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Buy Yourself a Date

“Everyone has a price. What’s your price?” That’s the provocative question posed by a new dating site that allows users to bid on dates with good-looking people.

WhatsYourPrice.com is divided into two types of members: “generous” (people willing to pay for companionship) and “attractive” (people who want $20-$200 to go on a date). There’s an implied third category, of course: “possessed of appallingly low self-esteem.”

Members can browse each other’s photos and profiles, including their stated income and net worth. An introductory video has a woman purring, “If a guy is willing to pay me for a first date, he’s going to be much more serious than all the others who are just looking for a hook-up.”

Which leads me to believe the definition of “serious” has changed since I was boyfriend shopping. Also the word “generous” — as evidenced by a second intro video: “Instead of paying a dating Web site for the chance to go on a date,” argues a “generous” dude, “why not just pay for the date itself? When you find the person you like, just send them an offer.”

The offer isn’t, “I promise to make you laugh,” or, “I’ll open doors for you and refrain from belching in your presence.” It’s more, “I’ve got 100 bucks says you’ll show me your panties.”

Does the setup smack of prostitution? Sure. Of course it does. It might as well be called PimpDaddy.com. But the site’s creator, Singapore native and MIT grad Brandon Wade, insists it’s aimed at guys like him: guys with “high standards” (read: can’t get a hottie to step out with them for free) who are merely buying a first date and “a shot to win their hearts.”

The site wriggles out of escort-service status by comparing itself to charity events that auction off dates with hunky firefighters, and by offering a list of first-date ideas, including, “Go ice skating together, it’s romantic, and you may get to hold hands” (their lame punctuation, not mine).

But judging by member photos (who wears flower pasties on a first date? and ice-skating, no less?) and frank admissions of the relationships and, er, “arrangements” they’re seeking (sugar baby, discreet affair, married dating), it’s clear they see this opportunity for what it is.

And I don’t have a problem with that. The money-for-sex model exists on every level of the coupling spectrum, from straight-up street walkers to “kept” women to mail-order brides and trophy wives. As long as it’s mutually satisfying, who cares if it’s moral or even legal? Capitalism is hot; supply and demand make titillating bedfellows. Perhaps if prostitution were legal, sites like this wouldn’t have to contort so grotesquely to look like something else (first date Tip #4: “Pick a culture of the world, then imitate with food, activities and clothes to match.” Really?).

I’m actually grateful for sites like these. I like to think of them as creep magnets that lure in fringe-skulking freaks who label themselves “Catholic/2 children/married but looking,” and prevent them from lurking on dating sites for normal people.

Think about it. You wouldn’t want to accidentally wind up, um, ice skating with someone who mistook hooking for dating, right? You wouldn’t want to shave your legs and waste a liberal squirt of that pricey foundation primer only to find yourself slurping spaghetti with a fella who’s fairly sure the fat $50 in his Ferragamo wallet will compensate for his lack of wit, charm, or even breath mints.

Pretty much the worst date I can imagine is one in which my “serious” and “generous” suitor succeeds in pushing my buttons, inspires me to reach for my bra clasp, and then leans over and whispers, “So, sweetheart … does that cost extra?”

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My columns are collected in three lovely books, which make a SPLENDID gift for wives, friends, book clubs, hostesses, and anyone who likes to laugh!
Keep Your Skirt On
Wife on the Edge
Broad Assumptions
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