“Business theory teaches us one important lesson,” says the instructress. “Always thoroughly research the desires of the consumer. Apply this principle when you search for a rich man. On a first date there’s one key rule: never talk about yourself. Listen to him. Find him fascinating. Find out his desires. Study his hobbies; then change yourself accordingly.”

Gold Digger Academy. A pool of serious blonde girls taking careful notes. Finding a sugar daddy is a craft, a profession. The academy has faux-marble halls, long mirrors, and gold-color-painted details. Next door is a spa and beauty salon. You go for your gold-digger lessons, then you go get waxed and tanned. The teacher is a forty-something redhead with a psychology degree, an MBA, and a shrill smile, her voice high and prim, a Miss Jean Brodie in short skirts: “Never wear jewelry on a first date, the man should think you’re poor. Make him want to buy you jewelry. Arrive in a broken-down car: make him want to buy you a smarter one.”

The students take notes in neat writing. They have paid a thousand dollars for each week of the course.

“There are dozens of such “academies” in Moscow and St. Petersburg, with names such as “Geisha School” or “How to Be a Real Woman.”

“Go to an expensive area of town,” continues the instructress. “Stand with a map and pretend you are lost. A wealthy man might approach to help.”

“I want a man who can stand strong on [his] own two feet. Who will make me feel as safe as behind a wall of stone,” says Oliona, a recent graduate, employing the parallel language of the gold digger (what she means is she wants a man with money).”

Excerpt From: Pomerantsev, Peter. “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia.” Perseus Books, LLC, 2014. iBooks.

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