Sometimes feel flattered when I get attention from younger men, but it mostly just makes me hyper-aware of my age. I've been propositioned by guys who are as close in age to my 8-year-old daughter as they are to me, and that just feels wrong. I have a guy friend who would date me if I let him, but the other day he told me he was *11* on 9/11. I'm sorry, but I was on the phone with my fiance watching the news about the towers while you were being evacuated from 6th grade. What other disconnects would we face in a relationship? Do you know what an 8-track is? Have you ever dialed a rotary phone? Why, I remember when cars were powered by feet instead of wheels! (On The Flintstones, a cartoon from my youth, from a time before televisions were remote controlled. You should totally 'Tube it, yabba-dabba-dude.) They say age ain't nothin' but a number, but if we're going to win the love lottery, I want your age to be pretty damn close to mine. I'm looking for a partner who can tackle life's challenges with me from a similar vantage point, not someone who wants me to dote on him like a father or son.
Why is it that older women dating younger men are called cougars, but older men who date younger women are traditionally called "sugar daddies?" The term "sugar daddy" doesn't sound nearly as predatory as "cougar," unless your online dating photo consists of a creepy mustache and weird glasses holding a lollipop, asking girls to take a ride in your van. Then we're comparing rotten apples to rotten apples. But if older women looking for younger men are going to continue to be called cougars, I say we call older men looking for younger women "jackals." Whereas the cougar is described as "an excellent stalk-and-ambush predator" who "prefers habitats with dense underbrush," jackals are "opportunistic omnivores, predators of small- to medium-sized animals and proficient scavengers" who are "most active at dawn and dusk." In other words, cougars are crazy women who will watch young men from afar for hours before they approach them when they're drunk at close and jackals are mall-walkers in velour track suits who'll take anything they can get.
Jackals love to date baby kitties who make them feel young and vital themselves, but what are young women getting out of that exchange? Financial or emotional security? Maybe. A rich jackal may make his young kitty purr by buying her gifts or taking her on lavish trips, but that sort of transactional relationship has its perils. The younger woman is expected to be a trophy and/or sex object and is a source of pride for the man. Or she's meant to be his caretaker, earning her keep. Or both. A 25-year-old woman may have fun for a while with a 50-year-old man, but what about when she's 35 and he's 60? Or when she's 45 and he's 70? How about 55 and 80? Sure, taking care of an elderly person who is the same age as your parents has its downside, but here's the good news: at 55, you're now eligible to be a cougar and can finally date a 25-year-old! Woo-hoo!
I know some people swear up and down that age is irrelevant when it comes to romance, and for some relationships, maybe that's true. But I feel most comfortable dating people around my age who not only have similar life experience behind them, but can relate to the things I'm going through now as things they're going through now, and who have enough energy to look forward to what could be a happy future together. And as far as animal analogies go, I'd rather save the howling and meowing for the sack.
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- The Cougar Question: Should Older Women Date Younger Men?
Photo Credits: Golden jackals by Paul Mannix on Flickr, Cougar by Bob Haarmans on Flickr.