There are several popular definitions for the word cougar. The feline mammal not withstanding, these days a cougar is described as a woman 35 years of age or older, who pursues younger men, typically more than eight years her junior. Another, harsher definition, is one of an older woman who frequents clubs in order to score (their word, not ours) with a much younger man. Sounds pretty predatory doesn’t it? Well, there are many women who happen to be in relationships with younger men who take issue with the term.
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Jo. Jo lives in England and is a woman in her late 30’s married to a younger man, and she does NOT want to be labeled a cougar. Throughout her life Jo had always been drawn to younger men, and in 2005 she met a man – 10 years her junior – and within a year, they were married. Here’s what she has to say about marriage, marriage to a younger man, and why she hates the term ‘Cougar’.
On why she decided to marry, and why this man:
“I met him in my mid thirties, long after the majority of my friends had settled down with their same-age partners. Before that, I hadn’t been prepared to settle down. In some ways, I felt that doing so would compromise my own identity. When I met my husband-to-be, he was a breath of fresh air. There were no expectations on me to behave and act a particular way, and no notions of what a ‘wife’ should be, which I suspect an older man may have had. We both wanted a committed relationship, but we both also wanted fun in our life together, and our life has been just that.”
On finding compatibility in marriage:
“Finding the right man to spend your life with is a matter of compatibility. Some women are going to be more compatible with guys their own age or older, while others are going to have a lifestyle and outlook that is more compatible with a younger guy. At this age, we surely know ourselves well enough to make that decision and go find the right guy based on that self-knowledge.”
The ups and downs of being with a younger man:
“Well, he looks fantastic, and his energy and enthusiasm are contagious. But of course, dating a younger guy isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s very difficult not to step in when we see them making a mistake we made ourselves when we were their age. But just because they are younger doesn’t mean they are not an equal partner in the relationship – and as such, they need to grow and learn for themselves, and sometimes that means making their own mistakes. It’s important to not lose sight of that. They chose us as a partner, not as a mother – and it’s important for any relationship to respect our partner on equal terms. Also, younger men tend not to be as further along in their careers. That can result in a financial inequity that, as it would in other marriages, cause a certain degree of conflict.”
On the term ‘Cougar’:
“Regarding the ‘cougar’ term, I really dislike it. Who wants to be defined by the age of the man she dates? Aren’t we all grown up enough to be beyond that? It’s predatory and insinuates that women are out to merely play around with these guys, when the reality is that more and more of us are actually choosing a younger guy as a life partner. I hate the assumption that just because my husband is younger than I am that I somehow coerced him into being with me, or that I finance his lifestyle, when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.”
On why she launched her website, Beyond Cougar:
In 2010, seeing the media hype surrounding older women with younger men, Jo decided it was time to put fingers to keyboard, and get writing! There was plenty of ‘cougar-esque’ material out there, aimed at women who were looking to empower themselves and their lives. However, very few women who were actually with younger men were joining in the conversation. So, in January 2010, Jo founded Beyond Cougar, where she shares her thoughts on the realities of relationships with younger men. Beyond Cougar is also focused on breaking down the existing cougar stereotype – after all, what modern woman wishes to be defined, purely on the age of the man they choose to date?
Jo is a marketing professional who also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University, London. You can read her thoughts on all things “Beyond Cougar” on her website, http://beyondcougar.wordpress.com.
Share your thoughts on the whole Cougar craze, Jo’s interview and whether you find the term Cougar derogatory or not, in the comment section or on our Facebook fan page.