Welcome to Cougarville. Population? Me.
I am overjoyed to announce that I’m officially a cougar. It happened on a Sunday a few weeks back, in a hotel room in Boston, when I woke up to the knowledge that I’d just turned 40. It didn’t leave me feeling like my life was over—in fact, I’d been looking forward to it for almost a year, like a child who, the day after their 7th birthday, tells people that they’re “Almost 8!” To me, 40 meant fabulous, a fresh start, a chance to put the bullshit of my 30s behind me and step into a decade that would be a transitioning point to full maturity.
Of course, my impending cougardom has been long heralded. The number of younger guys (and girls) that have started hitting on me has gone up in the past few years, to my great surprise (and occasional pleasure). I’ve been getting told by friends that 40 is the new 20, that I shouldn’t be surprised when the young hotties start prowling around me like I’m a dish to be devoured. Faces of women who were born before I was dot the media with younger (or even MUCH younger) guys on their arms, smiling the smiles of men who are getting the best sex of their lives. And over and over, I am noticing that my willingness to ask for—nay, demand—what I want is not seen as pushy, but as provocative.
Amazingly enough, 40 is no longer the bane of women’s existence that it was when I was a kid. We all thought that age 40 meant that you were old—that’s when your hair turned gray, and your social life became a mockery. Chances are that your husband (if you still had one) was schtupping one of the young women from the steno pool, and you were left at home to clean the lipstick prints on his collar…and not say anything about it to him, because everyone knew that to be a divorcee over 40 was to resign yourself to a life of cheap apartments, nobody to help parent your children, and nothing to look forward to beyond reruns of Dallas and The Love Boat on a Saturday night.
Lo and behold, something snuck up on us in the intervening years. Forty-something women are now prime real estate in a buyer’s market—and it’s about damn time that they (oh, wait—I mean WE) got some good press! We’ve come from behind in the Race To Sexy, pulling ahead of the oh-so-damaged Lindsay Lohans and Paris Hiltons to take the lead on what’s hot.
And let’s face it—we should. Because not only do women look better because of improvements in nutrition and skin care (at least, those of us who didn’t spend our teens and twenties baking ourselves to a crisp in the sun), we also have finally gotten it through our heads that we aren’t second class citizens anymore. We know ourselves far better than we ever did before; we’ve been there, done that, got the tee shirt, and gave it away to Goodwill. We’re surrounded by amazing role models—other women in their 50s and 60s, who, while fallible, have shown us that we really can be confident, sexy and healthy.
The Great Cougar Disconnect
So, why do so many images of us seem…neurotic? Courtney Cox Arquette’s character in Cougar Town (which, by the way, was created by two men) looks in the mirror at her admirably well-maintained body and prods and tugs at it, finding so many flaws that if she were a diamond, someone would have ground her up and used her as an industrial abrasive. The visual image of the cougar on the prowl at the bar, with a low-cut, barely-fitting dress aiming her somewhat needy yet predatory gaze at any young gent that happens by, desperately trying to find someone to keep her from going home alone? That’s become a stock image in mainstream media’s portrayals of the sexual exploits of single women “over the hill.” And mainstream media is still primarily staffed with Men Over 40, the guys who seem to be mostly deaf to the cougar’s mating call.
Maybe it’s because we’re not really sure (especially the older men among us) what to do with blatant sexuality coming from women who are the age our mothers were when we were growing up. These are the mothers who we idolized—the bakers of cookies, fixers of skinned knees, and creators of the idyllic image of home. We don’t like to think that our parents ever had sex; could our uncertainty about cougars come from our denial that our mothers were ever sexual beings who loved to do the dirty deed just as much as we do? Or are we overlaying our own prejudices about what’s sexy and hot in the bedroom on our perceptions of older women, with their less than star-quality tits and assets jarring us into the reality that we try so desperately to avoid when thinking about sex?
The Vintage Advantage
Whatever the reason, there are fortunately a few cubs (or men that are specifically attracted to cougars) out on the market for every woman on the prowl. The lust for a perfectly-aged cougar is wide-spread; sites such as Cougar Talk.com cater to matching up the felines with their prey, and vice-versa. And some of them aren’t just looking for a little extra-curricular fun with teacher; many are specifically interested in long term relationships, including marriage.
“So, why do you like older women?” I asked a friend of mine who’s been involved with his older lover for years. His answer surprised me. “I am a bit of a mama’s boy…I like women with a maternal side to them. I’ve only ever dated one woman that was my own age,” he noted, referring to his very first girlfriend. “I’m just not attracted to younger women the way that I am to older women.”
Other guys I’ve talked to love to partner up with women who know how to get their own sexual pleasure and have enough experience to have a clue when it comes to getting everyone off. Still others note that older women have a sense of being relaxed in their own bodies that makes them more of a pleasure to spend time with. “My wife is 10 years older than I am, and she just doesn’t let stuff get to her like younger women I know,” said Jay. “She walks around naked with the lights on and doesn’t worry about whether I’m looking at her stretch marks, which makes her 10 times sexier than if she felt ashamed of her body.”
And it’s not just the guys. I get pursued by delicious women under the age of 30 on a not-too-uncommon basis; they are often attracted to older women because of their experience in life, their understanding of what it takes to live happily, and their willingness to take control of the situation, in bed and out. And no, not every younger woman wants that, but enough of them do that dykes like me don’t have to worry too much about becoming obsolete in the dating scene.
A few years back, I had a conversation with Dossie Easton, the sensual spitfire and writer of a number of books on BDSM, polyamory, and sexuality. I mentioned to her that if I knew that my late 30s were going to be so much better, physically, psychologically, and sexually, I probably wouldn’t have stressed so much in my 20s.
“Oh, honey,” she said, her eyes dancing like fire, “Wait ’til you’re in your 50s!”
Trust me—after all this? I can’t wait.