Women wanting to chat Cougar a guide for older women dating younger

"What she wants is younger men and lots of great sex.What she doesn't want is children, cohabitation, or commitment." The party was scheduled for the second Thursday in January, then a full month away, at an upscale Mediterranean restaurant called Faz — which, conveniently, is located in my hometown of Danville.

At least seventy men and women were eagerly mingling, although attendance would later swell past 100.The men, slightly outnumbered, ranged in age from their late twenties to their mid-fifties, while the women seemed to be concentrated between 40 and 55. I figured this meant I'd be getting more than my share of attention. Not more than fifteen minutes after we entered, a woman in her early fifties, but passable for considerably younger, appeared by my side like an old friend.So I've always been kind of proud being way ahead of my time when it came to appreciating "mature" females, but I never cottoned to the "Cougar" tag, which infiltrated the lexicon a bit more than a decade ago, and which stereotypes women of a certain age as desperate and predatory.Author Valerie Gibson attempted to set the record straight with her 2001 book "Cougar: A Guide for Older Women Dating Younger Men," and tried to redefine the label as a word that stood for empowerment, independence, and an open-minded approach to sexuality among women over 40 who date younger men in their 30s, perhaps even in their 20s.Growing up in the Bronx in the early '60s, I was fawned over by my grandmother's friends, who during the spring and summer months would sit kibitzing the day away in folding chairs outside our building.

Whenever I walked by or had to search for my Spaldeen ball among the chairs, they would pinch my cheeks and tussle my thick mane of red hair.

My experience with the cougar phenomenon had thus far amounted to little more than catching Saturday Night Live's "Cougar Den" skits and tabloid coverage of Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

All month long I'd been stalked by images of women twice my age in low-cut leopard-print tops who winked excessively and offered to buy me drinks. This concern was substantiated when I had to ask my wife what "dress to impress" meant.

She reminded me to remove my wedding ring and I was out the door with a "Well, here goes nothin.'" But first I had to pick up my friend Paul, who I'd convinced to come along — ostensibly for his enjoyment but really because I needed the support.

Not that he needed much convincing; single, four years older, and seemingly at ease in all social situations, he looked forward to the challenge of attracting an older woman.

It wasn't easy telling my wife about the singles party.