Gr­rrr! I am cougar, hear me ph­woar

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UP -

Lock up your cubs – cougars are on the prowl. Cougar Town the TV se­ries may be long gone, and the Cougar Cruise has sailed into the sun­set but the cougar phe­nom­e­non con­tin­ues un­abated.

You can go to a cougar con­ven­tion, cougar din­ner par­ties, and of course the web is full of sites match­ing older sexy women with much younger men.

On web­site CougarLife there’s “hotmama”, “easykitty” or “sexy­coug” keen to meet up with buffed younger blokes. On Cougar Dat­ing it’s all about women who “ap­pre­ci­ate the finer things life has to of­fer” hook­ing up with men who are “ea­ger to please and will­ing to learn”.

So it’s no won­der that two of the stars of the new sea­son of My Kitchen Rules are cougar Ch­eryl, 50, and her toy­boy Matt, 26, pic­tured.

A few years ago, I wrote scathingly about cougars, de­scrib­ing the term as of­fen­sive, sex­ist and ageist.

“Why can’t women grow old with dig­nity? Cougars are ‘al­lowed’ to be 40 or 50 but they aren’t al­lowed to ever, ever look like it or be­have like it. They’re sold the dream of eman­ci­pa­tion, but it’s ac­tu­ally a lie of ex­ploita­tion,” I wrote. But I think I’m be­gin­ning to mel­low. Per­haps it’s be­cause I’m now sin­gle and in my mid for­ties and thus prime cougar ma­te­rial my­self.

The more I think about it, the more I can’t see what’s wrong with the no­tion of a cougar pick­ing a cub to have a re­la­tion­ship.

I ac­tu­ally like the idea of sub­vert­ing the dom­i­nant no­tion of the leery, crusty old man shack­ing up with a woman half his age.

For a long time just about any woman over 40 was seen as over-the-hill, dried up and com­pletely sex­less. At least the cougar cat­e­gory gives older women a pos­i­tive sex­ual iden­tity in­stead of be­ing con­demned to sex­ual ob­scu­rity.

Ch­eryl is the per­fect ex­am­ple of the older woman who looks amaz­ing, feels great and goes for what she wants. She’s even man­aged to find a guy who sees her age as an ad­van­tage. As Matt ex­plains, Ch­eryl is “18 with 32 years ex­pe­ri­ence”.

Fi­nally, here’s a sign that age for women can be a pos­i­tive, not a neg­a­tive.

In­deed, there’s no doubt that sex is a big part of Ch­eryl and Matt’s re­la­tion­ship. As they re­vealed in in­ter­views this week, Matt of­ten cooks for her naked (he’d bet­ter make sure he doesn’t singe his meat and two veg) and they have sex two to three times a week.

Good on them, I say. What’s not to like about two peo­ple who are madly in love and make each other happy, re­gard­less of how old they are?

Even his mum ap­proves of their re­la­tion­ship and has come to be Ch­eryl’s best friend.

It’s im­por­tant, too, that Ch­eryl is “proud” of the cougar la­bel, and uses the term her­self.

It goes to show that while once it may have been deroga­tory, it’s now be­ing co-opted by women them­selves and turned into a badge of hon­our.

Now, older women look­ing for love no longer need to be seen as “grab a granny”, “mut­ton dressed as lamb” or hang­ing out at the RSL’s “last-chance dance”.

How­ever, this doesn’t mean older women dat­ing younger men aren’t still viewed with some sus­pi­cion or even hos­til­ity.

As Ch­eryl says, the pair get a lot of waiters in restau­rants ask­ing Matt: “What’s your mother hav­ing?”

“We just smirk, then have a cud­dle and a few kisses – that freaks them out!” she says.

The re­ac­tion to Ch­eryl and Matt’s re­la­tion­ship on the show fur­ther il­lus­trates this. “Best friends” Rosie and Paige were less than im­pressed.

“We’re not here to judge. Ex­cept we are judg­ing, let’s be hon­est. And it’s creepy,” they say. I tend to see things more Ch­eryl’s way. “We want to say to ev­ery­one out there; that age doesn’t mat­ter. Why should a num­ber make a dif­fer­ence about who you’re with, who you en­joy your time with and how you go through life?”

Touche. At the end of the day, all you need is love. Twit­ter @susieob, Face­book.com/ newswithsuse and blog susieobrien.com.au

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