Monday, November 16, 2009

Puma life. Nah - doesn't sound nearly as exotic, does it?

Up until Sunday, I was able to mostly overlook the idea of a website called Cougar life, or something like that. I wrote it off as something of a freak show that advertised on Howard Stern. But it has gone beyond that now.

Let me back up a bit. Before I heard of Cougar life, I had already endured at least a year of radio ads for something called Ashley (Yes, I always hit another channel when the bank of ads begins playing on Howard’s show but it’s impossible to skip all of them.) Who named the company Ashley Madison, I’m not sure – not doubt it’s a combination of female names that tested positively with focus groups of a certain age. But here’s the best part: is basically a dating service for married men and married women who want to have affairs.

Isn’t that admirable? If you’re married, I think we can all agree that it’s basically slimy to join a dating service and present yourself as single and unencumbered. But by joining, you can participate in a dating service filled with people just like you: they are unhappy in their marriages and want to find love elsewhere without going through the hassle of separation or divorce. This is a group filled with honest cheaters, if that kind of person is even possible. You can’t say you weren’t warned.

But back to Cougar life. As the name implies – sadly, the word cougar now “implies” something about women in our society - this is a dating service for women over the age of 40 and younger men who want to date women over the age of 40. (I think age forty is the cutoff. I refuse to fact-check this.)

My dismissive attitude toward something like Cougar and its purpose changed when I read the story in the Times on Sunday. This is no longer some kind of fringe, off-the-radar activity. It is real and even more alarming as a result. has added a monthly “Cougar/Boy Toy” night to its events. At the latest event, the men ranged in age from 23 to 31; the women were between 35 and 56.

And lest you think men might feel confused or unsure of the next steps when they think about dating older women, don’t you worry about it. They can turn to something like to have all their questions answered.

Still need help finding your next relationship? Sign up for the first international Cougar cruise next month.

“ ______.” I’m not sure how to put this.

KUUUUUUUUUSSSSCHH! (That’s the sound of my head banging into my laptop screen.)

In no particular order, here’s what is running through my brain, besides a slight headache:

1. What on earth could possibly attract – in a real, substantive, enduring way – a woman of a certain age to a man who is twenty-four years old? (Okay, besides that. I can appreciate the Orlando Blooms of the world as much as the next person. And sure, no one mentioned “real, substantive or enduring” but I can’t help myself.)

2. Same question, reversed. Let’s be honest here. Not many of these cougars are Heather Locklear or Courtney Cox or Demi Moore. In fact, exactly three of them are: Heather Locklear and Courtney Cox and Demi Moore. I’m pretty sure none of them are hanging out at a Cougar speed dating event on Long Island, looking for a date. Are these guys really looking for woman who could be his mother, who shops in the same stores she does and listens to the same CDs? That's a whole 'nother issue.

3. Are women that needy? That lonely? Have we rationalized our need for affection and “love” to the point that we’ll agree to create some kind of empty relationship with a man who is twenty years younger than we are in order to prop up our own sagging (among other things) egos?

4. Somehow, I don’t think the men in these relationships are all that lonely. This is their way of spending time with women who “have seen how bad things can get” according to one Cougar-dater, and as a result they look like heroes. They get zero pressure for marriage or children from these women. The mature woman will overlook a young man’s minor flaws; they’ve seen worse after all.

5. I hate the title “cougar.” I really hate it. Don’t know who started it but it’s completely aggravating and somehow even more fake and pretentious than almost any other title that could be affixed to this fake and pretentious phenomenon.

Maybe this whole thing will fade away as quickly as it arrived. It’s just sort of embarrassing, isn’t it? For me, there is something kind of pathetic about women who use – yes, use - younger men to help them make peace with being in their forties and fifties.

Come on, sisters. We’re better than that, aren’t we? Right? Didn’t our sisters (and mothers and grandmothers) march for the right for us to be forty and fabulous? Or fifty and fantastic? Or sixty and sensational? It somehow diminishes all their hard-fought battles when we all show up at the company Christmas party with a twenty-six year old.

Call it what you want. Cougar life. Or Cougar / Boy Toy night. I call it female insecurity masquerading as twenty-first century sophistication. May it soon be in our collective rear view mirror.

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