Dear Blunt Monkey,
I’m 20 years old and I’m dating a girl who’s 33. At first it was really cool…she loves to do things for me, she’s really chill, and she never cared if we were “officially” boyfriend/girlfriend. But now she wants to make our relationship more official and my friends think I should find someone my own age. Is this all normal? What should I do? – Dave, Los Angeles
Since the beginning of time—or at least since the theatrical release of Harold and Maude—young men have all too often found themselves in the razor sharp clutches of older women, whom pop culture affectionately refers to as “cougars.” Now technically, Dave is dating a ‘puma,’ because she is under 40. But let’s not split cat hairs. Aside from a few extra wrinkles and maybe a divorce, they’re basically the same thing…cougars are defined less by their own age and more by the age of their younger male cohorts. So I’m just going to refer to all single women dating guys 7+ years younger as cougars from here on out.
In the past decade, cougar culture has become rather en vogue. Ashton Kutcher hasn’t contributed much to the world in the way of quality acting, but he did contribute something important to the world of dating: He and his she-cat Demi Moore made cougar relations cool again. But is it for everyone? And why does it happen?
First, let’s explore briefly why men and women get together at all. Historically, the main reason is to reproduce. But that can be accomplished in a matter of hours, or if you’re me, minutes.
Why we continue to hang out beyond that brief act of reproduction is the nature of every relationship. Our female ancestors of 100,000 years ago were prone to getting knocked up, what with the lack of birth control pills and condoms. I mean, they hadn’t even invented ‘pulling out’ yet. Thus women needed the help of men in ancient times to assist them with the burdens of the pregnancy that followed intercourse—they needed help to get food; to protect them from animal predators as well as other men; and to tell them “No, I don’t think you look fat in that maternity bear skin.” Men, conversely, needed to help women do all these things to ensure their offspring survived birth and beyond. It’s a win-win situation that works all through nature.
But as with all creatures, these relationships aren’t random. The highest quality women chose the highest quality men. That leaves mediocre looking chicks to take their pick of mediocre guys, and ugly chicks to rummage through the scraps for whatever they can find. (Or “last call,” as we barflies refer to it).
Which brings me to the cougar/cub dynamic. Times have changed; modern women don’t always need or want guys to take care of them, and guys often want nothing to do with baby-making. But some things never change, and the things we found attractive as cave men and women still resonate in our hearts today. The best chicks still get with the best guys. For women, that’s the most beautiful girl who is of child bearing age, but young enough to ensure she’s still got a lot of childbearing years ahead of her. In other words, a really hot 18-year old. For the guy, it should be a male at his peak ability to provide and protect, whether he’s hunting mammoths or managing hedge funds. In either case, we’re basically talking about a rich 35-year old. Yes, yes, of course, there are lots of exceptions. That’s not to say that a woman can’t be hot past age 18, or that a man can’t be attractive if he’s not rich, or that other things like sense of humor, intelligence, and good abs don’t come into play. But generally, this is how it works. In fact, when women say “Girls mature faster than boys,” what they really mean is “You ain’t getting this poon till you’re older and rich!” Sorry everyone: nature’s rules, not mine.
Well, as you might expect, the older guys pilfering the younger ranks of the hottest women leaves something of a quandary for the young men of the world. Girls their own age are dating older men; and they can’t date younger girls without breaking the law. So by process of elimination they sometimes match up with older women, women who missed their shot to grab a husband in their 20s, or who did, and then got divorced, and now find themselves thrust back into the jungle. Enter the Cougar.
She’s hot. Years of being single have forced her to stay on her toes when it comes to looking good. In addition, the lack of a male provider has required her to stay actively employed well into her 30s, so she’s probably attained a level of career success that has afforded her above average confidence, experience, and money. And you can understand how this attractive older woman, with class and smarts and money, simply can’t understand why she has been unable to land a good man (and there are so many reasons! But that’s another subject).
So, in a fit of desperation, she decides to give up and just have fun. They all say that. Older men and younger girls, eh? Well now it’s time for some revenge. As the song Conquest says: “The hunted became the huntress; the hunter became the prey.” Convinced that “love is not for her” and that “if men can do it, why can’t women?” she embarks on an era of romantic and sexual liberation.
She sees her prey across the bar…young, handsome, and naïve. She glares at him with those lustful eyes that are creepy in a man but intoxicating in a woman. She chats him up. Twenty-one year old guys haven’t been in that many bars in their life; thirty-five year old women have been in far too many. The advantage is hers. She pulls him away from his young friends, who offer him shocked hi-fives as he’s whisked into her Lexus SUV.
At first, everything is simple. The sex is fun, the terms are loose, and nobody minds a drunken text message a week later to get together and do it again. This can go on for weeks, months even. The girl gets all that uninhibited lovemaking she passed on in her twenties with a cute young hunk…just as she reaches her sexual peak, as it turns out. And the guy gets to sew some wild oats, with a partner happy to nurture him in a variety of ways, not only sexually. Remember, cougars have a lot of pent up energy that was meant to be devoted to husbands and children. Thus the cougar is happy to spend money, cook meals, buy alcohol…in her young lover, she has found a way to fill the holes (ahem) created by not having a family of her own.
But good things are not always meant to last. The most common lie a man will tell a woman is that he wants a relationship. The most common lie told by a woman is that she doesn’t. And that’s what’s going on here. Eventually, inevitably, Ms. Cougar starts to develop feelings for her young companion. Was she wrong? Maybe everyone does find love! Oh sure, people will talk about his age…but who cares! I can make this work! It’s not too late!
Then begins the chaffing on our young cub’s part. The casual sex and fancy home-cooked dinners were nice…at her place. Can’t exactly bring this girl home to mom. She basically is a mom. Plus those evolutionary instincts kick in for both parties…does this chick even have enough eggs left to fulfill my reproductive needs? Men want to bang everything that moves, populating the countryside with their offspring. Cougars want to adopt a baby girl from China. And is this guy going to be able to provide you with everything you need as a woman? You didn’t wait thirty-five years for marriage to hook up with a college drop-out who wants to smoke weed and play Call of Duty all day.
In the end, Cougar/Cub relationships are like bowling leagues: a fun idea at first, then sorta boring, and if you make a long-term commitment to it, just plain embarrassing. Both sexes outgrow the phase: young men come into their own by 30 or so, feel like settling down, and pair back up with more youthful partners. Older women discover it’s not too late to play by nature’s rules…they realize that spending the rest of their lives single isn’t going to be fun, and that by adjusting their expectations they can still find love. In other words, in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, women go from wanting Prince Charming to Freddie Prinze Jr. and finally just Freddie the Accountant Next Door.
So Dave, I give you and your older lover each the same piece of advice: If it’s fun, keep doing it, until it isn’t. Nature will sort out the rest. In the end, everybody winds up with somebody. Except Jennifer Aniston.
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