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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Sweet Spot: Hunting the Myth of the Cougar

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 8:00 AM


The Cougar. She's hot. She's fortysomething. She has a nice car and possibly a husband. And she is on the prowl. Grrrrr. She has been around for a long time. Centuries ago, Roman matrons often enjoyed the attentions of nubile young men while their husbands were away making war. As the industrial age dawned, many a young painter had a stylish older woman to thank for his success and sex education. Then in 1967, the predatory aging woman became an icon with the release of The Graduate, in which the Mrs. Robinson immortalized by Simon and Garfunkel gives a young Benjamin his first lesson after college.


The cougar has since become very popular. There are cougar parties, cougar dens, and cougar websites. But does the cougar actually exist? Certainly, from time to time, a hard-bodied youth will find himself preyed upon by just such a woman. But more interesting is that increasing numbers of older women are finding fun, frolic, and even romantic happiness with much younger men. And there is nothing predatory about it. 

Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson: Anne Bancroft in The Graduate.
  • Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson: Anne Bancroft in The Graduate.

Enter Lisa Donnelly, a singer/songwriter in her 30s. She doesn't technically fit the cougar profile, but she has been dating younger men for years.

"First of all, people often think I am younger than I am, so at the end of the day, what does age really matter if you are having a good time?" she asks.

She credits her youthfullness to good genes, being in the music world, and having an active curiosity about life.

Donnelly never set out to date younger men.

Lisa Donnelly
  • Lisa Donnelly

"When I turned 28, all of a sudden men in their early 20s started hitting on me," she says. "I thought it was strange, but then over time it began to make sense."

And what attraction do these younger men hold for her?

"They have an excitement and wonder to them," she says. "And there is also often more of a quality of stepping up to the plate with these younger men, a willingness to really give."

Donnelly is not the only one with this experience. More and more women are staying single and pursuing all manner of adventures as they grow older. Most of her friends have had a number of relationships with those hot young things. I was also 28 when this bit of fun started, and it has continued though I am now older than Jesus.

There was that lanky 19-year-old philosophy major with skin that blushed easily. And just last year there was that 24-year-old poet who wasn't just a fling. We were -- oh my god, can I say it, oh yes -- in love.

And why are these men interested in us?

"We know more who we are. [We] have a sense of our passions and interests and enjoy our independence," says Donnelly, who remembers how confused and needy she was in her early 20s. "There is the possibility of both people getting the best out of each other with an older woman and a younger man. There can be openness, affection, and the chance to learn something new."

"We both learned something," says Andrew Paul Nelson of his relationship with an older woman.
  • "We both learned something," says Andrew Paul Nelson of his relationship with an older woman.

Andrew Paul Nelson, poet and member of Fox & Woman, agrees. He once had a fling with a Turkish economics professor.

"It wasn't awkward," he says. "We both learned something. We did each other a favor."

Adam Lux, who operated some of the puppets on Sesame Street, had a seven-year relationship with an older woman and credits her with changing his life. "She taught me how to be comfortable with my body," he says.

As to why he thinks that she enjoyed being with him, "It was a symbiotic relationship. She liked the attention as she hadn't been with anyone in a while. She enjoyed being able to have a strong role."

Although they eventually parted, he believes that he wouldn't be who he is now if it weren't for her.

This experience may not be everyone's cup of tea, but those who are sipping recommend at least one experience of crossing the gender age divide for everyone. Grrrr. Purrr.

The Sweet Spot is a weekly blog column about alternative sexuality by Ginger Murray. Check back next Monday for more.

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Ginger Murray


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