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*Editor’s note: Names of some of the interviewees have been changed for privacy.
Annette Wheeler* didn’t recall the exact moment she first heard the term “cougar,” but she did remember dashing to her computer to look it up.
I was a cougar before there were cougars.” Indeed, Wheeler’s pre-marriage and post-divorce dating history reads like a steamy screenplay.
She listed a string of young men with whom she had various relationships, occasionally punching numbers into a calculator to determine age differences she had never considered in the first place.
To her shock and bemusement, there was a new term to describe what she had been doing most of her life — dating younger men.
Wheeler, a fiery redhead who lives outside Baltimore, leaned back in her chair and sighed. “I liked younger guys even when I was in high school — like a year or two younger.
“They’re looking for companionship, sexual contact, and someone good to talk to and spend time with.
So be it if the relationship goes further.” 'A Badge of Honor' While women aren’t exactly shouting their cougar status from the rooftops (“Women never want to be called a “cougar,” because it implies they’re older,” Mercer explained nonchalantly), men aren’t shy about their relationships with older women.
Valerie Gibson, author of Cougar: A Guide for Older Women Dating Younger Men, is all too familiar with this double standard. They were absolutely horrified that older women should be having sex with younger men.”When many of us think “cougar,” we picture the ultimate cougar of the big screen: The Graduate’s legendary, martini-sipping Mrs. These days, real-life cougars are stars like Demi Moore (who, in her 40s, married then-twenty-something heartthrob Ashton Kutcher), the coiffed reality-show cast of The Real Housewives of Orange County, and, yes, everyday women — suburbanites and city-slickers alike.“The mentality of having a youthful person on your arm who makes you feel good, who makes you feel ageless, makes you feel desired and desirable,” Gibson said.Statistics compiled by AARP The Magazine back up the trend.The study stated that the divorce rate now, compared to when cougars were married some 25 years ago, has contributed to the amount of single, 50 women, said to be “on the prowl” in today’s dating pool.More Fun, Less 'Baggage' For Wheeler, younger men have been a natural fit for an energetic lifestyle that her male peers have never quite matched.