real life

"I was accused of being a sugar baby. By my boss."

About 15 years ago, I was a 27-year-old Aussie-born Indian chick, in a relationship with a Caucasian dude almost twice my age, and about to become his third wife and a step mother.

As you can imagine, a lot of people had a lot to say about the situation – and no, none of it was from my ever-supportive, long-suffering parents. But, man, did everyone else have opinions.

Some were disguised as ‘jokes’: was I a mail order bride? No one wanted you from your own background?

Um, evidently not. Lol indeed.

Some were outright stupidity: are you the nanny? Aren’t brown men good enough for you?

All idiots… and then there was my boss. He had been very senior in the Navy (or something…I can’t recall, because I don’t care). But despite his career accomplishments, he was a thoroughly objectionable person. It was like working with Donald Trump (although I didn’t have the reference at the time).

I was an in-house legal counsel back then, and we were working in a major international company. My career had really taken off, and I had begun travelling the world to help negotiate contracts. Couple that with being in a happy, loving relationship, and I was in a good place in my life.

So naturally, this man couldn’t handle it. He was firmly of the opinion that women should be at home – just as his own wife was.

You will think I am making this up when I tell you his name was Richard, so naturally, we all called him ‘Dick’ behind his back. But that is not fiction: and neither is this next part of the tale.

One day, I arrived at work in a new car. It was a nice new car. I had done six years at uni, and four years as a lawyer, to earn that car. But Dick didn’t see it like that at all.

“Ohhhh…a new car, I see,” he astutely observed when we arrived in the car park at the same time.

Eyeing the vehicle, he asked me if it was brand new, how much it cost, and whether I had paid for it myself.

“Who else would pay for it?” I asked.

Women are notoriously terrible when it comes to self-promotion. But is there a way to tell others your achievements without bragging? The MMOL team discuss.

Dick let out a good ol’ belly laugh at that.

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“We all know you’ve got a sugar daddy,” he said, with a wink, the thought of which makes my skin crawl even today.

“That’s not true, Richard,” I politely replied, knowing what he was implying about my relationship.

“Yes it is, that’s the only reason you’re with that man – because he’s a lawyer.”

“Um…I am also a lawyer,” I felt compelled to point out, even though I was literally a lawyer who directly reported to him.

“No, you’re a sugar baby. And he’s your sugar daddy.”

I finally got it. That was the only way he could make sense of our ‘unusual’ relationship.

What a Dick indeed.

I was furious. His attitude was sexist, misogynist, patronising, rude, insulting…and 100 percent reportable. But I didn’t report him – because I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. He was an apparently intelligent man; he knew exactly what he was saying – and he was saying it to belittle me.

I wouldn’t take the bait.

So, while I wanted to ask him if it was so hard to believe that I was in a relationship with this man for the sole reason that I loved him? – I didn’t.

While I wanted to reply, “Yes, I’m a sugar baby because that’s exactly why my parents worked their asses off to give me an excellent education” – I didn’t.

I would have loved to stand there and utilise my training as a skilled negotiator to question his perception that a woman, no matter how accomplished herself, would still need a man to support her in a comfortable life – I kept quiet.

He was wrong, and 50 percent of the people in the conversation knew he was wrong – and the other 50 percent didn’t matter. So, while there was so many comebacks I could have delivered, this is the one I chose:

“Hey, you know, I got 10 grand off the car – I can negotiate a good deal for you, too, if you’d like.”

That shut Dick up.

If you’d like to hear more from Nama Winston, check out her stories, and subscribe to her weekly newsletter here.

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