“I can’t explain why, but I’ve always been,” she said, pausing.
“Without even knowing someone’s age, you can be sure I’m going to gravitate toward the younger guy.
And since men have been dating younger women for ages, why are so many of us surprised — shocked, even — that women would follow suit?
Valerie Gibson, author of Cougar: A Guide for Older Women Dating Younger Men, is all too familiar with this double standard. They were absolutely horrified that older women should be having sex with younger men.”When many of us think “cougar,” we picture the ultimate cougar of the big screen: The Graduate’s legendary, martini-sipping Mrs. These days, real-life cougars are stars like Demi Moore (who, in her 40s, married then-twenty-something heartthrob Ashton Kutcher), the coiffed reality-show cast of The Real Housewives of Orange County, and, yes, everyday women — suburbanites and city-slickers alike.
Widowed, separated, or divorced, a growing number seek young men for dating and companionship.The self-proclaimed cougar wrote her first book on the topic — Younger Men: How to Find Them, Date Them, Mate Them, and Marry Them — 14 years ago, “and let me tell you something,” she said in a whisper. While there’s no denying that cougars are slinking into the mainstream, there’s still an element of taboo surrounding these age-spanning relationships.“It’s definitely considered creepier for women to go out with younger men,” admitted Junie Smith*, a 52-year-old cougar who lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.“These older women are confident, sexually mature, they don’t have inhibitions, they know what they like, and they know what they want,” said Nancy D.O’Reilly, clinical psychologist, researcher, author and host of Voice America’s radio program “Timeless Women Speak.” Cougars are independent, career-oriented women who have a been-there-done-that attitude towards marriage and “don’t need anyone to take care of them,” she said.A whopping 34 percent of women over 40 are dating younger men, according to a 2003 survey.The same poll, which surveyed 3,500 single people (both women and men) aged 40 to 69 years old, found that 56 percent are currently separated or divorced from a spouse, 31 percent have never been married, and seven in 10 (74 percent) of formerly married singles in their 50s have been single for five years or more.“They’re looking for companionship, sexual contact, and someone good to talk to and spend time with.So be it if the relationship goes further.” 'A Badge of Honor' While women aren’t exactly shouting their cougar status from the rooftops (“Women never want to be called a “cougar,” because it implies they’re older,” Mercer explained nonchalantly), men aren’t shy about their relationships with older women.The study stated that the divorce rate now, compared to when cougars were married some 25 years ago, has contributed to the amount of single, 50 women, said to be “on the prowl” in today’s dating pool.More Fun, Less 'Baggage' For Wheeler, younger men have been a natural fit for an energetic lifestyle that her male peers have never quite matched.