Today I received a book in the mail to review for the AdviceSisters Enews (subscribe at: http://www.advicesisters.net/thankyou.html). The book is: “The Best Kept Secrets of the Real Cougar Woman–How Old Did You Say You Are?” by Linda Franklin. I had asked for a copy because I’ve heard the term “cougar” cropping up more and more in conversations and in the media. This book was more about how to look sexy and young when gravity and age are beginning to take it’s toll, but I began to wonder…what’s all the fuss about the term “cougar?”
The definition of a cougar, until recently, was just: “A large, solid fawn-colored cat that resembles a short-legged maneless lion. Called also puma, mountain lion, Panthera concolor (syn. Felis concolor). “
But the media likes to make analogies, and in today’s world there’s another definition for this ferocious animal. It’s a negative term for an older woman who dates younger men. The term “cougar” in conjunction with social life leads one to believe these older women who date younger men are aggressive (like the cougar) and are “attacking” the youngsters like they are “prey” to satisfy their lustful urges.
What confuses me is why men, who have traditionally made connections to young women–sometimes 3 and 4 decades younger aren’t called cougars or at least the old-fashioned concept of a lecher. Men who date girls young enough to be their daughters are simply called: “Lucky.”
Why isn’t it the same for women?
Celebrities have invited scandal and interest by dating younger men. Just look at Demi Moore, Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins. But what about the average woman? Is she somehow a predatory, sexually frustrated “animal” whose lusts can only be satisfied by hot, young, impressionable flesh? One of the studies I saw quoted–the online dating service parship.co.uk recently revealed that 280,000 British women over 45 want to date younger men, which is an increase of over 20% in just one year. These women can date men their own age, but often, they find these men lacking both in spirit and in body. The men their own age are often divorced, deathly afraid of commitment, and/or they are seeking substitute mommies for their children, wish to have a family (or another family) before they get too old, or are seeking someone to take care of their personal needs, but not necessarily to be an equal or a cherised mate. These men expect their women to do their laundry, cook their dinner, remember their medication, and carry their luggage when the go on vacation. And in return? Perhaps these willing women will thank science for Viagra and be grateful for a companion-fare ticket to Mexico or the Caribbean???
Typically then, a cougar woman is over 40 and doesn’t have to “settle” for a mate who thinks his partner is lucky to have him because she is over the hill (and so who would really want her except for him?). Cougar women do not have to have lots of money, but they are generally attractive, intelligent, independent financially, and she knows what she wants and goes out to get it.
From where I sit, I can’t think of any reason why these women should be ridiculed or sensationalized. What’s wrong with wanting someone who is excited to be with you and who can carry his own luggage and doesn’t need to be reminded of his medications because he is healthy and doesn’t have to take any?
I have known my own husband more than 20 years now and he is a decade younger than I am. We were friends first and for a long time. When we met, I had just separated from my first (and quite crazy) first husband. I was attracted to my future husband’s mental state (healthy), enthusiasm (all directed towards me) and his excitement about the future. I did date men my own age as well, but so many were either bitter and wounded from divorce, or they were self-absorbed much of the time, or (as I said before) they were unabashedly seeking substitute mommies for their children, wanted more children, or required a nurse/mother to help them deal with daily life. I really didn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who had these issues. By contrast, my younger man was just happy just to spend time with me, and age had much less to do with my choice than general compatibility. And yes, he also did his own laundry and cooked dinner. I taught him about music, art, fashion, food and wine, sailing, and luxurious travel destinations. It was a great deal. It was mutually beneficial, not predatory. And, twenty years later, we still are happy together. I would resent being labelled a cougar!
Baby boomers are getting older and looking for love for the first time, or for the second or third time. Many of these over 40 women are not going to settle for just anybody. If they choose younger men, even much younger men, it is nobody’s business but their own. We should applaud them, not slap a label on them that makes it seem as though they are doing something wrong.
I think cougars, both the animal variety and the human variety, are strong and beautiful!