There are three of them, very different in many ways, but they share one common feature; they’re all worth at least a billion dollars. Well, maybe two common features; for reasons not altogether clear to me, I’m strangely attracted to them all.
The first I met when she was a summer intern at a firm where I worked. She was ushered into my office one June morning because the powers-that-be—or were—wanted someone to give her work to do for the exorbitant amount of money we were paying her. I said I’d be happy to assign her something basic to get her going, and after we’d chatted a bit and traded pleasantries, I spelled out the job for her.
It was something I didn’t want to do, but which had to be done, and which a young person just starting out could be expected to master before moving on to more difficult and more boring tasks. I meant less boring, sorry.
After I explained it to her, she asked “Hasn’t anybody around here done that before?”
I was a bit taken aback, and tried to explain to her that we were asking her to do the work so she could get the experience of . . .
“But that’s a waste of my time. Surely somebody around here has some experience with it.”
“Or course we have, we all have.”
“Then why don’t you ask somebody who’s already done it to do it again—seems more efficient.”
“We want you to learn how to do it.”
“All right,” she grumbled. “Give me a form then.”
“I don’t have anything handy right at the moment, but why don’t you take a crack at . . .”
“Why don’t you call around, or send an email to everybody, it would save a lot of time.”
We continued in this Abbott and Costello fashion for a few more rounds, me making polite and professional suggestions, she acting as if she didn’t understand and was about to fire me for incompetence. I could see she was going to go places, whereas I—if I continued to play the criminal suspect to her bad cop interrogator–would soon end up eating out of a dog dish on her kitchen floor.
Several years later I was scanning the business pages and saw that she was now a “C suite” executive—chief something-or-other officer–at a database company. I did not know then what a database was, or whether it came after third base, or before first. But I could tell from figuring her eye-popping net worth that whatever a database is, I should get one. I have, ever since the fateful day when I watched her take her first baby-steps on the road to billionairesseville, admired her from afar. I know she probably thinks of me from time to time, and of the help I gave her to get the old filthy lucre ball rolling.
She is my only self-made billionaire, but I say this not to stigmatize her. The other two made their money the old-fashioned way; they chose the right parents. One—I’ll call her Chloe, since her name in real life is one of those alluring French nommes that somehow lose their cachet once they cross the océan. She was the wife of a guy I worked with and, because she had taken her husband’s name, her glittering genealogy was hidden from view. If I were to mention the brand that her family is associated with, you’d recognize it in an instant.
I didn’t know that at first, but still, I was attracted to her. When someone told me sotto voce what her balance sheet looked like, I slapped my forehead, amazed. That explains it—I should have known, I said to myself. Me and billionairesses go together like moths and sweaters, like linguini and clam sauce, like those little black and white Scottish terrier magnets that whirl around to kiss when you sneak one up behind the other. They have a certain je ne sais quoi, also pas de fumez–that exerts a powerful force on me, like the tides in the Bay of Fundy. She has gone on to a glittering career directing movies with her family money, and for some strange reason, she’s never offered to buy any of my screenplays. Maybe she has my old email address. I’ll send her a Christmas card this year, just to–you know–“touch base” with her.
I can’t quite put my finger on the biological basis for my preference for billionairesses over millionairesses. I suppose it comes down to a matter of taste, like favoring brown hair over blonde. Of course, I’m a married man, and I would never try to break up a happy home, but I think nombre deux knows from the fun we had that night—the laughter we shared, the knowing glances we exchanged—that I’d be there for her if anything . . . unfortunate were ever to happen to her husband . . . and my wife. I can be as loyal as those stupid golden retrievers WASP women favor—to the right billionaire gal. Don’t know why that is, but there you have it.
The third leg of my billionairess stool—a skinny leg, but shapely nonetheless–is the daughter of a man who made the lives of many people richer through a financial innovation that was just lying there, waiting to be invented, if only they’d checked with Ruthie, the little old lady who was in charge of business trusts at the Secretary of State’s office. I knew Ruthie, knew her well. She had a little plastic fan on her desk, and a spider plant that looked like it was on life support, since her desk faced the dark north side of the building in Boston. Tough luck, little plant, but it’s survival of the fittest here in the Hub of the Freaking Universe.
But to return to my narrative–no one before the Daddy Warbucks of billionairess #3 had the foresight to come up with his innovation. He did, however, and now his daughter—an only child—is the steward (stewardess?) of his great fortune. She works out at my health club, always accompanied by a bulky he-man trainer, whose efforts so far have produced no noticeable improvement in her musculature. Perhaps he’s an incognito bodyguard, there to protect her in case someone tries to kidnap her when her attention wanders reading People magazine on the treadmill. Still, you’d think she’d demand results—personal trainers are expensive!
I could show her a few tricks. I used to do 100 push-ups a day in response to a challenge from my maternal grandfather that if I wanted to grow up to be big and strong like Bronko Nagurski, I needed to work hard at it. At the time I didn’t know Bronko Nagurski from a database, but believe you me, I can tell the two apart now. A database is worth a lot of money, while Bronko Nagurski is dead.
I think she likes me. One day I was standing in front of the drinking fountain, finishing a little paper cup of water, and as she approached to fill her bottle she said “Excuse me.” Just like we’d known each other all our lives! VERY simpatico.
But I’ve learned that you have to approach billionairesses cautiously, quietly, or else they’ll skitter away like a startled fawn back into the woods of their wealth. When that happens, society as a whole suffers, since they might not return in time to buy a table for the biggest charity ball of the season.
I don’t by any means pretend to know everything about billionairesses, other than the fact that they all have a billion dollars. They remain inscrutable in many ways.
Why, for instance, I find them so darned attractive is a mystery to me.