Dear Discreet Cougar.

by Jennifer Sey


A few days ago, I received a spam email addressed to Discreet Cougar. Yowzer. I am hoping I am neither, though that hope is likely in vain. My age qualifies me as a "cougar", I know. Though whether my looks do or not is up to the beholder. Are cougars well maintained? Or just ungracefully fighting the aging process? Are they pathetic or bold? Or both? I'm not sure and is anyone really using that term anymore? Has it not yet gone the way of "disco", "rad", "awww snap" and "cherry"? Can't I just be a not totally old looking 40-something rather than a "cougar" with all the desperation that term seems to conjure? In my mind's eye, Cougars wear too much make-up, inject too much Botox, get their boobs puffed up, wear spandex or some other too tight synthetic fabrication, all in a frenzied attempt to appear younger than they are. This ungraceful endeavor is in service of wooing men much too young for them, as these ladies (who don't look young by the way, they look their age, with fake ones) are simply unwilling to face the fact that these gents are no longer in their wheelhouse.


As far as "discreet" goes, not something I've ever been known for. Loud. Boisterous. Sure. Not decorous. And "discreet" has a cagey connotation, a characteristic I try to avoid.


Anyway, I deleted the email as you would with any spam. But started thinking about age and dating and the fucked up dynamic of being a 42 year old woman who has never really dated and now is faced with having to. On the men in my age range are, by and large, looking for women that top out at 35. They took their time finding that special gal, and now in their mid-40s have decided they want children! So what choice do they have but to go young.


Since I signed up I've gotten more emails from men 55 and up than I care to ponder. You are not my cohort! You are much older than me! Leave me alone silver fox (if you were a silver fox by the way, I might reconsider, but you are simply "grandpa")!


Of those few that have decided they are willing to consider a woman in her 40's, since they too are in their 40's, my first requirement is: a job. A job that he likes. Sounds simple. But you'd be surprised. It doesn't have to be lucrative. But he has to be passionate about it. I've had four first dates. No second dates. One fellow who we'll call "Short and Angry" listed himself as a "trader" but then told me he hasn't worked in 5 years. Eject.


First guy was under-employed. He said "self-employed" but he meant under. We'll call him "Hippie Buddhist". We met for coffee. It was fine. I was too ... just too. He lives up North, takes graphic design projects when he finds them and is engaged in studying meditation and Buddhism. I told him I have one speed and it isn't slow and that was about the end of that. But he sent a nice note after and it was very encouraging in that I was able to go on a date, enjoy a pleasant conversation and leave knowing I wouldn't see him again but that there would be no awkward extrication. We'd shake hands and that would be it. Ta da!



Being a cougar and midlife dating are not one and the same. Some women bask in the title of cougar, others don't. I think it's silly title, but I think all titles are silly.

But, back to dating in your 40s and, more specifically, online dating in your 40s. Yes, men in general skew younger — so? Cougars (not all are Botoxed, etc.) skew younger, too. So? What matters is meeting people with whom you have a genuine connection (as determined by the couple), and while online dating sites certainly allow someone to meet many more people than he/she may meet in the "real" world, there's no guarantee that these will be "better quality" people. Just more of them; check your expectations at the door.

As much as you found faults with the men you had a date with, I'll bet they are feeling the same about you. Again, so? We don't connect with everyone we meet, but we keep plugging along anyway because eventually we will find someone to connect with.

Being able to enjoy getting to that point should be part of the journey, otherwise why bother?