cougars and boy toy babes
With Guests Leslie Kohler and Susan Mcbride
From Courteney Cox’s hit television show Cougar Town to cougar conventions popping up across the country, older women dating younger men are en vogue everywhere. In this week’s Wellness for the Real World, Dr. Veronica goes on the prowl with authors Leslie Kohler and Susan McBride, who share first-hand the mental and physical benefits of dating down in age.
The term cougar originated in Vancouver, British Columbia, as a put-down for older women who would go to bars and go home with whoever was left at the end of the night, according to sex and relationships columnist Valerie Gibson. But over the years the word has shed its predatory image and now is often associated with women over 40 who are smart, sexy, independent, and who, well, just happen to date men in a lower-age bracket.
“There is a growing acceptance of older women going out with younger guys,” says McBride, 45, who penned the novel The Cougar Club and is nearly 10 years older than her husband Ed. “Guys have been doing it forever… It’s about time the double standard went away.”
Younger men and older women aren’t exactly new. Remember Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate? And seasoned females such as Elizabeth Taylor and Raquel Welch weren’t known for dating men their age as they aged. But it wasn’t until Demi Moore began dating her now-husband Ashton Kutcher, who is 15 years her junior, in 2003 that a favorable trend was noticed. That same year, a survey conducted by AARP The Magazine revealed that a whopping 34 percent of women over 40 are dating younger men.
“There’s a whole wave of younger guys who really appreciate older women and are attracted to them,” McBride tells Dr. Veronica. “I don’t think it’s going to go away because women take better care of themselves. They feel better about themselves as they get older.”
For the last seven years, Kohler, 54, has been involved with a man eight and a half years younger. She went that route after two unsuccessful marriages to men seven and 10 years older. One husband told her after they were married that he would divorce her if she ever gained weight. But she wasn’t the one he should have worried about.
“When I was married before… my husbands let themselves go,” she said. “Both of them gained 35 lbs.” And she rarely cooked. She’s thinner now than when she was married thanks to remaining active – she runs half marathons – for 35 years. Her girlfriends point out how fortunate she is to go to the gym and hike with her partner. And never is she self-conscious about her body in his presence.
“The key is to work as hard as you can to be in shape and I also work out for mental reasons,” said Kohler, who wrote Sins of the Border, a murder mystery.
Dr. Veronica, who is recently divorced, often talks about preferring a younger man – and the term “boy toy babe” to cougar. She runs marathons and sticks to her fitness plan.
“Men, you better be able to keep up with me,” she tells listeners. “I am a doctor, not a nurse.”
Working out together isn’t the only physical benefit of being with a younger man.
“In my marriage, our love life had become almost non-existent,” Kohler admits. “In my relationship with the younger man, I feel that we are much more compatible as far as sex drive. I feel like I can be more myself. We can enjoy ourselves each other on a mental and physical level.”
Now that she’s eliminated economics and control out of her relationship, her psyche is free. She points out that older men often want to be in command of the relationship due to finances.
McBride confesses that she’s the alpha in her relationship and it pleases Ed, who gets carded at restaurants while she does not. “He likes that I like to take care of things and make arrangements. And then he takes care of me. Emotionally, every little thing I need taken care of, he’s there for me.
“When we get past 42, we’re more confident. We’re successful in our careers. We feel good about ourselves. We need someone who will nurture us. We’ve nurtured people our whole lives. We need someone who is going to be sensitive to what we’re going through and support us and be our cheerleaders. The alpha male is probably not going to fill those kinds of needs.”
Never did she need Ed more than when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The two met at a party in 2005 celebrating the St. Louis magazine issue that named McBride one of the city’s top singles. She had never dated a young man before, but eight months after meeting the two bought a house together. A few months later came the diagnosis. When her mother asked Ed if he would leave, he said no. The couple wed in 2008 and having children has not been an issue.
“We’re okay if it’s just us for the rest of our lives,” says McBride, who is open to adoption. “We have nieces and nephews running around like crazy. If it happens it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Difficulties conceiving, opinions of family members, especially children, and relating to each other in terms of music and historical events such as when you were when Kennedy was shot could be potential problems for cougars. Some older women won’t give younger men a chance because of how they feel about themselves.
“As women we are so critical of ourselves,” Kohler says. “We are more self critical of our bodies and wrinkles on our face than men are. We tend to think, ‘Oh he’s younger than me. He’s not going to want to date me if he sees a touch of cellulite or crow’s feet.”
Today’s numbers are proof that a woman aging gracefully doesn’t bother a lot of men in their 20s and 30s. Dr. Veronica encourages females to give these males an opportunity.
“We think guys younger than us are not serious,” she says, “and we need to start considering all options.”