For much of my life I looked forward to middle age as the time when I could, once and for all, forget about things like wearing uncomfortable but fashionable clothes and dying my hair a shade other than its natural mousy dishwater blonde. I planned to jettison the contents of my makeup drawer, only wear things that made me feel good, and basically let myself go. Not that I ever truly had all that much to let go of since fashion sense was one sense that I most definitely never developed.
Not all middle-aged women feel this way. Many of the other women insist on dressing up, getting their hair done and being fashionable when they, too, could slide into slovenliness more and more with each passing birthday. There’s a whole passel of women my age and older who wear skirts that are tighter than a blood pressure cuff with heels that make me dizzy just by looking at them and tops that not even the tramps in high school would have dared worn. June Cleaver has been replaced by June Cleavage. Or perhaps those gals are simply cougars.
A cougar is a woman of a certain age (mine) who has a great body and dresses to make sure that everyone knows it. A cougar is a woman who looks at least ten years younger than she actually is, wears animal prints very well and was born knowing how to apply eyeliner. Cougars seldom travel in packs and they almost always let everyone they meet know that they still wear the same size jeans they wore in high school. Most of all, cougars like their dates, shall we say, youthful.
Having grown up in a heavily female household with a father who traveled a lot for work and a brother who escaped from the family home as often as was humanly possible, I always held the belief that men were somehow the more mysterious sex. The strong and silent types. Still waters ran deep and all that. It wasn’t until I had been married for many, many years and had become the mother of two boys that I figured out that men aren’t nearly as mysterious as I thought.
That revelation occurred on the bright summer day I took my oldest son along with me on an errand to a friend’s house with a promise of stopping for fast food afterwards. Upon reaching our destination, we discovered that there was a slumber party going on. What seemed like fifty pre-teen girls surrounded my son, all giggling and screeching and positively thrilled to find a boy in their midst.
As they threw questions at him and asked for his opinion on everything from the kind of pizza they had ordered to what he thought about the movie they were going to watch, I observed him and experienced an epiphany: my son didn’t care what kind of pizza those girls had ordered or what movie they were going to watch after we left. He was thinking about what to order at Burger King on the way home or about his latest video game or the wrestling match he’d watched the night before. Most of all, he was thinking about what a drag it was to go along with Mom on her dumb errands.
There was absolutely nothing mysterious, silent, or deep about his thought patterns but it wasn’t until I became a mom that I figured that out.
Which brings me back to why on earth any woman over forty would want to be a cougar. Why would dating a younger man be something anyone middle-aged would ever desire? I can only imagine the conversations they must have.
Cougar (purring): What do you want to do tonight, honey?
Boy Toy: I dunno. Watch YouTube?
Cougar (disappointed): All night?
Boy Toy: (confused) Why not?
At which point the cougar stops purring and starts thinking how attractive Sean Connery really is, even the bald, post-007 version.
My husband and I are the same age and I am very happy about that. We come from the same background, popular culture wise. He knows who I’m talking about when I mention Captain Kangaroo, Starsky or Hutch, and the Bee Gees. He remembers when gas was under a dollar a gallon and life before cell phones. In other words, he’s my soul mate. Why would any woman in her right mind want to go through the painful process of breaking in someone new and who shares absolutely no reference points?
I’m sure I’m missing the whole point of being a cougar. Perhaps the women who are part of the cougar mindset have much younger, peppier, and zest-filled outlooks on life than I happen to possess. Maybe they still view men as mysterious and believe that the younger their dates are, the more exciting and mysterious they’re going to be.
But take it from me, they’re not. Scratch the surface and all the men I know, from fourteen to forty, are wondering what to order from Burger King. I’m fairly certain the mystery ends there.