This is something the boy called me on my second date and laughed when I frowned. Awhile ago, it popped up again in a conversation and sparked off a wave of laughter. I glared. He grinned and said,
“But the cougar is a beautiful animal!”
No, the man just did not get it.
Here are some of the descriptions I found of the word, on Urban Dictionary:
“A 35+ year old female who is on the “hunt” for a much younger, energetic, willing-to-do-anything male. The cougar can frequently be seen in a padded bra, cleavage exposed, propped up against a swanky bar waiting, watching, calculating; gearing up to sink her claws into an innocent young and strapping buck who happens to cross her path.”
“An older woman who is past her prime & who is attracted to younger men, often as an act of desperation or as a last resort.”
“A Cougar is a female, usually between thirty and fifty years-old, who enjoys the sexual company of younger men. Cougars are only usually interested in men under the age of twenty-five. Also, Cougars are non-committal, choosing to move from mate to mate without ever settling down. It is not uncommon for the same Cougar to attack (sleep with) many different men in the same group of friends.”
I struggle with labels and for one single reason – because they rarely evolve as human descriptions should and often stay limited to the associations that they started with. This is also why I’ve never liked most popular descriptions of men for women, notably one that reminds me of a fluffy, yellow-feathered bird.
A cougar describes an older woman and one who it is acceptable to see as a sex object. This much is actually fine and inoffensive. But overlaid on that are perceptions of desperation, of cheap behaviour, of non-committedness and a generally predatory aura. While some of those may seem appealing within an erotic fantasy, no one (man or woman) wants to be described in those terms.
There is an almost tangible movement in popular culture today, pushing the idea of an independent woman acquiring male attention from the always most attractive age group – the 20s. That prototype has existed for years (think Hugh Hefner surrounded by nubile bunny-eared beauties). This is no more than a female version of the same archetype and it’s not pushing sex or freedom, it’s about power.
As a recipient of all the benefits of women’s liberation and empowerment, I enjoy financial independence, the virtue of fabulousness, the heady high of choices and control over my own body. My only problem with this, is that it’s cold when it gets into the realm of relationships. I don’t like the idea of treating human beings, male or female as acquisitions or status symbols. Whether men have been doing it for decades or not doesn’t change things. I can’t see how a relationship that is about exchanging power for money/fame can have anything to do with love, trust or any of those things that make a relationship great.
To come back, that’s why the description of cougar stings. If the original thought be true, it shouldn’t matter what
gender a person is, for them to be appealing to a large number of the opposite sex (younger or otherwise). It’s not an age no-bar situation. Age and experience have after all molded one into a person of confidence, ease, polish and independence. Attraction is flattering when it happens because I’m me, not because I fit the current fashionable norm of appealing. So yes, ask me my age by all means. But don’t call me a cougar.
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I wasn’t a pretty child. Oily skin, stringy hair, gangly long limbs. Then puberty came along, and like a fairy godmother, bestowed me with a complete makeover. Suddenly I had the passport into BabeLand.
That was an eon ago, long enough anyway to make me wonder whether the fairy godmother was really a wicked witch in disguise…such is the two-sidedness of her gift. Let me explain.
The love of my life was my dearest friend for many years. Then we got together and shortly afterwards broke up. It was a shattering experience and the final knife in my heart was his parting shot,
“Someday you’ll make some guy really happy…in bed.”
With that one statement he had reduced over six years of warmth and affection, of loyalty and empathy, of buried pride and caring gestures to something as frivolous and fleeting as my body. It still haunts me.
Another time, my best friend who is one of those few people who was born beautiful, was at the receiving end of the attentions of a guy I knew well. She didn’t reciprocate and so didn’t bother prolonging the conversation with me. Later, I heard him complaining about what a frigid ice queen she was. I found myself chiding him with,
“You know that’s not true. I could never be friends with someone like that. She’s just reserved, that’s all.”
He shrugged and in a rare moment of honesty admitted,
“I suppose so. But no guy likes taking no for an answer. And if the girl is good-looking, it’s even more of incentive to bitch about what a cold creature she is.”
I’ve had a chance to speak to someone I almost dated a few years ago. Almost I say because he ended it before it had begun, so to speak. Recently we got talking about the times back then. He said,
“I thought you were very attractive and I was tempted to give it a shot. But I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere so I decided not to. It wouldn’t have been fair on you.”
I always held him in high esteem and my regard for him grew even further after this conversation.
And for my final story there’s someone else who I’ve gone out with a few times. I discovered that he is already in some sort of relationship. When I pushed him, he admitted to it. I was left in a quandary when he told me,
“I think you’re attractive. You are quite hot, you know. At least I didn’t kiss you or something.”
Yes, I am deeply grateful for that. But the fact remains that I am left feeling a tad humiliated as well as quite insulted.
There’s a pattern I see in all of the above. Except for my wise never-boyfriend friend, all the other men have treated women as desirable objects, strong temptations. There’s a part of me, my vain, feminine side that basks in such glorious admiration. Unfortunately that’s only a part of me. I’m more than my face and my body and my sex appeal. What none of these men seem to have considered is that the woman, regardless of how hot she is, has actual emotions like any other human being. It seems basic but why don’t they get it?
A pretty face does not insulate you from being hurt. A great body does not protect you from feelings of rejection, abandonment and humiliation. My looks are not your excuse for bad behavior. And yet much of the bigger half of the population seems to think so.