By Amy Phillips Penn

“It’s as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man,” insisted my grandmother, as if excavating a fool proof philosophy she’d once patented. Patent or not, she lived her mantra. Then she married it three times.

In her teens, she had been offered a career as a model. She asked her father’s permission, confident he’d be delighted by the prospect . Instead, he nixed her glamorous and potentially lucrative career-to-never-be.

“Never take work away from someone who needs it more than you,” he laid down the law.

So much for promoting financial independence.

When my grandfather proposed to my grandmother, she asked him what his salary was before accepting a substantial engagement ring.

Years later, I was staying with her in Palm Beach. It was lunch time and she came upstairs from the pool area. She looked agitated, bordering on combustible. “Did I see you talking to the Collins boy?” she said.

“Yes, he asked me out,” I replied filing a nail.

“When are you going?”

“I’m not,” I replied. “Jungle Red” nail polish was in order.

“Why not?” she imploded.

“Because I’m not attracted to him,” I answered. Rational.

“Do you know how many shares of IBM he owns? He’s not a monkey. I never had to marry a monkey to get what I wanted,” she said. Then she took a swig of J&B, Palm Beach manners drowning in desperation

I never married a monkey became an instant family joke. Ironically, years later, we found out that she had indeed married one. “Monkey” was her third husband’s nickname. When we teased her about that, she re-imploded.

“I never heard that so it can’t be true,” she dismissed it conclusively.

Who needs truth when you have a monkey in hand delivered to you, tail first?

There is a certain je ne sais pas quoi about a person who can marry for money or position. They are built a certain way. My grandmother was the Stepford facsimile of a perfect wife as long as she indulged lavishly in the lifestyle it afforded.

I am desperately missing that part of my DNA. Give me an Argentine polo player, or someone wildly creative, any day.

I have watched as friends marry up: They focus.

“He only has two homes, and I want five.” Five it is.

“He asked me how I wanted my name to appear in the Social Register,” a new prize to be relished.

“I have three hundred acres in California,” the same friend later informed me.

Big boo-boo. That was her husband’s land and had been in his family for years.

“Careful who you are trying to impress on the way up; because you might meet them on the way down.”

Then come the complaints: This from a woman who was squeezed into a New York studio in a nebulous hood, and became pregnant to get her man. It wasn’t going to happen any other way.

Other people were “trailer trash;” she was annoyed that she had to convert to her husband’s religion; and decreed that her in-laws had “no taste.”

She spoke stingily through her left nostril, one of her newly acquired affectations. Nouveau affectations are a tell tale of never quite making it. Buyer beware!

She was mistress of the universe with a home in Palm Beach, a mansion in Southampton which she referred to as a “shack,” and a fabulous New York duplex.

“She’s so unhappy,’ her friends sympathized. Bitchy or not, unhappy she was.

“Cause I’ve got friends in low places/ Where the whiskey drowns/ And the beer chases my blues away/ And I’ll be okay/ I’m not big on social graces,” sings Garth Brooks, no apologies implied.

Marrying or dating down sounds so much sexier.

A Rockefeller and Johnson & Johnson heir married their maids. Many a celebrity has committed to his children’s nanny. Polo players have been known to say I do’s with their groom

My friend Jenna was rumored to have been a “Madame Claude girl” “once upon a mattress.” She “married up,” several times, and has a last name to prove it.

She’s no teenager now, but is “cougaring” one boy toy after another. There is, after all, and endless and awesome supply.

Take a number and let the good times roar!

You’ve earned it.


 Featured image courtesy of Divorce Insurance

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