Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The arrival of the cougar

I could never be labeled a trend-follower, let alone a trendsetter. I may have erred mistakenly into wearing something 'of the moment'  at times, but that’s usually only because said trends have finally come back round to my way of dressing, rather than as a result of me picking up Vogue and thinking – oh yes, this season I really must invest in those must-have platform killer heels, essential knits or day-glo gloves etc.

So it’s been a little disturbing to find myself not just following one of the latest trends, but actually living it… 

Five years ago or so, I inadvertently embraced one aspect  of typical 21st century living  when, as statistics would no doubt have predicted, my long-term relationship fell apart, and I  - plus two kids - left leafy suburbia, to set up a new single-parent home in what I like to describe as a tiny urban cottage, but what the kids would probably call, ‘a dump’.

Just to liven things up a little, I decided that was also the time to return to the world of glossy London magazines and take a job as a Features Editor. My plan, if I had one, was not only to get back into doing a job I really enjoyed, but maybe gain some enhanced self respect along the way - and friends reassured me (when I exhibited regular guilt about being away from home a lot more) that, in juggling it all, I was actually being an excellent role model for the children. I don’t think any of us anticipated that what I was actually about to do was turn into a Cougar.

For those of you who don’t read the lifestyle pages of the papers, the word Cougar now refers to rather more than the sleek pumas or mountain lions you see in the wildlife parks.  Rather less flatteringly, today’s ‘Cougar’ is  “a woman of 40 or so who pursues younger men, typically more than eight years their junior” (wikipedia). Put like that, it initially sounds, well somewhat seedy, but then you look at the people who have entered the realms of the cougar, and the list includes Madonna, Demi Moore, Sadie Frost, Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston and more. Apparently, bagging yourself a younger, well MUCH younger man, is quite de rigeur these days… but I didn’t know that four years ago..  All I knew was that I was still spending my days bursting into tears in the office whenever I spoke to any lawyers, and my evenings going to Clapham Picture House for some solitary popcorn. But, that all changed when I eventually, and rather inadvertently, spent a night with a work colleague, who was more than 10 years my junior…

As I’m at risk here of being labelled as some sort of ageing seductress, desperate to gain a final trophy, I think I should make it clear that, when it comes to matters of the heart or even the bed, my past was hardly going to raise many eyebrows. Apart from the inevitably decadent years of student life,  I was your average serial monogamist until finally settling down with someone of a similar age, from a similar background, and having two kids and a cat.

But something happened that night, over a long drunken dinner at St Katharine’s dock with the ridiculously youthful Ad Manager, that opened my eyes to the whole wonderful, testosterone-pumped world of the younger man. I didn’t have high hopes of my first date with someone who was still at primary school when I was starting university, but I spent that sultry summer’s evening with a man who complimented me, listened to me, laughed a lot, talked about his feelings, and – god forbid - even understood my liking for indie guitar bands.  There was no middle-aged talk of house prices, no expanding waistline, and no burden of  responsibility or emotional baggage weighing heavily  upon his shoulders. Finally I could understand why it was that Madonna hooked up with Guy, Demi is more than fine without Bruce,  and  the close-to-forty Moss found it hard to resist Docherty’s more childish charms.

What is rather sad is that the media has seen fit to come up with such a depressingly predatorial phrase for women enjoying such relationships. It’s as if the poor men involved  are the hapless prey and poor Tim Robbins (52) has spent the past 20 years trying to escape the clutches of his beautiful and intelligent wife Susan Sarandon (62). Despite the fact that women since Cleopatra, and even Elizabeth 1, have  favoured the younger man, society continues to treat these couplings with a certain suspicion, while smiling benignly at the older man trading his girlfriend in yet again for the even younger model.

Well, if you’re someone who wants to live by society’s unwritten rule book, that's fine - go find yourself someone more grown up. But if you don't mind, I'm not quite ready to do that yet. I'm still having far too much fun... 

Coming next  – what a Cougar should always carry in her handbag....




  1. Love the blog: refreshingly honest and beautifully written. More please:)

  2. Reading your blog made me smile in the gloom of rain and dark early nights.It even made me wonder if perhaps it's a tree I should be barking up ...... it all sounds rather appealing xxxxxx Just go and get my little black dress on and head off to the works Christmas do!!!!!!!!! Don't think that there are any candidates tho!!!!!!
    Heaps of love
    Suzie xxx :)