What You Learn When You Date A City Boy
The Debrief: Late nights (because of work), cancelling plans (because of work), overworked (because of work), but it's not all bad...
I was fast asleep when I heard a crash. Assuming it was my boyfriend coming to bed late, as he had been doing for the last week or so during a tough period at work, I half-opened one eye and was confused by the light pouring through the blinds. Was there a lamppost pointing through the window? Had the clocks changed in some unexpected and mysterious way? 'Wake me up at half 6,' my boyfriend mumbled as he got into bed. 'OK,' I said, 'but what time is it now?'
'6.25,' he said, and promptly began to snore.
This, I’m afraid, is a frequent reality of life going out with a City Boy. Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself, as I did when my boyfriend began working for an investment bank in 2011, that anyone who works in the City is automatically a bit of a w*nker. What if he’s the sort that goes to stripclubs all the time? What if he does cocaine off the conference room table? What if he says things like 'let’s circle back' in real life? And—oh, the horror—what if he wears red braces under that immaculately tailored suit?
If you’re contemplating a relationship with one, whether he’s a trader, investment banker, fund manager, or an insurance broker, then there’s a few things you should know.
There's glamour. Sort of.
Each summer, the sleepy town of Henley-on-Thames is overrun by people who flock there to watch the Regatta, a series of boat races. These people have faces that are as red as the terracotta pots they brought back from their last trip to Tuscany and they dress like they did a supermarket sweep in Jack Wills five years ago. Henley Regatta is Wimbledon without all the people who bring down the tone by actually liking sport. Anyway, my boyfriend’s work took us to Henley last year, which was pretty glamourous because everyone sits around drinking champagne and eating fine cheeses. I even got to wear a hat.
Thing is, I was wearing this hat accompanied by a girlfriend, because despite it being a company-organised trip, they all had to stay in the office at the last minute. On the one hand, people-watching and strawberry-nibbling with an actual friend is much more fun than making conversation with a 40-year-old named Tim, but on the other, I thought that having a boyfriend who worked in the City would mean all sorts of perks, like going on business trips and fancy dinners. As it turns out, they all work bloody hard, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for fun outings. Which can be disappointing.
The hours are long
Did you know that 2015 was the first year that Valentine’s Day has been on a weekend since 2010? I didn’t, until I looked it up for this article, because as far as I’m concerned, Valentine’s Day is always on a weekend. I learned very quickly not to schedule anything significant on a weekday when I was dating a City Boy, because the odds are good that you’re going to end up sitting in a restaurant on your own, eating chocolate cake. Or standing in a bar on your own. Or going to the theatre on your own. And it’s not just weekday nights: Friday nights are prone to last minute conference calls; it’s also frequently Saturdays and Sundays if he’s really in the thick of it.
After a summer of the City Boy turning up at my parents’ house at midnight, saying a bleary hello, then collapsing into bed before getting up at 7 the next morning, we decided to move in together. I realized that if we didn’t, I was going to see him for half an hour, three days a week, plus maybe a weekend evening if we were lucky. If we lived together, I figured that couple time spent asleep was still more valuable than never seeing each other at all.
If you go out with someone who works in the City, you’ll quickly realize that their time is not their own. Finishing work at 10pm is an unexpected boon for these guys; the average is more like 11pm or midnight. Sure, they get a free dinner every night (another drawback: my boyfriend ate so much sushi at work that he never wanted to have Japanese food with me) and a cab home, but the next day they’re right back at the grindstone.
It can be like having your own personal financial advisor
City Boys tend to use a lot of financial jargon when you’re trying to have a conversation with them about money, which is incredibly frustrating. My boyfriend once said the term 'cash sweep' six times in one conversation about budgets, at which point I threatened to leave him. But it’s also very helpful being able to ask them questions about whether or not you should have an ISA, and how pensions work, and why this credit card is going to screw you over in the long run. Sort of like Google, for money, in the shape of a person. If reading the financial pages of the paper sends you into a coma but you still need help budgeting each month and you want to understand how mortgages work (because maybe by the time you’re 60 you’ll want to buy a house), then I strongly recommend a boyfriend who works in finance.
Yes, it’s undeniably weird when you realize they earn two or three times the amount you do. You kind of just have to get over that one, I’m afraid, because although the world might be a better place if teachers and nurses got paid more than bankers, it’s not happening any time soon. Focus on finding work that you love and are excited to do, and don’t worry about the respective zeroes on your paycheques.
The job comes first
A few years into living together, our flat started to fall apart. At times it felt almost like a joke: the fridge door fell off, the sink collapsed into the cupboard, the wooden flooring in the bathroom started to both peel and rot at the same time (a lesson for you: unless you’re a highly trained Swedish engineer building a sauna, don’t put wood in your bathroom). We would wake up and survey the newest disaster together, and then my boyfriend would put his suit jacket on, cheerily say goodbye, and head off to work. I would have the dubious pleasure of calling the plumber or carpenter, organizing a time for them to come in, and then having to discuss joists and the merits of lino over wood for bathrooms.
In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (also known as Wall Street 2: Harder, Faster, Shia), the vastly underrated 2010 sequel to 80s classic Wall Street, the central character is given a cheque for $1,500,000 after he’s spent about 20 minutes as a trader. He rides a motorbike, wears tailored suits, smokes Cuban cigars, and has a drool-worthy Manhattan apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows and hardwood floors. The only—and I mean only—realistic element of his life is the fact that the little red light on his Blackberry blinks continuously.
For most men with jobs in the City, there’s no time for motorbike-riding or cigar-smoking. In order to get ahead, particularly in the early years of a career, you have to be constantly available, responsive, and give the impression that there is nothing else in your life. Luckily for our relationship, I happen to find dedication and a strong work ethic very sexy. At lunch a few years ago, a family friend said to me, about her son who had just taken a job at a very famous investment bank, 'when these boys go into the City, they’re either going to marry the girl they’re with or they’ll be single until they leave.' I gave my boyfriend desperate 'save me' eyes, and said cheerfully and loudly (my default mode in uncomfortable situations), 'Well I’m sure that’s not true for everyone!' She fixed me with a look that could have pinned me to the wall. 'Yes. It is. They go into the City, and that’s it. It becomes their lives.'
All of that doesn't actually matter
There’s a lot to complain about when your boyfriend works in the City. It’s tough trying to maintain a relationship with someone who’s always at the office, has his phone superglued to his hand, and who talks about 'working capital cycle' when you’ve run out of cash a week before payday. But last year, my boyfriend and I decided to get married, as well as moving to California, which I highly recommend. He still works for a bank, but the culture is much less intense than it is in London. He works more sociable hours, does his own laundry (and mine too!), and we get to have dinner together on weekdays. It just goes to show that working in the actual City (London) is quite different to being a City Boy (generic term) - and that if you fancy the pants off each other, the fact that one of you has a tendency to pull all nighters at the office doesn't have to ruin both of your lives. You learn to get used to it, and you learn that not everyone resembles Leonardo di Caprio in Wolf Of Wall Street.
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Picture: Eugenia Loli
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