Confessions of an Aspiring Cougar
Cougar is seen as a derogatory term but some women choose to redefine it. The idea that a cougar has to be old, rich and buy affection is ridiculous.
Before I came to the United States in 2004, I never considered myself to be a cougar. For one, I wasn’t aware that the term existed. For two, even though I dated guys at college who were one or two years younger, in our early twenties the age difference hardly seemed to matter. Once in the United States, I spent five years in a serious relationship with a guy six years older and so it took a while before I learned about the realm of women-cougars.
Vivienne Westwood and her longterm partner Andreas Kronthaler. Theoretically you could call her a cougar. She would probably prefer it if you called her Vivienne Westwood. Photo: Guardian.co.uk
After a long and painful breakup I found myself free and ready to have some fun again. I was never particularly attracted to older gentlemen (my ex-fiancé was an exception because he looked significantly younger) and I didn’t see any reason why I should start now. The solution was obvious: I would become the older lady who prefers the company of younger men.
When a friend first called me a ‘cougar’, I took it as a compliment. Czech language doesn’t have an equivalent for this term and calls the men who date older women ‘bunnies’ instead. ‘Cougar’ sounded pretty good compared to that. And so I started proudly to call myself a cougar until recently a fellow writer, a beautiful lady in her early sixties, pointed out that there was no way I could be a cougar because I was still too young.
Let’s face it, there are so many questions to be raised about even having terminology like ‘cougar’ and defining what it might represent.
Intrigued, I went online to do some research and found out that there are definitely many opinions about how to define a cougar. About.com claims that the most accepted definition is that a woman has to be forty or older in order to be considered a cougar. The same website, however, states that some believe that thirty-five is enough to become a cougar, as far as the man pursued is younger than twenty-five. About.com posits posits that generally there has to be a minimum of ten years’ difference for a cougar relationship to occur.
Wikipedia complicates matters even further by stating that the term applies only to those women who are looking for a sexual relationship, not to those who have a ‘stable and lasting’ relationship with their younger partner. Hmm. In its attempt to shine a light on the situation, www.urbandictionary.com says that a cougar can be anyone ‘from an overly surgically altered wind tunnel victim, to an absolute sad and bloated old horn-meister, to a real hottie or MILF.’
Some dating sites designed for cougars seem to be under the impression that cougar means a woman not only older, but also successful and powerful, who is expected to buy luxurious presents for her younger companion. My response to that is that if that’s true, I’m done for because as a poor graduate student all I can afford to buy my younger companion is a cup of coffee.
In short, it’s a mess. But what alarms me much more than the lack of agreement about the definition of a cougar is the wave of judgment, prejudice, and even hatred I discovered during my research.
Why I am even surprised, I don’t know, because the restrictions that our hypocritical society places on female sexuality are one of the reasons why I consider myself a feminist and why I write for Mookychick in the first place.
For centuries it’s been considered perfectly okay for men, especially for those with money and power, to surround themselves with young women (hello, Hugh Hefner). The scenario where a forty-something senior manager suddenly feels a pressing need to recapture his youth and leaves his wife and children for a woman half of his age is so common that it has become a cliché.
But you’d better think twice about doing the same when you are a woman because “an older woman who messes with a male young enough to be her son is disgusting,” writes one of the readers on About.com in her response to the topic. In fact, she thinks that “older women who are cougars have always been little sluts since high school. They have been drinkers, smokers, etc. and their emotional intelligence and age is linked to of how old they were when they took that first drink.”
Oh, wow! And that’s not the end of it.
“To all the old cougars out there trying so hard to prove their point that society is in favour of older women/baby man relationships, it is time to come out of your dreamworld and face the music,” another reader opines. And yet another warns: “When an older man comes along and hears via the grapevine that his woman has dated younger men, he’ll be disgusted due to the social stigma attached. He’ll know that you are easy and must have had many, many sexual partners down the line. He won’t trust you as he’ll think you’ll continue with this lifestyle and are not marriage material,” without specifying why would anyone want to marry such a judgmental, self-righteous prick in the first place.
Ugh. It seems like I have a new problem on my hands! I have been getting a lot of heat recently for making a decision to stay single and childfree, which for some reason provokes a lot of people to no end, making them feel they’re entitled to make judgement calls on my personal business. And now I have to get ready for being ostracized and bad-mouthed once again because I have the audacity to be attracted to younger men when the mainstream society doesn’t think it’s such a good idea.
Well, that’s a price us chicks pay for being free and making our own choices, I suppose. Based on my experience with the folks out there who just can’t live and let live, their heckling isn’t going to last forever.
So I’ll just go and make myself a nice cup of tea in order to calm down and gather some energy for the struggle that lies ahead.