Is being called a "cougar" a compliment?
Is the term “cougar” a compliment?
I first heard the term “cougar” when my husband Adam and I started dating. I had no idea what it meant, so I googled it. I was not flattered with the classification. In fact, the classification lacked class.
Though it is true that when we started dating I was 37 and he was 24, it is also true that two years of friendship mixed with a series of unforeseeable and often painful circumstances was the machete that cleared the jungle paths in front of us, which miraculously converged to make us “us”. And taking a new path that many warned me not to take was not an easy decision nor in my nature. I can honestly say I pursued nothing. So, for people to think I hunted him, hog-tied and married him out of some wild game safari in my mind is crazy.
Wikipedia.org defines a “cougar” as a woman, 35 years of age or older, who pursues younger men, typically more than eight years her junior for playful fun. The term began as a put-down for older women who would go to bars on the “hunt” and go home with whoever was left at the end of the night.
So, what I saw as an unexpected blessing was being mocked as a successful “hunt”. It was insulting. I was just as shocked as the rest of the world at the turn of events. When I learned from Adam that he had feelings deeper than friendship I was surprised, pleasantly surprised, but surprised none the less.
Why are women flattered by this?
When we were just friends I used to think that who ever ended up with this kind, gentle man would be the luckiest girl in the world. He was dating nobody. When I asked him why one day, he said it was because he was waiting for it to be someone and something special. “Wow,” I thought. But I never even imagined it would be me.
It sounds corny, but our friendship was just not like that. It was just a really good, trusting friendship where you laughed and felt free to share anything…even the embarrassing stuff. At that time I was a wounded and weepy soul mourning a marriage I knew I had to end and in turn hating life and all men in general. Nobody stood a chance with me. It is true. I was a man hater.
“All men suck,” I would say to Adam and my other coworkers when we chatted about work, relationships and life over an end of the day margarita.
“Hey!” Adam would respond, insulted as he had every right to be.
“Not you my friend,” I would quickly respond. “I did not mean you. But you are an exception.”
This was a friend who called to make certain I made it home safely on snowy work nights. He was a friend who pushed for me to see a Reiki Practitioner because he feared I might never recover from the pain and grief from the divorce. I was in a very bad place. It was like that scene in Under the Tuscan Sun, where Frances is told by her best friend that she was becoming one of those “empty shelled people standing at a crossroads”. You see them and you think, what in the hell happened to them? And you know that somewhere in their lives something crushed them and they came to a crossroads and just remained stuck. They never moved on. That was me…a shell of a human being trying to continue to function and laugh again, not even a shadow of a wild cat mid-life chick on the prowl.
So though the concept of “cougar” has evolved into what many feel is a compliment. I would rather just get carded alongside my younger husband, which thankfully happens by the way. Somehow, we meet in the age difference middle, him acting older than his age, me acting younger. He watched all the same shows I did as a kid, only in re-runs. He know Alex P. Keaton and all the 80s bands. Truth is if I had hunted for someone like him I would not have found what I have today. Sometimes the best things in life just happen if you are brave enough to let them. No safari required.