enough to make you want to smash your head against a wall.”