Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Cougars & Cubs", And No I'm Not Talking Shapeshifters....

Last week a group of friends and myself got together for a triannual meal an gab fest. We try and meet 3 or sometimes 4 times a year to catch up on what is going on and have a little fun. We have our careers in common but "shop talk" thankfully doesn't dominate the conversation. The interesting thing is that our ages range from mid 20's to early 60's but it is irrelevant, there is always plenty to talk about be it boyfriends, husbands, children...grandchildren, travels.

One of my friends lost her husband who was her soul mate and best friend in a tragic motorcycle accident about 5 years ago. To say she was inconsolable would be an understatement. In the aftermath of the accident she sunk into the depths of depression which lasted for approximately a year. It was so significant that a friend who I'm particularly close to and I thought we might lose her too. Thankfully, she eventually decided she would live and slowly began to pull the tatters of her life together. She is now 61 years of age, beautiful, very fit and extremely personable. About 2 years ago she listed with a couple of the online dating services that are available and has met some nice men through this medium. There have been a couple of guys who have been very interested in her but there hasn't been enough of a spark on her part to invest in a long term serious relationship with anyone.

She keeps very busy, but she is lonely, and loneliness isn't good for someone with her history. A short time prior to our dinner out a man 16 years younger contacted her through the online dating group and wanted to meet her. By all accounts he seemed very sincere and genuinely interested in getting to know her. However, while she professed that "age shouldn't matter" she worried that she would be considered a 'cougar' for dating a younger man! One of the younger woman in our group of ladies indicated that she had watched a show on the learning channel that profiled the dating scene where older women (cougars) specifically date younger men who are apparently referred to as 'cubs'. o_O Wow!

It seems to me there is a real double standard when it comes to this issue. Do you remember the furor surrounding Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's relationship and eventual marriage? There is a 16 year age difference and I can remember Demi being referred to as a cougar and a cradle robber. Please, by all accounts they seem happy together, their age difference doesn't seem to bother them any!

Conversely the age difference between Harrison Ford and Calista Flockart is 22 years. I haven't read anywhere that Harrison is considered a cougar! In fact, I don't think anyone batted an eye, because it is the MAN who is older than the WOMAN. Further, I think considerable age gaps when the man is the senior has been historically accepted, but when it is the other way around eyebrows are raised and the woman gets the insulting label of a cougar.

Years ago I saw a wonderful movie called 40 Carats with Liv Ullmann and Edward Albert, here is the synopsis:

"40 carats is a diamond in the rough .... which centers around a 40's woman who goes on vacation in Greece finds love with a much younger man then abandons him to go back to her life in New York. However, she quickly finds out that her daughter is dating the same guy she left in Greece making for some awkward humorous and embarrassing moments . 40 Carats is not ha ha funny but the subtle adult humor in which it was handled makes it very funny. By todays standard, ullman would have just been passed of as silly sex starved cougar and the young male( albert) a stupid eye candy figure head. But 40 carats doesn't insult the audiences intelligence which would have been easy to do at that time. Instead it takes an intelligent and often funny look into age, gender double standards that still exist to this day to some extent."

Hello, "gender double standards" the term 'cougar' didn't exist at the time the movie was made and it never occurred to me that Ullmann's character was some sort of cradle robber. I loath this kind of gender prejudice, because that is exactly what it is. Further, in my friend's situation, I don't care how old a partner she may find happiness with is, the bottom line is that she finds a nice companion.

What are your feelings on this subject? Do you think age matters in relationships? Do you like May / September romance stories in literature?

This is me, a middle aged cougar ogling all the 'cubs' on the island.. lol

Tori and I are departing the Island today, Naida is arriving tonight and I know will have 3 days of great posts coming up! Thanks Everyone! *g*


Jenre said...

Try again, without the typos :).

Great, thought-provoking post, Lea. You are right, age shouldn't matter, and good luck to your nice friend if she discovers that the younger man will fill that empty gap.

Personally, I'm more uncomfortable with the older man/younger woman scenario, like the older man is taking advantage of the younger woman, especially if he is the one with all the money or power. Sometimes it's the other way round though with the younger woman marrying an older man for his money.

Let's face it, society likes to sneer at anything a bit different, and more often than not it's the cougar-like women who are shown in the media, rather than those relationships that flourish despite an age difference.

Jessica said...

This is my personal opinion, love is hard enough to find. Take it where you can find it. Age is a just a number. I've seen 20 yr old's who act older that some 50 yr old's I know. So it shouldn't matter. But it is up to the individuals involved, not their families or strangers, whether or not to take the jump. Life is short, live it, don't exist through it.

Mary G said...

Thoughtful post Lea. Age shouldn't matter in a relationship no matter who is older. Like height, age doesn't matter when you're lying down LOL. However I find it an ick factor if the difference is too great - say a 60 year old & a 20 year old.

Lea said...

Hey Jenre:

You are very right, there are many different scenarios in May / September relationships and certainly there can be ulterior motives. And with respect to celebrities, the media loves to make hay out of anything that they think will sell rag magazines, and that often isn't the relationships that are happy irregardless of an age difference.

Thanks so much Jenre!

Lea said...

Hi Jessica!

Well said and I agree! Wholeheartedly!!

Thank you. :-)

Lea said...

Hi Mary!

Yeah well, there is a bit of a squee factor involved when you have an advanced elderly person with some sweet young thing that's for sure. And you have to wonder at the motivation in that type of scenario.

But, it really does come down to the people involved. IMHO

Thank you!!

Katie Reus said...

I don't think age *should* matter but I'm sometimes uncomfortable if the age difference is too great regardless if the man is older or the woman is older. If it's a 30+ age difference, I can't help it, it squicks me out.

I say this because who we are at certain stages in life usually won't be who we are ten years from now and if an older person enters into a relationship with someone substantially younger and still figuring out who they are, I just have a hard time picturing a HEA in fiction. (or real life)

That said, if someone manages to find love with someone older, I say go for it :) And for the record, my husband is younger than me, lol. Like you said Lea, it really does come down to the individuals involved!

Chris said...

I'm not a fan of May-December relationships in any gender combination... but I think the term "cougar" is especially insulting.

The Bookworm said...

Interesting post!
There is definitely a double standard, and most people dont bat an eyelash when an older man dates or marries a younger woman.

To each his own and I do think age is just a number. But personally it does kind of gross me out to see
a huge age difference. Like Hef with his Playboy Thats a bit much!

Sheree said...

Great post. Age shouldn't matter as long as the man is over 25; this came up with my 40-year-old cousin who was being pursued by a 24-year-old guy. Her concern was that he wasn't long-term material by her standards and she wasn't sure if she wanted to spend her time with him. I told her to wait a year (until he is 25), but I wasn't that serious about it. My only concern is her happiness.

In terms of age differences in literature, what about all those vampires and other immortals who hook up with teenagers? Edward is supposed to be at least 90 years old and he's with Bella, a teen? Why are these immortals (or characters who are way over 20), hanging out and acting like teenagers? It's like having my grandfather date my teenage niece. Ew!


Kris said...

Terrific post, Lea.

Although I am not personally a fan of the May/December theme in romance, I truly believe that no differences be they age, cultural, sexuality, etc should matter when it comes to love. This may be overly idealistic, but it is what I really think.

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