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Nathan's column: Learning a sweet lesson

You can learn a lot when you work for a newspaper. You learn things that interest you. You learn things that are of value to your readers.

You also learn things just because some public relations person somewhere got ahold of your email address. It's the professional equivalent of a telemarketing call during dinner.

It was through one of those press releases I learned recently that Minneapolis is one of the top cities in the country for sugar daddies.

This news intrigued me at first, but then I realized they weren't talking about those old-fashioned caramel suckers. Maybe this is more of a Slo Poke town.

(On a related note, be very careful when you Google "sugar daddy.")

The release wasn't about candy, obviously. It was from a website that serves as a kind of clearinghouse for men and women who are looking for relationships based largely on cash transactions. This kind of relationship is not the same thing as prostitution, the site takes pain to mention, because ... well ... it's just not, OK?

The site also offers tips for would-be sugar couples. For example, coming off as a "money-hungry man eater" is a bad move for potential sugar babies. Also, asking for private photos too early in the relationship makes you sound "sleazy and inexperienced."

If there's one thing you want to avoid when looking for someone who will spend time with you in exchange for cash and gifts, it's appearing sleazy.

Actually, just being on a site dedicated to sugar daddies made me feel a little sleazy. A phrase like "they began their Sugaring" wouldn't seem so bad on a site dedicated to baking or sugar cane production. But move it to something called and suddenly they seem like four of the wrongest words in the English language. Right up there with NBA champion Minnesota Timberwolves or Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, only creepier.

According to the site, Minneapolis is ranks 15th among American cities with 2.07 sugar daddies per 1,000 adult men. The average Twin Cities sugar daddy is 39 years old and makes more than $300,000 per year. He spends more on his sugar baby each month than I spend on food and mortgage payments and clothes and pretty much everything else.

Minneapolis doesn't make the top 10 in per-baby spending, though, trailing such sugar daddy hot spots as Miami, Las Vegas, Hartford and Cleveland.

Again, "per-baby spending" might be right at home on a parenting blog. But here? Ick.

In this remarkably precise study, 21 percent of sugar daddies nationwide list their profession as "entrepreneur" and another 21 percent identify themselves as "professionals."

The sugar daddy population is on the rise, too. According to the site, which refers to itself as the nation's number one sugar daddy fishing hole (seriously!), there was a 71 percent increase in sugar daddies joining the site in the past year. Apparently the economy really is recovering.

I don't think I could ever be a sugar daddy, at least in part because of the money. I work for a community newspaper. The best I could hope for is to be somebody's NutraSweet daddy, which I think means I buy them lunch at McDonald's every couple of weeks and they agree to say nice things about me at my funeral.

Maybe I'm not giving potential sugar babies enough credit, though. On another site dedicated to sugar daddies (motto: Where romance meets finance), which I discovered because I am dedicated to my job, several would-be sugar daddies list their worth at "less than $50,000." That seems a bit optimistic. Then again, they're in Fargo. Maybe their dollar goes farther.

That's something I just don't know. Yet.