While the world was prattling on about Digvijay Singh’s marriage to the much younger Amrita Rai, I couldn’t help but think of the other end of the gender spectrum: the cougar. Now cougar is a slang word used for an older woman dating a younger man. The term has been popularized by shows like Cougar Town or movies like American Pie where cougars are shown at play.
Now I am no cougar but I know a few women who are. My sympathies are with them. They may have inspirational icons like Madonna and Demi Moore but their day-to-day life is not easy. To begin with, these women have severe body image issues. When you’re forty but dating a twenty-five year old, it gets difficult to “let yourself go”, like your married friends. You fear that your man can find a younger and thinner woman, so you keep yourself physically on scale with someone half your age. This can lead to crash dieting or extreme exercising, impacting your health and life span.
On top of that the older woman has to keep up with the more energetic lifestyle of her young partner. While she may want to sit in and watch Romedy movies at home, the younger man may want to go for a night-out of partying and a workout the next morning.
Apart from body image these women have to deal with the fact that society doesn’t accept an older woman with a younger man (though the reverse is generally acceptable, hypocrisy much?). Fitting in has always been the primary need of us humans, so what’s a cougar to do?
A woman may also have to deal with the financial instability of a younger man, especially if they’re married. This calls for a lot of strength since power struggles and ego clashes may inevitably occur and damage the relationship. They are shaking their relationship first with the age gap and then with the reversal of the traditional financial setup in a relationship. Men like to provide and protect, and a role reversal may leave them feeling cold and unneeded. None of that is good.
The couple may also live in the overhang of the fact that the woman may die earlier than her partner, in which case, the man is most likely to move on. This cannot be an easy thought. The man may also suffer financial hardship since the older woman is most likely to be the main breadwinner.
Marrying or being in a relationship with someone much younger could prove hazardous to older women but with increase in divorce rates, later marriages, career-driven women and rapidly changing traditional woman-man roles, this may not be an issue in the years to come.
Till then I keep telling my cougar friends to carry on loving, for love is the only thing in life that is not based on a number.