Okay, sorry, Saint Patrick, but as I was contemplating that today is Saint Patrick's Day, all that came to mind was that incident in Boston on Saint Patrick's Day when my pal Boston Girl met this guy in a pub and this cougar in a green shirt ran off with him. The incident is immortalized in My Book, and it looks particularly weird in Polish.
At any rate, I was only 36 or so at the time, and my feelings about La Cougar are rather more mixed today than they were at the time, when she was quite obviously the ENEMY and the COMPETITION. Of course, at 36, I was also considered a cougar, at least by this Canadian guy in my summer language course in Germany, who said that women over 25 were cougars by definition.*
For the sake of the homeschooled and other carefully brought up readers, I should explain that "cougar" is slang for an older woman who courts younger men. It is derogatory as it assumes that there is something menacing about older women in general, especially when we paint our nails blood-red and go about in the skins of murdered or fake animals. It also assumes that younger men never, ever, ever court older women as we sit innocently on our bar stools in the Voodoo Bar, wearing stilettos and slurping down Atomic Zombies.
This reminds me of a very funny story. I was 30-something and out with some of my girlfriends at a dance club in Toronto, and your humble correspondent caught the eye of some nice but probably drunk young man who eventually offered to buy her a drink. And your humble correspondent kick started the conversation at the bar by saying, "So, are you Catholic?"
This also works for men, by the way. Nobody standing by the bar expects anyone to ask "Are you Catholic?" so it has the charm of the unexpected. Don't try this in Belfast or Glasgow, however. In Boston or Toronto, you're good.
Anyway, as your humble and the hottie had a nice chat about our confirmation names and such other culturally Catholic topics one can shout about over the roar of the dance floor, I had a good look and realized that he must have been about 22. And when, before the admiring gaze of my pals, he asked for my phone number, I neglected to tell him that I was much too old for him. For some reason, the fact that I had to explain that the phone number was of the convent at which I was boarding seemed embarrassing enough.
"Random," said my admirer of the convent phone, which was the first time I had ever heard the word used that way, so much older than him was I.
But as a result of my craven silence, I got asked out on a DATE, not a daily occurrence in the lives of women in my M.Div. program. The downside was that I spent the date dodging indirect questions about my age. O heavens. The horror. A better woman than I would have just said, "Sugar-pie, I am 34 years old. Deal."
Possibly he thought elusive I was totally neurotic, for I never heard from him again. And it was just as well for our conversation revealed that he rarely went to Mass, and as we all know I eventually married B.A. and thus should have put every cent I ever wasted on getting ready for a date in savings bonds. However, he was pretty cute, and this is where I make my apologia for Cougars.
Men in their twenties are often much better-looking than men in their thirties and beyond, just as women in our twenties are often much better-looking than women in our thirties and beyond. I thought this in my twenties, when I was terrified of men in their twenties, and I think this now, when I'm not. So it does not surprise me at all when such older women who have managed to achieve the confidence which comes with age withoust losing their looks either go out of their way to charm a 20-something or accept the attentions of a 20-something with alacrity. I suppose it is incredibly shallow and masculine to value young men for their looks, but I am an ARTIST, darling, so I can see why cougars do.
There is also the "To hell with you, Systematic Marginalization of Older Women: I can still get guys in their 20s" factor.
What really bothered me about "the Devil in Green Shirt" was that the young man beside her looked scared. Sure, he quite obviously wasn't going anywhere she wasn't, and heaven knows how fast the friends he had come with had melted away. But St. Patrick's in Boston is not the kind of night that screams "One night stands" but the kind of night everyone simply gets off their faces drunk, starting at breakfast, and then brags about it the next day. Whatever else was going on was most probably not his idea, but hers. And she certainly wasn't drunk. Au contraire.
Now that I am over 40 and my maternal instincts are in overdrive, I suppose that I might have made an attempt to rescue the young man, even if he was unsure if rescue was something he wanted. That really would have been a good time to lean forward and, this time as a substitute mother, ask my very favourite bar question:
"Are you Catholic?"
*And who cares what some random Canadian guy in Germany says?