Let's play count the ways shall we?
And no, I have no idea what they're advertising.
I am 39 years old. I'll be 40 in May, and yes, I have the beginnings of wrinkles and grey hair and other 'sure signs of aging'. I like to go to clubs, I like to dance, and I like to wear outfits that fit my figure. I have also been in a stable relationship for over a year with a man who is 12 years my junior.
To all intents and purposes, I apparently fit the stereotype. So yeah, this cougar business is personal. And yeah, I could ignore it. After all, who cares what other people think, right? And it's not as if I actually dragged ferrouswheel out of a bar by the scruff of his neck, is it?
So why do I find this so offensive?
Apparently 35 is 'too old to be your girlfriend.' Hear that, ferrouswheel? You'd better dump me, I'm too old. And you know what? I was brought up to believe this stuff too - it's by sheer force of will and the application of logic and experience that I don't actually believe that the signs that I'm getting older will make the man that I love feel disgust for me and eventually decide that my lived-in exterior is too repulsive to wake up with any more.
Yes, I have that insecurity, and I fight it every day. Not just in terms of my relationship but in terms of the way the world views me. How long will I get away with dressing up in fun fur minidresses and putting random stuff in my hair and going to dance parties before I start to experience the societal rejection and the 'mutton dressed as lamb' judgements? And even if that doesn't stop me doing it, how much will that affect my enjoyment of doing these things I love?
Yes, I know that a bigger (better?) person might not feel these things. But I do. And I do because I have lived my entire life in a world that tells me that women over 35 are has-beens, that a woman's value is measured by her looks, that older women are unattractive, and that if a woman is single it's because she's seeking a relationship and can't find a man, not because she chooses to be without a partner and enjoys it.
LIES! But lies that worm their way into the darkest corners of your mind and lie there waiting for moments of low confidence to jump out and yell at you about how it's all true and the rest of the world actually agrees and your attempts to be that bigger (better) person are actually futile.
And when I see the word 'cougar' attached to a stereotype of a desperate older woman who is hunting a man, any man in a last-ditch attempt to do The Proper Thing before she turns into a repulsive dragon, I RAGE.
I rage at the people who think it's OK to instil these insecurities.
I rage at the people who think it's OK to perpetuate these stereotypes.
I rage at the people who think it's OK to insult women over 35 by flinging the insecurities based on the stereotypes in their faces.
But mostly I rage at the people who think it's funny. Because it's not funny, it's cruel.
OK, done now. Hope you're not embarrassed by my outburst. I'm not. And no I'm not looking for the 'oh but you're hawt' back-patting either. I know I'm an attractive woman - that's not what this is about. I want people to think about why someone as apparently confident and intelligent as me would get so offended by something that's supposed to be a bit of fun at the expense of a caricature.
It's because deep down somewhere, I believe that shit. And I believe that shit because the world has been telling me I have to for nearly 40 years. It's been telling you that shit too.