Grrrr! I am cougar, hear me phwoar
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