The allure of the older woman...

Paula Burns sees some similarities with Nicole Scherzinger. Mostly it’s their cougar status. Is age really just a number in the dating game?

The allure of the older woman...

There have been many Saturday nights while in the nuzzle of my couch, draped in fluffy Penneys PJs watching The X Factor that I have thought about how much I have in common with the fabulous Nicole Scherzinger. There are Nicole’s enviable dark locks and, well, my not-so-enviable but all the same dark locks. We both like to bust some dance moves, though I’m thinking she may be a little better at it. What I do know for sure is that we’re the same age. Nicole has already hit the 38 mark, which, with tears in my eyes, I will be too next month. But it’s not just the age thing that binds us close together; it’s actually our cougar status.

You see Nicole and I have a thing for the younger man. Currently the former Pussycat Doll is dating 25-year-old Bulgarian tennis ace Grigor Dimitrov. The pair have been spotted in numerous PDA moments. This, however, hasn’t been Scherzy’s first dip in the youthful pool of men. Her previous beau, Lewis Hamilton, was seven years her junior. It seems his lack of readiness to commit and settle down hasn’t scared her off finding an even younger model.

Just like my doppelganger Nicole, I have entered the sisterhood of cougarville. My fella, who has recently been promoted to fiancé, is seven years younger then me. In fact for three very dark months of the year you could say there’s eight years but who’s checking. Before I go on I have to profess my detest for the title of cougar. While I admit to loving a bit of young blood I have to object, mainly on the basis that it makes me sound like I am one of the Real Housewives of Orange County who has become too fond of the Botox and fillers. If only I could afford them. But also for the reason that it originated in Vancouver as a put-down for women of a ‘certain age’ who would go to bars and, well, choose not to go home alone at the end of the night. The feminist inside me is shouting, ‘Isn’t that what men have been doing forever yet when us women do it we are obviously predators just like a successful business woman is a bitch?’

Nicole Scherzinger with former beau Lewis Hamilton
Nicole Scherzinger with former beau Lewis Hamilton

I am far from a predator. My 5ft 1 petite frame just wouldn’t allow it. I’m more of an almost 38-year-old wishing the three was a two. While on the single circuit I didn’t intentionally hunt out younger men. Though if I was out on a Saturday night my eyes did seem to flirt towards the more agile men in the room and if they were younger, then I blame nature. There was just something about a 40-something-year-old leaning his pint on his tummy discussing how much the divorce was going to cost him that didn’t quite allure me.

In saying that, when my fella popped up in my ‘rarely’ checked Plenty of Fish inbox there was a slight second hesitation; he was 28. And from Essex. To be honest if it had been an Irish 28-year-old I may not have taken him seriously. In the past I had dated other English blokes and while they were loud, brash, and thought of Page 3 as part of their innate culture they did have a certain maturity Irish guys of the same age just don’t. Maybe it’s to do with the fact most leave home young to go to uni or to work or, yes, I’m going to say it, they don’t have the apron strings of the Irish mammy holding them back. Whatever it was I thought I’d give it a shot and two years later we’re on the road to matrimony.

In the celebrity world relationship age gaps are almost mandatory. It’s not a bad club to be associated with when you see the members’ roll. From one of the founding members, Demi Moore, who married Ashton Kutcher — 15 years her younger — to Jennifer Lopez, who earlier this year split from dancer Casper Smart, aged 29 — 18 years her junior.

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore
Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

Since Demi first stepped out with Ashton it seems there has been a societal shift in acceptance of the older woman, younger man relationship. It’s becoming more predominant in celebville with Cheryl Cole and Liam Payne leading the way on this side of the Atlantic. Due to the fact Cheryl is still sitting at the right side of 40 she hasn’t been given full cougar status, but the 1D singer is a spritely 10 years younger. Kylie Minogue, 48, looks set to marry her beau, Joshua Sasse, despite their 19-year age gap. So what is it that’s attracting these younger, virile men to the older woman?

David Kavanagh, psychotherapist and author of Love Rewired, believes it’s a combination of physical attraction and personal values. “Women in their 40s and 50s have never looked better. In times gone by women of a ‘certain’ age wouldn’t have been out socialising in bars or clubs. But now it’s the norm and women continue to look after themselves physically and so are obviously going to be attractive to men of all ages including the younger ones.”

He continues: “Younger men are also attracted to the ambitiousness and stability of the older women. Unlike men in their 50s who have been brought up with slightly sexist views the younger man has grown-up in a household with a working mum and so sees women on a more equal playing field no matter what age they are. This can be very attractive to a women over 40.”

Speaking to The New York Daily News, serial cougar Madonna defended her fondness for the younger man by saying that most men her age are married with children. She also explained that men of a certain age can be set in their ways and probably not as adventurous as someone younger.

Joshua Sasse and Kylie Minogue
Joshua Sasse and Kylie Minogue

According to Kavanagh, what Madonna is saying is something many women over 40 can relate to. “If a woman is coming out of a marriage or a long-term relationship they are often looking for something new, especially if they have fulfilled their expectations of marriage through having a family etc,” he says.

“Their next relationship can often be with someone who is younger to what they had before and who they think can bring more fun and adventure to the relationship.”

I have to agree with Madonna when she spoke to Ellen last year in regards to her dating younger men; “Why is everyone obsessed? Age is just a number.” For me it is just a number. When it comes to relationships, what’s right for one couple can be totally the opposite for another. Age doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re both on the right page.

“Like any relationship, problems can arise if both are no longer looking for the same thing. For an older woman, dating the younger guy can be exciting but his lack of stability or financial means may become an issue,” says Kavanagh.

“Or, for example, if she decides it’s time to start a family she may discover this is not part of his immediate future, but in saying that, regardless of any age gap, any of these problems could a arise.”

Personally I’m sticking with Madonna. Age is just a number…

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