According to an article in the January edition of Grazia, most women would prefer marriage to a rich man to a career, a finding which caused shock and horror, particularly amongst women of a certain age. What, give up the independence and satisfaction of a career to be a rich man’s darling? Why would anyone do such a thing? Perhaps it depends on what the alternative career might be.
A trophy wife is a woman who has youth and good looks, but no career or financial means of her own; her beauty is her main asset. Her husband or partner is typically a lot older than her and very wealthy. Her beauty confers sexual status on him, or so he believes anyway. His wealth provides her with the life of luxury and comfort that she cannot provide for herself.
In Honor’s Shadow, the beautiful Madalena is the trophy partner of the wealthy Jack. Madalena is the illegitimate daughter of a dockside prostitute, Jessie. Jack relates a story to Madalena, about her mother:
“I said to Jessie, you must be proud that your daughter’s life turned out so different to yours. She looked at me in that way she has, out of the side of her eyes, almost flirtatious. ‘Not that different Jack’ she said, ‘I used to turn a trick for a fiver, she turns a trick for a fancy mansion. It’s just a question of price after all.’”
Madalena’s friend, Bud, tells Madalena about the marriage of his own parents:
“How did those two stay together for as long as they did? Well it was a straight trade between them, older than the Bible, nothing mysterious about that. He was fascinated by her beauty, he treated her like some rare species of pet, not like a person, with a brain and a beating human heart. He lost interest as she got older and lost her looks.”
So there’s the problem for women who choose to be trophy wives: their beauty loses the bloom of youth, their asset has run its course, and they are traded in for a newer model. Unless, of course, they have had the insight to see the writing on the wall, and develop themselves in ways which allow some financial independence. Not to mention self respect.