Archive for February, 2009

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February 19, 2009


Loraine Wapshott spied a rather attractive young man at a wedding last week. They flirted outrageously and she gave him her number. A first date is planned at the famous Oxo Tower in London. Then, who knows? But the smile on her face suggests that the evening may not end with a polite coffee.

The fact that this young man is young enough to be her son might be a little unseemly to some, but full-time mum Loraine insists he “just” falls within her rather precise dating parameters. Were he a year or two younger – and, therefore, less than half her age – it might have posed a problem.

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cougarsLeaders of the pack: (left to right) Karin Bacardi-Fien, Caryn Scott and Loraine Wapshott

“He’s 25, which is just about fine. He knows I’m 48 and that doesn’t seem to be a problem with him. For the record, though, I won’t go out with anyone under 25.”

Her children, who are 19 and 15, must be relieved.

Fellow divorcee Karin Bacardi-Fien, also 48, has already run the gauntlet of horrified children. Her current beau, Graeme, is an eyepopping 22 years younger than her. After one of their first dates, her son pulled Graeme aside and asked what his intentions were.

Still, she believes that a 26-year-old boyfriend is “just about right” for a woman of her age and position.

“Personally, I won’t date anyone my own age or older, but many of my friends are much more fussy. My friend Carina, who is 46, only dates men who are under 30, and my friend Denise agrees. She said to me the other day that it’s all downhill after men turn 30.”

Still, she agrees that one can get carried away by this dating-younger-men business.

“I was out on the town with my Finnish friend Eya and Mexican friend Maria Elena recently,” she recalls.

“We were going from pub to pub and having a great time when we were approached by a group of guys who looked like teenagers.

“They tried chatting us up, saying we were ‘sexy older women’. We were in hysterics as they looked like they were barely past puberty.”

In the weeks and months to come, Karin and her copious friends won’t just be described as “sexy older women” in the pubs and nightclubs they frequent. They will be dubbed “cougars” – and cited as evidence of a remarkable new social trend. Whether they will be flattered or disgusted by the term is another matter, though.

Quite what constitutes a cougar is the matter of much debate. The term “urban cougar” was first used in the States to describe older women who aggressively date – or prey on, as the lingo goes – younger men.

Later this year the film Cougar Club -starring Faye Dunaway and Carrie Fisher – is released in the UK. It is an entertaining, if savage, affair, featuring a group of divorced friends who hunt in packs for young blood. The promotional blurb offers the line “We are women – hear us roar”, suggesting that the young “prey” really don’t stand a chance.

But is this film really reflecting a genuine social trend? It seems so.

It’s no longer just the likes of Demi Moore, Madonna and Joan Collins who are proud to say they prefer dating younger men.

A study by online dating service recently revealed that 280,000 British women over 45 are keen to date a younger man, a leap of 20 per cent in a year.

Specialist dating websites have sprung up to satisfy the new demand – but even those who post on them can’t agree whether cougars are to be applauded or abhorred.

“A cougar is a woman old enough to be the mother of the young man she sleeps with. Once she gets older and gets age spots, she becomes a leopard,” says one online poster, in a less-thanflattering description.

Another retorts angrily that a cougar is simply a woman who is doing what men have done through history – going for a mate she finds most attractive, regardless of age or convention.

“A cougar is a woman of any age over 40 who is extremely attractive, intelligent, independent financially, has a powerful career and knows what she wants and, therefore, allows herself the freedom to seek out or accept offers from younger men,” it reads. (more…)