Aspirations of Grandeur Post-Divorce

In Her Words

One girl's dream of being a cougar

-Kate West 

(originally published August 2008 on

Dating sucks. Tell you something you don't know, right? But what happens when you jump back into the game ... later? A fine question, and one I'm still trying to answer as more and more of us find ourselves single later and later. The bad news for me personally hit home when, in 2001, after almost a decade of marriage, I was suddenly divorced and back at sea. I had to relearn how to swim.

Dating used to be this exciting kid-in-a-candy-store kind of deal, as I had just graduated from a boy-starved all-girls high school. Guys finally paid attention to me. They even told me I was pretty. All of which led directly to my first boyfriend, at age 18. Sure, it seems kind of late for these Britney Spears modern times, but did I mention the girls' school? It was so easy back then. All you had to do was stay in your 20s. I never had to ask one boy out; they all came to me. I got married in my mid-20s and didn't have to worry about it anymore. Or so I thought.

Flash forward to the new millennium and my current dating dilemma. The last time I went on a real date, George Michael still had FAITH. I think I bought my very first CD then too. Feeling old yet? Good times and lots of love and lust to be had. Alas, gone are the passive days of attraction. Now ... I am invisible. Welcome to your 40s. Not just a nasty side effect of living in youth-obsessed Hollywood, it's an inevitable reality now, as my single friends tell me it's pretty much the same all over. Succumbing to limited options, I tried Internet dating. Yikes. Guys my age do NOT want girls their age. In fact, most of them request girls in their 20s or at the most, early 30s. Needless to say, I didn't get many hits. So what does that leave me with?

Answer: not many options. Until I read about a growing phenomenon: cougars. Once used as a derogatory term for an older, desperate, predatory woman, the term cougar these days refers to an older, desperate, predatory woman who is now considered hip and cool. Thank you, Demi. But how to become one?

1. The first thing you need is money. Cougars are stylish, accomplished, professional (as in have a damn good job) women who can take care of themselves. Men their own age are intimidated by them, but younger men are surprisingly and openly fascinated. My problem starts right there. I have no money. In addition to having married way too young, I made the mistake of majoring in liberal arts. So although I am professionally successful at running a reputable program, it doesn't exactly pay well (the downside of nonprofit). But don't let my limitations stop YOU.

2. Now you are the hunter. After a lifetime of being hunted, it's a bit unnerving to try and turn that around. My first few attempts at being seductive were met with blatant panic (ouch), so you'll need to try a more subtle approach. But not too subtle, since you are aiming for the young prey, and they tend to be a little dense. Practice. Start out by hanging with a younger crowd, maybe attending a few of their "rave" parties. (I know, I know, but have a heart, see my '80s references above.) If this doesn't prove to be too humiliating, start hanging out with them even more by going to movies, etc. If you find you can no longer tolerate the inane conversations (sorry, kids, there are only so many reality-show-based chats I can listen to before I want to kill someone), you are obligated to stop immediately and go find your dignity. Which is not to say there aren't sophisticated young studs capable of matching wits, but let's face it, aren't they a little scarce in L.A.?

But if, however, you find all that virile youth, er, stimulating, then encourage the young cubs to pursue your interests. Take them to museums and play readings, if they aren't already familiar with such cultural outings. You are the educator, and believe me, they will be eager to learn. And I mean everything. You're more experienced in every possible way, and this is deeply attractive to them, so use it to your advantage (and to their delight).

I mean, why should men be the only ones appreciating the younger set? If Samantha can do it in Sex and the City, we can do it too. After all, surely she's modeled after real, viable, confident, strong and striking women. We didn't do all that marching back in the '60s (and even 1800s) not to be able to take control. Besides watching Madonna get down with Justin Timberlake, there's Cher, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Aniston, Katie Couric and even Star Jones. I'm sure you know some personally. They show up in the news more and more now and are increasingly accepted. It's heartwarming.

Now just so you know, a lot of cougars are in it for the fun (stereotypically, that is, and there's nothing wrong with that), but it is possible to find lasting love. Just ask Demi. Hey, I'll try it if you will - so good luck and happy hunting!

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The Friend Factor

How being friends with my ex-husband helped me find me

-Kate West 

(originally published August 2008 on

I've always been puzzled by the radical notion that people could be friends with their exes. Plenty of people I know have amiable relationships with exes; some out of respect for the children involved, and others because, well, they're capable of adult maturity. Bully for them.

I, on the other hand, wallow and obsess and allow my wounded self to heal in precisely half the time we were together, just like my magazines dictate. The trouble is my emotions and expectations get all tied up in the person I'm with, so when that part of my life is over, I really do have to start life all over again. Note to my future prospects: I'm totally better at this now, I promise!

So when my husband walked out on me after 13 years, I wanted to be stronger. This was the biggest break-up of my life, and I went from being with someone for that long to being completely and suddenly alone in one unexpected instant. But since he was so nonchalant about it all, wasn't it better not to give him the satisfaction of seeing how destroyed I was? It took me a while, but I did come to realize I was mourning my life more than the relationship itself. No one expects or ever wants love to end or to peter out, as ours did, into a brother-and-sister- like zone, with mind-numbingly boring daily routines. Sometimes you can climb out of those ruts (if you both work on it), but sometimes, sorry to say, you really can't, especially if no one is working on it. So I suppose we really were better off in the long run, in the end after all - just not in the execution of the event.

Anyway, I felt I had no choice but to follow his friendship lead, since there was apparently no going back. And I wanted to be sophisticated, which meant we met for lunch every week where I whined about Internet dating and he told me every detail of every conquest. Fun! I felt positively European. Yeah!!! But I knew I had entered new territory one day when he called and asked me for some free tickets at the theater where I worked. I usually provided comps for friends, and since I was absolutely determined to maybe try out actually kind of being friends with an ex for the first time, I told him sure. After all, what harm could it do? (Don't answer that.).

Then he said he was going on a blind date and wanted to take her to the show, and asked if that would be a problem. Well this was a first. Since we were not (ha-ha, Freudian slip, I meant now) best pals, I left the tickets for him at the box office, the result being that Yours Truly is the one solely responsible for giving the two lovebirds the memory of where they first met and started dating. They've been together for years now (told you). This turned out to be a great story to tell my friends and to garner sympathy from relatives as well as random strangers. We could all chat about my self-respect and relationship issues all at once because no one else had ever suffered a loss like mine, right?

But then I realized that each of us is responsible for our own choices. I did say I wanted to be friends, and if we truly had something before, and we must have, then I had to be happy for him now. And I am. I am happy for myself too. If I were to be brutally honest, neither of us was living to our potential. We married too young and then didn't grow together the way we were supposed to. If I could get over my own ego - and believe me, this takes years - I'd be able to look at the big picture and see that I am being handed a brand-new life, a clean slate, and a way to find my true self. When else would I get this opportunity? I intend to take full advantage of this, to put down that carton of Ben & Jerry's (why is that tired old cliché so tragically true during break-ups?) and go live my life. MY life. One problem with getting into a relationship too soon is that you are in danger of living someone else's life, and then you will lose sight of your own.

So I freely gave my ex and his girl their memories, and the instant I did that, my heart once again became free and open. And I am finally ready for the next big relationship - - the one with myself. Yes, I have baggage, but now it fits neatly under my seat. Bon voyage! 

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Beijing 2008

a kate west olympic congratulations

Congratulations to Gold Medalists:

PHELPS Michael, WEBER-GALE Garrett, JONES Cullen, LEZAK Jason, ADRIAN Nathan, WILDMAN-TOBRINER Ben, GREVERS Matt, LOCHTE Ryan, BERENS Ricky, VANDERKAAY Peter, WALTERS David, VENDT Erik, KELLER Klete, PEIRSOL Aaron, HANSEN Brendan, GREVERS Matt, GANGLOFF Mark, CROCKER Ian, WEBER-GALE Garrett, COUGHLIN Natalie, NYMEYER Lacey, JOYCE Kara Lynn, TORRES Dara, SMIT Julia, SILVER Emily, JOHNSON Shawn, LIUKIN Nastia, MEMMEL Chellsie, PESZEK Samantha, SACRAMONE Alicia, SLOAN Bridget, DIX Walter, MERRITT LaShawn, TAYLOR Angelo, NEVILLE David, WARINER Jeremy, TAYLOR Angelo, CLAY Bryan, WILLIAMS Serena, WILLIAMS Venus, ZAGUNIS Mariel, CAFARO Erin, SHOOP Lindsay, GOODALE Anna, LOGAN Elle, CUMMINS Anne, FRANCIA Susan, LIND Caroline, DAVIES Caryn, WHIPPLE Mary, CAFARO Erin, SHOOP Lindsay, GOODALE Anna, LOGAN Elle, CUMMINS Anne, FRANCIA Susan, LIND Caroline, TUNNICLIFFE Anna, WARD Mclain, KRAUT Laura, SIMPSON Will, MADDEN Beezie, ELLER Walton, HANCOCK Vincent, CEJUDO Henry, WAGNER Aly, KAI Natasha, LLOYD Carli, MARKGRAF Kate, O REILLY Heather, RAMPONE Christie, RODRIGUEZ Amy, SOLO Hope, TARPLEY Lindsay, BARNHART Nicole, BOXX Shannon, BUEHLER Rachel, CHALUPNY Lori, CHENEY Lauren, HEATH Tobin, HUCLES Angela, COX Stephanie, MITTS Heather, SONI Rebecca, ARMSTRONG Kristin, HARPER Dawn, BROWN TRAFTON Stephanie, WINEBERG Mary, FELIX Allyson, HENDERSON Monique, RICHARDS Sanya, PONDEXTER Cappie, AUGUSTUS Seimone, BIRD Sue, LAWSON Kara, MILTON-JONES Delisha, LESLIE Lisa, CATCHINGS Tamika, THOMPSON Tina, TAURASI Diana, FOWLES Sylvia, SMITH Katie, PARKER Candace, DALHAUSSER Philip, ROGERS Todd, WALSH Kerri, MAY-TREANOR Misty, BOOZER Carlos, KIDD Jason, JAMES Lebron, WILLIAMS Deron, REDD Michael, WADE Dwyane, BRYANT Kobe, HOWARD Dwight, BOSH Chris, PAUL Chris, PRINCE Tayshaun, ANTHONY Carmelo, DALHAUSSER Philip, ROGERS Todd, TOUZINSKY Scott, LAMBOURNE Richard, LEE David, MILLAR Ryan, PRIDDY William, ROONEY Sean, SALMON Riley, BALL Lloy, GARDNER Gabriel, HANSEN Kevin, HOFF Thomas, STANLEY Clayton Read more!

Starbucks Fervor

a kate west reflection

It's about time I commented on the eternal Starbucks craze, having drunk maybe a small lake's worth of their product in my time. The phenomenon that is the coffee behemoth has now reached heights of absurdity. Not being the biggest Theater of the Absurd fan (except for my all-in-black-coffee-shop-dweller years in college), I've been rolling my eyes at every caffeinated development. Unbelievable as it may seem, as many people are now protesting the latest closing of Starbucks chain stores as were protesting the company's unstoppable encroachment and growth not too long ago. What other company can say this?!! What is it about this place that inspires such passion (a mystery addictive drug - I mean, besides caffeine)?

For those of you who don't know (I'm assuming you've been on a deserted island the past twenty years or so?) here's the short tale: First of all it's Seattle-based, the city of grunge, known for liberal viewpoints and environmentally friendly businesses for the most part. Second, you can sit and read in your local chain store, and even write in your laptop; you've entered a comforting community recognized everywhere. Where else do you want to go when it rains, but a coffee shop? (Does anyone visit libraries anymore except students?) I myself find it very convenient for blind dates since you can so easily find one based near (and far) from where you actually live. Even when you travel abroad, you can slip into the nearest Starbucks and find a haven. Not everyone thinks that's so wonderful, as we homogenize the earth more and more, but it is admittedly better than fast food and at least the stores are always clean. Individualism is still alive and well, even in the most cosmopolitan of cities, I assure you. I've traveled some.

So how did we all end up like this? Entrepreneur Howard Schultz talked the existing Starbucks company into adding espresso to their menu in 1983 and the result is sweet coffee history (why, oh why didn't my family invest, argh). And actually, he was inspired by kaffee hauses in Europe. The first non-American chain opened in 1996 (Tokyo, Japan) and now Starbucks appears virtually everywhere. So it's an established American icon which I guess "legitimizes" neighborhoods. Thus, the panic over the store closings. In this economy though, we are all suffering (except the very, very rich, who always manage just fine, even when doing illegal things, but that's another story). And just when I contemplated a part time job at my local Starbucks. Boo.

But I have a feeling that Starbucks will be alright, with the support of a loyal customer base. So don't feel too bad for this capitalist, multi-million dollar organization. Sure, some baristas are hurting, but they'll all bounce back, and come back to selling the free trade products and overpriced beverages we all know and love.

Except now I have to drive an extra five blocks to get my vanilla latte. Hate that.

p.s. Hmmm, they can even inspire millionaires, what will they think of next:
How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else

UPDATE: The above seems the least of our problems now. And I can't even comment on the current financial crisis, as I can't seem to get out of the fetal position to muster the effort to type it out. YIKES! Read more!