Posts Tagged ‘cougaring’

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Okay, I’ll Say It: Cougar. Now can we get serious?

December 18, 2009

by Anne Alexander

This “cougar” word is not my favorite contemporary expression, but we seem to be stuck with it. New word, old concept. There have always been older women-younger men pairings. At least one society has specialized in age-mixing, and I can’t even remember what part of the world these folks inhabit, but all the young girls go to old men, and the old women make it with the young boys, teaching them a thing or two. Later, when a youth has earned some status and fortune, he can get a wife closer to his own age. Candidates are abundant, because eventually the old men die off and free up the younger women – who have by then grown to the approximate age of the upcoming men who have acquired enough of what it takes to be entitled to wives.

As if “cougaring” weren’t bad enough, a young man who fools around with an older woman is said to be “tadpoling.” A tadpole is, of course, a developing amphibian, not even a frog yet. My thoughts return to a place they don’t often visit, a certain night in the late 1960s. Tadpoling. Who knew?

Magazine surveys are notoriously unreliable, good for starting conversations and not much else. But in 2003, an article stated that 34% of women between ages 40 and 69, were dating younger men. Of course there are a lot of questions you want to ask. Like, how much younger, on average? Are we talking about Americans only? Or Americans and Canadians? Europeans? What?

In 2004, Match.com reported on attitudes toward a large age gap between partners. Apparently they used a 15-year difference as the definition of “large.” Anyway, they supposedly found more men who were willing to date a woman 15 years older, than women willing to date a man 15 years younger.

Naturally, someone arbitrarily made up a formula to determine the acceptable societal norm – the “half-your-age-plus-seven rule.” In other words, for a 30-year-old woman, 15 plus 7 is 22 – so your male friend should not be any younger. For a 50-year-old woman, the lowest acceptable male age would be 25 plus 7, or 32.  Of course, if two age-disparate people stay together for a long time, that would mess up the math. It’s all nonsense anyway. The person who invented this standard – who died and made him God?

When Ben Franklin was 39, he wrote a letter to a friend, offering advice about choosing a mistress: find an older woman. Franklin listed 8 reasons, which are briefly paraphrased here:
Intelligence and better conversation.
They treat you good, because they don’t have beauty to offer.
They don’t get pregnant.
They keep their mouth shut about your liaison.
Since they age from the top down, there’s no difference below the waist.
It’s less sinful than deflowering a virgin.
A young girl can be made miserable by your attentions, but an older woman will be made happy.
He winds up with “8th and lastly. They are so grateful!!!”

More recently, Franklin’s advice has been streamlined into the smart-ass slogan, “They don’t yell, they don’t tell, they don’t swell, and they’re grateful as hell.” Accompanied by a snigger.

Actually, it’s nothing to snigger about. Gratitude is always appropriate, on both sides, and at any age, whenever two people meet to express affection and/or exchange bodily fluids. I’m quoting a man on this – Orson Bean, who wrote about his own journey of liberation. He says a healthy man “is filled with tenderness and caring and concern for his partner at the height of the sex act… and afterwards the feeling is one of love and tenderness and deep gratitude.”

Making love with a compatible partner is something to be grateful for, always, each and every time. It’s a wonderful, positive, perfectly gorgeous thing to do. Or should be. And why on earth would a person ever want to share such an experience with a partner who is anything less than grateful – and gratified?

Just like any other kind of pairing, the main thing to consider is this. To find someone you really vibe with is so rare, it’s stupid to create artificial barriers of any kind.

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Cougar-themed Movies and Books

November 12, 2009

Cougar Movies
This list comes from Paul Theroux’s 2003 essay, “And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson”

Sunset Boulevard
Torment
This Sporting Life
Nothing But The Best
Sweet Bird of Youth
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
A Cold Wind in August
The Last Picture Show
Room at the Top
Fear Eats the Soul
The Gypsy Moths
The Graduate
White Palace
Harold and Maude

Cougar Novels

Prodigal Summer
by Barbara Kingsolver
Three intertwined stories. In “Predators,” Deanna is a 47-year-old forest service worker who has been hiding out from people, including lovers, for a couple of years. The man she gets together with is 28. A 19 year age difference is a considerable gap by most people’s reckoning. In addition, she’s half a head taller. But they have a lovely idyll. “Moth Love” also has a cougar relationship. Lusa gets way too close to letting herself commit an indiscretion with her 17-year-old nephew-in-law. Their discussion of the possibility is beautiful. It’s the kind of talk that’s sexier than a lot of what passes for sex. There’s a third love story too, “Old Chestnuts,” but the man and woman in that one are both elderly, so it’s interesting in a different kind of way.

Palazzo d’oro by Paul Theroux – a really bizarre tale about a young man and a woman he doesn’t realize is so much older.

Babes in the Wood by Ruth Rendall – a violent, predatory, pedophilic cougar woman. Yikes!

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Prominent Women and Their Younger Men

November 12, 2009

Cougaring with the Great and Famous

MillayJennifer Anniston‘s current boyfriend is 9 years younger, plus she’s making a movie about a woman who pursues younger men.

Sarah Bernhardt was 37 when she got together with Aristidis Damala, who was 12 years younger. Morphine-addicted, probably bisexual, and with a bad case of himself, Damala was a challenge. His bad habits killed him at 42, and Bernhardt mourned him for a long time. When she was 66, The Divine Sarah started an affair with Lou Tellegen who was 27 – that’s, like almost 40 years difference. She was literally old enough to be his grandmother. It lasted four years and was one of the leading scandals of the era.

Halle Berry is 10 years older than her child’s father

At age 43, Catherine II, empress of Russia, had an affair with Grigori Potemkin, who was 35. For the next quarter of a century, Catherine’s numerous lovers were first road-tested by her ladies in waiting. At 60, she got together with 22-year-old Platon Zubov, in a relationship that lasted seven years.

Cher has, or had, a boyfriend she is, or was, 23 years older than.
Cher’s mom – several years ago one of the popular celebrity magazines printed a great photo of Cher’s mother, rollerskating on the Venice boardwalk with her much younger, and very foxy, boyfriend.

Colette

Joan Collins married a 36-year-old man when she was 68.

Simone de Beauvoir had an affair with Claude Lanzmann, a journalist 17 years younger.

duncanIsadora Duncan was over 40 when she married the Russian poet Sergei Esenin, who was 17 years younger.

George Eliot, the woman writer with a male pseudonym, was 60 when she married a man 20 years younger. During their honeymoon in Venice he jumped out the window of the hotel into Grand Canal. Gossips back in England said he did it to escape his wife’s insatiable sexual drive.
mata hari 2
Mata Hari, the famous dancer and courtesan, forgot her professional demeanor and fell in love with Vadim Masloff, a Russian military man who was 19 years younger. They wanted to get married, but he was badly wounded and she wanted to get out of the life, but they had not money. So she took employment as a spy, which she was lousy at, and was thrown in prison. The authorities confiscated Vadim’s letters, so she thought he had abandoned her. For some reason, probably government coercion, he wrote a letter to her trial judge, denouncing her and she was executed.

Chrissie Hynde married Jim Kerr, 8 years younger.

Grace Jones at age 43 married a 21-year-old guy.

Historian Catherine Macaulay, at 47, married a man of 21.

Madonna isn’t bothered by the 28 year age difference between her boyfriend and herself.

MagnaniAnna Magnani had an affair with a 19-year-old whose mother raised hell and demanded to know ad an affair with – his mother demanded to know what he was doing with that old lady. The youth protested, “But, Mamma, that’s no old lady, that’s Anna Magnani!”

Edna St. Vincent Millay was involved with a poet named George Dillon, fourteen years younger, who was said to be the only man who broke her heart.

Demi Moore married a guy 15 years younger.

Mary Tyler Moore‘s husband is 17 years younger, and they’ve been married since 1983.

ninAnais Nin, at 42, had an affair with an 18-year-old (that’s a 24 year age gap), and encouraged him to quit college. His father found out and threatened Nin with deportation. Also, he said he squeal to her husband’s bosses. The husband was a bank executive, so this would have meant job loss and serious income deprivation. Nin was 16 years older than her second (bigamous) husband Rupert Pole, and concealed her true age from him for many years. (She had work done, and looked a lot younger than her years.)

When Adelina Patti was 55, she married a man 27 years younger, or half her age.

Edith Piaf

Ayn Rand, who was married at the time, got a wild hair in her 40s and started up with a guy 25 years younger, Nathaniel Branden. It was a stormy fourteen-year relationship Branden described as “full of sexual dominance and surrender and the uncontrollable passion of two noble souls.” He finally broke loose and paired up with a young model.

Actress Rachel Roberts spent years with fashion stylist Darren Ramirez, who was nearly twenty years younger, and bisexual. Biographer Alexander Walker says the young man had a pliant nature, and was able to “calm her first, reason with her afterwards, hold it together with affection.”
george sand
George Sand‘s lover Jules Sandeau was 7 years younger. Frederic Chopin was 6 years younger. At 45 she embarked on an affair with a man 13 years younger, which lasted 15 years. At 60 she acquired a lover who was 21 years her junior. In addition to liking young men, she also liked to dress as a young man.

Susan Sarandon is 12 years older than husband Timothy Robbins.

Acclaimed dancer Ruth St. Denis married a man 14 years younger. As she aged, she shared her favors with more men than ever before. Her husband said about one of her teenage lovers, “If he were any younger he’d be a fetus!”

Okay, technically this isn’t a love affair. But Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson (26 years younger) deserve a few words, paraphrased from Paul Theroux. Jackson offered Taylor a bunch of tickets for one of his shows, but Taylor didn’t like the VIP box so far away from the stage. She and all of her guests turned around and left. Jackson called her up the next day, crying. He apologized for the lousy accomodations, and they ended up talking for a couple of hours. They spent time on the phone pretty much every day for three months, and that was the start of their very close friendship.

Emma Thompson‘s husband is 7 years younger.

Tina Turner has been with a guy for more than 20 years, and he’s 16 years younger than she is.

Alma Mahler Werfel was married to the composer Mahler, then to architect Walter Gropius, then to author Franz Werfel, who was 12 years younger than she.

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Colette: Cougar Woman Ahead of the Curve

November 12, 2009

coletteThe novelist Colette had a notorious affair with her stepson that started when he was only 16 (or 19). The age difference was somewhere between 20 and 30 years. (I wish these sources would get together and agree on something.) Colette published a famous and scandalous novel called Cheri, a romance where the woman is 24 years older than her lover!

In those days, a novel typically came out one chapter at a time, in a magazine. In that respect, a novel was more like a TV series. The readers were forced to wait to find out what happened. Somehow they remembered the plot and characters from one episode to the next. People’s minds were less crowded with urgent, exigent matters in those days.

Anyway, people assumed that Colette’s novel was based on the stepson affair, but here’s the weird part – about half of Cheri had already been published in serialized form before she ever met that young man.

At 52, Colette met Maurice Goudeket, who was 16 years her junior, and who became her third husband. He later published a book titled The Delights of Growing Old. The reviewer at The Common Reader says,

Goudeket at thirty found himself at last drawn into the ‘great love’ he’d despaired of ever finding, and in these pages he draws an exquisitely tender picture of this thirty-year relationship, vividly capturing the sense of wonder and awe he unfailingly felt toward his gifted, remarkable wife.

 

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Edith Piaf: Love Conquers All

November 9, 2009

piaf_cerdan“Love conquers all” is one of the mottoes Edith Piaf lived by, and has anyone ever had a more pathetic life story? Born under a lamp-post at three in the morning, cared for by a grandma who put red wine in her baby bottle, as a child she went blind and lived in a whorehouse. On August 19, the proprietress of this institution hung a “closed” sign on the door, mustered all the girls and the 7-year-old child, and led them and to the shrine of St. Theresa of Lisieux where they prayed and burned candles all day. The madame promised to donate ten thousand francs to the church if Edith were cured on August 25. On the appointed day, the little girl regained her sight, which caused the village priest to decree that now, being able to see the disgraceful goings-on, she could no longer live in the brothel. Or maybe he figured the saint would disapprove.

For Edith, it was “out of the frying pan and into the fire.” By 1930, she was a seasoned street performer, successful enough to rescue her half-sister, Simone Berteaut, from their negligent mother. When Edith got pregnant, she and her 14-year-old sister were sharing quarters, and they were both so distracted, nobody thought to prepare for the event with so much as a diaper. They didn’t know how to do laundry, so clothes were worn until they got too rank, and thrown away. Edith was singing in a dive, and the two sisters would leave the baby asleep in their room while they went to work. Sometimes they would rent a room for 12 hours, and spend the other 12 hours out on the streets. It was cheaper than maintaining a continuous residence someplace. There were stretches as long as a week when even that minimal amount of shelter couldn’t be had. Eventually, the baby’s father showed up and appropriated her. The little girl died of meningitis at age two and a half, and Edith turned her first trick to pay for the burial.

A club owner was murdered, and Simone was sent to a detention center for a couple of months. The press went wild connecting Edith with the case, and her career began with shady notoriety. People would come to hear her sing just so they could boo her for being connected with a suspicious death. She took up with American sailors, allegedly locking three or four men in different rooms while she went to work, to be assured of finding them when she returned. She was proud of being able to drink any man under the table.

Simone ran a dry hustle where she’d show some man a photo of her “sick little brother,” or tell him the concierge was holding the child hostage for non-payment of rent. After taking the mark’s money, she would promise to come back and give him a happy ending as soon as the baby got its medicine or the rent was paid. The sisters always lived on the edge, in chaos and squalor. At one point, Edith moved a nine-man singing group into their place. She is said to have invited several former lovers over on the same evening, and they all showed up wearing blue suits she had bought for them. Edith liked to see her men wearing blue. (But come to think of it, those two stories might be the same story. Maybe the sisters were extending hospitality to a whole band, and they wore blue uniforms. So somebody made up this story about the party for the ex-lovers. The gutter press was around in those days, as always. You never know, with these things.)

A boyfriend introduced Edith to an invention called the toothbrush, which was a blessing, since her favorite snack was pickled herring with onions. This same guy was too polite and gentlemanly for Edith’s standards, so she plotted how to get him to hit her. Eventually, a character named Raymond Asso took the songstress in hand to teach her how to act civilized, stop hanging around with whores and pimps, and become a professional with an actual career. He thought Simone was a leech, and forced Edith to abandon her sister and move in with him.

During the war, the Germans who occupied France liked Edith Piaf. She would perform for them, but she also got them to pay for shows in the stalags, and then she’d turn over her fee to the prisoners of war. Visiting a POW camp, the sweet little wren would pose for a photo with a group of prisoners – just a sentimental keepsake for her scrapbook, of course. The pictures then went to the French Resistance, so fake IDs could be made to help Allied POWs escape. Apparently, Edith got away with this more than once.

Edith in love was a fearsome sight – jealous, possessive, demanding, and prone to howling fits. She was lover and mentor to Yves Montand, who was five or six years younger, and already had a wife and children. The pair of them would have monumental physical battles, and scream at each other till they were hoarse, then gargle the hoarseness out of their throats and go onstage. The demands of their respective careers took these lovers away from each other.

When Edith was enmeshed in an affair with boxer Marcel Cerdan, she and Simone sneaked into the training camp and lived in an unused bungalow so the affair could continue. Marcel brought them sandwiches once a day, and they had only tap water to drink. It was, needless to say, a great sacrifice for Edith to drink nothing but water. This, more than anything, proved her devotion.

Ever since becoming her sister’s sidekick again, Simone was the all-purpose gofer and ultimate personal assistant. They’d pick up a couple of men and take them home. Edith always got the better-looking one, and Simone’s role was to take the other guy into another room and keep him there, so he wouldn’t be in the way while Edith seduced the man of her choice. Her whole concept of sex was much closer to the typical masculine attitude. Men existed for her to judge, pick, use, discard, or fall madly in love with. A man was something to enslave, or to be enslaved by.

When Edith found a new sweetheart, she would go broke buying him fancy clothes and pricey watches and cufflinks and so on. There was always a stack of unpaid bills. Her philosophy was, as long as she earned money, she was entitled to spend money, and if the numbers didn’t match up, she didn’t want to hear about it. At a friend’s suggestion, Edith once bought a farm for the sake of the healthy country air. She reportedly paid 15 million francs for the real estate, and another 10 million on renovations, never even spent three weekends there, and ended up selling the place for 6 million francs. Dining in a restaurant with a large party, Edith would pick up the check – but since she was paying, she decided what everyone would eat. She’d buy a man a nice pair of alligator shoes, but a size too small, because she didn’t like big feet.

Marcel took the sisters to New York. Simone was ordered to sample the man’s meals before he ate, because Edith was afraid his opponent would try to poison him. Marcel won the fight and became the new world champion. Soon the lovers were both back in Europe; Edith in Paris, and Marcel in Casablanca. They both had careers, after all. Edith didn’t trust the mail service, or indeed any strangers, with her love letters to Marcel. Guess who wound up flying back and forth three times a week to deliver the letters? Simone, of course.

Then, the tragedy. Edith was in New York working, and Marcel was going to join her. He intended to travel by ship, but she asked him to take a plane because she couldn’t wait. The plane crashed and he was killed. Edith stopped eating, and was only able to fulfill her contractual obligations and sing her songs with the aid of powerful drugs. Marcel’s ghost visited her. She held seances, sitting around a table all night while the spirit of Marcel wrote songs for her. The seances went on for three years, and Edith befriended Marcel’s widow and kids.

If Edith wanted to stay up all night, Simone had to stay up all night too. The singer exercised parental control over her wayward sister for 30 years, supplied her basic needs and put money in the bank for her, and didn’t let her take sugar in her coffee. Edith loved certain movies, and Simone had to accompany her to see The Third Man nineteen times. When Simone got pregnant, Edith felt her trust was betrayed. Simone wasn’t supposed to have anyone in her life more important than Edith. With her substance abuse problems, extensively documented elsewhere, Edith needed a lot of looking after. With the opiates and the alcohol, there was a “nightmare that lasted four years,” during which she got married and divorced and also tried to kill herself.piaf_ Sarapo

The traumatized Edith couldn’t stand to be alone, not even in the bathroom. Somebody had to be with her all the time, man or woman, didn’t matter. She saw spiders and mice that other people couldn’t see. Just before starting a nearly year-long tour of the United States, she was hospitalized for more than month. The tour was the longest and most lucrative of her career, and at the time she was, after Crosby and Sinatra, the best-paid star in the world.

Her third car accident didn’t seem to do too much damage, only some cuts, but a few months later Edith collapsed onstage and vomited blood from a stomach ulcer. By then she weighed about 75 pounds. She was operated on for pancreatitis, diagnosed with cancer, and hospitalized again in a hepatic coma. She resumed touring, but then had two more surgeries for intestinal constrictions. At age 47 she was a wreck.

So, what did Edith Piaf do next? What any celebrity diva would do. She married the beautiful Theo Sarapo, who was 26 when they met, or approximately 20 years younger. Everyone thought he married her for money, but he was truly devoted to Edith, as far as anyone could tell. She came down with double pneumonia, then pulmonary edema. Emerging from another coma, of five days’ duration this time, she suffered “a fit of true madness that lasted two weeks,” which Theo nursed her through. When Edith died, the poor guy didn’t inherit anything but 45 million francs worth of debt. Jean Cocteau died the same day, just when he was getting ready to read a funeral eulogy for Edith Piaf over the radio.