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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