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The Mythical Cougar

Married, mid-thirties, and bereft of an urban feline’s riveting “Rowrrrr,” I’m no cougar. But I watched the season premiere of TV Land’s reality show The Cougar, a Bachelor-style series in which a foxy 40-year-old divorcée and mother of four is wooed by 20 hairless, pec-flexing beauhunks.

Stacy, the giggly Barbie-clone from Arizona, whittles the batch down by literally “kissing off” each episode’s winners and losers — a dweeb who told her “You’re under arrest; you stole my heart” got to stay while a dork who made a crude sexual joke was shown the door. Another kept blurting, “I have my own house!” as though the statement alone were an aphrodisiac. They were play-acting at being men.

Still, I watched. I watched because I wanted to see the mythical Cougar dynamic in action. I have no trouble picturing what my cougar friends bluntly call the “no-strings-attached athletic sex.” In fact, let’s all take a moment to picture it now together, just because we can.

It’s the hook-up that I get stuck on. The part where the mammogram-age vixen and the Halo-playing meathead lock eyes and fall in lust. In The Cougar, it happens when Stacy meets her wide-eyed, faux-hawked, hooting suitors.

“This is a dream come true,” she says. Which is funny to me. Because it looks like a nightmare.

I’ve heard some great arguments for dating a younger man. “He probably doesn’t have a mortgage, ex-wife, and three kids, and can’t really even comprehend what all that will do to him,” explains a girlfriend who knows from experience. With or without their clothes on, they’re enthusiastic. Plus they have that yummy newish skin.

But some of my forty-ish gal pals say the call to cougarhood is exaggerated.

“I think there are more young pups who’d like to believe women want boy toys,” says a friend, “than there are women who find them appealing.”

It’s true. Young dudes are all six-pack and no savoir-faire. They’re jumpy and cocksure and can’t quote from Ghostbusters or hum a Violent Femmes song. What are you supposed to do with that?

“I like a fella with history, stories, opinions, perspective, rationale, complexities,” says a friend of cougaring age. “I like someone with a few scars who’s been through stuff. These [cougar-bait] boys are so fresh and squeaky clean — what ‘stuff’ have they been through that could possibly hold this jaded old lady’s attention?”

Stacy-the-Cougar says young men fit perfectly with her lifestyle. But with four kids and a successful real-estate job, I have to assume she means as a sitter.

“I got hit on by a 22-year-old,” confesses another career gal I know. “We fooled around but I needed to guide him. He was like a Bambi on new legs. There just wasn’t any wisdom yet.”

Even my Cougar-and-Proud girlfriends say there are downsides to dating the boys of Generation Y. “They can be flaky if a better offer comes along,” says one, “and you have to learn the kids’ abbreviations so you can communicate via text, because you’ll never get an actual phone call.”

No, thanks. I like the patience that guys my age possess. They don’t seem like they’re going to explode if they don’t fulfill their biological urges within 10 minutes of paying the check. They know they can dip into a reservoir of skills, talents, and experience to charm a lady slowly, and deeply — like cracking a safe by listening for the soft “clicks” rather than trying to pry it open with a crowbar.

Okay. I think I found my “Rowrrrr” …

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