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cougars

Cathy_Cougar...

 

– being the true confessions of a singular sort of carnivore

Once in a far more innocent time, the term ‘cougar’ was exclusively applied to exemplars of the feline species Puma concolor, also known as the mountain lion, renowned for its fierceness and efficiency as a top-level predator.

These days, thanks to a TV show, mass media and possibly Demi Moore, the term is far more likely to describe a woman who dates much younger men. It can be applied with or without a smirk of envy and/or derision. Cue Samantha in Sex and the City and her long-term relationship with Smith for the latter, and just about any woman who dares to break the wrought-iron chains of middle-aged mindset and convention for the former.

How do I know? Because I’m one of them. And I never in a million years ever thought I would be.

I never set out to label myself as any kind of sexual predator, or even any kind of erotic iconoclast because for the longest time, I hardly dared define myself as a sexual being. Or if I did, it was in terms of a wild and wooly imagination that led to a novel among other things that some readers have described as ‘sexy’.

It had to go somewhere, people.

Now, I’m 52. Obviously, I’ve had relationships. I’ve even been married for 12 years, and those twelve years were not the unhappiest of my life.

Yet although I married a younger man, in terms of cougarism (let’s call it), he doesn’t count by virtue of being only four years younger.

Somewhere between the divorce and today, I dated or met a few men, most around my general age and even a couple I’ve known since my teens and early twenties. There was… the dishy guy who stated he was single (so a friend of mine looked him up and found out he emphatically wasn’t), there was the unattached ex-boyfriend who kind of sort of hoped for a mad, passionate reunion and blithely overlooked what I told him 25 years ago when we split up – that once it’s over, it’s o-v-e-r.

As we say in Danish, and it means more or less exactly what you think it means: You don’t go back to wet fireworks. (In case they explode in your face!)

Then, there was the unhappily married man who proclaimed he was nothing like the middle-aged schmos we both derided and that he had not stagnated at all, only to refuse to add me as a friend on Facebook because (and I quote verbatim)‘we knew too many people in common and what would they think if they found out?’

KTHXBYE was what I thought.

Of course, all of these dates/meetings/sob stories were predicated on the idea that I was even noticed. The sorry fact is, past a certain age – or below a certain socio-economic status – women aren’t noticed even as individuals, right at the time when men of similar ages are described with the phrase ‘in their prime’.

Which is unbelievably sexist in this day and age.

So far as I know, I’ve never trawled the streets where I live in search of younger flesh. Nor have I peddled my over-the-hill carcass in Irish bars, English-language bookstores or music venues (all locations where I likely can be found) looking into the possibilities of millenials.

All I’ve done was mind my own goddamn business, thank you very much. And one more thing.

Whether due to genetics, clean living or my skincare routine, I’ve also been gifted with the ability to not look my age and above all things else, not to act it, either.

Somewhere along the way, I caught a few dashing twenty-somethings noticing me. Yet the idea of ever taking it a nanometer further was as remote as the Kalahari.

Until four years ago, when my life and marriage was literally falling apart and a hunky millennial friend and former colleague confessed he had a massive crush. On me.

At the time, I was precisely twice his age.

Many lattes, never-ending conversations, five months and a few clandestine meetings later, I spent the night with him, hoping that might cure him of his delusions.

It didn’t.

Somehow in spite of it, we remained the best of friends and supporters for each other.

We both love horror movies and H.P. Lovecraft, sci-fi, chocolate, irony, Edgar Allan Poe, metal and comic-book art. We’ve seen each other through our own absolute worst and sometimes our absolute best. He knows nearly as much dirt about me as my best friends. I’ve even – cold heartless bitch that I am – kicked him out of my apartment at 3 AM to a long, cold walk home in the dark because I couldn’t face the consequences if he stayed.

And then.

One Friday night four months ago, after dinner, a few bottles of prosecco and a long evening of heated discussions (Gamergate/rape culture/Tinder/feminism/the tribulations of novel-writing), I didn’t have the heart to kick him out. He stayed.

He’s been around ever since.

One of my cats worships him and the other is coming around to the idea of not being the only male in the household. In most respects, certainly the ones that connote ‘relationship’, it feels like a lighter-hearted laugh of a massive love affair, nothing at all different than any other relationship I’ve been in, except it’s been ages since I’ve woken up in the morning, looked at the sleeping face beside me and thought:

Thank you.

I really don’t think of the twenty-three+ years between us. Nor do I feel maternal in the slightest. Instead, I think of ways to stay on my toes and above all else, stay fascinating.

Since I’ve been around the bend a few times (to put it mildly), I know how to pick my battles and stick to the positive side of things. I haven’t succumbed to a ‘younger’ wardrobe, age-inappropriate makeup or bought a Porsche.

I have re-read Colette’s immortal classic on the older woman/younger man love affair, Chèri. A masterpiece of a novel, and wow, was it depressing. But I am not Léa de Lonval, he is not Chèri, and this is not the Belle Èpoque of Paris, but the twenty-first century and a book-infested garret in the left armpit of Northwestern Europe.

Surely, age shouldn’t matter any more? It shouldn’t, but it does.

This was brought home to me on one sucker-punch occasion I knew would come some day, just not that day. We were walking, talking, holding hands and ignoring the stares of the people in the street, when he met someone he knew.

“So dude,” his friend asked, “you out with your Mom?”

*insert-instant-painful-death-by-total-mortification-here* Mine.

“No.” came the frosty reply. “My girlfriend.”

A long pause, then his friend uttered an embarrassed, definite lower-case “oh.”

He apologized on his friend’s behalf for several days after.

We both know we’ve transgressed the social norm of where we live and are skating on a taboo. Older men and younger women may be a hoary, ancient Hollywood trope, yet if a woman decides not to just slide into the long, slow twilight of Giving Up, if she decides to remain a sexual creature, then she will always, always be vilified, ridiculed and castigated for not giving up one of adulthood’s greatest pleasures and having the audacity to go after it. Which is another trope of cougarism – that I hunted my honey, when the reality is the other way around, and he was as cunning, as stealthy and as patient as any mountain lion on the prowl for some really Big Game.

I haven’t yet met the in-laws, thankfully. I’m not even sure they know about me, and I’m in no particular hurry to find out. You won’t find me fretting about the future or even the future of our relationship, since I’m far too happy with the state of here-and-now. The conversations are always made of champagne bubbles, his highly articulate sense of humor and the absurd always makes me laugh, and my outrageous opinions on anything and everything often make him think and/or laugh. I dress up for a date night and am complimented shamelessly. I spend our weekends together in a Moroccan caftan, no makeup and a terminal case of bedhead and am also complimented. First thing in the morning, before coffee.

No complaints. Certainly not about the reason for the bedhead dreadlocks, since that particular cliché is a cliché for a reason; it’s all true.

I’ve never been so disinhibited in a life that has known its moments of licentiousness, but I was in my twenties then…

All told, it’s amazing. He’s amazing. We’re happy, the cats are happy, my girlfriends like him and to hell with the rest.

If that means I’m branded a cougar (a term I’ve come to loathe), then so be it.

Even if I’ll never look half so good as Cathy Cougar in the flowers.

 


I had a birthday two days ago, the “let’s just say this is an ordinary Thursday like any other Thursday” variety. This particular birthday wasn’t remarkable, not auspicious, not even very ominous as such things go, and yet, I’ve spent the past two months in a peculiar state of dread over – that Thursday.

That Thursday, that April 23rd, that otherwise very unremarkable day that meant I was one year closer to my imminent mortality. That Thursday, that to me seemed suspiciously like a “best before” day, which was a day that happened a long time ago.

My one consolation was that at least I wasn’t the only one. My all-time favorite writer, a long-dead certain Stratford-upon-Avon playwright of untarnished reputation, had probably been feeling rather weighed down by the floor stones of Holy Trinity Church himself for almost 400 years, and so far as we know, the poor man died on his – our – birthday.

It was the “best before” thing that got me. The idea that now – it was almost over. I have almost managed to cross the finish line in the mad, bad, estrogen-fuelled race called sex toward the twilight limbo of menopause and into that Bright New Day of rebirth beyond, where I shall be elevated above such tawdry, pathetic matters and live out the remains of my days in an ethereal glow of self-sufficient bliss. Secure in the knowledge that I’ve Been There, Done Them, Done That and now, thank God – no more.

Oh, no. I shall not go gentle into that good night.

I got the basics out of the way. I have propagated. My immortality is insured. If my chick-magnet four-year-old is anything to go by, a proud line of Viking and Celt heritage will continue down through the ages, perpetuating the red-haired gene he inherited from both sides of the gene pool. He returned from playing yesterday surrounded by a gaggle of very pretty girls aged from about six to twelve, who all cooed good night and waved as I closed the door. As he took off his shoes and dumped his cars on the floor, he looked up at me and said nonchalantly; “Those are my girls.” Sexual charisma starts early, and he’s had that effect since he was a baby of seven months, charming diamond-hard Copenhagen café society ladies from his baby carriage.

So in a sense, I have, by now, fulfilled my purpose. I should just retire.

What I should retire, since you ask, is the notion that it’s all over, that the fun lies behind me, that I can never be wild and wanton again. And apparently, that is a concept that is unique to the last two generations of women, the generation of my own mother, the feminists of the Sixties, and my own generation, which gave us the greatest trailblazer of them all – Madonna.

We shall not age and wither, so long as we can do anything at all to stop the clock. So long as the ultimate sexual currency is youth, so goes the thinking, then we shall forever – or at least as long as we can – remain frozen in some perpetual “woman in her prime” time warp – and to hell and back with convention.

I wonder, though. I wonder whether the problem with women growing older and refusing to give it all up has more to do with male performance anxiety and the unsettling idea that we rapacious, female sexual predators simply know too much – about the masculine mindset, about the tricks and illusions and smoke-and-mirrors they like to hoodwink susceptible twenty-somethings with. We see the bullshit, and refuse to call it roses.

Been there. Done that. You can eradicate crow’s feet, but not experience.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I do not look my age, because I have good bones, I rarely drink alcohol (blame an alcoholic mother), and as a former Goth, I’ve kept out of the sun for well over twenty years, 19 of those buried beneath a very high SPF factor. I agree with Catherine Deneuve who once said that past a certain age, one can have a nice face or a nice ass, but not both, and just as she did, I’ve chosen to go with the face.

The Buttkicker, meanwhile, has no complaints about the other end.

And it’s the other end that’s the problem. Because now, my generation has been dubbed a generation of “cougars” – a particular species of untameable mountain lion. If the media meant it as an insult, then yet again, they’ve failed miserably. Wild, untameable, voracious – and ferocious – predators, on the hunt for man flesh – what’s NOT to love about that description?

Is it because that after all these years of ubiquitous – and often gratuitous – female sexuality in the media, men (who still, by and large, control the media) are now realizing with a start that women can be sexual threats?

C’mon, guys. really. Lesbians have known this for decades. Not only that, men are hard hit that women are gravitating towards – oh, the horror! – younger!!! – men.

It sucks, getting a dose of your own medicine. Really, it does. Pity the forty-something male. Browbeaten by wives to become fully participating dads to a degree and extent that was never demanded by their fathers, and then – unceremoniously dumped in favor of younger flesh.

The bottom line is – we won’t give it up – that bill and coo of sex. It’s been the most – legal – fun we’ve ever had, and we refuse to give it up, because we ladies know that if you don’t give up on sex, it rarely gives up on you.

I lived a split-level existence all my life. My mother was one of the last true courtesans of an age – a courtesan to the marrow of her bones, and her eldest daughter, who never did understand that until Mom was well into her very early grave, stubbornly rejected that particular path, because it wasn’t her own.

“Pretty is good”, as my idolized stepfather used to say, “but smarter is better”. Pretty was my mother’s prerogative, I thought, so it was up to me to prove I had brains.

So I spent a good portion of my life buried in books of many stripes and colors, and then I went out and made my way into the world to apply practice to theory, and some of that included sex. I have done my experiments. I’ve dabbled in many fringes in order to define myself – political, personal and sexual. Some of those fringes have turned into the flypaper of my life and I got stuck by choice and inclination.

And when I finally decided that it was time to roost, and nest, and plant myself somewhere I could truly bloom, I found and married a younger man in the millenium year, because I’ve always been immature for my age.

The Buttkicker knows he married a cougar. He knows – and he appreciates it.

Which might be the reason, after all, why I’m blooming now.

Best not to forget – even after a birthday.

Because I’m not dead yet.

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