We were out for fancy drinks for a friend's birthday last weekend, when suddenly, we spotted them. If you live in a college town, or have ever set foot in one on a Saturday night, you've seen them, too--undergrads in tight tops, bare legs, and the shortest skirts imaginable, teetering drunkenly in towering heels, even as the snow falls gently all around. I shivered looking at them. My eyes drifted for a second to my own hemline. Though I had convinced myself that by wearing boots and thick, winter-weight tights under my short and clingy dress, I wouldn't be committing any crimes of decency or of fashion, it never hurt to get a second opinion. I caught my friend Eric's eye. "Is my skirt too short?" I whispered to him across the table. And that's when he said it. The c-word.
And so, I did what any confident, well-adjusted thirty-year-old would have done: I screamed obscenities at him (confusing and slightly terrifying all those around who had not been following the conversation), grabbed my purse, and stalked off indignantly. (To the bathroom. I find it convenient to combine my moral outrage with calls of nature. Two birds with one stone, and all that.)
Arriving back at the table I picked up my drink and carefully avoided eye contact with Eric. A while later, when he dared address me, "You're on thin ice," I warned him.
"Why?" asked the guy next to me. "What happened?" And so I told him.
"You can't be a cougar," replied a guy from the other end of the table, overhearing. "You have to be thirty-five to be a cougar."
"Wait, really?" someone asked.
"Yup," he replied with conviction. "Thirty-five is the cut-off. Thirty-four, you're not a cougar, thirty-six, you are." All this in his social studies teacher voice, as if he had just this minute finished reading up on the behavior and mating habits of the modern American city-dwelling cougar.
"But it also implies someone who is actively pursuing younger men," someone mentioned.
"It has to do with success rate, as well," Eric said.
"Well in that case I am definitely not a cougar," I said.
"So what about a woman in her fifties? Is she still a cougar?"
"No, then she's a MILF."
"No, she's only a MILF if she has kids."
"Yes, necessarily! It's in the name. Mom I'd like to--"
"Ok, now, fancy restaurant."
"But sometimes you don't know if she has kids."
"If she's married and over the age of forty you can assume she has kids."
"That is not true! You can't just assume that."
"Well, most of the time."
"No, having kids is not the default mode for women. You can't just automatically assume that all women over the age of forty have kids."
"So who would you rather hook up with?" one of the guys asked. "A cougar or a MILF?"
"I don't know..."
We left the restaurant that evening no closer to any answers in the great Cougar vs. MILF debate. All I knew was that there are cougars, and there are MILFs, and happily, I was not either. I had learned, however, that in the interest of preserving one's own sanity and any shred of perceived youth one might still possess, twenty-nine-and-twenty-three-month-year-olds should probably not fraternize with twenty-five-year-olds.
All this cougar/MILF talk had got me thinking, though... If it really came down to it, what would a cougar vs. MILF showdown look like? I'm thinking it would probably look something like this: