by Nicole Henley

When Anna Nicole Smith married Howard Marshall, most of us uttered “Gross.”  But instead of jabs at Mr. Marshall, Anna Nicole was labeled as a Gold Digger, and he gets applauded by his peers. Why do men become Silver Foxes and receive high-fives about their hot 20-something wife, and women become cougars?

It’s fine when the teenage boy bags his mid-20’s teacher (to his buddies at school), but when he’s an adult and chooses a woman older than him, society cries foul. Apparently, getting some from your teacher in high school is a badge of honor, but if he’s an adult and his woman is older, he has mommy issues.

The term “cougar” implies older women are on the prowl to pounce on some unsuspecting poor young man.  Why aren’t older men who troll the bars for younger women called something like hyenas?

The thought of being a called a cougar has had an interesting effect on my dating life.   When a younger man tries to get to know me, I immediately react like a turtle –I recoil. “Am I a cougar?” I ask myself.  I start worrying about what his mother will think of me being older than him.  It ends up that I see myself in an unflattering light.  Somehow, I feel like a predator. All of this, anddvd graduate I didn’t even say “boo!” to the young man.

Societal norms have trained me to believe that it’s not okay for me to enjoy the company of a younger man.  It’s effective, since I’ve bought into the idea that only a man older than myself can understand me –he will be wiser and more stable than a younger man.

Thankfully, I snapped out of it recently, and had a realization.  I have opened myself up to being open.  Why should what other people think of me be the deciding factor in my relationships?

There are men and women alike who spend their time trying to snag a younger mate, but is there really anything wrong with that? The majority of relationships start because of mutual attraction and shared interests.  While we may not understand how someone much younger than their mate would want to get involved with them, it’s really none of our business.

I’ve got to say, for once, I am with J-Lo. The cougar term is offensive. We should all be free to love and mate with any consenting adult we want to.