I never intended to become a cliche. But here I am. I’m 45 years old, the mother of adorable five-year-old twin girls and a husband who is a very wealthy man. Note that I say he’s a wealthy man, not that we are wealthy. I’m not wealthy. Not really. The money is his and I’ve always known that.
What I am is trapped.
I’m trapped in a desperate bid to stay attractive and youthful and sexually desirable. Because that is the woman he chose to marry 10 years ago and that is who I must remain if I want our marriage to stay intact. Our contract is implied and implicit. Except when he makes disparaging comments about my appearance. I’ll get to that in a moment.
I consider myself a feminist but my story is not a particularly glowing testimony to feminism. I did well in high school, aced my final exams but was drawn into modelling – it seemed far more glamorous and exciting than university. I was never a big-name model, never had a huge career, but I had a solid one for a good few years through my 20s.
I lived in Paris for a bit and then when it was clear I wasn't going to crack the high end, I moved to Miami where there is a vast amount of regular work. Fashion brands from all over the world come to Miami to shoot their catalogues and it's the bread and butter of the fashion industry due to its sheer volume. For a girl like me who is your basic blonde, skinny, white chick with long hair and boobs - tall but not catwalk tall - there's a good living to be made.
And the lifestyle is fantastic. I dated a few minor celebrities, did loads of drugs, worked out like a maniac to stay a sample-size 8 and supplemented my lifestyle above and beyond the income I made from modelling by hooking up with rich dudes. In the 90s, they were everywhere. It was an honest exchange between equals in many ways. They had flash houses and cars and boats and sometimes even private jets and they liked nothing more than to have a hot chick on their arm. These guys would never have been able to date women like me and my friends if they didn't have money.
I make it sound like prostitution but it wasn't like that. Money and power are genuinely appealing to me and many women. If you're financially successful you are likely to be bloody good at whatever it is that got you that way. Confidence is a knock-on effect of that kind of success and I've always found confidence to be attractive.
I met Joe at a party. He was visiting from Australia and I was homesick for his accent. I heard him from across the other side of the room. He was working in New York at a big private equity company and he had already made an impressive living. He was a few years younger than me and very unassuming. I liked that he was not flashy or a dickhead. He had that quiet confidence that reeled me in.
Things happened quite fast with us. He encouraged me to move to New York with him and proposed after we'd been dating for about a year. I was almost 30 by that time and my modelling work was drying up anyway. It's pretty much over once you hit 25 so I'd been lucky I'd stretched it out for as long as I had. Moving in with him was a no-brainer. I wasn't ready to go home yet and what was I going to do anyway? I had no qualifications and I'd grown accustomed to having a nice lifestyle.
So we got married in New York, lived between there and the Hamptons for a while and then moved back home to Australia.
For a time, we were equals. Joe had never been with a woman as attractive as me (he constantly joked about winning the 'hot wife' lottery) and his financial position was something I couldn't hope to match on my own. We both brought equal power to the relationship. At first. And for the first few years at least, it worked.
The earliest indication that things were not, in fact, equal was when I had trouble conceiving. We had all the tests but by this time I was 36 and a history of endometriosis meant I had some gynaecological issues which made getting pregnant really hard.
Joe was supportive and made all the right noises. But hanging over us like a toxic gas leak was the fact that a younger woman would not have the kind of trouble I was having. Even if her endo history had been similar to mine, a younger woman would have had years up her sleeve. We didn't. I didn't.
Eventually, after five rounds of IVF, I conceived our twin girls and giving birth to them made me feel more solid in our marriage than I had for a long time. Then the insecurity took hold.
Before I had the girls, I thought it was hilarious - and flattering - that Joe would share photos of me on social media in a bikini or dressed up in a tight frock for one of the endless work dinners or black-tie balls we had to go to. The captions were always of a similar vein - "Can't believe how lucky I am" or "#punchingabovemyweight" but looking back at it now, I can see how objectifying it was.
He wasn't proud of me because of something I'd done or said or what kind of mother I was to our girls. It was about my face, my body, my looks. I guess there was an element of the geeky teenage boy who couldn't quite believed he'd pulled the hot chick.
After I gave birth, when the girls were young and I got post-natal depression, it took me a long time to get back to my pre-baby weight. Neither of us expected that. I'd never been larger than a size 10 in my life. Of course now I understand that was because I always sub-consciously (or consciously) restricted what I ate and worked out every day. That all goes out the window when you have two screaming infants and you can't summon the will to take a shower let alone a pilates class.
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Joe wasn't happy about this. He tried to hide it but I could tell. He kept suggesting we get an au pair in addition to the nanny we already had and for my birthday, he gave me a personal trainer who would come every day.
It gradually became clear to me that my currency in our marriage was indexed to my ability to look the way he wanted me to: young and hot.
He also wanted me to be sexy - he expected sex every day or two and he would always buy me lingerie and expect me to wear it. After chasing around after toddlers all day, I'd rather set my hair on fire than put on sexy undies but I did it. Because I genuinely wanted to make him happy and it really did.
This made me crazy. Not in an angry way because I could see it from his point of view. His value in our marriage hadn't changed. He was still just as wealthy as he had been when we got married - in fact he was getting significantly richer every year - but I no longer looked like the woman he'd chosen as his wife. So it made me crazy from an emotional point of view. I felt constantly desperate to please him.
I'd always dabbled a bit in cosmetic surgery. In Miami I'd had a boob job - it was pretty standard for most models because to stay as skinny as the clients wanted you to, you had to keep your body fat so low that you lost your boobs. Implants were the only way to have perky boobs and be skinny everywhere else. And a bit of Botox was just standard for every woman I knew after they turned 30.
But by the time the twins were two, I had gone full pelt into fillers. My lips, my cheeks ... and I ramped up the Botox too. I was desperate to look young and keep up my end of our our unspoken 'deal'.
It's clear that our marriage is in trouble now. I suspect he's having an affair with a work colleague who is 10 years younger than me. Maybe I'm just being paranoid but I've noticed he rarely shares my photos on social media anymore. Just our daughters.
Confronting doesn't even begin to describe it. I'm in my mid-40s and I'm no longer the trophy wife. My husband is withdrawn and he no longer brags about me or jokes about punching above his weight. I'm trapped in this horrid cycle of trying to look youthful and maintain my value in his mind and in our marriage and I hate myself for that.
But what choice do I have? If he leaves me, finds a new trophy, I'm not going to be able to use the power I once had to attract men. I'm wracked with self-doubt and dismayed that I let myself be put in this position. What role model am I for my girls?
I want desperately to go back to that girl finishing high school or that girl choosing a glamorous life over a substantial one and shake her. Tell her to make different choices.
Because the price of being a trophy is that you will inevitably tarnish.
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