Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dating, cougar-style


Let’s talk about dating and “cougars”—also known as women over fifty.

No matter what side of the golden-birthday suit you wear, doesn’t the mere sound of that subject make you wince?

In my circle, no matter how Zen we are about turning forty, the big Five-Oh is a whole ‘nother story. Fifty prompts a reaction that sounds a bit like a big cat hocking up a hairball. Hah-yack! It’s a tough dating market out there, especially for women who have to restart a long-dormant dating career due to divorce or other sudden bout of singledom. Men’s dating stock seems to increase in value with age, but we women often find ourselves stuck in a bear market. Or a depression.

During my recent college reunion, dating was a hot topic. During one of our late-night chatfests in the common room (a tribal ritual that involved the imbibing of copious amounts of spirit juice), a recent divorcee posed the following question: “How do I start the whole dating thing again?”

I leaned forward and offered up a tip from Mimi Morgan, a character in The Fat City Mysteries.

“Here’s a dirty little secret about men,” I said. “Men are all about packaging. You gotta take what you got and vamp it up.”

My theory was rejected by a unanimous round of head-shaking. This amazed me. Call me a plastic surgery junkie, call me a shallow-head resident of La-La Land, but I thought all women knew this basic fact about the male species—men's initial reaction to a woman is based on appearance. After that comes love and feelings (hopefully), but here’s the ugly truth: Looks. Do. Matter.

Here’s how one of my characters describes the Four Cycles of Love: 1) Breaking up; 2) Losing weight; 3) Plastic surgery; 4) Starting a new relationship.

Okay, so that character is really shallow. But she has a point. Back when we were in our thirties, to get prepared for dating we thought mostly about getting in shape, plus maybe buying some new clothes and make-up. When we’re over fifty, we may require a little extra intervention. I’m not talking about Sex and the City or face-lifts, but I am suggesting that we need to redress Mother Time in whatever way that works. It may be a little collagen or Botox, or yoga classes, but here’s the bottom line: you’ve got to look like you still like to do it. And that may involve pushing beyond our comfort zones.

In my own case, nothing makes me happier than a day when I’m alone in the house and I can settle into what Oprah calls “schlumpadinka” mode. Sweats, tee shirt, no makeup—you may know the routine.

Some weeks after our wedding date, when I first emerged in full schlumpadinka splendor, I looked at my husband and said, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry.” I realized he’d never actually seen me look like that before; I’d always been in dating mode. Poor guy. It was too late to back out—he’d already walked down the aisle.

Then, when I had to get some publicity event a couple of years ago, I reverted right back to dating-preparation mode. I took a hard look at some candid shots, then picked up the phone and dialed my best friend’s plastic surgeon for a consult. (This is LA, after all. We all have friends who have plastic surgeons.)

Two rounds of fat grafts, one eye lift, a professional photographer and one make-up artist later, I considered it all to be worth the trouble. Men didn’t cherchez le frump when we were twenty years old, and they definitely don’t when we’re fifty. But some women disagree that we should have to play that game.

“He should like me for who I am,” they object.

Well, yes, but consider this update from the dating battlefront: Every Friday night, my tiny seaside turns into a hunting ground for YOPPS (Young People on the Prowl). The town’s many bars fill with guys jammed in with girls who teeter around the boardwalk in tight skirts and stilettos. The only women over forty are the bemused married matrons who actually live in the town; all the Happily Marrieds are dressed in sweats and comfortable walking shoes.

But if one of those Happily Marrieds becomes a Suddenly Single when she’s fifty, she might want to refresh her dating memory with a couple of lessons from her YOPP sister.

Lesson 1: Cleavage never hurts.

Lesson 2: Stilettos hurt, but they often help.
What about you? Do you have any tips for reentering the dating game, at any age? Anything to avoid?







10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am sorry Kathryn but I must repectfully disagree with your premise that men are all about packaging. For me and many men like me it is all about the content of ones character and the depth of ones soul.

That is what real men look for Kathryn. After reading your post lest she feel as you do, I fully intend to remind my girlfriend of this fact.....As soon as she finishes her homework. ;-)

Kathryn Lilley said...

LOL, Anonymous! That's her post-doctorate homework, I'm sure!

Sheila Connolly said...

I think it works both ways. My spouse of thirty-plus years might notice if my hair was on fire or if my nose fell off, but beyond that he is oblivious to my appearance. If he looks at younger lovelies in public, he doesn't tell me. If I should comment on a well-assembled man, of any age, he's likely to go "huh?" (and sees no reason to emulate that guy).

And post-50 cleavage? Easy, since you can shove everything around with a good bra. Just don't unwrap...

Kathryn Lilley said...

Good point, Sheila--it's all about the push-up bra! Would that all the fixes were that simple!

Dana King said...

Hair. It's what a man can see first, and he can see it in a crowd. Obviously the crowd thing works better for tall woman, but even that's secondary. This next is a strictly personal preference, but in casual setting, pony-tails will attract my eye. (I'm in a wonderful relationship, but what catches the eye catches the eye regardless of whether any other action is planned.)

After that, smile, be approachable. Let's face it, when people first meet--I mean first in the literal sense--they only have the physical to go on. Project an image that mirrors the person you want to attract. Dress and come off like a trtamp, and you'll attract a man looking for a one nighter. Look attractive, intelligent, and pleasant, and you'll still attract him (ALL women attract him) but you'll also attract the intelligent and pleasant man. You can then blow off the wolf at your leisure.

And yes, this Dana is a man of 52, completed devoted to his own cougar.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Aww...Dana, that's a sweet, heart-warming comment! I think you're so right about the smile and being approachable. I like the pony-tail thing too, but (now I'm telling a secret of the club) I wonder if many men know that a lot of those cascading ponytails are clip-ons. Back when I was trying to look very pulled-together with minimal effort, I got one dyed to match my hair. You just clip it on, and then, voila! You have an instant luxuriant mane. I only gave it up when so many women started wearing them, I was afraid everyone would know it was a fake!

don said...

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...
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Have a nice day!

Daniel P
Marketing representative
Http://www.Cougarmignle.com

Dana King said...

(Reading Don's unintentionally funny comment and wondering how people can wonder where writers get their ideas.)

Kathryn Lilley said...

Omigosh, I reworked the transposed letters and there really IS a site called
http://www.cougarmingle.com/

If I weren't married, Don, I'd be signing up lickety-split, LMAO!
Dana, not only book writers, but TV producers--I see the next reality TV show in this!!

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