COUGARS

Mention the name Ashton Kutcher and most people will scream after the utterance. But I hear Ashton and his character in That ‘70s show comes to mind as well as Demi Moore and the word cougar. It’s the last association that reverberates loudly in mind. Cougar doesn’t refer to Ashton, obviously, but to his wife Demi who is several years his senior.  Such May-December relationships were usually frowned upon until Demi made it fashionable by marrying Ashton and, in turn, making the term cougar an acceptable term for women in their 40s who have relationships with men way younger than them. Apparently,  I fill the bill because, one, of the age factor and, two, most of the men around me are much younger than me as pointed out by a friend during a chat session, leaving gaping bullet-like holes in my self-esteem.

“You’re a member of the cougar club now just like me. Don’t deny it anymore,” she said over YM brashly.

I wasn’t denying anything.  I didn’t know that I was a member of the Cougar Club or that I had applied. This bizarre twist in our conversation came about as she recounted the latest in her personal soap opera in connection with her latest junior boy-toy. She was certain that all intimations pointed to a potential relationship but the catalyst was needed. Shall she follow the dating rules or ignore and, true to the connotations of cougar, go for the kill? In the midst of her ruminations, as if to assuage her feelings of loneliness in cougar land, she decided to rope me in as a fellow cougar.

Cougar has spawned a film Cougar Club, a reality show The Cougar and a sitcom Cougar Town. That cougar is continuously trending has, in turn, lifted society’s strong dictum against the age disparity in sexual relationships. Men going after younger women have always been tolerated, bolstering the egos of the men. As for women, Demi made it legitimate for older women-younger men pairings, scaling down the accusations of women’s impropriety and desperateness. I’d venture to say that, no longer bound by society’s rules of relationships, cougar-ness has emboldened most women to freely express themselves sexually, take hold of their personal lives and pursue what makes them happy.

If that’s the case, why doesn’t my friend’s assertion of my cougar membership sit well with me? Why am I feeling uneasy with the term? It’s reminiscent of the situation of former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina. In 1998, she was named the Most Powerful Woman in Business by Fortune magazine, dislodging Oprah Winfrey from the list. I’m not saying that I’m anywhere near the level of influence that Carly Fiorina has, but we travel on the same plane when it comes to labels. Carly Fiorina argued in her book, Tough Choices: A Memoir, that the Most Powerful Women in Business list “sends a different message altogether. It implies that business is like tennis or golf or soccer – there’s the women’s ladder or team, and the men’s. Women have to compete against one another because they can’t compete with men. Beyond that, there is no 50 Most Powerful Men in Business list.” In the realm of love, when older men – called manther at one point according to Wikipedia – engage in May-December affairs, both man and woman are seen as fortunate for finding their true loves. Men receive additional congratulations for being the man that he can be in spite of the onslaught of old age.

It’s a different situation for women altogether when they’re in May-December affairs. Demi is pardoned, not vilified, because she is simply Demi Moore, one of the influential celebrities of Hollywood ergo she has the license to do anything.  Meanwhile, regular women who are in relationships with “cubs” are praised and denigrated all in the same breath.  They’re congratulated for being in a relationship then put down for improper behavior and cautioned for their folly and the avalanche of heartache soon to come.  It’s a lopsided situation; it’s love for older men with younger women partners and something less than love for women with younger men. Older men are seen as determined and committed when they pursue younger women while women are labeled desperate and insane when they carry on with younger men.  Older men are lauded for being aggressive in finding the love of their lives but criticized in women.  It’s not only the older women who are vilified but the young men are equally belittled. Weren’t people wagering on when Madonna, after her divorce from Guy Ritchie was finalized, would send the young gold digger packing home?

Cougar or puma (a woman in her late 20s or 30s that go for men in their early 20s) don’t make for better women. While the cougars in the animal kingdom are praised for their predatory nature, their protectiveness towards their young and incredible speed, the cougar in women takes on skewed meanings that pull back the advances made in pushing women out of the abyss of discrimination. If I was in a Demi Moore situation, I’ll say I’m no cougar – I’m simply in a wonderful relationship. If I’m smitten with Jake Gyllenhaal or the young drop-dead gorgeous men orbiting my world, I’m simply crushing on them as the parlance of today goes.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by grumps on September 4, 2010 at 4:13 am

    i say f* what society is saying and do whatever makes you happy!

    Reply

  2. Posted by I-am-aoisoba on September 6, 2010 at 11:32 am

    i just dismiss them as fad labels…well if they ask me, i will say “I’m a tiger, hear me rowwwwr ” :p

    Reply

  3. Posted by Tracy Outlaw on September 7, 2010 at 1:48 am

    I MYSELF AM A COUGAR! IT WASNT SUPPOSE TO HAPPEN LIKE THIS,BUT FOR SOME REASON MUCH YOUNGER MEN ALWAYS HOLLER AT ME.I AM IN MY EARLY 40’S AND MEN IN THEIR 20’S SAY SOMTHING TO ME ALL THE TIME.I DO NOT SET OUT TO LOOK FOR YOUNGER MEN THEY GRAVITATE TO ME.THE GUY IM CURRENTLY SEEIN IS 28 BUT WE GET ALONG WELL.I THINK BECAUSE I HAVE A YOUNG SPIRIT AND 3 YOUNGER SISTERS,GUYS DONT BELEIVE MY AGE.RIGHT NOW ITS FUN AND OFCOURSE THE SEX IS THE BOMB!! SO IM COOL WITH IT FOR NOW.

    Reply

  4. Labels… just mere labels.
    I’d like to believe that relationships should transcend age, race, status and everything else superficial. Your post reminded me of the film “The Reader” which I saw a couple of years ago.

    Reply

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