Better watch out boys; the cougars are on the prowl.
Celebrities like Demi Moore, Cameron Diaz, Ivana Trump, and Linda Hogan all have had significant others more than 10 years their junior. With age differences sometimes pushing 20, or even 30 years, these couples obviously never learned (or at least, never followed) the “Never date anyone under half your age plus seven” Rule.
If you’re a guy who appreciates an older woman though, no need to fly to Hollywood, there are cougars prowling your very own college campus.
Who are the Cougars?
According to Dr. Fayr Barkley, a Human Behavior Research Expert and cougar expert, typically, a cougar is a woman who is over the age of 40, who dates a man 7 or more years her junior. “But what we are seeing is more and more women in their 20's calling themselves cougars because they relate to the confidence that a cougar woman has who ‘knows what she wants and goes for it,’” Barkley says.
These younger “cougars in training” have very specific names. Barkley says a woman in her 20's is a kitten, a woman in her 30's is a puma, and a woman over the age of 60 is a panther.
Regardless of which type of kitty a woman may be, Barkley says any woman with the right attitude can be a cougar. “A woman who is well defined, strong, flexible, confident and goes after what she wants but can still remain a lady, is worthy of the cougar name,” Barkley said.
With less than 2 years age difference between herself and her recent younger ex-boyfriend, Chelsea Citro, a student at Syracuse University (SU), still considers herself a bit of a cougar.
“A college cougar is a girl who dates a guy who is not in college yet,” Chelsea says. While Chelsea was a freshman in college, her boyfriend at the time was a senior in high school. Chelsea says that dating a younger guy while in high school is much different than dating a younger guy while in college. “In high school everyone is basically on the same level of maturity, but in college you gain so much independence,” Chelsea says.
“Many women start dating younger men when they are in their 20's,” Barkley says. “Regardless of what age a woman starts indulging her Cougar side, if it's for her, she maintains it throughout her life.”
How young is too young?
That depends. Twenty-year-old Julie Dexter says she wouldn’t date anyone younger than 17, and even that “is pushing it.”
For Chelsea, two years younger is her limit. She says younger guys are generally clingier because they haven’t experienced as many relationships. “Looking back now, I didn’t really like dating a younger guy because I felt that he held me back from maturing and from meeting other people my age,” Chelsea says.
Chelsea says the most difficult part of her relationship was when she came to Syracuse University for college. “It was really hard relating to him since I am in college. He had no idea what I was going through because he's still in high school.”
Emma Post, a junior at Johnson State College, dated a guy 3 years her junior. The relationship only lasted 2 months. “I've always had relationships with someone significantly older than me, so it was difficult at first to adjust to the age difference,” Emma said.
Emma says she didn’t notice the age difference until it came to conversational topics that reflected their 3-year age difference. “I've had more experiences through college and life, that he had not. That caused a logistical off-balance in our relationship, and resulted in our short-lived relationship,” she said.
But clearly, younger guys have some appeal (we have at least a little faith in Demi Moore), so what’s behind the cougar craze?
Why they love the youngsters:
Hilary Ricigliano, a sophomore at Syracuse University, loves dating her younger man. Hilary’s boyfriend, Al, was a senior in high school when she left for college. “It made transitioning into college easier for me, having him as a support back home,” she said. “Me going through college first also helped him better prepare for when he headed off to school. I was able to offer him advice,” Hilary said.
For Hilary and Al, like many cougar-couples, “age doesn't even matter.” Hilary says, despite his younger age, Al often behaves like the elder of the two. “Al is very mature; actually, definitely more mature than I am,” Hilary said.
Hilary does not consider herself a cougar. “In my opinion, women don't really become a cougar until they are forty or fifty years old, and are dating a twenty-year-old,” she said. Hilary says “college girls that date younger men aren't really cougars even if there is a big age difference.”
Twenty-two year-old Sanda Micic, a senior at Southern Vermont College, is dating an 18-year-old freshman, and loves it. Despite the 4-year age difference, Sanda says, “I just have a lot more fun with him than with other guys my age or older.”
Barkley says, “Each woman knows what age range works for her but I think most are open to exploration as long as the younger man fits what she is looking for.”
“A person isn't made by their age; they're made by what they've been through in life experiences, regardless of the amount of years they've lived,” Emma says.
Whatever the age difference, Brown University student, Atilio Barreda, says “age is just a number dude, free love.” Or, as Barkley says, “There is a lid for every pot.” We think that’s exactly how Demi and Ashton must have feel (though we wonder who was the lid and who was the pot?).
Thinking of becoming a college cougar? Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of dating younger men in college. Meow!
- He’ll most likely have been involved with fewer women, and have less relationship baggage than older guys.
- Being the older, smarter, more experienced one can be quite the self-esteem booster. Just don’t let your confidence scare him away; he may not be a fan of Beyonce’s song, “I got a big ego, such a huge ego”.
- The whole college experience is new to the younger guys; he’ll have a completely different outlook than those seniors and grad students, which could be refreshing.
- Younger men can be more eager to please a woman both in and out of bed.
- He may act or say things that remind you of that 3-year age-gap.
- You probably won’t be able to take him out for drinks with your friends, unless he orders a Shirley Temple.
- Beware of friends, especially guy-friends, who may try to point out the flaws of the younger guy you’ve got your eye on.
- Barkley says some younger men may think that “all he needs is a washboard stomach and an erection” to keep his woman around.
www.theinsider.com www.momlogic.com/2009/07/pros_and_cons_of_dating_younger_men.php www.hercampus.com/love/grown-man-hard-find-dating-struggles-college-senior
Dr. Fayr Barkley, Human Behavior Research Expert with over 20 years experience researching and writing about human behavior
Hilary Ricigliano, Syracuse University student
Chelsea Citro, Syracuse University student
Atilio Barreda, Brown University student S
anda Micic, Southern Vermont College student
Emma Post, Johnson Sate College student