Confessions Of A Cougar: Why I'll Only Date Men Half My Age

Photo: Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock
Confessions Of A Cougar: Why I'll Only Date Men Half My Age

I'm not what you'd call an incredibly sexual person. Not anymore, anyway. I'm still interested, mind you. I just have very specific preferences. I'm in my fifties now (and hopefully wiser for the wear), so I no longer have the frisky energy of a younger woman. When I was young and hungry, the world was my playground. I was out to conquer and be conquered. Age puts perspective on things.

In fact, it's that very lack of desperation that's freed me. Having come to terms with the mature woman that I've become, I'm finally in touch with what I want. And what I want is younger men.

Yes, I'm a cougar.

Fortunately, younger men seem to gravitate toward me, and I often find myself on the receiving end of some very flattering attention. When I first noticed this phenomenon, I thought, Nah, what could these young dudes be seeing in me? I must be reading into it. Recently, a lovely man of about 23 approached me. He could hardly catch his breath while telling me how beautiful he thought I was. I laughed in his face. In my mind I looked more like an exhumed corpse than an object of desire on that bright (very bright) afternoon.

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As he reached out to touch my bare arm in what became a seductively overt caress, I realized this guy was serious. He asked for my number and I gave it to him, still laughing. Did I really want to pursue this, or was this just a perfect moment unto itself? Either way, his attention thrilled me.

Apparently, I thrilled him too. In his eyes I could see the sincerity of his request. It was exhilarating to be desired by such a young man. I woke up to the realization that, no, he wasn't into the walking dead; he was interested in the woman that I sometimes forget I am. In our brief encounter, he made me feel young again. When I allowed myself to fantasize for a moment about this coming to fruition, I felt energized and beautiful in a way I hadn't in years.

Of course, the road that led me here wasn't a linear one.

You've heard of the wisdom of age? Well, it's yours to have, but the price is harsh: you have to survive your forties. If you can make it to 50, you can probably assume the worst is over. By then, all of your stupidest moves are behind you, you've raised as much hell as you're ever going to and you've gotten your divorces out of the way. You've died hard and lived to tell. You got to watch your body unravel while your mind kept thinking it was 20. When women catch glimpses of their mothers in their own reflection, it's not necessarily a good day. I spent my forties going insane.

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I woke up in my fifties and suddenly — like some kind of hormonal wipeout — everything was fine. I had a clear vision: This is my one and only life; joy is wherever I find it. And I find it in writing, in being a successful single mom, and occasionally, I find it in flirtations with men half my age.

The first man I ever fell in love with was in his twenties, and he was indeed the poster boy for what I considered to be perfect male beauty. I'll never forget his soft face and flowing hair. The connection we had was strong. Memories of him will resonate with me forever. In my mind, I'm still that young woman. He's still the type of man I prefer, all these years later.

So, the question really is: Do I actually pursue any of these younger men who fawn over me?  

Do I dare answer? The truth is, just knowing that they're interested is a greater thrill for me than the act itself. 

This is not a new game. Young men have loved older women since the beginning of time, and women have adored the attention for just as long.

Unlike our younger counterparts, experienced women are not attached to a future. There is no plan, no scheme, no agenda that might push a man away. No one's putting a ring on it, and the biological clock isn't ticking. In short, there's no desperation. The 'cougar' is a magnet for youthful male attention because she doesn't want anything from him but his beauty, which is a huge ego trip for him and something he can deliver without much pressure.

For a young man, the older woman is the ultimate fantasy: she's so out of his league, and while it intimidates him, it's also incredibly attractive. Even though he senses that she is enthralled with the power he brings, the young man who craves the attention of an older woman is brave, because she really does know more than him.

To know that in my fifties, I can still make a 23-year-old man interested in me ... well, that sure does make me smile. 

RELATED: 9 Quick & Easy Dating Tips For The More Mature Women

Healthy desire is life-affirming and human connection can be magical. Even the briefest of encounters can add years to our lives — and isn't that what we're all searching for?

Dori Hartley is a portrait artist, essayist and a journalist. She's been published in The Huffington Post, ParentDish, The Daily Beast, Psychology Today, XOJane, MyDaily and The Stir. Her art books Beauty’, ‘Antler Velvet’, and 'Mads Mikkelsen: Portraits of the Actor' are all available on Amazon.​