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The year I turned 30, all my single friends started finding boyfriends. Getting engaged. Getting married. Getting remarried, even. Popping out kids. My facebook feed became a personal hell of wedding and baby photos. I had just broken up with my manchild boyfriend who slept on a bare mattress. I wasn’t getting married anytime soon. Or possibly ever. I wasn’t exactly jealous of my friends who were settling down, but I was freaking out a little bit.
I started making jokes about how if I was still single by the time I was 40, I’d give up and become a cougar. Then I started thinking, “Why wait?”
I knew I was technically too young to qualify, but the stereotypical cougar is usually a super hot and youthful-looking middle aged lady. I figured if I lied and started telling people I was 40 NOW, I could just pretend that I’d had some work done.
My friend Sarah is partly to blame for this madness. Sarah is my age and therefore actually a puma (a 30-something junior cougar), but last year she decided to break out her platform wedges and lip gloss and attend a cougar convention with some bored lady friends. She regaled me with tales of a conference hall overrun with horny college boys, bragging about all the free drinks and phone numbers she’d gotten. Why should she have all the fun?
I’ve always had a thing for younger men: When I was 27, I had a 19-year-old boyfriend who wrote romantic poetry about doing me in French, and it was awesome. This was simply taking things to the next level. I was going to wear blingy jewelry and big sunglasses, and get my nails done every week! I was going to get the word SEXY tanned onto my cleavage in all caps and wear low cut tops! I was going to drink wine for breakfast, travel to exotic destinations, wear animal prints, and maintain a harem of incredibly good looking younger men! I was single, dammit, and I was going to have a good time. Thus, my cougar summer began.
My cougar alter ego needed a name. I settled on “Bev,” after a glamorous lady friend of a certain age who was a pop singer in the 60s and drives a big gold Cadillac. Then it was time to go shopping! I went to the thrift store, where I found peep-toe snakeskin platforms and giant sunglasses with golden frames shaped like intertwining cobras. I paired a ruffled, low-cut, powder pink blouse (scored at a clothing swap) with a wide belt and a skin-tight black pencil skirt. It seemed like an appropriate mix of classic and slutty.
The coup de grace was my cougar bling. I found a massive, jewel encrusted leopard head pendant at Forever 21 (oh the irony!) that rested nicely on my copious cleavage. I was ready to go out on the prowl.
I have never been a fan of the “bar scene,” (does anyone actually pick up dudes at bars anymore?) so I decided to be a lazy cougar and post an ad on Craigslist:
I want some ridiculous sexy summer fun times. Be cute (by your own reckoning), open minded, sane-ish. Send a pic (not of your dick) or else. I love playing cougar to younger boys (18+ PLEASE) even though I'm technically still a puma.
I poured myself a generous glass of chardonnay, and waited. Twelve hours later, I had over 100 responses in my inbox. Ladies, if you ever need a cheap and hilarious ego boost, post an ad in Craigslist W4M.
I found a couple of promising suitors in a sea of “R U A ROBOT OR A REAL GIRL?” type messages. The first was from a talented 22-year-old photographer who looked like a teenage version of Obama with glasses and a dirt 'stache. Adorable!
I invited him to hang out with me at a swanky hotel room in downtown Chicago. We lounged around in fluffy robes, ordered pillows off a menu, ate pizza and fought over the remote. He later shot the cougar-themed photos that accompany this article in exchange for baking him cookies.
Suitor #2 was a soulful but unwashed 21-year -old drunk punk college student. He had to cancel our first date in order to attend a poetry reading, and told me he kept “very busy networking in the punk scene,” as if he were hoping to be offered a job by Johnny Rotten himself. He offered me of a can of Schlitz from his backpack and gave me a foot rub. I regaled him with tales of seeing Rancid play at 924 Gilman before they were famous. I made him take a shower before we made out. He spilled a Bloody Mary on my bed. He made me sort of nostalgic for the glory days of my safetypinned youth, but it was a bitch getting that tomato juice stain out of my mattress.
There were many other moments that made my cougar summer special. I rode my pink and white cruiser (nicknamed the “Bevmobile”) to the beach, where I wore my snake sunglasses and got tan lines from my gold-and-brown striped bikini. I drank sangria everyday and went out for brunch instead of cooking. I went to an S&M themed 4th of July barbecue. I frolicked with a cute Danish boy on a vacation to Copenhagen. A young, feminist beer model taught me two-step at a lesbian cowboy bar in Phoenix.
Becoming Bev allowed me to enjoy my single life to the fullest, instead of waiting to “catch up” with my married friends.
Summer’s over, but I don’t think I’m ready to retire Bev quite yet. Discovering an endless supply of college boys eager to hook up with older women reassures me that getting older doesn’t have to be boring! Bev isn’t a persona that I want to maintain 24/7, but she keeps my life interesting when work and mundane obligations threaten to suck the fun out. She prevents me from taking myself too seriously, and encourages me to live my wacky life with no apologies.
During the experiment, my friend joked to me that she wanted Cougar Bev as her “spirit animal,” a literal cougar goddess to guide her on sexy adventures. Bev is the Long-Island-accented voice in my head that encourages me to wear hot pink lipstick, order Old Fashioneds with extra cherries, always carry condoms in my purse “just in case,” book vacations to exotic locales, purchase impractical stripper shoes and flirt with intriguing strangers.
Ultimately Cougar isn’t an age, it’s a state of mind. One I’ve come to love a whole lot.