Mod­ern love: I am cougar, hear me roar

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

Cougars are usu­ally por­trayed as des­per­ate women out to prey on in­no­cent young men for a sex­ual thrill. But, Bev­er­ley Had­graft asks, are they ac­tu­ally ma­ligned and mis­rep­re­sented?

DANNY WAS 29 and work­ing be­hind a bar when a wo­man in her 50s started flirt­ing with him. She or­dered cock­tails with naughty names and even­tu­ally one thing led to another.

“I’d never en­ter­tained the idea of a fe­male sub­stan­tially older than my­self be­fore,” Danny (who asked us not to pub­lish his sec­ond name) re­calls. He clearly en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence though. Since then, he’s dated around 20 cougars for any­thing from a one-night stand to a two-year re­la­tion­ship.

“Two-thirds is sex­ual,” he ex­plains, “but I also find older women more en­ter­tain­ing. You can have a de­cent con­ver­sa­tion with them.”

Younger women’s idea of fun is a week­end ben­der, he says. “You can’t prise their iPhone out of their hands and they turn ev­ery­thing into a ma­jor drama. The ma­ture wo­man just deals with it and moves on.

“And have you looked on so­cial me­dia? Hon­estly, Gen Y… their gram­mar is shock­ing!”

Danny is univer­sity-ed­u­cated and fit from a life­time of mar­tial arts. He ap­pre­ci­ates the good things in life – fine wine and din­ing, a well-cut suit, a nice cologne and an un­der­stand­ing of the pos­ses­sive apos­tro­phe. So do his cougars.

His pre­ferred hunt­ing grounds, he says, are the eastern sub­urbs and north­ern beaches of Syd­ney. He oc­ca­sion­ally taps into the Tin­der app for a hook-up or hangs out in bou­tique bars, but his ideal meet­ing place is farm­ers mar­kets.

How does that work?

“Well, if she’s look­ing at zuc­chini, I make some sly but in­tel­li­gent com­ment like, ‘Did you know zuc­chi­nis are ac­tu­ally a fruit not a veg­etable?’

“In­stantly, you’ve got her at­ten­tion and your foot in the door.”

For those who be­lieve cougars only hang out in sec­ond-rate night­clubs in scar­let and stilet­tos, dis­cov­er­ing they’re ac­tu­ally pe­rus­ing or­ganic veges in jeans and bal­let flats may come as a sur­prise.

“The hot soc­cer mum, that’s the type I like,” Danny ex­plains, “al­though I did once go to a wed­ding and in­stead of go­ing home with a brides­maid I went home with the bride’s mother.

“She was di­vorced,” he adds, hastily. Danny reck­ons cougars get a bad rap from the me­dia. “There are plenty of 45-year-old men with 25-year-old wives and, so­cially, that’s ac­cept­able, but turn the ta­bles and don’t the me­dia have a field day.”

Has he pointed this out to his mum when she asks about his love life? She doesn’t know, he replies. Nor will she. Cougars are not for ever, he says.

Oth­ers do not, ap­par­ently, agree on this point. Many fe­male celebri­ties are with much younger men. De­bor­raLee Fur­ness is renowned for hav­ing one of the hap­pi­est mar­riages in Hol­ly­wood with Hugh Jack­man, 13 years her ju­nior. Kylie Minogue,

48, got en­gaged to Joshua Sasse, 28, ear­lier this year. Halle Berry, 49, is cur­rently dat­ing a 27-year-old rap­per, and Jen­nifer Lopez has been with Casper Smart, 18 years her ju­nior, since 2011. Then there’s Madonna, Su­san Saran­don, Kris Jen­ner…

These classy women make it okay for oth­ers to come out of the cougar closet, says Lu­cia De­masi, gen­er­ally re­garded as ‘the queen of cougars’. With her blonde hair and smooth skin, Lu­cia looks age­less – an aura she main­tains by re­fus­ing to ever re­veal her age.

Lu­cia runs The Cougar Club, a


United States web­site for cougars, and has a Face­book page with around 300,000 fol­low­ers. How did she be­come cougar roy­alty?

Demi Moore kicked off the cougar rev­o­lu­tion in 2003 when she dated Ash­ton Kutcher, she ex­plains. The pub­lic were fas­ci­nated and Lu­cia, al­ready an es­tab­lished dat­ing and re­la­tion­ships ex­pert, found her­self be­ing quizzed about the phe­nom­e­non. She’s been opin­ing on ra­dio and TV shows all over the world ever since.

Ac­cord­ing to Lu­cia, the of­fi­cial def­i­ni­tion of a cougar is a wo­man over 40 who dates men at least 10 years younger. The men the cougars date are cubs and, she claims, there are around eight cubs to ev­ery wo­man. Re­ally? “Oh, yeah. I al­ways joke there are a short­age of cougars,” she says.

Lu­cia does a brisk busi­ness in ‘how to catch a cougar’ tu­to­ri­als for these keen cubs. It of­fers ad­vice about avoid­ing clichéd pick-up lines like: ‘You’re hot’, and never ask­ing her out by text. They get their $19.97 back if they haven’t ben­e­fit­ted after 30 days and are man enough to ad­mit it.

The term ‘cougars’ was ac­tu­ally coined by Cana­dian ice hockey teams in the 1990s for their older groupies. With its ob­vi­ously preda­tory con­no­ta­tions, un­for­tu­nately the name has stuck.

“I’d pre­fer ‘time­less god­dess’ my­self but it’s not so catchy,” Lu­cia says.

“I tell peo­ple to look at the pos­i­tive as­pects of a cougar – sleek, strong and in con­trol. The idea they’re preda­tory is a fan­tasy. How of­ten does an at­trac­tive wo­man of any age have to chase guys? That’s just some­thing the me­dia would like you to be­lieve.”

Mum of four Donna Kar­licki also agrees that it’s the cubs do­ing all the prowl­ing. Aged 44, she’s dated seven cubs and is con­stantly hit on by younger men. “To be hon­est I don’t un­der­stand the at­trac­tion,” she says. “In Ade­laide, where I live, there are so many stun­ning young girls. I wouldn’t do it if the roles were re­versed. I of­ten think they have it in their head the older wo­man is go­ing to teach them some­thing sex­u­ally, but from what I hear, it seems younger women are more ex­pe­ri­enced any­way.

“If you go on some­thing like Tin­der, it’s just one-night stands, but that’s not how I roll. I’ve got morals and it’s noth­ing but re­spect­ful.”

Like most cougars, Donna didn’t set out to date younger men. Her first cub hit on her when she was out to din­ner with friends and, after en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing in con­trol while still hav­ing fun, she con­tin­ued. Her most re­cent re­la­tion­ship was 26 to her 44 and lasted more than two years.

“I like the fact I know I won’t have a fu­ture with them,” she says. “I don’t in­vest my emo­tions 100 per cent and I know I won’t get hurt be­cause of that. I don’t ac­tu­ally want to be head over heels in love with any­one at the mo­ment.”

The cubs, mean­while, get some­one who’s car­ing but not needy. “They’re proud to be seen with me,” Donna adds. “They al­ways want to hold my hand. I make a joke of it if we go to a restaurant and say how ev­ery­one must think, what a nice son, they are tak­ing their old mum out for din­ner.”

Donna roars with laugh­ter. Ac­tu­ally, all the cougars laugh a lot at this strange state of af­fairs.

Donna has three daugh­ters, aged 19 to 24. “My el­dest says, ‘Mum, it’s dis­gust­ing’ – as I would’ve to my mother,” she says, laugh­ing. “I don’t tell the youngest too much, but they’re al­ways say­ing, ‘Mum, this guy thinks you’re hot.’ They think that’s cool.

“I just reckon if Demi Moore can do it, so can I. Men have been do­ing this for so long. It’s about time we took back some power.”

Tanya Sta­ple­ton’s ex­pe­ri­ences with younger men have been less pos­i­tive. She re­cently agreed to cof­fee with a 25-year-old. “He was nice, but more ma­ture than me,” she says. “I sat there think­ing, ‘Wow! So many life goals…’”

Perth-based Tanya, 42, says she’s found other cubs quite ag­gres­sive. “They tar­get women in their 40s be­cause they think she’ll be grate­ful.

“They say, ‘I’m not after any­thing se­ri­ous.’ And I re­ply, ‘Oh, you mean noth­ing more than a cou­ple of hours.’

“I find that in­ter­est­ing be­cause, like many women in their 40s, I prob­a­bly look the best I’ve ever looked and have the con­fi­dence to go with it.”

So is she go­ing to stick to guys her own age? Tanya sighs. “They have so much un­re­solved bag­gage,” she says.

The un­re­solved bag­gage is­sue is one Lu­cia en­coun­ters a lot among happy cougars. “The num­ber one rea­son they like younger men is they have no ex-wives, no chil­dren they have to see ev­ery other week­end and no al­imony.

“Women are now fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent, which means they can make more hon­est choices. There have


been great ad­vances in beauty and they rarely look their age.”

And is it true that women in their 40s and men in their 20s en­joy sex­ual com­pat­i­bil­ity? “I don’t go with that,” Lu­cia says, laugh­ing. “How does that ac­count for the rest of the pop­u­la­tion be­ing in­ter­ested in sex?”

Lu­cia, of course, dates younger men. Like most cougars, that wasn’t her life plan, it’s just that as she got older, the age of the guys ask­ing her out re­mained the same.

“I work-out, I do yoga and dance, I travel, I don’t have chil­dren or the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties other women my age have. I get along with younger men. I have a young spirit, I like men with a young spirit.”

When 43-year-old mum of three Juliet Pot­ter told her dad she was dat­ing a man 18 years her ju­nior his re­sponse was, “What­ever do you talk about?”

“I told him I talk about the same stuff I talk to ev­ery man about. He’s

25, he’s not 12. He’s a ma­ture per­son.”

Juliet looks 10 years younger than she is. She’d had one very brief date with a much younger man, but while beau­ti­ful, he was also bor­ing – and she couldn’t leave fast enough.

She was in a restaurant with clients in Oc­to­ber last year when Marco made eye con­tact, asked if she was sin­gle and con­fi­dently asked for her num­ber. They’ve been to­gether ever since.

With a PR agency and web­sites that spe­cialise in sell­ing cars to women, Juliet says she is “all about fe­male em­pow­er­ment”.

Terms like cougar in­fu­ri­ate her. “It’s so deroga­tory,” she says. “If Marco was 43 and I was 25, I don’t be­lieve it would be men­tioned. Why is it even an is­sue? The fact we live in a male­dom­i­nated so­ci­ety is why.

“We’re not chas­ing these men, they’re chas­ing us. You reach 40 and you’re not sup­posed to be sexy any more, but the re­al­ity is younger men find women in their 40s ex­tremely sexy.

“The more of us who come out and talk about it, the more com­fort­able we’re go­ing to feel about it.”

Juliet shows me a photo of Marco. “He’s so hand­some, it’s ridicu­lous,” she says glee­fully. “Go me!”

In­ter­est­ingly, Danny emails pho­tos of his lat­est part­ner that day, too. “Very tidy for 47,” he ob­serves. “I was sur­prised at first how good women in their 40s looked. I’m not any more.”

A few days later, he emails again to tell me about another con­quest, this time made in a gym, where his lat­est squeeze was “re­claim­ing her body”.

He also emails a photo of some zuc­chini he spot­ted in Wool­worths. “Now, ev­ery time I see these, I think of you,” he wrote. Spot the preda­tor.

A bar­man mixes mar­ti­nis for Donna Kar­licki, 44 (left), and Tanya Sta­ple­ton, 42.

Kar­dashian family ma­tri­arch and re­al­ity TV star Kris Jen­ner, 60, has found love with Corey Gam­ble, 35, since meet­ing him in 2014. Gam­ble works for Justin Bieber’s man­ager.

Kylie Minogue, 48, and Joshua Sasse, an­nounced their en­gage­ment in Fe­bru­ary after meet­ing in Septem­ber 2015. There is a twodecade age gap be­tween them.

Jen­nifer Lopez has been with her part­ner, Casper Smart, for five years. At 46, she is 17 years older than the 29year-old ac­tor, dancer and chore­og­ra­pher.

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