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Why I regret telling my son to marry a rich girl

Why I regret telling my son to marry a rich girl
(Steve Sedam / For The Times)

"Dad, I think you'll be happy to know that I'm dating a rich girl for a change…"

Ever since childhood, and especially when my son started to excel at sports, I made it a point to be his biggest fan. "You're such a good catch: handsome, athletic, working," I'd tell him, and then jokingly add: "You should aim high and find yourself a rich girl from a good family."

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By age 35, he'd had a series of live-in relationships with high-maintenance exotic beauties that all ended when he was given a deadline for commitment. Fortunately, there was always another girl waiting in the wings.

"So, tell me about this one," I asked.

"Her name is Lilly, and she lives in a mini-mansion in Burbank with her grandma.... Her grandma is loaded. But I really don't care about her money. She is so different from other girls I've dated. I think I'm finally in love."

"I'm listening," I said.

"I'll admit she's a little young. She just turned 22. She's a Pepperdine graduate, works part-time in an art gallery and plays soccer on a team. When I asked what she wanted to do with her life, she said, 'Be a soccer Mom.' But the big difference is, her clock isn't ticking."

I asked: "Anything else?"

"Well, she's wholesome and natural, dresses down; just jeans and a T-shirt. Doesn't even wear makeup much."

I had to ask: "So, what's the catch?"

"So far, none, except maybe the grandma. She doesn't like to be called 'Grandma.' Lilly calls her 'Sophie.' … Lilly and Sophie don't act like a grandmother and granddaughter, or even a mother and daughter. They're more like sisters. They talk all the time: Lilly tells her everything about us."

"And you don't like that."

"You've got that right," he said.

"Where does Grandma come from?"

"Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just like you."

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Now, I was interested. My hobby was genealogy. I joined Ancestry.com and had even had my DNA tested. "Do you think it's too early for mom and I to meet her?" (I meant Sophie and, of course, Lilly.) "We could meet in a restaurant by the water."

My son liked the idea of a "meet the parents." Of course, over the years we'd met a few of his girlfriends, but informally. This time it seemed like more of an occasion, an old-fashioned prelude to something else.

The five of us met at Duke's in Malibu and sat at one of the huge windows overlooking the Pacific. Lilly looked radiant. Sophie was wearing a simple shirt, high heels and lots of diamonds, which she said go with everything. She remarked on the matching Hawaiian shirts my wife and I were wearing.

As I exchanged childhood stories with Sophie, we discovered that we had actually lived on the same street in Brooklyn at one point, and that my best friend had been her very first date. It was a remarkable coincidence. Was it a sign that Lilly and my son were meant to be? Sophie asked many questions about my business. She seemed genuinely interested. When we left we all agreed that the evening had been a huge success.

That's why I was amazed when my son called me to break the news.

Lilly had called him in hysterics, explaining that they were through. She said that even though she loved him, her grandma had other plans for her. "Your folks just aren't rich enough," she'd said.

"And how does she know that?" I questioned.

The answer shocked me.

"She hired a private detective."

Two years later my son ran into Lilly at the rooftop bar at the Standard. She was divorced and had a daughter.

She had gotten pregnant, then married the child's father, a man her grandmother chose. He was older and his parents were members of L.A.'s elite. As it turned out, they thought Lilly was just after his money. Since the money was really theirs, when his parents threatened to disinherit him, he and Lilly divorced.

Sophie, Lilly and the baby, the three of them, were still in the mini-mansion.

As my son put it: "Only one of us was interested in renewing our relationship."

Burke Leon is an author living in Orange County.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. We pay $300 a column. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

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