If a woman of a certain age prefers to date a younger man, they call her a “cougar.” If a man dates younger women, the guys slap him on the back and call him lucky. Why the disparity? After all, a cougar is an animal with a strong agenda, one that preys on others. I don’t like the comparison. Why is this woman on the prowl, while the object of her interests is not? Maybe we can call these younger men who prefer older ladies “cheetahs” or even “bulls.” Cheetahs are smaller wild animals who, like the cougar, are just another form of predator. And bulls will charge at anything that has a target on its back -- sort of sounds like a single’s bar to me! But my question is this, when did we all become animals? And when did dating turn into hunting?
I began considering this question not too long ago after a certain television show came out. I called one of my daughters to clarify the meaning of the term and to ask if there was any connection to myself. “No, mom,” she said. “A cougar goes after younger men. In your case, they’re chasing you.” We laughed and it got me to thinking about age, attraction and where we draw the line.
Today’s woman is independent, active and financially secure. The 50 of today is not the same as it was for our mothers and grandmothers. In fact, some women mid-life are more physically fit than plenty of 20- and 30-year-olds. We work harder to be attractive and often, we finding ourselves dating in between visits to see our grandkids. Maybe that’s why the lines between young and old have blurred over the years. Maybe that’s why everyone seems to be on the prowl.
These “cheetahs” are fast predators. But to be honest, I don’t know if one could keep up with me and my life -- or if I’d want to slow down enough for him to catch up. That’s not to say I haven’t been approached -- one time even by a man who graduated high school the same year as my daughter. Yikes!!! I can’t imagine ever being up for that. I do know this, life is too short to rule out happiness because of a number; and like the men of the past, today’s woman doesn’t have to. Like the term “old maid” that used to describe a 22-year-old who wasn’t married, I hope that time, perspective and progress will one day too make the term and the thinking behind the “cougar” a thing of the past.