And the cougar. Originally exemplified as Sam Jones from Sex and the City, now with Courtney Cox carrying the torch for the younger man. A sexual predator, intent on luring toyboys into her boudoir, matching her experience with their enthusiasm. The Mrs Robinson for a new generation, rejecting her paunchy peers for the eagerness and firm muscles of youth.
Two very different stereotypes – curiously, with a common feline theme. Both pretty insulting if you think about it.
The cat lady is pretty obvious. Sad, lonely, nothing left in her life but cats.
Now here's where I have to 'fess up to a couple of things. I have two cats. And I've been out with younger men.
Yeah, I'm fond of the cats. I put photos and videos of them on social media. When Murphy, the older, female cat, had cancer, I was devastated, and threw a lot of money at making her better. Same goes for when Teddy, the younger, male cat, needed serious surgery. (Wait a minute...older female and younger male? I'm beginning to see a pattern.) I even talk to them in a stupid voice. (Look, you try talking to a cat without ending up using a stupid voice. Go on. Try it. Bet you can't.)
I don't, however, consider them baby replacements, or man replacements, or any kind of replacement really. I don't buy them Christmas presents, or knit jumpers for them, or like a catsitter of mine, set up a "wedding ceremony" for them and take photos of them in their finery (yes, really). They're my pets. Beloved pets, but pets.
As for the younger man thing, well, that's been more by accident than design. I've never intentionally gone for younger men. It's just kind of…happened. My date on my 40th birthday was 25 years old. My last boyfriend was 13 years my junior. I didn't go out on the prowl, preying on young flesh. It just so happens that the people I've met when out and about and to whom I've been attracted have been younger (maybe a numbers game; you don't meet many single men my age when out and about, and as for internet dating – well, that's a story for another time). Bizarrely, I've been congratulated sometimes when I've had a younger man on my arm – as though it validates me, that I've "still got it".
I sometimes joke that I'm a cat lady. I sometimes joke about the younger man thing. Why, when arguably I'm perpetuating it by doing so? I guess as a defence – get in there first and make it a joke before someone else does. Maybe then I can send up the labels by confounding expectation.
Both labels are reductive. Labels are easier. Single women – and in particular, single, child-free women of a certain age – can make people uncomfortable. As I'm asked more often than I'd care to recall, why am I still single, after all? Have I given up (cat lady)? Have I chosen sex over relationships (cougar)? Well, neither. Life doesn't fit into neatly labelled (litter)boxes, and neither do I.