The cougars have come out of the jungle, and Lady Friday has armed herself with a pith helmet in pursuit of answers. Can it last? Who takes charge? Can Mrs Robinson live happily ever after?
My first experience with cougars was, oddly, in primary school, before the phenomenon even had a name. A schoolmate’s mother, lithe and post-forties and prone to wearing neon visors, lost her first husband (I was eight and thought she’d left him somewhere). Then, suddenly, she started coming to softball games and parental cocktail parties with her tennis coach on her arm. Said tennis coach was blonde, Swiss, hilariously accented, and twenty-five, max.
Even at eight, my main thought was ‘Brava, madam’.
Now, however, the cougar is a social force all her own – not sad or cynical or desperate, but imbued with Joan-Collins glamour and a weird feminist tinge. Courtney Cox is making a TV series called Cougartown, for god’s sake. Women with younger men aren’t just Anna Nicole Smith reversed; they’re the hot trend of 2009. (Whether this has something to do with the recession, I am not qualified to speculate.)
The big question, of course – and you know you’ve all thought this whenever your grandmother’s bridge partner marries a forty-year-old- is can these May-December unions work?
On the evidence, there’s no reason why not. One important reason is that women’s sexual drives peak at a later point than men’s- in their mid-30s to 40s, or perhaps even later. Men hit their stride much younger, so in the bedroom at least it’s a match made in… well, heaven as envisioned by Ivana Trump. Besides, Western women are having their kids later and later – wanting a virile partner who won’t throw his back out leaning down for a kid is a plus.
Plus, of course, there’s the power. My schoolmate’s mother handled her sweetheart like he was a wonderful prize she’d won at a fair, and he, to his credit, let her take charge. Cougars, I suspect, have generally made their own money and are used to maintaining a highly independent lifestyle. Obviously there are men out there who find that extremely attractive.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and Harold-and-Maude happiness. Men, after all, mature more slowly than women, so the cougar looking for a tiger in the bed might find an overgrown, selfish 14-year-old who wouldn’t know how to be in a giving relationship if it hit him on the head. Even if you’re a giddy girl at 50, life priorities and experiences tend to differ radically between the 60s and the 40s. (One wonders what the tennis coach had to contribute to conversation.)
I personally am cynical (in all aspects of life generally) and so will always wonder about the motives and dynamics behind cougars and their partners – is there a word for them? Prey? Feed? – but maybe I shouldn’t be. For all I know, the tennis coach and his winsome visor-wearing love are living happily ever after in Switzerland. It’s always possible.
Lady Friday xx
Taking the pillow talk out of the bedroom, every Friday…
Are you a cougar or a cougar-chaser? Share your thoughts below.