How to be a cougar

By: JOAN THATIAH

Dating a much younger man is no longer frowned upon; judgment from the society has ceased.

It is now near normal, so much so that the Kenyan woman who prefers the company of the much younger man has coined a pet name for him inspired by popular cartoon character Ben10. Moral debates aside, the older woman now has options and it looks like Ben10 is here to stay.

How can a woman have a rewarding relationship with him?

The society may have warmed up to the idea but there is still a somewhat negative connotation attached to being a cougar. A woman is seen to be preying on a vulnerable younger man for her own gain.

This is the message that 43-year-old *Zipporah Sole had the back of her mind when she became over-friendly with a 25-year-old man she met at work.

She has a successful business in construction, is almost done paying for her mortgage and generally considers herself accomplished. In her mind, she was coming from a place of strength and she felt like he needed to know that he was not doing her a favour by being with her.

So she tried to control him, his dressing mode, how he spent his time and even his opinions.

“It dawned on me that maybe I was in control of my life but I wasn’t in control of him. He may not own a home yet or have a stable career but this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know what he is doing or that he is an easy target.

You can’t mould him into anything.”

After this first lesson, Zipporah stopped trying to be in charge of her younger love interest, let him be himself and just went with the flow. This allowed the two of them to create a relationship model that worked for them. It was good… until she got attached to him. This brought her to her second, more costly lesson.

“A much younger man may not be for keeps. If it is a five to 10 year difference, you may have similar life goals but not if the age difference is 20 years.”

BE AN OLDER WOMAN

Her advice to a woman interested in dating a much younger man is to keep in mind that while there may be feelings in play and he may love being with you, it is unlikely that he wants a commitment from you.

This she says, will save you from a broken heart. It will also save you a lot of time agonising about where the relationship is headed. Be honest with yourself, live in the moment and just enjoy the energy and the spontaneity.

It may turn out to be the easiest relationship that you ever had.

The common assumption is that a cougar is a financially stable woman and the younger man on whose arm she hangs is seeking to gain financially from the relationship.

Kevin, a 27-year-old small business owner refutes this assumption. He likes to date older women. His main motivation, he says is her wit, confidence and maturity. It thus is a turn off when he starts dating an older woman and she starts acting, dressing or talking differently.

“I have a lot of choices. If I wanted to be with a ball gum chewing, cleavage showing 20-year-old, I would be. I chose to be with you. Be the older woman that you are,” he says.

To happily date a younger man, being the mature woman that you are seems to be the trick. He is probably attracted to the wiser you, the financially confident you, so hold out for your own.

When you start bending over backwards to try and please him, you stop being attractive. Don’t try to play loud music or do activities you think will appease him. Be yourself. Who knows, you may be dating an old soul.

As with most life decisions that you make, when you choose to date a younger man, there will be people who will have unpleasant things to say about it.

Sometimes, it turns out to be the very people you expected to support you. If you are seeking a fulfilling relationship with a younger man, you either need to grow a thick skin or to keep your relationship quiet.

Francesca, 42, whose current partner is 29 opted for the former. Things have been said but she’s made a conscious decision not to let them get to her. Not doing this would just have kept her from enjoying her relationship.

DON’T BE HIS MOTHER

Accepting that you are an older woman and beginning to act like it can easily appeal to your nurturing side. From her experience, Francesca advises that you nip this feeling in the bud.

A few times in the beginning, she obsessed over the age difference and attempted to act like his mother and this annoyed him. So she changed tack and began seeing him for who he truly is — a grown man.

This decision saw her letting him take some financial responsibility for their shared expenses.

“I dated a younger man before and I tried to take care of him financially. It led to a lot of tension and fights. Money is a complicated subject. This is working for us, I believe that he also feels respected and this far our relationship has been drama-free.

She breaks down her advice, “Don’t try to be his mother and don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that he is sexually naive either just because he is young.”