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Cougars- No Longer Just in the Wild

By Lizbeth Perez

When it comes to the subject of love, we always hope that there are no real significant barriers to its success. In our hearts, if not in our heads, we’re convinced that love will always trump practical concerns such as money, social class, race and even gender.

But what about age? And what about age as it relates to older women involved with younger men? Though men have been enjoying May-December romances forever, women haven’t been afforded the same freedom necessarily. Culturally, the older woman/younger man dynamic is perceived as an oddity, or a fluke.

Fortunately, that’s changing as more older-woman and younger-man couplings make headlines.

Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate

Actress Robin Wright, 47, is engaged to fellow actor Ben Foster, 33. Pop star Shakira is involved with a man 10 years her junior. Actor Hugh Jackman has been married to Deborra-Lee Furness for 17 years. She is 13 years older than her mate.
And though everything in Hollywood seemingly glitters, how well do the dynamics between an older woman younger work in real life? Is it doomed from the beginning? Is it really that hard? Is age nothing more than a number, or a harsh reality?

I myself have been lucky enough to have been blessed with an appearance that doesn’t reflect my real age. At 31, I’m far from old and even further from being a cougar to many. But, I guess the reality is that I kind of am…

I seem to be on a streak, the last three men I have dated have all been younger, with the most latest of the bunch being considerably younger with almost a ten year age gap between us. Physically, most people would never guess, and in fact the majority of people think that he is older. In my defense, this what I honestly thought when we first met, it wasn’t until I noticed that he always seemed to change the conversation when his age came up that there was something not quite right…

But, I digress. 

I’ll be the first to admit that the chemistry and attraction between him and I is undeniable. But, there are definitely times when I find myself wondering if that’s really all that there is. We get along great, like to do a lot of the same things, and always have an amazing time when we are together.

But, not everything is rainbows and gumdrops. Though our age is not something that is visible to the naked eye, it is beyond palpable and ever-present in every other aspect, at least to me. His timing is horrible; he still lives with his parents, and seems to always put his friends first over me and finds nothing wrong with it. I won’t pretend that it doesn’t infuriate me, but then I usually sit back and realize that at his age I did the same exact things. I do my absolute best to try and give him the best advice I can for many situations he finds himself in because ultimately I don’t want him (or anyone) to go through the same things I once did. But instead of bringing us closer, sometimes all it does is make me focus on our age gap, or worst make me feel like his mother and not his girlfriend.

Of course, questions related to aging cropped up, naturally. We’ve both had moments where we have wanted to end it because we feel that we are both in too much of different places to continue. He’s asked me himself if I agree that being in a relationship at his age is something that should be done since it’s so hard. I’m of the frame of mind that believes relationships to be easy, since it’s dating that is hard. When you date, you are putting all this energy into the other PEOPLE liking you and impressing them, trying to find the right person to click with, while once in a relationship it’s just maintenance and growth with ONE person. As for my moments, they deal more with wondering about the future in general…I’m not sure if I ever want to get married or have kids, but what if one day I wake up and do?

And then there’s also the concern about one’s looks.

One woman I know, recently got married to a man 12 years her junior (she’s 44) and said the only time she feels threatened by her age is when she looks in the mirror.

But that fear has forced her to come up with her own solution to the issue.

“When you’re with a younger person, you have to think, ‘What’s going to happen in five years? Ten? Is he going to leave me?’ Your answer could be, ‘I’m going to get a facelift.’ My answer is, ‘I’m going to be such a beautiful person inside that it’s going to shine through to the outside…”

Is age just a number?
Is sticking to your own age the best option...
I may not know what the ultimate outcome will be with me and my current love. Perhaps we will be together for a long time; perhaps things will come to an end sooner than later. The one thing I am certain of is that so far, he makes me happy and has helped me to see and feel joy where I haven’t before and for that I am truly grateful. I’ve vowed to stop worrying about him running off with a much younger, thinner, prettier girl that he meets on a night he’s out with the boys. Instead, I plan on taking it one day at a time and focusing on how wonderful he makes me feel right now. He’s vowed to do the same. (Yes, even men worry about things like that, expect his worry is me meeting an older man who’s life is more together…)

No matter what your age, to go forward in life with an eye toward becoming a kinder, more loving person sounds like an infinitely wiser approach to keeping love alive than worrying over the inevitable appearance of laugh lines.

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