So, my sister, one of our closest friends and I decide to go out dancing in South Tampa. Yes, yes, I know, we elected to go dancing in the young, singles’ district. Yes, we walked into the trap willing and with full knowledge that the average age would be roughly 25.
Now, let’s first establish that consensus is that we three don’t look our ages. So, I am aware that there ARE men in their twenties (perhaps with mommy issues) that find us attractive. I am also aware that there is a subculture of men who interact with older women for the (a) absence of commitment, (b) experience, (c) bragging rights.
So, I was NOT even a bit surprised that three relatively attractive women in their forties were like a freak show at these locations. We were the subject of much whooping and “you go girls” as we danced with the younger set. It just so happens that we’re pretty good at it, and not in the creepy “awww look at the old people” way, but in the “she can twerk like a boss” way (although, frankly, there was very little twerking because, well, it’s twerking).
As we walked off the dance floor and back to the bar, a young man stopped me and with a gleam in his eye said, “Oh my God, you are a total cougar!” My ego was immediately deflated and flailing like a hot air balloon blowing in the wind. But then, suddenly, I realized that he thought it was a compliment.
“Thank you, I think,” I replied with what must certainly have been a look of consternation so disturbing that the next thing he said was even more amazing. “You can totally compete with all of these 21-year-olds,” smiling from ear to ear. My expression obviously didn’t improve. He continued to try very hard to make me understand that he was complimenting me, but nothing he could say would change the narrative in my head.
I realized, as I watched this kid talk, much like Kuzco watched Yzma in Emperor’s New Groove – you know the scene, the one where she has a giant piece of spinach caught in her teeth – that I was processing the actual definition of “cougar” as it applies to my generation.
Wikipedia states that “Cougar is a slang term that refers to a woman who seeks sexual relations with considerably younger men. ABC News states that these women pursue sexual relations with people more than eight years younger than they are, while The New York Times states that the women are over the age of 40 and aggressively pursue sexual relations with men in their 20s or 30s. However, the term can also refer to any female who has a male partner much younger than herself, regardless of age or age difference.“
DON’T call me ‘cougar!’ My head screamed as the kid continued. I was so utterly insulted that I was turning purple with rage. It’s not his fault, I thought. He really has NO idea that he is insulting me. So, I smiled sweetly as he spoke, until finally, he walked away thinking he’d made my night.
A few minutes later, another young man belong to a group of people that we knew, asked me basically how to be a better lover. Astute, I thought. He knows to ask an older woman that question. Points for good judgment. “Listen,” I said. He stared, waiting for more information. “That’s it. Listen. Really listen. It’s amazing what you learn when you listen.” Looking far less puzzled, he said, “Ohhhhhhhh, I understand.” Nodding his head and looking down at me from considerable height, he thanked me. Your girlfriend will thank me, too,I thought, chuckling to myself.
The great irony in this little tale is that I am, in fact, married to a man fifteen years my junior. It was a happy accident. I was not seeking a younger man, simply because men my age have dimensions (and I don’t mean physical) that young men don’t yet have. Granted, there are a few notable exceptions. My husband is one of them. He exited the womb an intellectual fifty years old, far more adult than me. I am grateful for it.
Boys, take heed. Not every woman who steps into a drinking establishment is looking to “score” a twenty year old. Sometimes, we’re just there for the music. If you are going to compliment an attractive woman, no matter her age, just say something complimentary. “You are lovely,” is perfectly sufficient, especially if you are looking to spend more than five minutes talking to her. A simple compliment goes a long way.