On the Prowl: A ‘Cougar’ Scratches Back at the Denver Post

“You and I here all alone/Sunday morning here at home
The sky is blue as the coffee’s strong/It’s true
But then I open my eyes/To this dream realized
In front of me
Oh and I haven’t got a clue/What in the world is happening to me
I think I’m happy.”

“Happy” – Martin Sexton

Special note: this blog is being posted on a day where I have sworn to forego caffeine, Twitter hash tags, the f-bomb and all online conversations about food in order to benefit Autism Speaks.

cougar denver postDear Douglas –

That’s my brother’s name. I like it.  Just wanted to dash you a little letter about the article you published in the Denver Post on May 28. Yeah – the one about “cougars.” I believe it had the clever title “Cougars on the prowl in Colorado nightclubs.” Did you think of that yourself or did your older girlfriend help you with the overused play on words? Nevermind – it’s really not important. The last letter I wrote was to Chris Brown after he slapped Rihanna around. Congrats – you’ve made it to the big leagues on Redheaded Fury.

Just wanted to give you my elderly wisdom on a few things before I popped a Geritol and settled in on my couch wrapped cozily in my Snuggie for re-runs of Golden Girls. Won’t take but a sec – I can’t stay awake that long. After all, I’m 36. A cougar, by your definition. An “older woman.”

Now, being a twice-divorced and presently single woman, I think you’ve pegged my “breed” pretty well: running around town, looking for strange and preying on young, unsuspecting boys. Granted, it’s tough for me to find a place to park my electric scooter when I come rollin’ up to the clubs, but the doormen here in Denver always jump to help an old gal and then I’m parked in pretty short order. Now that I’m parked, I can put my teeth back in and have both hands free to flip you the bird.

Your article has done nothing to promote any sort of “investigative journalism” or alert the good citizens of Denver to a wrong in need of righting. What you have done, however, is heartily promote the stereotype of the “woman on the prowl” and put out some pretty jaded human nastiness in the process. Personally, I think your article belongs in the obituary section, as it’s merely a eulogy for the death of human discovery and the collective citizenry’s ability to evaluate another human being based on (deep breath) qualities other than age.

I found the woman in your article who described men her age (44) with a blanket label of “fat and gross” to be simply charming. An iconic example of what the average 44-year-old woman thinks and feels. Wherever did you find her? Ah yes – it was the Entitled aisle at the Safeway in Cherry Creek, I’m sure. Honestly, I don’t know where she’s looking as I see men of that age DAILY who are stunning specimens of what a good dose of testosterone can achieve. Then again, I’m old and my eyesight might be going.

What occurs to me is that your article has successfully achieved the creation of a complete caricature. A caricature of everyone in your article and those to whom you apply the tasteful age-restrictive labels of “cougar” and “manther.” (Personally, I’d always heard the term “Silver Fox” used, but no matter.) From the description of your subjects’ clothing to the venue and the pretty yet vapid boys, it’s all nothing but a superficial take. One thing I’ve learned in my old age is that if people are in search of the superficial, it’s what they’ll find. And honestly, they don’t quite care what designer label it’s wrapped in because it’s bound to end up on someone’s bedroom floor by the end of the evening. But maybe I can shed some light on “cougars” beyond the dim one at the bar at which you conducted your investigation on the mating rituals of the urban feline.

Riding my bike this morning along the Cherry Creek bike path, I found myself purposefully steering into every possible rain puddle I could access. Water splashing up on my legs, my face … I giggled and even openly laughed once. When I took a good look at myself upon arriving back at my car, the sight was laughable. And certainly not “pretty.” I was completely un”hit on”able. But you know what?

I had fun. Fun at 6AM this morning playing in rain puddles. And then I summarily went back to my house, hopped in the shower, got my girl on and headed into the office. Today, it’s a fabulous denim pencil skirt accompanied by a Calvin Klein wrap top and a pair of kick-you-in-the-nuts Charles David strappy sandals.

I’m your cougar.

The people in your article aren’t looking for love. They’re looking to hook-up. And what you fail to mention in the stunning examples throughout your article is that it takes two to tango and it ain’t about a “cougar on the prowl.” If an older man/woman is looking for fun and fun alone, they’re generally going to turn to a younger mate. Why? It’s the “fun factor.” And the fact that they’re not looking for anything serious. Have I done it? Oh, most certainly. And it was fun.

But at 36, I’m looking for more than the “fun factor.” Yes, fun is a huge consideration in the men with whom I choose to spend my time, but it goes beyond that – it’s humility as well. The humble process of opening yourself up to learning about someone (and allowing them to learn about you in return) – their history, their loves before you, their life. Their quirks.

The endearing quirks and idiosyncrasies that take a person from being someone who tells a good joke at a bar to being the person you want to laugh with on a Sunday morning in bed.

Your article brazenly bypasses any and all mention of the things that make us each human, painting a pathetic, two-dimensional view of dating after age 35 for those of us who refuse to settle. I think your piece is the weak antithesis to that Lori Gottlieb rib-tickler in The Atlantic last year (Marry Him! The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough) that chides women for not settling for any one of a slew of Mr. Good Enoughs and holding out for Mr.Right.

But I won’t settle. The lyrics above – one of my favorite songs ever – are what I’m looking for. The daily surprise of discovering something new about the man I’m learning to “fit” with, not really knowing where it’s all going to go but embracing the childlike laughter that escapes my lips each time we splash through one of my aforementioned rain puddles. And laughing even more each time I see him laugh back.

That’s why I’m single. Not because of what “society’s handed me” (as your character Ms. Spuelher believes). I’m lucky enough to have had two men in my life whom I’ve loved enough to take a swing at “forever.” While they didn’t ultimately end up with the fairy tale ending, I’m delighted. The gift of being 36 and single is that I learn more each day what I love, what I want…what I don’t…where to compromise. Why, looking back down my life’s hallway, even two years have changed my perspective on a lot of things. Time is a gift and not the curse or something to battle as your characters purport. I think the man to find me today is a lucky one, and he’ll be grateful for the time I’ve taken to be with myself, to explore my demons, revisit them and emerge a better person.

I’m the cougar you speak of, along with every woman out there who enjoys time with her friends – regardless of their age, gender, looks or financial status. We go to bars on occasion, we carouse and engage in mischief…and we’re delightfully embracing the value of friendship and self-discovery while we look for our own “Happy.”  So take your kitty-cat labels and characters shaped with your superficially glazed pen and step aside. This cougar is looking forward to the day she has a man in her life whose lap she can curl-up on, soaking in a sunbeam as it glides through a window on a lazy Sunday morning. As he strokes my hair, it’s likely I’ll even purr. And I look forward to doing the same for him.

There is one thing you DID get right in your article, however:

…Cougarism is more complicated than the reductive picture forged in TV shows, comedy monologues and the snide commentary of office e-mails.

It’s about being 36, loving my life, and having enough balls to tell you your article was the most ridiculous piece of pulp I’ve read since Gottlieb’s abomination on the inherent value of “settling.” We cougars – we’re snappy little cats, ain’t we?

Now excuse me – I have to pay my bar tab and get my scooter out of valet.

Yours Truly,

Erika D. Napoletano

45 replies
  1. Cara
    Cara says:

    As usual, well said. As usual, I agree wholeheartedly. At my age (coming up on the 36), at my status (approaching the one year anniversary of the divorce), I’m not in the mood to force myself into a one-dimensional character to mesh with the latest in pop culture. Seriously, does anyone take that cougar on the prowl business seriously? I hope not. And if they do, I recommend they stay out of the path of my prowl, lest they find themselves mauled. Let me know when the when & where of the next red-headed cougar meet-up. We’ll be the ones doing what makes us happy and balanced and complete.

  2. Kim
    Kim says:

    Well said! At [gasp] almost 38 and still single, I never considered myself a “cougar”. Mind you, I do live with my boyfriend of 2 years and he IS 3.5 yrs younger! Thanks for a well-written blog!

  3. Red Headed Former Couger too!
    Red Headed Former Couger too! says:

    Thanks to this tweet ” @spencerjw @RedheadWriting Very well said, nice retort to the @DenverPost article.” I came to read this excellent rant! Bravo! I didn’t even go to read the Denver Post article as I didn’t want to grace it with a “hit”. I’m sure your words gave me a general idea of his idiocy so I didn’t need to go and subject myself to it.. Thank you! I am putting a link to your blog from mine… great stuff!

  4. HDMarsh
    HDMarsh says:

    First of all, Bravo for a great letter! Second, I’m shocked! At 36 I hadn’t even met my first and only husband yet! I was a single parent and certainly NOT in the cougar category! I met & married the love of my life at age 37. We had 10 wonderful years before he passed away at the age of 39 (yes, he was 7 years younger than me.) So now, seven years later, at the age of 54 I feel no age at all. I’ve googled for definitions of cougar as it applies to human women and most are saying in their mid-forties. Although one did say 35+!! My God, it’s bad enough we women become invisible at 50, so we really need to lower that? I was my most vibrant and productive in my mid to late 30’s. Forties were pretty good too. But now that I’m invisible, it takes some adjusting! Our society is way too youth conscious. I refuse to adhere to anyone’s definition of me. And you are way TOO YOUNG to even begin to feel “cougar-ish”!

  5. Mark Thomas
    Mark Thomas says:

    Hahaha, this was awesome.

    I thought cougar started somewhere between 56 and 65.

    Anyway, PRINT IS DEAD. And this article in the Post is a glaring example of that. They’re basically turning themselves into the paper version of the Maury Povich show. They write about things that no one cares about and then they exaggerate them in an attempt to make it interesting. And only the most mindless and idiotic percentage of the literate public are finding these articles captivating.

  6. Cyn
    Cyn says:

    Thank you, voice in my head!

    What’s perhaps most offensive (I’m talking to you, @jim) is when the term is used for ANY woman over the age of, oh, thirty. You want to gas about women on the prowl? Hokayfine. But since it’s becoming a generic, we must insist on referring to every post-adolescent male as a “goat.”


  7. Java1Guy
    Java1Guy says:

    Hey – being the erudite Red you are, you most likely have seen this NPR article, but I thought I would post it here for the benefit of the masses: http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2009/06/comments/let_us_allow_the_word_cougar_t.html It would seem you’re not the only blogger of this opinion – shocked, I am!

    [If ‘cougar’ were a valid term, wouldn’t it apply to a state of mind instead of a specific age?]

    Speaking of oldies, but goodies – some of us remember reading this book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802703631 The Sensuous Dirty Old Man, Isaac Asimov (1971) A very funny book as I recall. Ah, those were the days.

  8. Mike
    Mike says:

    I will say this. I am 26, and my girlfriend is 39. We met in line last year at the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in NYC waiting to get the new iPhone. We didn’t know each others age and it didn’t matter. She had some personal issues at first, but it was mainly about “what happens in 10 years when I’m significantly older looking than my boyfriend/husband?”. But once she realized that I was past that and I didn’t care, it was just like any other relationship. We laugh, we love, and we enjoy our time just like anyone else. Love has no age requirement, and it certainly doesn’t find us when things are most convenient. Yes, she’s nearing her age where having her own children might be a problem. But so what…I’m loving her, not her potential children.

    People who have problems with it are people without a clue. To all those women out there who are being labeled as a “cougar” – regardless of your age, you are beautiful and deserve love and happiness in whatever package (and whatever age) it comes in.

  9. Shawn Phillips
    Shawn Phillips says:

    A much deserved spanking… thanks for caring enough to let out your fury in intelligent style.

    While I’m not single, I can assure the woman from the “story” that not all 44 yr old men are flabby or soft… far from it.

    In Strength,

  10. Cougar Trapper
    Cougar Trapper says:

    When I was in college (19) I briefly dated a woman who was fascinated by my attraction to GREY MUFF. I love that. She even called herself that at the ripe old age of 31 or something ridiculously young… I think prior to her I was averaging about 36.

    I’m currently with the most amazing woman of any age, and yes she is 9 years older than me (and so happy when a 20 something barback confirmed a cougar was 10 or more years older) Whew. Oh, and her muff is grey. (Didn’t see that one coming did you.) (I hope she doesn’t see that)

    I’ve always chuckled at cougar, but I agree, a cougar is a state of mind. My definition is a single (or not) woman that likes to hang out in bars and garner the attention of younger men. And then she might fuck them… if they are lucky.

    Great stuff. Keep it up you, youngster, who might have cougar tendencies, but I doubt it.


  11. Tommy Tuesday
    Tommy Tuesday says:

    You Rock, Redhead!! This is the first of your blogs I have read but it will not be the last. Very glad to have discovered you and wish I would have had the pleasure of knowing you when I lived in Denver. I am putting your link on my blog as I think most of my followers would really enjoy reading you!!
    I like that – keep on keepin’ on!!


    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      Tommy – thanks for stopping by and glad you’re liking what you find 🙂 I appreciate the link back and without readers like you, I’m a crazy lady with a keyboard. 😛

  12. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Excellent, “Lollin.” Thanks for stopping by with a less-than-
    constructive comment. I think my readers will attest: there's nothing
    bitter about my piece—it's one chastizing the Denver Post for its
    bitterness and for a poor portrayal of single women over 35.
    Regardless, thanks for contributing to my web stats! Fuck yeah.

    The Redhead 🙂

  13. rosenkrantsky
    rosenkrantsky says:

    Thank God someone has finally had the balls to put up a good argument for this side. I hear way too many humiliating comments aimed at so called 'cougars', from obnoxious young men. Spread the word!

  14. Gregory
    Gregory says:

    we dont really have responsibility for our lives until after college (22-23). Before then, we were living at home until 18. Many people seem to think that we are old when we hit 30. Only thing I can think of is they dont want to take responsibility for their decisions, so they blame it on being “old”. Who wants to be old at 30? Following that logic, we are only young for about 7-8 years, and old for the rest of our lives. WTF? I am 38. I graduated college at 23. 15 is young.

  15. jennifer
    jennifer says:

    Beautiful. I am so tired of this “cougar” stereotype and every year it seems to get younger and younger. What is the year when a woman crosses over to this status? Is it 35 now? I guess once you hit 29 you are an “older” woman on the prowl these days…enough already.

  16. Carole
    Carole says:

    If that pissed you off at 36, imagine how I feel at 60 (61 at the end of this month). Was that really your brother who wrote the “cougar” article? As in out of the same womb? Hard to believe. Some day he'll know how boring he is to people who have lived a life. He hasn't been around long enough to have had one. We're born a blank slate and we start writing on it from day one. Personally, I think people gotta get way out of their twenties before they're even remotely interesting. There's not much that's more fascinating than talking to someone in their nineties – they have the wisdom of experience and they're SO way past the self-involved, no one matters but me attitude of youth. I'm finding 60 is pretty damn cool and the men in my age group are pretty damn hot! Silver foxes indeed, oh yeah! I like “cougar,” I think big cats are incredibly sexy, strong, courageous, take no prisoners, watch me roar animals. Anything wrong with that? Personally, I favor the term “virago,” the archaic definition…a woman of strength or spirit, a strong, brave or warlike woman, an amazon. Comes from the Latin, “vir,” as in virile. I think the present definition – a loud, ill-tempered woman, a shrew, was probably invented by a jealous man who couldn't get it up and resented women because we don't have to. LMAO. Great post, as always!

  17. Cherry Woodburn
    Cherry Woodburn says:

    Doing without caffeine etc. definitely didn't stop you from writing a clear, direct out-of-the-ball park letter. You ripped apart the stereotypes Dougie had built and painted a beautiful picture of being older (which is a relative term since you're just a kid to me.)
    Even though I use the f-word (showing my age by not saying f-bomb) I thought this letter had more impact without it. Giving you a big squeeze for taking on female, or any, steretypes. Cherry

  18. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    I am a very busy 35 yr old woman. I am a self employed magazine publisher, have 2 home schooled sons on the spectrum, a daughter who is starting high school -god(dess) help me. I am divorced, engaged, and always looking to enjoy every moment of this chaotic gong show I call my life!

    I do not often get a chance to explore the web.. but every once in a while I venture onto twitter in search of 140 character enlightenment (I know I should use social media more effectively but damn, who the hell has the time!) and i always seem to end up here, reading one of your articles.

    The “cougar” stereotype is amusing- defined by the wet dreams of young boys who wouldn't have a clue what to do with a woman if she decided to let him “catch her” and by men threatened by strong and independent 30+ women who don't need rescuing and dare to say “No” when they don't want to have sex. Like the term “bitch”, it is supposed to make us feel weak and insecure. Screw that.

    Your article was funny, sweet, and even empowering. It was a great reminder that we don't ever have to settle when it comes to love, that experience and adventure is sexy as hell, and that it is “OK” to put on our favorite stilettos and shake our yoga-toned asses! You rock.

  19. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Thank you, Kelly. That is a wonderful compliment. Never settle. Ever. It's just cheating yourself and the person you're settling with. And thank you for sharing some of that rare and precious time here – with my stuff. Damn. Thank you 🙂


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *