It's a Guy Thing

Laptop Love

The cougar’s perspective 

I recall reading, or maybe I was told, that people don’t mind change unless it happens to them. I have searched the internet looking for the author of this gem, alas without success. However, I remain convinced that it is buried somewhere within the information highway and one day I will be able to credit the person who penned this wonderful idiom since it contradicts the very essence of being human. Change is part of our DNA. The phases of our life from newborn to tot, teen to thirty-something, and beyond, evidence this natural evolutional transformation. Socially too, change is frequent, furious, and often frightening. The simple task of searching for my elusive quote via the fad of the world wide web, without spending hours in the library, was only possible once I had reached my thirties. By this time, I had dated, married, and had two children. But how would my life have changed if I had commenced the first of these milestones with the assistance of the internet? My dating skills have always been at best, ham-fisted, and my success has been bolstered by my natural style of humor. Often this superpower is down to my naivety, clumsiness, and lack of social etiquette, making the other sex smile. As an example, I once ordered a cravat of wine whilst at The Ivy in London. Thankfully, the waiter brought me a carafe rather than a fancy necktie. 

Having said that, I have only really dated on three occasions, with the first two occurring many decades in the past. Reflecting upon my limited experience of the art of seduction, I am minded to conclude that my approach was more organic – my partners literally grew to love me, in part I guess because I needed to be looked after. But how would I fare in the relationship stakes if this type of osmosis were unavailable? If I had to really work at it and sell my attributes? How exactly would a Mr. Bean or Pee-wee Herman type of guy (like me) ever succeed in marketing cute awkwardness? To add to the mix, I have never considered myself to be Brad Pitt material, and nor have my partners ever disagreed. 

The momentous change in dating over the preceding decades has been immense, with the internet grabbing a significant share of the dating ecosystem. For example, in 2019 the Pew Research Center reported that thirty percent of US adults used an online dating app. 

The mere thought of selecting a profile picture that accentuates my ideal look is terrifying. What fucking angle would I choose? What would I wear, and where the hell would I frame this pictorial pitch? A backdrop of the hanging gardens of Babylon to exude some cultural awareness, or in a gym, restaurant, or donkey sanctuary? And more importantly, how the heck could I describe my ungainliness, which seems to work in a one-on-one situation, within a few sentences? On this occasion I was thankful that I had never had to endure the cyber cupid route and true to the wisdom of my, hitherto, anonymous quote I really didn’t fancy it ever happening to me. As this mental turmoil subsided, I wondered how others, particularly in the same age bracket as me, had adjusted to the new normal? Was I right to be fearful or was my mindset simply clouded by the comfort of inertia? There was only one way to find out, but in keeping with my dominant characteristic of curiosity, coupled with my love of unpredictability, I decided to flip the investigation on its head and explore the experiences of a group of women who had trodden this unfamiliar path. With the help of the very tool of trepidation, I reached out to a budding bunch on social media, grabbed my notepad and pen, and began to investigate this strange new world. 

My target age group of respondents was purposely within the forty to fifty-five median age range, since this more accurately reflected the raison d’être of this piece. However, without realizing it I had also reflected a time of life that had, rightly or wrongly, labeled some women within this category as cougars – ladies who romantically pursue or attract younger men. Indeed, there is an abundance of research that concludes that younger men especially crave a cougar. Beyond the obvious allure of sexual experience, financial stability, and wisdom, there is perhaps surprisingly, a better chance of finding the special one. Reviewing this phenomenon Dr. Wendy L. Patrick succinctly summed it up, “In reality, it appears that some men choose to date older women partially because there is more of a sense of relational equality. Such pairings are more common than most people believe, and more successful as well.” 

Having said that, there was no empirical evidence that any of my participants matched that particular definition, yet at the conclusion of my review, I instinctively knew that these ladies were more definable as proud mountain lionesses, the descriptor of the striking, elegant cougar, native to the Americas. So, when I reference the term, it is to this definition that I espouse. 

What was your route into the world of online dating? 

The clear majority cited the breakdown of long-standing relationships. Jayne had been divorced for about five years and had a few traditional dates that ultimately led to disappointment, one with an ex-schoolfriend and the other with a previous boyfriend. Lisa trod a similar path and decided to take the plunge, pointing the cursor towards the computer cupid. Likewise, divorcee Sarah found herself single again after eight years and was cajoled into online dating by her ‘well intentioned’ friends. Carol, on the other hand, was more pragmatic, “I wouldn’t say I was lonely. I just wanted someone to do things with like holidays, concerts, just going to the pub and if love or lust developed it would be a bonus. Being single is great, you can do what you want without consideration of anyone else.” Vanessa reflected the majority view when her eighteen-year relationship broke down. 

All of my contributors at this point appeared to possess an inner practical strength that simply led to the conclusion that digital dating was a means to an end rather than panic stations. Was this a gift that women nurtured more than men? The ability to keep a level head when chaos reigned? The general scientific viewpoint tends to reflect this gap in emotional intelligence between genders with women usually having greater proficiency in the four components – self-awareness, managing emotions, empathy, and social skills. However, top talent in both sexes, as psychologist Ruth Malloy points out, will always rise to the summit, “The men are as good as the women, the women as good as the men, across the board.” Perhaps I needed to up my game – considerably! 

How did you feel about the experience? 

The somewhat stoic posture of my contributors began to melt once the digital signup had been activated, and from out of the ether communication commenced. Being scared shitless, as Jayne put it, was a common reflection. There was also a certain degree of desperation summed up by Helen, “When I first joined, I felt a bit ‘sullied,’ it was almost embarrassing to tell anyone that you were online dating.” 

Wendy hit a nerve when she explained, “I wanted to come across as funny, not intense or a nut job. My bio was very honest, but I did find it hard to know what to write. It had been years since I’d been single, and I wasn’t sure what the protocol was! It was harder than writing a CV!” 

Vanessa observed, “As ‘new meat,’ as I was once described, messages and ‘likes’ came thick and fast. Mainly generic messages, such as ‘Hi,’ but some men did actually manage to string whole sentences together to form a conversation.” Abrupt and unexpected communication blackouts did nothing to lessen the now frequent bouts of anxiety felt by most women – ‘ghosting’ as it is known in the trade. 

On the other hand, Chrissy began to dread the frequent ‘dick pics’ that populated her inbox. 

At this juncture I just had to let out a mind-shout – Come on fellas! Get a fucking grip! If you can’t be arsed to frame an introductory pitch that sells your hopefully positive human traits, I recommend that you keep to the wanking and save your subscription fee. As for the pictures of your member, how often would you ordinarily whip out your wiener during preliminary social interactions? After the first round of drinks? Once you had hung your coat up at the party? Halfway through a game of Scrabble? Exactly – never. So why in this environment? Unless you think it’s normal, thus making you abnormal, and seriously reducing the chances of you ever having real sex. Aesthetically they are as attractive as the nose of an old probosci’s monkey who was the loser in a pub fight. 

Of the first face-to-face dates, there wasn’t much evidence of love at first sight, let alone companionship. Yvonne captured this awkward passage as she recalled one geezer who had enjoyed the date, but as he had two further ones lined up, he wasn’t in a position to commit to seeing her again! For fuck’s sake this was more akin to being outbid on eBay! She solemnly lamented, “Was every date going to be a combination of an awful job interview and a cringy episode of blind date?” 

Tell me about your experiences in framing your online profile? 

The variance in construction ranged from having a friend write it, to being short, sweet, and honest to exaggeration. No doubt this was reflected on all sides with many of my class of cougars having a discernible methodology of screening, aptly summed up by Lisa, “When looking at profiles and the man has written War & Peace then I quickly lose interest. Equally, if he hasn’t written anything at all then I immediately swipe left!” Chrissy turned detective and would always cross-reference the source intelligence across other social media platforms. No Facebook, Instagram, or even LinkedIn profiles were earmarked as red flags. She clarified her observation, “I was told about ‘catfish.’ Men who lie about who they are to lure women into sending money.” 

Helen was more philosophical, chucking in a dodgy analogy for good measure, “I thought I had a very clear idea of what or who I was looking for, but on reflection, it’s easy to become a little shallow as you’re basing your ‘swipes’ generally on looks alone. After all, we don’t go shopping for shoes for a night out and buy a pair of wellies, do we? Bad analogy, but I’m sure you get the drift!” 

How has it turned out for you? 

Sarah is cheered by her increased confidence in meeting new people, despite being single six years on. Lisa is also still waiting for the special one, “I’ve been on loads of first dates but very few seconds, mainly because the men lie about everything including their height, and that’s the first thing I’m going to notice about them. Don’t tell me that you’re 6’ when you’re 5’ 7”.” Likewise, Jenny was searching for the elusive one, although had engineered a terrific countermeasure for the frequent calls for a picture of her vagina, “I put my cat in the sink and send a picture of it back, saying ‘here’s one of my wet pussy.’ That’s usually a conversation stopper!” 

Tracy was a tad more direct in her overall testimony, “There’s some ugly fat fuckers out there that I wouldn’t be seen dead with, let alone shag!” Carol echoed the general malaise, “Met up with a few. Boring, and more boring. One kept talking about how his girlfriend had dumped him and his wife couldn’t understand why he was so grumpy.” I reflected on this disclosure for a moment – I wondered if this guy needed to scale back somewhat, after all, he only had one penis. 

Some men are very choosy in terms of location and timing, with one who linked up with Carol requesting a Wednesday afternoon meet in a dogging lay-by in Thatcham so he could he bring his wife to watch.” 

Feeling rather dejected by the largely negative experiences I saw a glint of light when Wendy entered the fray. “I had a four-year relationship with a guy I met online, and then another eighteen months one. I’ve met some really lovely men, remaining friends with several of these who haven’t been successful as boyfriend material (and vice versa, I’m sure!), but are lovely people to spend time with, in a platonic manner.” Sarah also highlighted several incredible experiences, including being spoilt at top restaurants and romantic walks in the countryside and a random first date to IKEA, which ended up being the funniest date she had have ever been on. Maybe some men out there could get things right, although I would always end up struggling to erect the bedroom wardrobes with the sliding mirrored doors. 

Any dos and don’ts? 

The consensus was overwhelming – be honest. Not only in the accuracy of information posted, but in the manner, your future communication and liaisons pan out. Helen was the first to concede this critical point, “Be yourself and acknowledge your own vibes. I’ve been on dates where he’s remembered nothing I’ve said. One guy kept checking his phone! If you don’t think someone will be suitable, tell them.” 

Personal safety tips were abundant too, reflective on both sides with Jenny expressing a salutary reflection, “Having said all this, I understand that some of the women on these sites are just as bad.” 

Have you found love? 

I so wanted this journey to conclude as all good romcoms do, in the style of one of my favorites, the 2016 film ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby,’ ending on a high, after several twists, turns, and entwined relationships along the way. But alas this wasn’t to be, with only one of my courageous cougars having found the real thing. Surprisingly, given the unpredictable terrain of online dating, positivity remained remarkably high, captured by Yvonne’s poignant endnote, “Not as yet, but I’m optimistic that there is someone out there for me.” 

As I call time on my vicarious voyage around the digital dating scene, I am left in a state of disillusionment. We men, especially if we yearn a cougar (or any woman come to think of it), must up our game on all fronts. As for online dating, if I ever have to enter this domain I will at least be equipped with the collective wisdom of those that opened up their hearts during this investigation. But having a face for radio the reliance on favorable imagery still troubles me. Having said that, I still believe that my disastrous dating prowess is far better suited to the spontaneity and unpredictability of face-to-face liaisons that allow me to showcase my love of double entendre… 

“Hi, my name is Ian. Do you cum here often?” 

© Ian Kirke 2021 / @ianjkirke