Atmosphere

Survival of the Fittest

The cougar trend is threatening to upend the natural order of relationships—and that’s not a bad thing.

November 2010

Forget what TMZ says about Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher: I invented the cougar. Or at least, I was cougar hunting years before it was cool and had a catchy name. My May–December dating resume reads like a roundup of Arena Football League scores (21–33, 28–36, 34–50, 37–54, 38–46). Although some might think I was on the losing end of these tallies, I was actually winning—big—because women “of a certain age” possess more confidence, charisma, and j’ne sais quoi than their inchoate younger sisters.

Pop culture’s tastemakers might argue that this phenomenon is vapid and fleeting, like infusing everything with bacon, or Snooki, but they’re missing the point. Cougars are here to stay. And even though the rise of this feline class means that, at 43 years old, I’m now too old to date women my own age, I still say it’s a good thing.

Go to high-end hotspots like Elway’s, Second Home, and Tavern Wash Park, and you’ll find legions of middle-aged women prowling, devouring men—boys, really—with devil-may-care libidos. What started this phenomenon, you might ask? If you look beyond the one-night-stand culture, it becomes quite clear that these ladies are pissed. At us: middle-aged men. They sunk everything they had—emotionally, financially, and otherwise—into ill-fated, age-appropriate unions and ended up saddled with surly, semi-animate couch jockeys who tubbed out, ran out of interesting things to say, and got too comfy to try anything new.

Now, thanks to everything from several decades of dual-income households to a neo-feminist culture that all but orders women to “have it all,” cougars suddenly realized they don’t need us anymore. Women have their own money, goals, and sense of self, and older men are mucking up their mojo.

I’ve never been in a relationship long enough to bore the hell out of someone, but I still get tagged with the stigma: My mere age gets me lumped into the loser category. (The tide began to turn against me almost the minute I hit 40.) After the umpteenth such encounter, I finally realized that now that they’ve tasted the benefits of skewing younger, why would the cougars come back? Consider the flip side: Does anyone expect older men to suddenly lose their eons-long interest in younger women?

No, the only way we men can climb out of this hole we’ve dug ourselves into is by getting our collective act together so our women stop seeking boys. Because if their mates are going to act like children anyway, they’d be foolish not to choose ones with tighter abs and trustier hairlines. It’s time to take a little initiative. Is it really that difficult to pry open your emotional side, or take your gal pal to a cooking class or a play, or go for a hike? (Or, when all else fails, pop a Viagra?) Like it or not, cougars aren’t going anywhere, and only after we graybeards vanquish our inner dumbass and meet them halfway can we reclaim our once-macho mojo.

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