A few days back, a New York Times reporter investigated a possible trend in high-school women opting to date younger men. Her curiosity was piqued when one of her daughter's upperclassmen friends had considered asking her freshman son, Charles, to prom. "I had a vaguely troubling thought," Jennifer Conlin writes, "Can a 16-year-old be a cougar?"Conlin suggested that what seem like insignificant age differences to normal human people are like "dog years" for teenagers, when even a few months can be a yawning chasm. And because the NYT has a rule about what constitutes a social phenomenon (once, twice, three times a trend piece), she spoke to a few teen "cougar" couples and concluded that, "A growing number of our teenage girls are unabashedly showing their preference for younger boys, saying they are not only more respectful than their older counterparts, but generally nicer to date."But whyyyy?, scream the nation's jilted, chiseled varsity swim team members. Some of the teen ladies said that asking out younger men was less likely to result in embarrassing public rejection. Some said they just knew all the men in their own grade too well (and what 17-year-old girl doesn't value a nice piece of strange?). It's notable that, for an article about "cougars," Conlin doesn't directly address sex, possibly because she doesn't want to embarrass her kids in front of their friends or like, an international readership.But I felt that the underlying implication here was that there's a certain age at which young men stop appreciating a lady of fresh legal driving age and pupate into handsy jerky sexual beings. This is alternately before men are old enough to drive, as one Dartmouth undergrad put it, "before they are corrupted by fraternity brothers."Just a couple things.- As long as we're doing a trend piece about exhausted buzzwords from 2009, I would like to know about the phenomenon of people throwing up in their mouths a tiny bit. - To that end, why wasn't this called "Women Who Want to Date My Son: Hot Messes" ?- In the article, an 18-year-old named Charlotte said she fell for her 17-year-old boyfriend after she first saw him at cross-country practice. What can we do to keep leather-skinned whores like Charlotte away from our sons? Should we ban cross-country practice?
- Shouldn't we be excited that teenage girls want to bring somebody to prom who is sexually nonthreatening? Why not just take another heterosexual girl, or a cousin? What about a heterosexual girl cousin? - At what age do men become threatening and mean? Can we freeze them that way? And if we can, why aren't there kittens that never grow into cats? I'd buy stock in that, if any "Jurrassic Park"-like genetic engineering companies are dipping a toe into those ethically murky waters.- What happened to the good old days when you had to convince the chaperons that your date was prematurely grey because he studies so hard in the school three towns over and not because he is a 47-year-old copy machine salesman who bought you Zimas at an Eve 6 show and gets how special and mature for your age you are?- The girl who was considering taking Conlin's son to prom said she thought of him "like a baby brother," but ended up going with a boy her own age instead of Charles, writes his mom, "and not just because he thought he was too young." Poor Charles, right? - Local ages of consent and Romeo and Juliet laws aside, no, a 16-year-old girl cannot be a "cougar." Please don't be gross.